What makes a great Winter Wedding? Sparklers, for sure. Some fur trim, maybe. A great venue like Lympne Castle helps of course, decked out with - or at least as far as I counted - half a dozen Christmas trees. Good weather and good light helps. And good timing. But we know what makes a great wedding any time of the year, really, don't we. A great couple with wonderful family and friends.
And that's where Charlotte and Dan got it so right. Both laid-back AND on point, they let their day unfold without fuss, without the appearance of effort, yet totally organised and perfectly timed. And what a lovely day it was. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas Charlotte had chosen and organised for her mid-December wedding a really tasteful winter theme of red and white, simple and effective, with stunning vintage styling for both the girls and boys.
My own theme, as photographer started out obsessing with hairspray shots and reflections...
I think we're gonna need a bigger can of hairspray!!!
Lympne Castle dates back to the eleventh century when it was built for the Archdeacons of Canturbury on the edge of a cliff over the Romney Marshes. The view that you see today of countryside stretching to the coast was mostly under water, submerged beneath the sea which, unlike most coastal areas, has actually retreated, which I think is fascinating. The castle was rebuilt in the fourteenth century incorporating a building with a tower at each end, and it is thought that the square tower may be on the site of an original Roman watch tower. If this is the case then Lympne's history dates back two thousand years! Restored in 1908 to its present condition, the castle boasts the kind of dark wood panelling and generous casement windows that let the light flood in and then get soaked up. This goes some way to explaining why I loved shooting bridal prep here and may have gone overboard.
The light is redolent of a Vermeer painting, wonderfully soft and falling off rapidly into areas of shadow, giving Charlotte a little the look of a tudor Princess.
Well that was my obsession with light and reflections and hairspray well and truly put to bed. But it's well worth taking a moment to congratulate the venue. While everyone was made to feel comfortable and looked-after throughout the day, the staff at Lympne had gone all out to make sure the spirit of Christmas was round every corner.
And while the girls took their time getting ready, as is only right and proper, and very much the way with girls at weddings, the boys, true to form, had showered and changed in less time than it takes to eat that ever-so-vital cooked breakfast.
Ooops! Bless. When the ring-bearer took a tumble and dropped the rings, we were worried for a moment. And that's what best men are for, as Dan's right-hand man gallantly stepped into the breach and quickly retrieved the rings and popped them back on the cushion.
Who doesn't love a Christmas winter wedding!? With sparklers and christmas trees and log fires and a medieval castle and a gorgeous couple working their vintage style in the Kent countryside. And we got beautiful December sunshine! Congratulations Charlotte and Dan xA great couple, a great venue, a great day with awesome friends and family. Congratulations Charlotte and Dan, and Merry Christmas! x
Some couples like to have everything 'just so', planning every last detail down to the last hairpin, taking everything so seriously.
And some couples just wanna have fun...
The day started, as usual, with the boys. While unflustered groom Matt and his brother nursed their hangovers, I grabbed a few detail shots.
While Dad did the important work of rustling up a full English, that staunch cornerstone of a wedding day, and the ultimate breakfast of champions.
And the boys did the equally important and no less gruelling work of breakfasting.
And then it was down the Tunbridge Wells Hotel, in the picturesque and quintessentially English Pantiles. We were blessed with a glorious and very un-English hot sunny spring day. Since the refurbishment in 2012 the hotel boasts the perfect mix of modern comfort and convenience with Regency charm and character.
Queen Victoria made frequent visits to the hotel in the early part of the 19th century and later granted the use of her coat of arms, which is displayed at the top of the building. Queen Laura, visiting in 2017 for her wedding prep granted that her kids could stay in the room to get changed, but that the parents should confine themselves to sitting outside the hotel bar terrace and sipping lemondae in the sun.
Although it first opened its doors as a hotel in 1880, The Tunbridge Wells Spa Hotel was originally built in 1766 as a country mansion. Like all big Georgian houses it boasts many intriguing and charming nooks and crannies in its maze of stairwells and corridors.
