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 6 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 now offer an all inclusive package, so you can get there early 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 a brand new designated getting ready room entitled "The Secret Boudoir" - gorgeous! The team in Trust Salon is absolutely fab and they really make you feel at home on your wedding morning. You can also get ready in their 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. I recently shot a wedding ceremony at the beautiful Rowton Castle, and the outdoor ceremony spot there is just lovely, set in an intimate garden behind the venue, with amazing views of the castle itself behind you.
So here I go again bigging up Wootton Park (I might start charging commission) but these guys really do do everything so well. Theire 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...
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. Their chosen 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 and Wootton Park (although they do also do the formal thing very well too)...
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, most recently actually at Pershore Abbey where I shot the most beautiful wedding earlier this month. But 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 the ceremony room at Stanbrook Abbey. Just wow! I took my Mum there for the first time just yesterday and she was amazed. This is not your average civil ceremony room.
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 Alveley, near Bridgnorth. Shooting my first wedding there just last month, I got some great creative angles using the glass furniture and the huge windows make the room so bright and airy, with views of the water outside and impressive architecture.
That childhood dream of being a Disney Fairytale Princess...
I recently shot a wedding with the most lovely couple. The bride told me that when she was very young, she was in the back of her parents' car when they drove past Chateau Impney in Droitwich. She told her parents it was a fairytale castle and she would get married there when she was older. Well, she did! The fairytale became reality, and I can;t think of a better place to do it than at this stunning chateau. It really is like something from a Disney story.
That 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 :)