Choosing a venue. To be or not to be….
When it comes to choosing a venue, the first thing people look at is how pretty a place is. It is a great start as this is what everyone else sees too. There is however some critical areas to consider which can really hamper your day or your photographs.
What transforms a venue from being good to making it really special is two very important elements. Great service and awesome food! Service is something hard to see when visiting a venue and not everyone samples the food. Having been so many venues I am now feeling like a hotel inspector!
The great news it then means I can offer valued feedback to you. When going to venues now I look for the following points:
When finding a beautiful venue it is possible without breaking the bank. Sometimes, it’s what is a stones throw away from it can help transform your images. For example if you are in the Lake District and have a lovely hotel with gardens but want a lake view with the lake only two minutes drive away. It may be worth still considering the hotel as you can always drive to the Lake for a quick photo.
Looks are down to the individual of course so I am not going to go into too much in this topic only to suggest that if you have found something that looks amazing make sure that the view cannot be impeded. For example, you have been sold on the venue by its frontage to be only shocked when two transit vans are parked there on the day. Check with the venue to see if they can put cones out to retain the looks of the chosen venue.
Pictured is the very beautiful venue: Friars Carse, Scotland which is certainly worthy of a mention.
Whilst looks does help a long way, photograph ability is slightly different. For example if you are in a stunning room but its pitch black and low ceilings this may cause an issue. A common barrier is having a small room so the ceremony table is at the back wall thus restricting the movement of the photographer and angles being able to capture.
Large windows helps with natural lighting a lot. Small narrow windows can make the room look timeless too. Just making sure that it is light enough to capture without too much nasty light (For example fluorescent tubes) will help a long way. A building that has several little quirks too it to allow movement and more choice in your photos is a huge plus.
The key to a seamless wedding. Food and Drink do not serve themselves. An efficient team to make sure your timings are run like clockwork and knowing you do not have to worry about anything really can make you experience a whole lot better. I am not going to name and shame as there are plenty out there with amazing venues only to be let down by service that does not match. The higher you pay the better the service you get really does happen unless it is the best of the best. I have photographed venues that has cost tens of thousands to come away thinking what a ‘let down’ it was for the couple who invested so much for their day for the venue to choose profit over service.
Try the food and it looks and tastes great you are on to a winner. Not trying it will mean you are taking a risk. I have had better food on an airplane connecting flight than some premium venues. Service will play a part in this. If hot food then goes cold as its not brought out then this will have some effect.
Can your guests park at the venue. If it is in a village for example and you expect 60 cars factor this into your planning and look at a plan to help guest know where to park. Also find out if you have a disabled guest, if there is a parking space or drop off to allow them to access the site without a problem.
City centre wedding parking can be expensive depending on the city and can cost up to £12 an hour to park. This may put some guests in staying late so again, find best price parking and hotels with free parking as an update to your guests to save them doing this.
So you picked an amazing venue which is down a private narrow country lane. On this note, ordering a stretched limousine is not the best idea or you will end up walking. I have seen this happen.
So after all that said, here are the venues that stand really out above the rest:
THE BEST VENUES NAMED
Astley Bank Hotel
What makes it a winner?
Astley Bank is a hidden gem and is worthy of any wedding award. The service here really is something special. With staff that have been here for many years, the reason why is clear. Everyone knows what they are doing, what is happening and cares about bringing excellence. Even the receptionist will get stuck in at points. The personal feel of the place really resonates.
Everything you need within 30 yards, this means you can get a variation of group shots, individual shots all in one place with a slight rotation. This is a huge win if you don’t want to spend much time on your photos or walking around but still allow for some great shots.
It’s small enough to be personal but large enough to accommodate 120 guests with 36 rooms for those who wish to stop over. Within private grounds kids can stay safe in the confines with a stones throw away from the moors. The food itself is awesome. Let’s be honest if everyone has a good hot meal, you have happy guests and something to dance about.
It offers great value for money too and nothing better feeling like you have got your monies worth. The rooms for the ceremony, food and night function has large wrap around windows so even on the dullest winters day, it is bright enough to show your radiance. Less than 5 minutes from a major motorway junction too for easy access.
Atmosphere is in plenty at Astley Bank. The personal feel to the place really makes it worthy of a great weddding
Sandhole Oak Barn
What makes it a winner?
There is a reason why Sandhole Oak Barn is one of the most popular venues in the North West of England. In the heart of the Cheshire countryside nestled between cornfields accessed by a long private drive you enter into a wedding commune with a set of little private cottage feel stoned rooms for accommodation with opulent parking and a set of barns. The main barn to the rear with outstanding views of a lake and outside ceremony facilities for the summer.
The room where you get changed is mirror heaven! With more mirrors than Dunelm you will be sure you will not miss a single thing. Warm and inviting with cosy temperatures, the only thing you need to do is to remember to walk down the aisle.
The main barn is spotless. The cleanest place I have ever been too! No need to bring your duster as this place stuns you for how amazing clean it is. With large oak beams, high ceilings and windows to let natural light in, it offers a vibrant and warm feeling.
Large balcony areas over the lake will win it for many. To add too, a small pond and other quaint features are onsite. Sandhole Oak Barn is ran with military precision, with service being a huge win here. Your wedding day will run smoother than a Rolls Royce Phantom.
