August 25th, 2018. Widecombe-in-the-Moor Church & Gideigh Park, Chagford, Dartmoor, Devon.
This stunning wedding was a real life fairy-tale, set on Dartmoor & with an incredible reception at Gidleigh Park, with bridges, gardens, rivers and woodlands. Timeless, romantic, emotional and filled with beautiful family-focused moments from start to finish, this wedding truly was breathtaking to witness.
If ever you wanted proof that fairy tales really do come true, you only have to look through this incredible gallery to see it... The stunningly romantic, quintessentially English country wedding of Charlene and Nick took place in late summer 2018, on Dartmoor, a place I am blessed to know well and call my home.
As I drove through their big gates to their home on the morning of their wedding the summer sun was already warm, the birds were singing, the trees were quietly whispering in the gentle breeze, the deer in the grounds were fleeting, the alpacas were peaceful, the lawns were perfect, and there was most certainly a wild sense of magic in the air... The scene was set for one of my favourite couples of all time to say their vows and become husband and wife.
Cut to walking through the front door and, as with every wedding morning, it was like entering a hive. Energy buzzing, nerves high, anticipation bubbling. Nick's parents house and their house are side by side on their estate, albeit at quite a distance through the trees, and so I spent my morning flitting between their two homes covering their wedding preparations - with Nick and his groomsman crew getting ready in one and Charlene and her bride-tribe in the other.
Charlene chose her eldest daughter as her bridesmaid, and they did their own makeup, maintaining and air of true serenity to say the least for most of the morning
They were all holding in their nerves together incredibly well until their youngest daughter Olivia, who was one of the flower girls, went walkabout between the two homes. Aside from that mild moment of panic, the rest of the day went off entirely without a hitch! And anyway, what's any good fairytale without a little bit of drama thrown in?! :-)
Safely back under the watchful eyes of absolutely everyone in attendance, Olivia was dressed in her beautiful pale pink dress, chatting very happily about how 'mummy and daddy are getting married!' and everyone continued with the wedding prep.
The flowers arrived, impressively made by Nick's mum, and the wedding ceremony drew closer...
Charlene's soon to be father-in-law drove her in his Jag, through winding country lanes and past bubbling streams, to the iconic Widecombe-in-the-Moor Church of Saint Pancras, otherwise known as The Cathedral of the Moor. Built in the fourteenth century, this epic church is riddled with folk-lore, ancient symbols adorning its ceiling and stonework, with magical tales, ghost stories and a 120 foot high clock tower to boot - the perfect place for our fairy tale to continue!
The music began, echoing around the vast church and out across the rolling hills, courtesy of the Vicar's wife, and Charlene made her tentative walk down the aisle accompanied by her beautiful son and daughter, preceded by her little one Olivia and her equally gorgeous niece, towards her soon-to-be husband. And honestly, I shed tears myself, emotions were that high! A family-affair like this one had SO much sentimental value, and seeing Charlene getting her happily-ever-after surrounded by her children really deeply moved me.
Then, after many emotional congratulations, it was off and away, across the moors, through the winding lanes, delayed briefly by some livestock - Dartmoor's traffic - to the absolutely astounding Gidleigh Park, Chagford, for a champagne reception and wedding breakfast and general summer afternoon celebrations! If you were wondering if any venue has it ALL, with trees and incredible grounds and streams and bridges and incredible backdrops everywhere you look - this is it.
After the meal, speeches and cake cutting were done and dusted, we all headed outside for the late afternoon sunshine, with much laughter, lots of flossing and general crazy brotherly-sisterly shenanigans, soaking up the glorious Gidleigh Park grounds and celebrating this incredible love story.
There wasn't an evening do - that was had 2 weeks later at their place when Charlene and Nick came home from their honeymoon - and I was just a regular guest for that part so I didn't get the full blown reception shots as I now so badly wish I had done! Perhaps my biggest regret to date - there was a jazz band and a live cover band late into the night, a hog roast, a bell tent for the kids to play in, a fire pit, a cheese cake (you know, those huge wedding cakes made of cheese?!) and the most moving fire works display I've ever had the joy to witness. They'd insisted though that I join them as their friend, partying hard with them well into the night, and who am I to turn down such an offer?! Especially when copious amounts of gin are on offer!
I did, however, capture the epic firework display they had that night on my phone (shameful I know...) reflected in the lake. I don't know whether it was the romance, the incredible firework display poignantly put to music, the alcohol, or simply that I'd truly come to love these guys and understand their back-story, their struggles, and the fact that I could relate so much to Charlene and her past life before her Prince Charming came along, but I bawled my eyes out HARD during that firework display, overwhelmed by pure happiness for her - and for him of course! That they'd found each other. That life really can kick you when you're down - but that when you're least expecting it your story can change and you can find that perfect person. That perfect Happily Ever After that dreams are made of... That right then, right there, on wild and wonderful Dartmoor, love won...
Congratulations Mr and Mrs Smith. Thank you for choosing me to capture your incredible day.