Wedding at Brighton Bandstand
2020 weddings. A wedding in August, at the Brighton bandstand. It had originally had been scheduled for June, at another unique wedding venue, The Asylum Chapel in South London, but then Covid-19 appeared. This was a short coverage gig, just two hours, although it did spill over into almost three in the end. But this was a wedding flying in the face of both Covid-19 and cancer. Lockdown and Government ordered wedding restrictions meant the June date was never going to happen, a fallback date was August 22 and not far from that, Jessi and Rob decided to go for it.
But another spanner in the works to come, the weather. The South Coast was hit by winds from Storm Ellen centred further west. So it was a breezy few days. A message on WhatsApp from Jessi, the day before the wedding day. The registrars thought it may be too windy to hold the ceremony on the Victorian bandstand. The ceremony would have to be downstairs in the cafe. No-one else would be allowed in, not even a photographer. "They're confirming with me end of today what their risk assessment is but said expect bad news" was how Jessi ended the message. Luckily, a few hours later, a message to say the ceremony could go ahead in the bandstand, with just the signing inside. As Jessi put it, she had played the 'cancer card'.
Wedding photography enquiries
You could write a whole post (even a book) about wedding photography enquiries. Some are very odd. Some people get in touch, then just disappear, despite often sounding keen. Some come back after a few weeks of silence, eager to book. Some have a thousand questions (often straight from some wedding magazine/blog article). Some just umm and err about booking or not, and drift away.
But some just book. They know what they want, they've seen what they want, they just book. As a documentary filmmaker, Jessi knew what she wanted to capture her wedding day when she got in touch last October.
"I'm from a documentary journalism background myself and I cannot tell you how excited your approach made me! The idea of lots of staged same-y photos from the day was making me wince. Your photos are beautiful and please rest assured you would certainly be left alone by us to do your thing."
She asked to book the next day, once I said I was free for the date in June but added that she was about to start chemotherapy for an advanced rare ovarian cancer. "The aim is to keep it at bay for hopefully at least a year but because of the staging/rarity it's quite unpredictable what the situation will be in June."
How do you reply to that?
Two fingers to Covid-19 and cancer
So 2020 comes along and we all know what happened by March. Jessi got in touch in April. As someone who was having to shield until June and with restrictions still in place for weddings, the planned June wedding was looking unlikely. The Asylum chapel and the reception venue in Brixton, 100 Barrington, both had August 22 free as a backup date. As it happened so did I. This became the plan, as we waited so see how things panned out for weddings.
Come June and Jessi got in touch again with a second backup date, in September, just in case. I was actually booked for that date, but Jessi decided to keep my booking and see what happened nearer the time? As it turned out the original September booking cancelled. But also the cancer had come back.
So roll forward to eleven days before August 22. Jessi emailed to say they had decided to go for a small wedding ceremony, just 24 people, a Brighton bandstand wedding, as who knew when a big wedding party could actually happen?
Small wedding coverage
Jessi got ready at The Grand Hotel on the Brighton seafront. But Covid restrictions meant her friends could not get ready with her and certainly no photographer allowed into the hotel room. So coverage kicked off at the Bottom's Rest bar in Hove - where Jessi had booked a couple of outside tables and some Deliveroo pizza. Pizza and pale wedding dresses.
It was breezy at the bandstand, everyone stood. The registrar found a hairband, Jessi's father leant her his jacket as they waited. A brief ceremony, finished with a spur-of-the-moment spin, as Rob scooped up Jessi. Then down to the cafe below for the signing, as their friends and family gathered for confetti next to the beach. Two attempts at bouquet throwing - the first sailed way over all the waiting hands. Then everyone set off down the promenade and up the hill to the Caxton Arms pub, for drinks and some brief speeches. A very quick portrait in the street outside and then I was done, off round the corner to the train station.
A short coverage but again it shows there are images to be had from just a few hours. Here are a few images from this emotional Brighton bandstand wedding...
Wedding Photojournalism Awards
Two images from this wedding won awards in the international wedding photojournalism competition held by The Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA).
This last shot, the flying bouquet, also won an award in the This is Reportage wedding photography awards.
Part Two : London : 2021
The party did come, a year later. Exactly twelve months later, 22nd August 2021 and at the original ceremony location, The Asylum Chapel in Peckham. A ceremony conducted by a friend, drinks outside the front of the chapel and then a walk to the reception venue nearby. the AMP studios. (This coincided with a very, very heavy downpour)
Here are a few images from the second part of this wedding...
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