• Ali Bell

Jess & Sam's Wedding: True Colors

Full of color, full of laughs and full of incredible people who know how to have fun together! I took note closely of Sam's speech (the Groom) When talking about his bride he listed 3 qualities...well he listed many actually but I felt these 3 were so appropriate for the day. Firstly he said that Jess was certainly not somebody who liked to follow the norm, who was not afraid to do her own thing and go with it. Secondly he said that she was incredibly loyal and trusting of those around her and finally he talked about her sense of humor and calmness, he joked that Jess would be the one keeping the bridesmaids calm during the morning! He also made note of several Jess-isms but for this piece we will keep that sacred!

The reason I start with this topic is that weddings can often be a time for many to follow tradition, to create moments of times gone past or stick to a plan or a particular way of doing things. That's not to say there is anything wrong with this but every once in a while somebody takes the wedding guide in hand, rips it in to a million bits and throws it onto the fire, that's pretty much what Jess and Sam did today.

So I was contacted by Jess and Sam about a year ago now and from our first conversations I was fully aware that they were hiring me to document their day and to capture the story throughout as it unfolded. Nothing staged, propped or posed simply shoot what I see. For me that really is a pleasure to do, and the guests at this wedding were fantastic! so willing to have their photograph taken and all in such fine form throughout.

When Jess explained that they were holding their wedding reception within a school grounds I have to say I was a little confused. The school I went to certainly would not be the most ideal wedding location although maybe having the first dance in the science labs or Teachers staff room perhaps. As I started to do a little research however it is quite clear that Birkenhead School really is that little bit different though. Now home to the Bushall Hall, a purpose built events hall with reminders all around of the schools history. Guests pointed out the list of head masters and recalled their memories of those characters. Cricket captains, awards, stage shows, prefects the list goes on, all on polished brass plated signage within the hall. Within the main room are high wooden beams covering a tepee style ceiling and a large stage that was last night home to Sams own band who would play out the first dance before providing the evenings entertainment.

So all in all, this was an inspired choice of venue and something of a masterstroke by Mr and Mrs McDonnell in their choice of decor also. I will come onto that shortly however. As planned then I met with Jess and her bridesmaids and her mum at the amazing Double Tree Hilton in Liverpool at around 11 am. The sun was shining and the temperature was slowly creeping up into the 20's much to the delight of all present. The make up artist and hair stylist were busy at work and the calmest person in the room by far...the bride! At every step the ladies were pretty much ahead of schedule and enjoying the moment. When Jess was ready and dressed her closest friends and mum fought back the tears and as the photographs will testify they were literally left speechless.

As time ticked ever closer to the golden hour the bridesmaids rallied round, clearing bags, calling lifts and pretty much filing every second before they left. For Jess however, well it appeared almost as if time had stopped. As the Groom had joked in his speech about how calm she was, remember he even said she was probably keeping the bridesmaids calm...well this was reality! A fine quality to have, especially on your wedding day.

At 1 o clock then I wished the ladies well and off they went to St Georges Hall, Liverpool for the wedding ceremony. For me it was a chance to get ahead of the game and head to the School for a look around and set up. First impressions, amazing! Multi Colored balloons everywhere, a central stand alone bar lit up in lighting strips and outside a huge space with picnic benches, a water feature and central stepped area from which the speeches where conducted. The only slight downside for a photographer was the lighting within the hall looks incredible to the eye but can be confusing to our mechanical friends, my cameras. Not a problem however and if anything this really added to the style and mood of the images indoors, especially once the dancing began!

As Sam and Jess arrived to the sight of multi colored smoke grenades being set of, another example of how original and imaginative these two are, they were greeted by their masses of friends and family who waited in the glorious sunshine with a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer, so generously provided for them. One thing that really made me think, was the amount of time and effort both Sam and Jess spent into making sure they used this opportunity to go around and greet, thank and talk to almost every guest. This is another rarity within a such a busy wedding environment, not because people don't care but because the day is so hectic and busy that at times, that moment of arriving at your reception can be that moment of calm a couple have waited for. With Sam and Jess however calmness is one of those natural qualities they have and as such their loyalty towards their family and friends clearly shone through here.

So you see then within Sams speech that is already a demonstration of two of those qualities he mentioned, Loyalty and Calmness, demonstrated so clearly and how about the third then, never one to follow the norm and not afraid to do things their way.

As I walked around the venue chatting to guests what really struck me was just how relaxed and almost care free everybody seemed, I don't think it would do any disservice to anybody to say I got the same feeling from this wedding as I did during a summer festival in the park. Many of the men wore smart shorts and blazers, sunglasses were all around, ladies in colorful summer dresses and ribbons on show. Bright balloons tied to every table and every picnic bench filled with happy and content people enjoying each others company. Even the water fountain feature was heavily occupied and it really did add the incredible sense of feeling created by our happy couple. Gone was the formal sit down wedding breakfast and a full hog roast for every guest in its place, this was an absolute hit with every single person. Guests could continue to relax in the sunshine and enjoy everybody's company as they ate.

The speeches then, seriously special. I have been to see stand up comedians or shows at festivals and the emotion and humor from Sam, the bridesmaids and the best men were second to none! Every guest sat on the steps, on the walls and on benches around the central area, basking in the sun and laughing their socks off at the unfolding show. first up Sam's funny and emotional tribute to those closest to him during which he confirmed that he simply could not choose a traditional grooms party, and why should he. Those who meant so much to him were all around and that was what he needed. As I have mentioned earlier, Sam's excellent tribute to his wife was anecdotal and very funny with a very classy touch of emotion and clear declaration of his love. His wit and humor covered what was clearly an emotional moment for them both and left everyone present under no illusions of his feelings. Well done to you sir.

Next up was the hilarious bridesmaids for a game of Mr & Mrs, during which they attempted to ply the bride and groom with some lovely but slightly alcoholic shot drinks for incorrect answers. This really was a nice touch by them, and added to the story of the day without any need for a formal reading or traditional toast. Last but not least the best men introduced us to a lesson in Sam's life as the lesser spotted Magoo and his new lady Magoo. They very cleverly detailed some brilliant moments throughout their lives and also introduced Jess through their creativity and funny story telling. The final act for example saw Sam being encouraged to display his footballing abilities to his adoring crowd cheering him on to beat his record of keepy ups! wonderfully entertaining and poignant at the same time.

My day drew to a close then with the first dance and the opening of the nights headline act, Sams very own band. Their friends and family were informed before the dance that Jess was very happy for everyone to join in as soon as they liked! a few moments into the dance and they excitedly obliged. From that moment on the dance floor was absolutely rammed! The band were brilliant, The guests were loving the night and Sam and Jess were having the time of their lives, surrounded by the people that mattered most to them. No tradition, no script and certainly not afraid to do it their own way!

So that ticks all three of those very true, very well put qualities that Sam detailed for Jess. What he did not say was that he too shared each and every one of them also and everybody present are witness to it. Your are both perfect for one another.

I would like to thank Sam & Jess for having me to capture their day and I wish you both all the very best of Love, Luck and Love in your futures together.


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