Surprise Surrey Wedding! I have photographed 150 weddings and although they’ve all been different they’ve all had one thing in common – the guests all knew they were going to a wedding. So, when Hayley called me up and explained what her and Michael (AKA Rothers) were planning, I got very excited (then when they confirmed they wanted me to photograph the wedding I got even more excited!). Here’s what they did – invited their friends to a big old ’70th birthday party’ (that’s 30 for Hayley and 40 for Rothers…not one of them turning 70…although a surprise wedding for a couple in their 70s would be pretty cool!). What they failed to mention to their friends (and most of their family) was that a) they were engaged and b) they were eloping to Barbados to get married in secret before this party and c) the party was really their wedding reception! I might have watched one too many American TV programs but I love a big ‘reveal’, and what better than finding out your friends have got married, then seeing them in their gorgeous wedding attire when you think you’re just at a (albeit very smart) birthday party?!
So, after even more careful questioning around details than normal from me (‘Who knows?’, ‘Can I photograph your shoes when you’re prepping or will that look odd?’, ‘Exactly how are you going to break the news to your guests?’ etc) I drove down a long gravel drive (after a slightly terrifying drive through tiny single track roads) and my jaw hit the floor when I saw the venue. The party was held in the grounds of Tanhurst the private house of family friends of Hayley (near Holbury St Mary, which is between Guildford and Dorking). It’s the most incredible location with probably the most stunning view of the Surrey Hills (and beyond) that I’ve ever seen. Once I picked my jaw off the floor I suddenly got really nervous…what I hadn’t let Hayley know when she booked me is that I’m not the best person to trust with a secret. Not that I would ever try and spoil the surprise, but I do like to get to know people, so I was worried I might accidentally give something away by asking someone ‘so how do you know the bride?’ etc…to my delight I managed to be the epitome of discretion, phew!
Hayley got glammed up in outfit one (a beautiful full length blue party dress) with some of her best friends, whilst I snuck around trying to secretly photograph outfit two (the bedroom I was using was the best I’ve ever used for the classic ‘wedding dress hanging up’ photo!). I nearly had a heart attack when one of Hayley’s friends jokingly referred to her as ‘the bride’, but actually the secret was kept well under wraps. Guests arrived from 6pm for drinks in the sunshine, and amusingly I heard several exclaim that the setting and marquee looked more impressive than a lot of the weddings they’d been to. A few people did seem to think something was up but it was thought that Rothers might propose, or they might announce their engagement, rather than actually having already snuck off to get married!
The big ‘wedding reveal’ was brilliant – Rothers put together an hysterical slideshow, starting with photographs of the couple as babies, but then slowly giving the game away (e.g. a shot of Hayley in a wedding dress shop), followed by photographs of their Barbados wedding. Seeing the penny slowly drop with guests was a great photo opportunity – there were lots of gasps, followed by tears from about 25% of the female guests (and one or two of the men!). Obviously I cried too – the emotion in the room was catching! Hayley and Rothers entered the marquee to huge cheers and there was a lot of hugs and excitement and a generally electric atmosphere. The rest of the party/wedding reception was brilliant – a penguin ice sculpture and food from a fish and chip van helped with the fun atmosphere.
It was a really very special day and I was delighted to help capture it. Congrats again Hayley and Michael! Oh and I know you readers might have your doubts when you look at these pictures, but this really was a real wedding – these aren’t a bus load of gorgeous models I shipped in for a pretend wedding shoot, promise!
Love Sarah x
Sarah Legge Photography – award winning Surrey wedding photographer, capturing joyful moments at weddings (surprise and not surprise ones!) throughout Surrey, Hampshire, London and beyond.