One of my favourite documentary wedding photos taken at Kev and Deb's wedding at the Birtsmorton Court wedding venue in Worcestershire.
Birtsmorton Court is a magnificent privately owned 12th century moated manor house. The venue features everything you could possibly want for your wedding day, from guest accommodation, a private garden capable of hosting outdoor wedding ceremonies, and even it's own church! The venue is set in rolling Worcestershire countryside, within close range to the Malvern Hills. There are acres of grounds of all sorts, from a wooded area, private gardens, manicured lawns, a sun terrace, a medieval courtyard in the centre of the Manor House, a moat and a huge lake too. As a bride or groom, or wedding photographer you are equally spoiled for choice which this amazing Worcestershire wedding venue.
Deb and her bridal party had spent the morning getting ready in Birtsmorton Court's Garden House, a wonderful house built within the grounds that's ideal for your early morning wedding prep. What's more, is there's room to sleep an entire bridal party! As well as the bedrooms, there's a kitchen, dining room and ample living space, that a lot of brides choose to use to get ready in. The living room alone is the size of my house, so there's really plenty of space for a bride and 5 bridesmaids to all have their hair and makeup done at the same time. There's a wooden beam that runs across the width of the room too that's an ideal place to hang wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses too.
Once her hair and makeup was completed, Deb moved to the bridal suite in one of the original parts of the court. The walk is short and only took a couple of minutes, but I took this opportunity to take some really casual images of the bridal party making their way between locations.
The bridal suite is one of the oldest parts of the building, a quaint room that couldn't be better for getting a wedding dress on in. The room itself is spacious as you would anticipate for a building of this scale and grandeur, and boasts an enormous 4 poster bed, again ideal for hanging a wedding dress from before getting into it.
When Deborah arrived in the room, her wedding dress was already waiting for her, having been placed there earlier by the wedding coordinator. I love her reaction to seeing her veil when she walked into the room. This colour photo shows how warm the light in the room is.
There's also a beautiful antique mirror with gold detailing, and plenty of space for you to sit whilst having any finishing touches applied to your hair or makeup.
I love how the gold embellished mirror brings warmth to this image of the bride's wedding shoes.
Whilst Deborah was getting into her wedding dress, I ran over to Birtsmorton Church which took roughly two minutes, in order to take some photos of the groom and his best man. A formal groom portrait can be seen below.
As soon as this was done, I made my way back over to the bridal suite, where Deb had been getting her wedding dress on. I stood outside the room and let everyone inside know that I was back, and when everyone was dressed, Deb called me back into the room.
Deborah looked absolutely stunning in her wedding dress, and couldn't stop herself from smiling. At no point did she seen nervous or anxious, and she never seemed anything but calm or perfectly happy. I love her smile in the above black and white photo, and love how out of habit she still has a hair band on her arm - not that she's ever going to ruin that gorgeous wedding day hair by putting it up with a hair tie! I really like the image below, showing all of the really intricate detail present on the back of Deb's wonderful wedding dress.
When she was ready, the father of the bride came in to meet her, in order to escort her down the path to the church, a short 3 minute walk away.
We had a few minutes to spare before the wedding party had to make their way around the corner to the church, so we took the time to take a few quick bridal portraits, making the most of the gorgeous light that floods this particular room.
I had taken a few images of Deb before handing her her bridal bouquet. A lot of my clients had said since their wedding, that on the wedding day itself, they don't actually feel like the day is real, or that they're really a bride until their wedding flowers arrive, and you can see that reaction all over Deborah's face here. Not that she was short of smiles before of course!
Kevan, now sat waiting patiently in the church, had sent his soon-to-be wife a card, and I made sure I was in just the right place to capture Deb's reaction on film. Moments and events like this can go either way, some brides react with laughing whilst others burst into tears, and you never really know what's going to happen until that card opens and the bride starts reading.
Luckily Deborah's reaction was one of joy, great news for the makeup artist in knowing she didn't have to frantically reapply the bride's makeup!
Deborah and the bridal party had kept time really well whilst getting ready, and Deborah was actually ready slightly ahead of time - maybe this is why she looks so calm in all of her photos?! In the mean time, I ran back over to the church to introduce myself to the vicar, discuss where I was going to stand and what my plans were for the photography, and grabbed a few frames of Kevan and his best man.
I absolutely love the look of the best man in this photo. I have no idea what was said but both his, and the groom's reactions says everything you need to know. In my mind, the best man said something jokingly to Kevan, who's reacted to laughing - only for the best man to make this face as a way of saying 'maybe I wasn't joking!' Either way it's a cracking photo that tells a story.
After a few minutes in the church, I made my way back over to the courtyard, where I knew Deborah and her father would be appearing from at any moment.
As soon as Deb appeared from around the corner, on the arm of her father, the sun lit up her veil from just the right direction, so that it adds to the image without being too overpowering.
Apparently tired of waiting at the church for the bride, Deb's young flower girl started to walk back towards the house to see if she could find her. Amazingly they met each other half way - with the flower girl stopping in her tracks at the sight of Deborah in her beautiful wedding dress.
