Over the near 300 weddings I've shot one wedding venue keeps pulling me back. Even though I'm now based in Essex, couples keep asking me to go back to Woodhill Hall in Northumberland (as I type this I'm sat in my parent's lounge preparing for another Woodhill Hall wedding). And do you know what? I don't mind! I love coming back up to Northumberland to this wonderful little venue with a BIG personality.
It felt like years ago that Fern and Alan booked me. In fact I was still living on Tyneside when I first met them!!! As with everyone who booked me before the big venture south I'd given them the whole "DON'T PANIC!" routine.
Come the big day I was full of the usual nerves I get pre-wedding. This keeps me alert. It's similar to the nerves I used to get before going on stage and getting behind my drumkit with my old band during gigs. It releases the adrenaline and helps me focus on the job! Gets me in the zone!
I arrived at the hall and saw all the familiar faces including Corrinne, the owner, who I hadn't seen since Christmas. As I had got there nice and early we spent some time catching up. She always cracks me up. We hit it off ever since my first wedding at Woodhill Hall back in 2012. 6 years later and I'm part of the furniture. Corrinne and I have very similar outlooks on weddings. A very much relaxed, fun yet professional view of things. And why do normal??
Anyway, back to the big day. Things were nice and chilled at the Hall. Fern and the girls were up in the Darcy Room getting ready, music on and bubbles flowing. Downstairs the guys were ironing, polishing shoes and looking for buttonholes.
The wedding wasn't going to take place at the Hall. A short drive over the hills is Elsdon. I love the church at Elsdon. It's close to my heart. My mum was vicar at Otterburn and Elsdon and my son, George, was christened there back in 2005. Plus it's visually stunning. Now, I was thrown one of those curveballs you always get at a wedding. The vicar wouldn't allow me to capture any shots at all during the ceremony. The most I was allowed to do was entry and exit. I sat on the grass outside and waited. It was a sunny day, so I made the most of it and edited some images.
After the ceremony I was able to get some shots inside the church of Fern and Alan whilst the guests congregated outside ready to throw a shower of confetti. I love the confetti shot. It's fun, it's manic and it's unpredictable. The reactions are always great and I wasn't disappointed! Down the length of the path to the churchyard gate, the happy couple were showered in what felt like tonnes of dried petals. Although I seemed to be covered in more of it than them!!
A quick dash back to the hall and we were able to get some shots before the guests arrived. These guys were all very well behaved. Family shots were lighthearted and concluded quickly allowing them all to mingle, have a drink and have a few nibbles. Meanwhile we had a wonder around the grounds get a few shots. In my usual style, I left Fern and Alan to their own devices to catch up with each other whilst I captured those moments.
The Orangery was already set and ready on our arrival back at the Hall so it wasn't long before we all gathered to be treated to the speeches. The usual mixture of sentiment, emotion and hilarity. But not before people had to find their seats via a seating plan and finding their place settings on shot glasses containing a measure of limoncello. The reactions of some of the guests were hilarious.
After the wedding breakfast everyone headed to the teepees. As per usual, the male guests were drawn to the firepit in the middle of the teepee and began toasting marshmallows. Meanwhile a gaggle of women headed to the dancefloor to begin the knees up.
With the teepee already rocking, it seemed like the right time to bring the newlyweds to the front and start the first dance. Under a hue of blue light, Fern and Alan swayed, twirled and rocked away before frantically ushering their guests to join them. Which they duly did. And my god what a party they started. Here we had a group of family and friends just having an absolute blast to some awesome tunes. It seemed a shame to leave when I did.
After the first dance, I packed up and loaded my car. With the midsummer sun setting I drove off down the drive way satisfied of a job well done. I had plenty of time to reflect. My own newlywed wife was waiting for me at Stansted Airport ahead of flying off to Ibiza on our own honeymoon.
My thoughts of the day. Accomplished. Happy. Elated. I had been part of an amazing celebration that I had captured. And captured well.Nerves?? What nerves??!!