Here is a sunset shot for you at the rear field
You can really imagine spending a joyous evening here with a wine in your hand, the sound of celebrations in the background watching the reflection of the moon in the lake.
Peckforton Castle Dream Weddings
Peckforton Castle is based in Cheshire and is known for its beautiful buildings and grounds fit for any king or Queen. I have been lucky to photograph here a number of times including celebrity weddings. As there is so many elements of Peckforton that can be captured, sometimes to the little things can be missed too. It would be great to share with you my experiences and some top tips to capture the magic as well as get the best out of the venue.
Peckforton Castles rooms vary in size and lighting however what can be guaranteed is that it is focused light which can really add to the timeless style of photography. The venue is generally darker and moody opposed to modern day venues which give it its character and personality. Above is the corridor outside the rooms.,
So lets start with the rooms!
There are plenty of plug points for your stuff don't worry. I would recommend you be mindful where everyones stuff is placed to prevent the room from looking unkempt. Makeup here by Laura Mayers
Peckforton Castle can get warm so luckily windows open wide to allow fresh country air in. Above pictured is the general rooms on offer. Below is one of the Bridal Suite Rooms that comprise of 3 rooms.
Timing is important, remember it will take you 5 minutes to get from the room to the ceremony room.
Registrars are: a great bunch of people who will put you at ease throughout your ceremony.
The Ceremony Room
There are two different ways you can get married in this room. Both offer timeless photography so it is really up to your preference. Below is both examples so you can get a feel for how they look.
Same side but from another perspective:
. This frames really well. The other side is equally as pleasing and allows more spread light to your day as gives it a more castle feel. This side also allows a wider shot to be taken with the lack of restriction from the rear framing.
Here is the wide shot of the back wall end of the room, as you can see its timeless and magical. This room really is a show stopper and why it attracts so many celebrities.
As you can see, no matter which way you choose, it will look stunning on the day. They even allow owls to fly in too! Decorating this room can be done in many ways. I love the florist and venue designer Black Eyed Susie
Outside Shots during the day
With lots to shoot outside, the best way is to do your group shot first to allow those who are not in the main line ups to get a drink. Lighting and weather can change quickly but not too worry as there is plenty of tarmac or grass for you to choose no matter what the weather. Here is celebrity Big Brother Craig Phillips with a picture of them in a puddle. Weather really does not matter so much at this venue.
So, lets get on to the groups shots, There are several ways to photograph this but here is an example for you:
Above is photographing some of the castle not all. This is to avoid any potential cars that may be behind. Top tip! Speak with the staff about restricting parking. They are really friendly and will try and facilitate this on the day for you. Remember if you are on the grass whilst at Peckforton the ground is quite solid, with your expensive heels you may want to consider Heel Covers to stop you sinking. Always nice to hand out to your guests as a kind consideration.
As you can see you can frame the shots well using formations without always using a straight line. Below is some of the easy shots you can get once you have done your lines ups then lets get onto the exciting bit. Exploring the awesome grounds! below is simply twisting angles. Not moving from the spot!
So lets move and see what the rest of the grounds have to offer. So at the main entrance here are a few samples of shots you can take
There is a wealth of trees so soft natural shots, The only limit of shots is the imagination of the photographer. I do recommend if you are doing these shots above to wear suitable footwear or heal covers.
The choice of photography would be down to you, what I would recommend is to choose someone who has photographed her given its expansive space and knowledge of other business operating within the vicinity.
Inside the Castle
.So you have got married, Not long until you sit down to eat! Always set aside some time to chat with guests between photos as its what the wedding is about! Here are some pictures of the room on the far left that is worth using if you want a quick private moment. Just ask a member of staff first to make sure its o.k.. These are the steps leading to the room
Here is the room with amazing window frames and beautiful drapes below:
In the main ceremony room gets cleared once you are married either for your room to eat or for the evening ceremony. If it is not used for dining you can take advantage of the domed corners for group shots which is handy especially if the weather turns for the worse
There are so many elements to the castle. The smaller room most commonly used for dining has great window frames too!
Below is the main galley used for people to have a drink with the bar to the left. This room is used before being called into the room to eat and afterwards before being called in for the first dance. Its a stunning room with lots of beautiful focused light and is a great place for you and your guests to relax with a firm drink.
As the sun goes down, the warmth of the bulbs inside the castle make it glow with glimmers of heat from the excellent heating. As the sun goes down, the castle again transforms inside and outside for a wealth of great photographic opportunities. Below is the entrance to the main room where you get married and usually have your night ventures.
|First dance for some can be daunting so there is a few ways it can be photographed here. If you want to stay well away it can be photographed on the balcony to produce wide shots like so:
Here are samples at the bottom. The white dance floors really help given the walls absorb a lot of light so is suggested that you consider this. You can source these and the uplighters at Hipswing
Outside at Night
So lets go to the front entrance where there are a few shots that can be taken. The first one below is unique to me at this point. I am sure it will be replicated soon as it's a great shot
Keeping you there for a few seconds more then we can get a wide shot of you too
And then the finale...
So as you can see, the castle looks great at all times of the day. I wish you well on your wedding day, I am sure Eric and the team will look after you well.
Here are some great suppliers to mention that can add some spirit to your day:
Singalong Waiters (Its in the name..)
Big Wow Events (Outdoor games and lettering)
Don't forget, all these photos above are taken by Philip Burke Photography. If you want me to capture your day, give me a shout!