The look on Deb's face in the main image says it all - it's a look of pure joy as she smiles from ear to ear. I love this image in black and white too, not that it didn't work in colour, but being in black and white really allows you to concentrate on what's happening in the image. As she rounded the corner towards the church, I took several more photos of the bride and her father. This time, I felt like colour really suited the images better, especially with such a vibrant green background.
Inside the church, I took my position at the front, alongside the vicar and waited for the bridal party to make their entrance. I just love this sequence of images, especially in black and white.
The wedding went smoothly, and one of my favourite moments of the entire day, and one of my favourite images to this day came from when Deborah and Kevan came to make their way back down the aisle.
Deborah stopped mid way down the aisle to kiss the same flower girl as is in the main photo, who had ran out to meet her. I love how the mother of the groom has tried to stop her from running into the aisle but she's done it anyway. I'm glad she did, as I love everything about this Birtsmorton Court wedding photo.
Immediately after the wedding service had finished, the bride and groom hung back in the church allowing the wedding guests to exit before them and prepare for the confetti photo, which was taken on the exit of Birtsmorton Court. The wedding coordinator had come to meet up with us at this point, and she led us all back to the terrace which overlooked the moat, and the lake in the background.
The terrace is a fantastic stretch of perfectly manicured lawn and has space for guests to enjoy a drinks reception at one end, whilst leaving ample space for some smaller formal photos at the other. The orientation of the lawn is also perfect - on bright and sunny days it's really important to have the sun behind the people you're photographing, and the positioning of the house, as coincidental as it might be, couldn't really be any better for wedding photography.
We took a range of formal photos, starting with the smaller groups like the bride and her two bridesmaids and slowly worked our way up.
Realistically this is probably one of the larger photos that you can take on the terrace, but there are some creative ways of getting more people in a photo here. On overcast days, when the position of the sun and the direction in which you're facing doesn't matter, you can line guests up along the terrace, walk back to the far side of the house and shoot back at the guests, including the moat, the house and the pair of resident swans if you remember to bring bread with you!
Another way of making better use of the space on the terrace is to go to one of the upstairs windows, from the bridal suite for example and shooting back down on the terrace. This method is preferred by a lot of wedding photographers that I have seen, but it's not my favourite method (which you'll see below.) I find shooting down on people from so close makes everyone look quite unnatural and I'm not the biggest fan of the forced perspective of having people directly below you.
After half an hour or so on the terrace, the wedding coordinator once again appeared and led us this time to the White Garden, a small but perfectly formed garden that's very secluded and peaceful.
The White Garden is square, with a central cross of stone pathways and diagonal grassy walkways (picture a Union flag with the whole flag being the garden, the blue bits being flowerbeds, the central red cross the stone paths and the diagonal red parts the grass paths.) Right in the middle of the White Garden is a small fountain, which the bride and groom had filled with small multicoloured rubber ducks. Miniature fishing rods were also provided to entertain the smaller, and some not so small kids.
I managed to get to the White Garden a little before everyone else, which is something I always try do do because images of people walking casually make for some of the nicer, more relaxed wedding photos.
I managed to take the above image just as the bride and groom were entering the garden, but focusing one two of the fucks who were floating in the water together. I'm no artist, but I really like how the bride and groom holding hands are mirrored by the ducks, seemingly emulating the same stance. This wasn't set up at all, and it's a one-in-a-million shot - I'd just happy to have noticed it.
I spent time in the garden casually taking photos of the wedding guests enjoying themselves, at the time constantly aware of an enormous thick black rain cloud that was slowly but surely making it's way towards us.
I noticed the flower girl sitting on the lap of her Nan, both completely oblivious to my presence and switched to a longer lens so I could remain hidden from them. I have no idea what they were smiling at but the look of them both in this image is absolutely priceless. I really like how the bushes around them have provided the perfect natural frame for the image.
With the sun occasionally breaking through the cloud, I decided to take a couple of the formal photos that the couple had requested in the shade of a large tree that sits on the lawn beside the garden and the lake. Taking photos in the shade is a lot more flattering and easier on the guests too as they're not blinded by looking into the sun, and you don't run the risk of having large shadows drawn across their faces.
You can see the sheer size of this tree in the large group photo below - it really is a monster! You can also see the maze entrance to the hidden White Garden to the right of the photo, and the Malvern Hills in the background.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, I have a different approach to taking large group photos at Birtsmorton Court than any other photographer that I've seen. I prefer to use the large lawn between the house, the monster tree and the White Garden. I arrange the bride and groom where I need them, and ask everyone to stand to either side or behind the couple. I then run back upstairs into the dressing room section of the Bridal Suite, and photograph from one of the upstairs windows. The philosophy behind the image is simple - as long as the people in the photo move that they can see me, I can also see them. This location works for groups of between 60 and 350 people (which I tested with an Anglo-Indian wedding a couple of years ago!)
It was fast approaching the time where the guests needed to be seated for the wedding breakfast. For the wedding receptions, the newer part of Birtsmorton Court is used, this is the first part of the venue that wedding guests encounter as it leads off from the drive and car park. It's a 5 minute walk at a slow pace, and as it takes a fair amount of time to seat wedding guests, it's always a good idea to make sure they're on their way sooner rather than later.
