The day started at a small BNB just up the road from The Secret Garden in Ashford. The atmosphere in the bridal room was super chill, just the way I like it. As you can see, the light inside the room was very natural, I often find hotel rooms usually have a really tricky lighting situation for us photographers. More often than not we have to pick between using the natural light coming in from the window which isn’t usually bright enough, or the dull yellow tungsten lights from the ceiling which is not always the most flattering. Luckily this room had quite a large window to let in enough light. You’ll probably hear me talk about lighting a lot in these blogs, but I suppose that’s because it’s one of those really important parts of photography. In fact, its probably the most important part of photography altogether.
Just down the road from the BNB the groom and his best men were getting ready, luckily I had enough time to shoot across to them for a chance to snap a few photos of Stuart and best men stocking up on their Dutch courage before the ceremony. The videography and I only had about 15 minutes before we had to get back for the fathers first look. Hands down my favourite part of the bridal preparations is the father seeing his daughter in the wedding dress for the first time. There’s almost always some tears shed, and often times is the point in the morning where it all starts to feel real.
The Secret Garden has a whopping 5 registered ceremony points. The gazebo outside in the main garden area, which I hear is very nice in the summer. Next to that, the south-facing terrace attached to the Main Coach House. This area overlooks the walled Gardens and is surrounded by espalier shaped ancient apple trees. On the other side of the Coach House is the Courtyard, this has a glass canopy roof and offers an outdoor/inside Ceremony that is a perfect location if the weather is not behaving. One of the more interesting ceremony rooms is the glass house, which I would say is designed for the smaller wedding party but could be decked out to really be something unique.
And finally the Chapel, which is where Gemma & Stuart had their ceremony. Its a cosy room with a high ceiling, organised with cute wooden seats and a kind of wooden shelf at the front to decorate with flowers. The lighting in The Secret Gardens Chapel is something I have never come across before. It has a unique mix of yellow ceiling lights and window light and contrasted with the green-tinted walls it actually makes the ceiling lights shine this golden colour onto anyone standing below, leaving the windows to create highlights that creep in just to either side of the couple. Hopefully, you will notice this in the photos, I actually quite like the look these lights give of, but I know a lot of people find it quite tricky to match the white-balance in camera to the lighting situation.
Following the giving of vows, exchanging of rings and signing of the register the ceremony was complete. All the guests preceded outside whilst the confetti was distributed. I really love the confetti, its the first part after the ceremony where all the guests really feel they can take part in celebrating the couple’s marriage. After the copious amounts of dried petals covered Gemma & Stuart we swiftly moved on to the group photo before anyone could escape to the bar, which is the only part of the day when everyone’s eyes are on me, so I want it to be quick.
The reception kicked off with a spot of Pimms, always the best beverage of choice after a ceremony. I managed to sneak off with Gemma & Stuart for 5 minutes to get some quick photos before they went off in the car for a short drive. You really need to spend some quality time together as newlyweds at your own wedding, I hear a lot of couples saying they bearly speak to each other, they end up spending all there time mingling and chatting to family and friends who they haven’t seen for ages.
Now, the food at The Secret Garden is truly something special. Gemma & Stuart wanted some kind of picknick styled tea party. We were all served a platter of sausage rolls, pork pies, chutneys, a proper ploughman’s lunch. For dessert, small pastries, chocolate mouses and the most amazing gluten-free brownies were brought out on tea-party styled plates, yummy. Just as the sun was starting to set I managed to coax Gemma & Stuart away from the desserts to the gardens for some golden hour goodness. I really got a great photo of them both standing in front of the main coach house building. I then proceeded to get some more natural looking images of them standing in the gazebo between the sun and myself. This is perhaps some of my more creative work, and I wasn’t sure how the images were going to turn out as the contrast on the back of my camera screen was too strong to tell. Thankfully I think we got some keepers from the bunch.
Just as the evening guests arrived, Stuart pulled out a little surprise. The band that was hired for the day let him play a few songs on the drums. Everyone loved it including Stuart, of course. Luckily I was told about this in advance, as I always say “Everyone loves a surprise at a wedding, except for the photographer.”