Meanwhile, back with the girls for a moment, someone didn't take too kindly to having their hair done.
While some of the older guests merely looked on impassively.
There were a few tears of happiness when the dress went on, partly because Laura is just a big sentimental softy and partly because she looked so lovely.
and just as lovely were all her bridesmaids
Now here's an irony. How often is a bride late for her own wedding with the registrar fretting and wondering where she is? Not so often are the tables turned, with the bride wondering - where the hell's my registrar?!
The lads, meanwhile were still, characteristically, completely unflustered
The ceremony was held at the Mansion House registry office in Tunbridge Wells, a nice light and spacious venue, with plenty of room for the cheekiest of boys to muck around. (that goes for Matt and Vince too)
Like a trooper Laura managed not to cry as Dad led her up the aisle.
And then caved in when she got there.
Caption for this face please?
While the registry office is lovely, there's no access to any grounds as such, so I took the wedding party off for an expedition to Calverley Grounds, just behind. While it would have been a long, long walk to the best part of the gardens, we still managed to find some trees and some shade for our group formal shots.
For future reference - must tell groom not to keep his eyes closed during the confetti shot...
And then it was off to the Grub and Liquor for the reception.
And despite the chaotic day, we still grabbed ten minutes to nip out in the last of the evening light to grab some romantic, fun portraits shots around The Pantiles.
With the help of awesome wedding DJ David Cardoso and some subdued lighting, we got the party started.
And still these two couldn't stop with the kissing. So much love!
not sure what's going on here, but mad stuff does happen at parties, right?
Although one very sensible young lady is watching serenely and sensibly from the sidelines
Congratulations Matt and Laura and love to the family x
A classic spring wedding, with classic spring weather. Well it didn't tip it down. In fact we were pretty lucky all things considered, for March, though one or two shots may speak a little of lowering gothic clouds. All in all though, this was one fun, easy, and definitely romantic day for two Hampshire childhood sweethearts.
While Julie – as resident princess for the day got the bridal suite at the big house for her preparations, Guy and Best man James spent the night in a Premier Inn in Farnham. Though, speaking as someone who virtually lives in Premier Inn, you can do a lot worse.
Time was obviously a big motif for Guy, though I don’t think there was ever any chance it would be him and super-organised James who would be the late ones, after all, that’s the bride’s perogative, right?
There’s nothing like a bit of bromance on the morning of the big day, and if Guy was feeling nervous, he didn’t show it too much. He was feeling nervous, by the way.
I love the natural easy friendship you can see in these guys’ body language. You can tell they’ve known each other for years and have that trust and bond that only true friends have.
Going for the simple classic contrast of blue and yellow gave Guy a blaze of colour, while still keeping things restrained.
and then it was time to go....
Did I mention gothic lowering storm clouds? Set within 120 acres of stunning countryside, the privately-owned Grade II listed, eighteenth-century manor house of Northbrook Park features a beautiful Orangery and Vine Room, along with tranquil walled gardens and picturesque countryside. Located near Farnham on the Hampshire/Surrey borders, couples can enjoy beautiful countryside within easy reach of London. Fountains, walled gardens and peacocks, symbolising good fortune, that roam freely throughout the estate with casual disregard for photographers and newly-weds alike.
Ahead of the bride's car, one young guest shows off the latest in pre-school transport.
The ceremony room is light and spacious, a perfect simple bright canvas to impress your own design and can easily accommodate all but the most massive of wedding ceremonies.
In measured tones of purple and pink, the bridesmaids offered a sophisticated and subtle contrast to the blues and greys of the groom and groomsmen.
While Julie was, of course, resplendent in white.
Remember that thing about the gothic sky? As a photographer, you can choose to make a feature of it...
Or you can offer up something brighter and more cheerful. While I like to sometimes over cook a dramatic sky, I always make sure my couples have plenty of choice, and let them opt for what they like best.
Although there are times and moments when black and white just begs to be the edit of choice. These few moments below I could see in monochrome long before I got to the edit. They would still work in colour, but there is something in the tones that begs for a simpler, more contrasty look.
