This was a Sylvanian Family wedding I’d been looking forward to for… well, almost a year. With little to no weddings to capture throughout 2020, the talk of shooting Jonathan and Tabitha’s day had got me really excited to be working again. The two of them were close friends to my 9 year old daughter Juno and when she told me about their wedding plans, I leapt at the opportunity to cover their day. Immediately, she apologetically announced that they had arranged for Colin the hedgehog, ‘a friend of the family’ to be their photographer. I was devastated. Any photographer will tell you they cringe when they hear ‘friend of the family’ when being let down by a couple and it was doubly painful to take at a time when there was so little work on. Fortunately, after a few weeks of emailing to and fro, and after a few words from a loyal daughter, they realised that the investment in a professional photographer would totally be worth it. Incredibly, I only discovered on their wedding day that they had sacrificed their entire flower budget to have me there, going instead for the cheaper plastic bouquets and table decor seen at so many Sylvanian Family weddings. Humbling.
On a glorious spring morning, I arrived early to take some prep shots of Tabitha getting ready at her grandparents’ home. A charming house, conveniently open-sided, allowing me to shoot freely without being too conspicuous. After taking a shot of Tabitha’s stunning nylon dress hanging up in Grandma Viv’s room, I headed back over to see the girls. Tabitha’s cousin Charlotte had offered to do hair and makeup. Fortunately a strict shampoo and conditioner routine meant that her fur needed very little grooming before putting on her dress and making her way downstairs to see her proud father Jack. It’s a special moment on the wedding day when a parent sees their son or daughter for the first time. I’d been chatting with Jack in the kitchen whilst he was making tea and going through his speech. I often like to build rapport with the family during this time, as it really helps gain the connection needed to capture poignant and meaningful images as the day unfolds. He struck me as a quite a lively character and I was looking forward to his wedding speech and the dancing afterwards, as he assured me he still had some serious moves up his sleeve.
An Intimate Sylvanian Family Wedding Ceremony
The drive to the chapel was a quick trip round the corner in Uncle Roy’s remarkable plastic Bentley. There’s a few things you can regularly rely on with weddings… Uncle Roy will have a car you can borrow and Uncle Bob will bring his drone! Jack insisted on driving Roy’s pride and joy without even touching the wheel, but I gather this is due to a severe stiffness in his arms. All the same, I was anxious that they might not make it to the chapel at all. I had to make the journey on foot, but managed to arrive before them and in time to grab a few frames whilst parking up on the double yellows opposite. Unfortunately, Tabitha managed to snag the velcro on the back of her dress as she got out of the car, but like all well prepared wedding photographers, I immediately went to my bag and grabbed my emergency sewing kit. A spare paper clip did the job of holding the damaged section together and I reassured her that it must have been due to her weight loss over the last few months getting “bride-ready”.
I love the fizz of nerves in these moments just before the ceremony. That second when you see each other for the first time. I always think there’s a wave of calm that both of you experience at the exact moment your eyes meet, that takes away all the anxiety of the day in an instant. Today would be no different. I had met the Reverend Bernie Beaver a few times in the lead up and he was the most charming and upbeat vicar I had met in a while. He also took great pleasure in announcing to the congregation that he was “the largest rodent in the world”. This was a bizarre fact that none of us had time to digest, as Tabitha and her father were starting to make their way down the aisle. Jon was wearing a cape (which he had definitely not mentioned in our emails, but which I found out my daughter had chosen) and looked every bit the cat that got the cream. I love shooting these moments and wondered if they were feeling that lovely sense of calm as they fixed their eyes on each other.
