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Mr and Mrs Craig | Opengate Church & Southend Barns

You know that feeling when you know you are going to enjoy something before you start it? Well, that’s how I feel about this blog, and I predict there’s gonna be a lot to say!!

I have known Christina (or CJ as she is lovingly referred to) and her family for many years. We have all been members of the same church in Bognor Regis and its a privilege to class the Jenkin’s family as my friends. When CJ’s boyfriend was planning to climb Ama Dablam last year for charity, CJ’s sister, Sophia, couldn’t resist sharing with us his greater plan to take the ring he was planning to propose with up to the summit to photograph as part of the big proposal!  (I popped a little of that back story in my blog about their engagement). Of course the months between Jon’s climb and the proposal seemed to take forever, but naturally, on Christmas Day, CJ said yes to Jon!

Ama Dablam heights
A proposal with a difference


When CJ and Jon asked me to be their wedding photographer in Chichester, I felt incredibly honoured (and a little scared…”can I put my pro head on when I’m with my mates??!!”), but the responsibility didn’t end there. As part of our church, we are encouraged to have a “Marriage Preparation Course“. It’s a course designed over a number of sessions to cover a whole host of subjects to really help a couple prepare themselves for marriage: what it means; what they expect from each other; what difficulties or points of difference/conflict may arise;  how to identify and work through them etc etc. It’s actually a great course that I would recommend to anyone planning to get married whether they have a faith or not. Anyhow, CJ and Jon felt that my husband, Tom, and I were the ones to take them through this course. How we faired by their estimations? You would have to ask them! But for Tom and I it really deepened our relationship with them and got to see their hearts for each other as a couple. We didn’t know Jon too well before this as he lives in Bristol, but having a monthly get together where we had dinner and ran through that sessions course material with them and shared stories was a wonderful time where we really bonded. It really helps too as a photographer to have your subjects at total ease with you, and after going through the course and all we discussed, I guess there was no room left for being camera shy!!


Christina & Jon


CJ & Jon had chosen Southend Barns near Chichester as their reception venue. The bonus to this was the use of the large Bridal Suite behind the Milking Shed in the morning. A necessity when you come from a family full of loud, vibrant and excitable women with Italian blood!! CJ and her bridesmaids (sister, cousins, friends), her hairdresser (Auntie), her make-up artist (friend) and Mum were all well established in the process of getting ready (and chatting) when I arrived, you could just feel the energy bouncing around the walls! While the girls were busy taking pictures, Tweeting and Instagram-ing everything I quickly got to work. My first point of call was CJ’s beautiful wedding dress and her shoes. It was the most stunning gown with a sweetheart bust, and yards of hand stitched lace embellished with crystals and pearl drops over a satin gown. CJ had chosen to dress the bridesmaids in coral and the flower girls in soft pink and had managed to find a pair of shoes for herself that captured her favourite colours…not to mention a killer heel!!


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While the girls were busing themselves, Lee, my trusted No.2 was hanging out with the boys at Jon’s brother’s house in Bosham. I think we would agree that the atmospheres were worlds apart! While the girls were still deciding which eyeliner, how much hairspray and talking at each other at the same time while spontaneously falling into giggle fits, the boys were chilling out on the sofa comparing notes on Apple devices and generally not worrying about a thing. Except for maybe the ironing. Oh, and the tie tying.


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CJ was having her hair done in a rather complicated up-do (I can barely manage the most basic plait, even with Pinterest instructions!!) by her incredibly talented Auntie Angie of Elegancia Hair. It really did look stunning. The rest of the girls had loose, flowing curls from waterfall plaits and large daisy pins. The overall look was naturally, rather than formally, glamourous. When it was time to do CJ’s makeup, she chose to have this done in her bedroom. This was a great opportunity to capture her without any distractions…and have a quick catch up!! Larissa & Sophia, CJ’s mum and sister, came to help her get into her dress. It was so lovely to see the interactions between three people I know so well as they took part in this poignant moment of the day. I have to admit to welling up a little myself, at which point CJ swiftly told me off as I was the one she said she was relying on to “hold it all together!!”. At this moment, when many brides get the sudden turn in the stomach as the nerves appear, CJ just looked naturally stunning and happy.


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When CJ did the big reveal of herself fully dressed and ready for the ceremony it was great to capture her bridesmaids doing a little of what they had been doing all morning…..taking pictures; Tweeting & Instagram-ing!!



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Before journeying to Bognor Regis for the ceremony, the boys had a quick stroll around Bosham Harbour which provided a great backdrop for some portraits of them together. I love the movement in the clouds and the calm water, not to mention the cheeky catalogue pose!!


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CJ had time in the morning to share some gifts she  had bought for her bridesmaids. Some lovely earrings which they all chose to wear that day. In true CJ style, she had coordinated the wrapping and ribbon with the colour theme set throughout the day! We had time to take a quick portrait of the girls together….with a special illusion of Kiara, the flower girl, appearing to grow out of CJ’s dress!!


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While Jon and his groomsmen were at Opengate Church greeting their guests and making final tweaks to the set up, CJ was on her way to the awaiting VW Campervan with her father to be delivered to the church. Now, Southend Barns is a stunning setting, with a photo opportunity around every corner, but on this occasion, there were a few unwelcome wasps hovering around. The thing that makes me smile most about this picture is actually the shot I took a second before this when all calm composure was lost and a look of absolute terror took over CJ’s features as the wasps appeared! For the sake of my friendship, I will not be including that image. Instead, you can see the version where a proud father looks lovingly at his beautiful daughter…..


