Last summer I was lucky enough to be invited by Ali and Amber to capture their big day at the beautiful wedding venue, Shortmead House. The 16th century house is set in 24 acres of lovingly manicured grounds just a stone's throw from Biggleswade. A long single track drive way burrows through the trees before you round the final corner and the stunning house opens up in front of you. I was quite taken aback by the front of the house and the elegant, turning circle adorned with a pretty fountain.
A renovation project that was completed recently (The Cottage) is situated about 1oo yards from the back of the house. This is where the bride and her bride's maids spent the night and prepared on the morning of the wedding. The location is ideal as there is no chance of arriving guests (or the groom's party) seeing the bride.
The service took place under a "The Thatch" which for me, coupled with the open air swimming pool gave the venue a very mediterranean feel. Once all the guests had arrived and were seated, Ali waited patiently. Eventually, the bride's maids slowly walked down the aisle way which is covered with wooden beams and beautiful hanging baskets with flowers in full bloom.
Any photographer knows about "the rules". These are a set of tried and tested methods helping you to get a composition that is pleasing on the eye. The rules can be broken and often, when they are, the results can be far more pleasing. Ali and Amber broke rules. They decided to have their speeches straight after the ceremony at a stair case that leads to a door at the rear of the main house. At the top of the iron railed stairs is a small balcony from which the speeches were delivered. Glasses were charged with champagne and the audience gathered eagerly. What followed was a set of tributes, fables and anecdotes that I will never forget. Trying to hold the camera steady whilst you're trying not to laugh is no easy task!
After the toasts, the guests were invited to explore the grounds whilst I made my way with the bride and groom to the gardens for a few quick photos of just the two of them. I try to keep the one on one session relatively short. You'd be surprised at the amount of couples that come to me and say "we hate posing for photos". When the occasion finally arrives and the nerves and the worries subside, they seem to get washed away in all the emotion and love that emanates from the day, posing like there's no tomorrow. My couples don't even need to put effort into "posing" and are more often than not unaware that they are doing it.
After our photo shoot in the gardens we made our way back to the rest of the guests to find all sorts of games and activities going on. Another nice feature of Shortmead House is that although the guests were spread out around the pool and marquee playing games, no one seemed to be so far away that the venue felt empty. I have been to some venues that had several bars and smoking areas tucked away from each other that at times, made the place felt a bit empty. Not here.
After some refreshments the guests made their way into the marquee for the sit down meal.
The marquee has wonderful curved openings on each side which are ideal for keeping the temperature comfortable on the warmer summer days. On colder days the walls can simply be reattached and then large, thermostatically controlled air flow heaters are used to bring the temperature up.
For me the bright light flooding through the white canvas of the marquee was ideal from a photography standpoint. Any kind of filter between your light source and subject helps to soften the light and eliminate harsh shadows on faces. Although every bride dreams of a sunshine on their wedding day I actually prefer over cast conditions because the clouds act like a giant softening filter.
All in all, Shortmead House is up there with the best wedding venues that I have had the privilege to photograph. I will let you in on a little secret. I am currently planning my own wedding and I can tell you now that this venue is at the top of my list. Hidden gems don't stay hidden for long!
More information about Shortmead House can be found on their website www.shortmead.com or alternatively click on the button below and you will be taken straight there.