As a wedding photographer I am often asked for advice from my brides on all manor of wedding suppliers and venues. It’s true that most couples have very limited experience of attending weddings…let alone planning one! I have to work closely with a variety of caterers, florists, stylists and venue managers providing me with some insight into the range of wedding services and suppliers available. Every wedding day is quite rightly unique and should portray the character of bride and groom, therefore I would never try to influence the choices made by my clients. On occasion though, I am asked what venues locally would be suitable for certain themed or size weddings. With this in mind, I thought I would put together a blog detailing some of my favourite venues from 2012 and also what I believe a bride and groom should consider when visiting prospective locations.
My Top Five!
5. Buckland House, North Devon http://www.bucklandhouse.co.uk/home/
This stunning country house provided the backdrop for a fantastically unique wedding I assisted on in the summer of 2012. With a beautiful ceremony room and extensive grounds, it was the perfect location for this funky “music festival” wedding. The guest bedrooms, all with their own character, provide both a period retreat for family or friends, as well as lots of options for that all in important Bridal preparation photos. The interior of the mansion offers a gorgeous, sweeping, red carpeted staircase, a stunning balcony that extends around the entire second floor. The vibrant decor and wealth of features really do add something very special to any wedding.
4. Wick Farm, nr Bath http://www.wickfarmbath.co.uk/
Wick Farm is a very new wedding venue and although I first approached the venue with some trepidation, the converted barn complex quickly grew on me. The ceremony barn had been beautifully decorated and the mixture of rustic charm and glorious fresh roses really created a romantic setting for the wedding. The barns being constructed from Bath stone are light, airy with a distinctly cream colour caste. For me this provided a calming ambience that felt very fresh. Wick is a working farm and the surrounding farmhouse and outbuildings provide good settings for a romantic couple’s photoshoot and the gardens are more than adequate for the formal group shots. Wick is not the largest venue I have visited, but it is a cosy yet stylish venue for small to medium sized weddings. The staff were highly efficient and the food was to a very high standard including and impressive antipasti platter that Jamie Oliver would be proud of!
3. Polhawn Fort http://www.polhawnfort.com/index.php
Polhawn Fort is a fairly unusual wedding venue on the Cornish coastline…quite literally set into the cliffside. Constructed as part of our coastal defences against a Napoleonic invasion the Fort is a memorable venue looking out over Whitsand Bay. Like Buckland House this venue most suitable for weekend hire and self catering accommodation….perfect for those who have family travelling and couple’s wanting to make their wedding a whole weekend event. The red brick low ceilings in the main room are warm and cosy and the beach below offers a much used photoshoot location…who can refuse a beach wedding portrait?! The Fort’s overall design makes for a memorable wedding and the staff are helpful and accommodating.
2. Stoodleigh Court http://www.stoodleighcourt.co.uk/
Stoodleigh Court being quite close to me and a venue I have shot at on more than one occasion was absolutely my favourite venue until this summer. It’s a lovely country manor house with an impressive ceremony room that can accommodate quite a large wedding comfortably. Stoodleigh has a sense of grandeur that a manor house can command, whilst at the same time feeling welcoming and comfortable. The grounds are beautiful and overlook a typically stunning Devon Countryside vista. The photo opportunities are endless both inside and out with features like the Dovecot adding that sought after romance. For me, Stoodleigh is the perfect wedding venue in the Tiverton area and has pretty much everything that I hope to find as a wedding photographer on a shoot.
1. Combe House http://www.combehousedevon.com/
As mentioned previously Stoodleigh is my favourite venue in the Tiverton area, but spreading
just a fraction further afield a new venue has knocked Stoodleigh off of the top spot of my top five. Situated on the outskirts of the quaint village Gittisham, Combe House is once again an impressive manor house set in beautiful Devonshire countryside. The bridal suite is bright and airy allowing plenty of room for bridal prep with a haggle of bridesmaids! Combe has all the features you would expect from a country house with a splattering of antiques and big open fireplaces. The grounds offer terrific options for photography, including a hidden cottage garden and an amazing outbuilding with a beautiful feature window. There are riding stables near by and if you are lucky grazing horses can feature on your venue shots. I can’t speak highly enough of the staff at Combe. They were friendly and accommodating, even coming to my rescue when I injured myself whilst on the couple photoshoot. The food was also superb and all in all the whole day spent at Combe House was a total pleasure. So now you have my top five venues of 2012 and I hasten to add that these are totally my personal preference. There is an ever growing selection of excellent venues available, offering a variety of services and settings for your magical day.
A special mention must go out from me to a handful of additional venues:
- Lakeview Manor with it’s excellent ground and who’s staff were absolutely top notch.
- Powderham Castle, a truly magical venue that is more than capable of providing a fairytale wedding.
- Highley Manor, W. Sussex, another great manor house location with features and grounds to impress.
- Muddifords Court…a new venue for me where I will start my 2013 season. I am very excited to explore this venue and very much expect to add it to my top five venues of 2013…so check back next year!
So what should YOU look for when choosing your venue?
Here are my three simple but important tips when choosing a venue for your memorable day.
- Always reccie your venue and ensure you spend plenty of time roaming the building, get to know it’s nooks and crannies! A wedding planner is there to sell so don’t be pressured into making a decision. Always try to ensure you are able to take a second tour on your own. That way you can view the venue and get a sense of it’s character without the brochure patter.
- Make sure you don’t underestimate guest numbers. You want your guests to move around comfortably so make sure you over estimate, rather than underestimate your guest list. Your wedding venue may advise on maximum numbers but be cautious and use your own judgement too. Remember a venue will advertise MAXIMUM numbers they can accommodate, but that is a maximum not necessarily a comfortable fit!
- Look for features inside and out….keep the Great British weather in mind! We would all love to guarantee a glorious sunny day for your wedding, but we all know that Mother Nature is not quite that reliable. Whilst it’s still possible to get some outdoor shots even in bad weather, it is always wise to consider that interior shots may be necessary…after all the last thing you want is guests that are drowned rats! A venue with stunning vistas and grounds are great in good weather but plain and drab interiors don’t inspire on a torrential rain day! It’s true a photographer can shoot almost anywhere but it’s most certainly worth keeping in mind whilst you visit potential locations.