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I love how, when we arrived at the church I was able to see the contrast again of how the girls vs boys were handling the anticipation of the “walk down the aisle moment”. The girls, continued to chat and giggle and emit nervous excitement while the boys looked as chilled out as chilled out can be!! The church and aisle had been decorated in wild flowers with bunting across the ceilings in the same colour scheme as the dresses. As CJ approached Jon and met at the end of the aisle, their joy could not be more pronounced.

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An interesting fact about this service is that CJ’s father is also a Pastor, therefore after having a somewhat awkward conversation with himself over “who gives this woman away” he quickly stepped up to the post and took on what I’m sure would have been an even greater honour than giving his daughter away. Marrying her to her betrothed aswell. We were all in stitches at this point shown in the first photo, however, when Steve started leading the vows and called his future son-in-law by the wrong name!!! The ceremony was full laughter and love. They had started with a period of time for worship before settling in for the vows and talks, all lead by close family or friends. It was really evident during the course of the day how much family meant to them both and how importantly they valued it.


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Once Mr & Mrs Craig had signed the register they exited the building to a loud Rudimental track, leaping off the stage before dancing back up the aisle! After a short while of hugs, kisses, congratulations and chatter the guests started making their way to Southend Barns while Lee and I got to hang out with CJ and Jon for some portraits. It was a lovely day with perfect conditions so we nipped down to the beach for some shots, giving CJ and Jon a chance to catch up with one another. The thing I love about shooting weddings is it gives you the chance to do things that on a normal day the general public would not give you the grace for….like stopping traffic or taking over someone’s beach hut!

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When we arrived at Southend Barns after a short journey filled with kit-kats and updating of Facebook statuses…because “if it’s not on Facebook it didn’t happen!” A roar of cheers and clapping from the guests greeted them as they walked through the gates and a wall of confetti to receive their much needed welcome drink. As the rain was starting to fall, we decided to do the family portraits in the Milking Shed as opposed to outdoors in the grounds. I’m really pleased with that decision as the photographs made for a less traditional line up with no one hiding or trying to duck out of shot as is often the case!! A lot of silly face pulling was also on the agenda for many of the photos!


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While the guests made their way to the main barn for the reception meal, we were able to whisk CJ & Jon away for a few moments to take advantage of the break in rain and explore the other sceneries the venue had to offer. The infinity water feature was one of my favourites.


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As we all sat down for the meal, I had the pleasure of sitting next to my husband. As he plays in wedding bands it’s a rarity that we are at the same wedding at the same time! We got chatting with some lovely people who had come  down from Bristol to be part of the nuptials. The meal was delicious….a tasty soup followed by the most succulent beef. Field and Fork do a great job of catering for weddings and events at Southend Barns. I would really recommend using their services in Chichester too. I really felt stuffed and replenished after the busyness of shooting that day. While multi-tasking camera battery charging with dessert eating you could feel the energy change in the room as plates were cleared and speeches were prepared. As is oft the case, the Father of the Bride speech brought tears to eyes, the Groom’s speech was glowing in thanks and praise and the Best Man’s speech, well, that served well to embarrass Jon with tales from his stag do. Especially when the picture appeared of him dressed up in a pretty frock and stockings for the quad biking part of the stag do…


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As you can see from the picture above, the cakes were numerous! Some friends had created a plethora of these naked cakes that I can thankfully say I managed to taste!! Normally as a wedding photographer you would never assume to help yourself to what is on offer for the guests, but when faced with these I had to quickly whip out my guest card and dive in for one of these beauties!! Delicious doesn’t even cut it. In fact, as I write this at 10 am, I am considering stepping out for more cake to try and recreate the experience knowing that I will be disappointed if it’s not as good.

While the tables were being swiftly cleared and the barn prepped for the evening’s party we had a great chance to sneak the bridal party out the back for some fun photos. I don’t know what trickery and magic Southend Barns use for their lawn, but I would really like some of it for my garden. It is the greenest, bounciest, prettiest lawn I have seen in a long time. As you can see from the next picture, CJ needed no invitation to sink her bare feet into it’s softness and relax back in extreme comfort! Her Bridesmaids quickly followed suite. In an other image, not shown here, shows the groomsmen all standing around looking perplexed as to why lying on the floor would be fun, or even comfortable! I guess they missed out eh girls?!


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The group photo is where the boys really excelled themselves. They were incredibly creative when it came to finding alternative ways of having their portraits done. Some scaling of the building occurred, some sleeping and lots of jumping!! The girls did great too looking sexy and sassy as the boys played. How CJ & Jon missed all this going on, who knows!!


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Jon was keen to see the bridal suite as he had not been there since they booked the venue for their reception. A lot of silliness started to occur….at this point the call for a coffee was strong so I sensibly left them to it!!


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After the coffee had kicked in for us and the guests the party really started! CJ and Jon danced their first dance to John Legend’s “All of You” sung by Sophia, CJ’s sister and bridesmaid. It really was a beautiful rendition. I’m looking forward to seeing her cover of that come up on YouTube soon. Mr & Mrs Craig then led their revellers in a flash dance to the Macarena. It is incredible after all these years how many people still know the actions!! The outside area has a fire pit where the men naturally flocked to show off their fire skills (and eat toasted marshmallows!). For those that are more camera shy we had a portable polaroid frame with which to entice & capture people as they partied. The poses became somewhat sillier as the evening progressed.


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The evening went on till late, with music, pulled pork baps and a bar keeping the masses entertained. The dance moves got more inventive and the chatter became more animated. It really was a lovely wedding where family and friends all pulled together in a vibrant display of love, laughter and joy centring around the happiness of a couple newly married.

Mr & Mrs Craig, I am delighted to call you my friends, and honoured to have been able to be your wedding photographer. I am looking forward to seeing more of you in your new home together in Bristol, having amazing coffee made for us and scrum my meals too. I wish you every blessing in your new life together, may it continue to overflow with the love and happiness that you share.

Fiona xxx

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