Remember the peacocks? Not only do they roam freely with scant regard, etc. But they are not entirely co operative, often refusing to take direction, like the spoiled divas we always suspected they would be. The only shot we got where the sun was truly giving a nice backlight, for example, this resplendent lady in white was showing us her feathered bottom. Still, we grabbed this shot, and Julie and Guy helpfully held their kiss for the photographer.
The function room is the old swimming pool - sadly now concreted over. One can image heady days when party-goers, in the style of It's a Wonderful Life, might have danced the Charlston before throwing themselves fully clothed in the water. This particular day's events were a little more measured, but still there was plenty of fun and laughter.
Although I did wonder if the band were just a little bit on the young side.
After some lovely speeches it was time for sparklers, cake-cutting and first dance
.... and a few extra couple portrait shots.
Congratulations Julie and Guy and all the very best for your future together
There is something special about winter weddings; the crisp, cold air; the low, brilliant sun; the early sunset and the cosiness of friends and family all brought together to celebrate that special day in the warmth of a terrific venue. Well Elliot and Charlie's big day was all this and more, from the perfect colour-coordination of tasteful reds and greys, the adorable gang of friends and family, to the serendipitous winter sunshine and Southdowns Manor, one of the most generous and perfect of wedding venues.
Ah Petersfield. Is it Hampshire or is it Sussex? Is it New Forest or South Downs? Actually bordering Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, the Manor is perfectly situated to accommodate couples from all about and, while it nestles peacefully in secluded and beautiful countryside down a two-mile-long country lane, it is really easy to get to.
The venue had given Charlie and Elliot free run of the place, which included the honeymoon suite, perfect for pampering, prepping and some nifty portrait and prep shots.
While the girls made the most of their time getting ready, the chaps respected the man-tradition of being suited and booted in the minimum possible amount of time. Which gave us a nice little window for some fun man-portraits.
Brilliant! Come on, let's do a fight shot! Ooops!! that went well!
Having scored our men's portrait shots from the list, Elliot and the boys went off to meet and greet guests. Meanwhile, back in the honeymoon suite, Charlie, stunning in white, was applying the finishing touches.
Southdowns Manor offer three different rooms licenced for civil weddings, which was handy as Elliot and Charlie had actually booked two seperate services!
I shall lead the expedition. We head North, I tell you, North!
Elliot succeeding in looking not in the least bit groom-apprehensive.
And here, below, it looks like we have the world's youngest, littlest wedding planner calling the shots
Oh... she's the flower girl! So cute!
Charlie is a singer, but of course you can't really sing during your own wedding blessing service, so the honour fell to Lara and Dean who gave a fantastic performance of John Legend's "All of Me".
I call this wedding gymnastics. Whaddya think? Not at all distracting for anyone, right?
I love every aspect of shooting weddings, whether it be the carefully-planned portraiture, the from-the-hip immediacy of the ceremony, or the quick-reflex, intuitive style-adopting needed to make the best of available light for group shots and first dance. But perhaps my favourite part is capturing candid moments during reception and speeches.
So much orange juice, and still not a decent-looking man in sight :(
Look at him down there on his knees, damn photographer won't go away. Try not to look self-conscious lol.
Me, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Much more interesting things going on over here on my i-pad.
What do you think, is this my best side?
Some couples are so great, you have to marry them twice! Having completed the wonderful, moving blessing ceremony, Charlie and Elliot moved onto the conservatory for the full legal wedding service.
You know how it goes, you drink champagne on an empty stomach, the wedding breakfast is still some way off, so you tuck into the .. er.. confetti?
Any decent wedding photographer will used development presets to give their pictures the best overall look. A very popular look is the LXC grade you can see on the group shot below. No one look is of course to everyone's taste, so - lucky Elliot and Charlie - I also edited the group portraits with a more 'standard', colourful and bright look.
What do we think? Which look is better? As the world's most super-generous photographer, I've actually supplied you with both :)