Tabitha’s university roommate Crystal sang exquisitely as the bride made her way down the aisle. I’d swear there were tears but couldn’t find any shots to show this when I went through them later. After a short service and the long awaited first kiss, guests hurled huge sheets of confetti at the happy couple as they made their way over to the reception in the field next door. The dappled late afternoon spring sunlight was just perfect for some romanic pictures, so I snuck off with Jon and Tabitha to get a few shots of them both together and to give them a little time in private before the wedding breakfast. They were a little stiff to start with and whilst I prefer not to direct my couples, I felt like I might have to suggest some poses, as they didn’t show much emotion or many expressions at all. I put this down to them simply being besotted with each other. After all, they should have been married months earlier, but had spent 6 months convincing the local authorities that their species were immune to the virus and should be allowed to marry as soon as possible without restrictions. Thankfully, good sense and a word from their Japanese creators prevailed.
The Sylvanian Family Wedding Reception
I was shocked to see singer Crystal tending bar once we had got back to the marquee. She told me times had been so incredibly hard for the hospitality and entertainment industry, that she had to take every job she could get and make the most of the opportunity. Fair play. We’re all going to have to work some serious hours to catch up on the months that we’ve missed. Later on she was even leading “The Sylvanian Aliens” in a cracking version of “We Are Family” that had Tabitha’s Goat Uncle Rex throwing shapes and wine in equal measure. What a legend! Leon (the band leader) serenaded us throughout a wonderful sun-kissed drinks reception. He regularly has a crowd around the piano when playing for Sylvanian wedding guests. Today he was the focus of Grandma Viv’s attention. She decided she would support him by the piano until we realised that the piano was actually supporting her. A final slurp of fizz and she was over – still belting out the chorus of Delilah as she went. Sign of a good wedding I always think.
After some Sylvanian Family group shots we headed over to hear Tabitha’s father Jack say a few words. I was expecting a good speech and he didn’t let me down with hilarious (if far fetched) tales of a giant dog chewing the ear off Tabitha’s sister Holly, stories of home-destroying earthquakes and epic tales of their journey to the UK from Japan in the eighties. All in all, it touched on the keystones you’d expect in a great speech – love, loss, adventure and all seasoned with a great sense of humour. Thankfully Uncle Bob didn’t get out his drone again until after the speeches, as the buzz would’ve rather spoiled the moment. I must thank him for the shots he sent over of the car and marquee. Tabitha was insistent she throw her bouquet, as she had a number of very eligible unmarried friends. My concern was that the hard plastic bouquet might cause more harm than good in her search for the next Sylvanian bride. I needn’t have worried though, as for some reason none of them showed any ability to catch the floral missile and, rather bruised, everyone made their way back to the marquee.
A Sylvanian Family Party To Remember
And so to the evening party… Leon and Crystal got everyone to gather round the dance floor. This in itself was a miracle, as Crystal had been shifting chairs and tables around to make it happen just 30 minutes earlier. Moving guests out of the way politely was tricky, but Leon did a great job of coaxing Grandma Viv into being a makeshift MC and announcing the change around. Most were falling over by this point, but on reflection, most guests had been pretty unsteady on their feet throughout the day. “Long grass” and “wretched heels” etc.
Tabitha and Jon didn’t strike me as a couple who would’ve rehearsed a routine for their first dance, but then again, as I mentioned before, they really didn’t give much away. Executing a dance routine is a courageous move, so when ‘The Sylvanian Aliens’ dropped the opening chords to “I Had The Time Of My Life” I feared this could be a step too far for a couple as stiff as these two. How wrong could I be – they nailed it! Guests were literally rooted to the spot. Aghast. Staggered. Surely they weren’t going to attempt ’The Lift’ were they? I hurriedly moved a flash to the back of the marquee realising that I would only get one go at capturing the most epic plastic pileup or something truly sublime. It seemed like slow motion as she leapt into his arms, except that his arms didn’t reach. No! She pivoted on his head whilst he gallantly waved his arms as high as they would go. Incredible! Guests were yelling and whooping as Leon and Crystal hammered out the Dirty Dancing classic and everyone caught their breath again. Even Tabitha’s father Jack wasn’t to be outdone. He called it a “body popping backspin” as he circled across the floor past a deliriously happy Grandma Viv to a cheering crowd. What a night. What a family. What a wedding.