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So you’re engaged. Huge congratulations! Now for the exciting stuff…planning your big day!
I attend a pretty decent amount of wedding fayres throughout each year; promoting my work, meeting new couples, eating all the free cake samples – yep, they’re fab! Since I began my career as a wedding photographer, I have progressed from fayres at local village halls and very small, low budget venues, through to some of the most visually amazing places I have ever worked. I’ve loved every minute of my journey and I am now in a place where I exhibit at a small number of select venues each year – some new, some that I return to time and time again.
There are lots of reasons why some venues resonate with me more than others, and it got me thinking that, in the minefield that is wedding planning, it must sometimes feel overwhelming from a bride and groom’s point of view, tying to weigh up pros and cons of each element. There are SO many wedding venues out there now, how do you even begin to choose the place where you will say some of the most important words of your life? I figured, having worked at so many beautiful places over the past ten years, I could share some of my thoughts and perhaps help out with this…
So what do you feel is important to you in terms of your wedding venue?
Do you want to get ready there?
Lots of venues offer an all inclusive package, so you can get there early or even the night before and throw away the stress of travelling to your wedding after you’ve been pampered and are all ready to go. This can also save money on cars too! One of my absolute favourite bridal prep rooms has to be at Pendrell Hall in Codsall Wood. The house itself is gorgeous throughout, and the getting ready room gets the perfect amount of light in the morning for those lovely detail shots, with big mirrors for bride and bridesmaids to all get ready side by side.
Then there is Wootton Park near Henley-in-Arden…they have an on site salon where you can get your hair and makeup done, as well as the choice between a designated getting ready room entitled “The Secret Boudoir” or a brand new larger area in the main building – both absolutely gorgeous! The team in Trust Salons is absolutely fab and they really make you feel at home on your wedding morning. You can also get ready in the venue’s farmhouse, where all the rooms are named and decorated after beautiful places, like Venice.
Outdoor Ceremony your thing?
You’re getting married in the summer (or are just super brave and/or hardcore) and fancy getting married in the great outdoors. I love outdoor ceremonies. Even when the sun doesn’t appear, they have such a lovely atmosphere and allow much more freedom in terms of photography angles.
So here I go again bigging up Wootton Park (I might start charging commission) but these guys really do do everything so well. Their outdoor ceremony location is set beside the lake, and bride and groom actually get married on a boat! When the sun shines here, it really shines…and the little trellis archway at the end of the aisle is very cute and great for after-ceremony shots…
I can’t write about outdoor ceremonies without mentioning the absolutely amazing Arley House and Gardens. The house is situated next to Arley Arboretum and couples have the use of, not only the grounds of the house itself, but of the arboretum grounds too. Their Italian Gardens is one of two outdoor ceremony location options and is simply one of the most beautiful set ups for outdoor ceremonies that I’ve personally worked at in this country. It’s so charming and the little pond leading up to the spot where you say your vows makes for some amazing reflection images.
Or an indoor ceremony…with lots of class!
It’s almost a given that, if you opt for a church ceremony, the backdrop will be pretty beautiful. Church architecture often blows me away. If you’re not into the church scene you might feel a little restricted in terms of the ceremony room…they can be small and sometimes a little dark. Photography angles can be quite restrictive too. That is until you see Callow Great Hall at Stanbrook Abbey. Just wow! This is not your average civil ceremony room. Stanbrook Abbey, as suggested by its name, used to be home to Worcestershire nuns and was only fairly recently taken over as a hotel chain and wedding venue. You say your vows in this absolutely stunning hall with it’s long wide aisle, wooden pews and stained glass windows.
If all the grandeur feels like it might be a little overstated for what you have in mind for your wedding however, there is an absolutely gorgeous civil ceremony room at The Mill Barns in Alverley, near Bridgnorth. The huge windows make the room so bright and airy, with views of the water outside and impressive architecture.
Then there is the lovely garden view orangery at The Old Vicarage in Worfield. This lovely little family run venue has such an inviting atmosphere. Going back to my previous point, they also have cottages where you can get ready if you’d like to.
Want to feel like a fairytale princess?
Getting married in a castle, complete with turrets and towers, original architecture, stone floors and stunning grounds to have your photographs taken in is certainly one way to do this!
There are two venues that jump out at me here; namely Clearwell Castle and Hampton Court Castle.
The first of these is a stunning venue situated in the Forest of Dean, with huge open spaces, a gorgeous ceremony room with high ceilings and floor to ceiling windows and a separate basement area for dancing the night away once the formalities are over. The from of the castle is the perfect backdrop to your family and couple photographs and really satisfies my obsession with symmetry! I’ve photographed weddings there in both summer and winter and whatever the weather, it always looks stunning.
Hampton Court Castle is an entirely different feel, being a 15th century castle with a huge emphasis on its medieval history. There is a lovely little chapel inside the castle where you can exchange your vows, and the hallways and rooms are nothing short of spectacular, with original features, tapestries, and the most beautiful sweeping staircase – a photographer’s dream. There is even a maze to explore – it’s a little too easy to get lost in there though just to warn you!
Foodies? Look no further!
I have had some amazing meals at weddings thanks to my lovely couples and their venues. I have to say some of the best food I have ever tasted comes from the gorgeous Redhouse Barn. These guys really know how to do weddings and their on-site caterer, Morgans Catering, produce food to die for! It looks awesome too…
More relaxed venues, such as the more DIY barns and family run places, let you have a little more freedom with your catering choices, so you might end up with a wood fired pizza oven (really cool to watch) or even a burger van! Hey, not everyone wants the formal three course dinner, and if that’s not for you, you should definitely check out The Barn at Upcote (near Cheltenham) or maybe consider hiring a marquee if you have the land available – then you can really make it your own!
Something a little bit different…
With so many wedding venues to choose from, sometimes it’s great to think outside the box. A couple of venues stick in my mind for this, or really, one venue and one concept. So firstly, if you’re a fan of the city, Fazeley Studios is a fantastic little hidden gem in the middle of Digbeth. Surrounded by colourful urban graffiti and the Birmingham canals, you certainly don’t expect to walk into a building with stained glass windows! It’s great for some quirky and colourful post-ceremony shots in the city too!
Then there is the ultimate DIY, “put your own stamp on it” wedding venue…the marquee! Of course, you need land, or access to land, but if you have some then what better way to celebrate your own personal love story then to build your very own venue to host it? I love these kinds of weddings because nothing is waiting for the bride and groom; it’s 100% their input, super personal and very “them”.
Of course there are WAY more venues than I have included here, but if I put them all in it’d be a never-ending blog! All of the places mentioned above are venues I have personally worked at and LOVED. You should definitely consider them if you are on the hunt for the perfect place. Some of these overlap in the above sections too, such as Redhouse Barn has a beautiful dressing room for bridal prep, Wootton Park do great food and all these venues have stunning grounds and gardens for you to explore. Don’t take my word for it – check out their websites and give them a call – I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Then, when you’re sorted, give me a call about coming along to photograph your big day!
Wherever you choose to get married, keep it personal and put your stamp on it. It’ll be perfect 🙂