Burn Hall Hotel Wedding, York – Simon and Amanda
At the initial consultation, one of the things I ask prospective clients is if they have a particular colour scheme in mind for their wedding. When I arrived at the Burn Hall Hotel, which is about 10 miles north of York, I took a walk around the venue and the first thing that caught my eye was that Simon and Amanda’s chosen colour scheme of purple and white was very much in effect. It ran as a visual motif throughout – the way the chairs in the Mulberry ceremony room where dressed, the design of the couple’s wedding post box for receiving messages of goodwill, the choice of flowers, the dressing of the tables for the wedding breakfast in the Minster suite, the dresses of the bridesmaids and attire of some of the other guests. It lent a subtle visual sense of harmony to the day that would automatically carry over into the photography.
I started by getting a feel for the venue and taking some “warm up” shots of flower arrangements and the venue in readiness. Which actually made for perfect background design elements for the wedding book when it would be assembled and so were not just for getting me into the swing of things. Simon and Amanda had booked a full day’s photography with me, from bridal prep to first dance, so my first port of call for key shots was going to be the bride’s bedroom. However, when I arrived at her room, it got relayed to me that Amanda had had second thoughts about this series of shots. I got the impression that she felt my presence would add to her nerves, and it would be a bit much. Well, she is the boss, so of course there was no arguing and I had to respect that. I made my way back downstairs and started to photograph the arriving guests as well as saying hi to Simon, who seemed very relaxed. Slowly everyone started to make their way into the ceremony room, which gradually filled to its capacity of around 100.
Slightly anxious, last moment prep was organised, with white carnations being attached to lapels, including Simon’s courtesy of his mum, when I got the first sign that the formal ceremony was to be underway. Leading Amanda’s processional, a boy and girl of around six slowly entered from the back, looking like they were taking their roles particularly seriously. Amanda then began her walk up the aisle with her dad, veiled and with a tiara and holding a bouquet of white roses, her white, studded dress trailing behind her. The ceremony progressed with all the usual formalities including a speech from one of Amanda’s bridesmaids, and I got some great closeups of Amanda photographed through her veil. At one point she shot me an almost conspiratorial look of delight as she stood facing Simon and it made for a great photo capturing her emotions of the moment. After the vows and the ring exchange, the couple kissed and with the ceremony over, the guests moved forward with cameras held aloft to capture their own memories of the newly married couple. This typical scene is one I always photograph from the perspective of the bride and groom as it makes an interesting informal group shot of the guests.
After the signing of the register and a confetti strewn recessional, the wedding party made their way out into the late summer sun to relax and enjoy the drinks reception. As each guest in turn gave their congratulations to the newlyweds, I circled through the growing crowd getting candid shots, keeping the focus largely on Simon and Amanda. After around 20 minutes or so, I drew the couple aside for the formal portraiture.
Burn Hall made for a great venue for this part of the photography, with a large lawn, the hotel itself as a backdrop and a small wooded area all making for a good variety of locations. When photographing a couple in this formal way, I often have a series of poses that I will put them in as starting points, not to take away from spontaneity but rather to create a framework within which they can feel more at ease and can more easily express themselves with each other. The vast majority of bride and grooms after all are not professional models. Despite couples’ common insistence on natural shots, this is one instance where I definitely pick up a need for guidance from them. For one shot in particular, I got Simon and Amanda to move in close to each other with her arms around his neck and her forehead against his cheek. I saw her feelings for him come out more and started taking shots, while she started to smile knowingly. She thanked me, catching on to what I had set up.
After the portraiture we wandered back inside and there was another period of informal candids with the guests, though always keeping a close watch on Amanda. As I laid out in my first blog about the bride, she is like the Northern Star that I follow throughout the day. Normally, I would shoot the group photos after the formal portraiture, but on this occasion, they decided they wanted to eat first, so with each guest greeted in turn as they made their way into the Minster suite, it was time for the wedding breakfast. Once everyone was seated, the newlyweds made their entrance to a round of applause.
If possible, I’ll always recommend that the speeches take place before the meal rather than after it. It just makes sense to me that rather than have those involved be on tenterhooks throughout the meal in anticipation of their moment of public speaking, they can be done first so everyone can then relax and enjoy their meal. I took up a suitable vantage point and got the requisite shots of the speakers, plus reactions shots, focusing especially on Simon and Amanda. The speeches were typically entertaining. After this I let the guests enjoy their meals without me training my lenses on them, and I left to take a break and grab a bite to eat myself.
After our collective break, I got the couple together for another of the key, formal shots – the cake cutting – and got a good variety of wide/close, portrait/landscape shots of this. Next, I tracked down the best man, checked that he had the list I’d given him for the group shots and then asked him to assemble the guests for me. I find it always works well to have an intermediary the families know to organise the groups, while I just concentrate on taking photos. The large, outside lawn was the obvious location for groups and it worked well, especially for the “everyone” shot where I made use of one of the hotel’s bedroom windows to get the necessary elevated perspective. I also got some lovely, fun informal shots of Amanda with her bridesmaids on the bouncy castle that had been hired for the kids, and a shot of a grinning Amanda held aloft by four of the party’s guys.
Finally it was time for the first dance, also taking place in the now cleared Minster suite. After some initial test shots, I was ready and Simon and Amanda began their solo slow dance, bathed in changing coloured lights. Soon they were followed by parents taking their turns dancing with the newlyweds, until everyone followed and the dance floor was full. It had been a long day. I congratulated Simon and Amanda once more and said my farewells. As always, I was looking forward to getting home and seeing what I’d got.
22nd June 2018