With the wedding guests heading back to the breakfast, it left the bride, groom and myself to take some more intimate photos around the venue. We started in the White Garden, where the bushes that form the maze entrance to the garden give you the perfect leading lines for a photo.
It may only be a subconscious thing in most people, but 'leading lines' in photos are a subtle way of really drawing the attention of the viewer to your subject. Leading lines are aspects of the image that naturally point your eye inwards, and usually start at the edge of the frame and work their way in. If you take the image above as an example, as the bushes start at the edge of the frame, and perspective makes them get smaller as they grow in distance from the camera, they naturally point your eyes towards the centre of the frame where in this example, the bride and groom are. The light at this time of the day was perfect, with the sun getting lower in a now overcast sky, the light was both soft and warm - the ideal conditions for photos of the bride and groom. Deborah and Kevan looked so natural together, I simply asked them to stand between two of the bushes, in the centre of the path and relax. Deb turned to give Kev a kiss on the cheek, and at the same time he gave a sly smile which makes for a lovely natural photo of the pair.
From the White Garden we made our way to the end of the lake, over which sits a lovely little white bridge. I asked the couple to stand in the middle, again in whichever position felt most natural, and took photos from a distance with a long lens. The sky in this image looks really peculiar as there's a warm golden patch from the sun, which normally gets warmer and more vibrant as you look higher in the sky - but here's it's white. What this is caused by in this particular image is a large which clouds that's think enough to obscure the sun completely. The lack of cloud lower in the sky allows the rich golden-yellow light to shine through.
I really love the above image, taken at the same location as the image that came before it, this time though with a slightly different posed and photographed a lot 'closer in' or using more zoom. I love the position the couple are standing in, the way that they've turned their bodies into each other showing a level of intimacy. I really like how this also allows you to clearly see the back of the bride's wedding dress too.
After the bridge, it was time to walk back to where the wedding guests should now be seated, waiting for the bride and groom to be announced into the room as per tradition. I normally leave the bride and groom to relax at this stage, and maybe have a brief chat with them about their day as they walk, but this time I thought I'd steal an opportunity to capture a few more casual shots of the pair walking. As they walked, the wind blew Deb's veil back over her face, making it hard for her to see where she was going. The pair stopped, and Kev, ever the perfect gentleman, stopped in order to free his bride - he did this without ever letting go of her hand which I just find adorable.
When we arrived back for the wedding breakfast, we had to wait for a few guests to take their seats before the bride and groom could be officially announced in for the first time as Mr & Mrs McNamee. When the announcement came, Deborah led the way, smiling as always.
The couple's wedding cake was a four tier naked sponge cake, carefully decorated with fresh fruit and flowers that matched the bride's bouquet. The cake topper came in the form of two miniature figurines of knitted appearance. The cake looked amazing and I couldn't wait for the bride and groom to cut it so I could try a piece!
Once the wedding breakfast was finished, the plates cleared and the champagne served, it was time for the speeches, which were kicked off in time honoured tradition by the father of the bride. The speech was moving, but also comical in parts, the latter being very visible in the image below!
After the father of the brides speech it was time for the groom to say his. The first image shows how nervous he was - Upon standing up, he paused for a brief second before continuing. The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.
I really love the moment that I've captured in the photo below. Clearly whatever the groom was saying was deeply touching, as you can see a look of total adoration on the bride's face. I particularly like how she's reached up to place her hand on his too, it really shows the intimacy between this lovely couple.
The groom's speech was very touching and emotional, as you can see from the two photos below - Kevan had even his best man in tears, which is impressive seeing as he's a police officer who had served on the firearms unit.
Once he'd dried his eyes, it was the best man's turn for a speech, and he wasted no time with what he called his 'character assassination' of the groom! You can see Kevan's (and Kevan's dad's) reaction to the best man's speech in the images below.
There was a short break in proceedings after the speeches had finished, and in the 45 minute or so gap, the evening reception guests began to arrive. As soon as they all had, the DJ announced the cutting of the wedding cake. The cutting of the cake, first dance and evening reception all took place in the permanent building which the marquee joins directly to. The evening reception room is long and thing, exactly like the marquee, and features a dance floor towards the middle of the room, with plush seating for all of the wedding guests at once end, and space for a DJ or band at the other.
The cake was removed by the Birtsmorton Court staff, ready for cutting and serving to the wedding guests. The DJ announced the bride and groom onto the dance floor as soon as they were ready and the wedding guests poured into the room to watch.
As beautiful as this room is, it doesn't have any windows and the only source of light in the room is fairy lights and other mood lighting - Beautiful, but not bright enough to provide light for photos. To counter this, I used two off camera flashes which were controlled by a radio remote control. These provided ample light for when the bride and groom first entered the room, and gave dramatic directional lighting for when the couple were dancing.
If you'd like to have a look at Kevan and Deborah's wedding album, you can do so by clicking here.
Location: Birtsmorton Court, Worcestershire.Keywords: Documentary wedding photography (129). 1/1600; f/2.8; ISO 100; 145.0 mm.