The following sequence was photographed in September 2008 over a period of 15 minutes. The larger spider (on the left) is the female. She’s a typical garden spider (Araneus diadematus) of the type frequently seen in British gardens. The smaller spider is the male.
The ritual entails a very cautious approach by the male during which he drums a complex rhythm on the webbing to alert the female that he is indeed a spider, and a potential mate. The risk to him is that she will think he is prey. In these photos he gradually approaches the female, though on this occasion mating did not occur and he retreated (uneaten).
Location: Sussex (gardens, hedgerow)