Updated: Apr 10, 2019
23rd March 2019 - St Mary's Church (Newton Abbot) & The Ilsington Country House Hotel & Spa, with scenic shots on Dartmoor
If Grace Kelly had had a Dartmoor Wedding - this would be what it'd have looked like...
Every now and then a wedding really takes my breath away, surprises me, and blows away all my pre-determined expectations of how a couple's wedding day will look... Hermione and Christian's wedding was one of those for me.
In the autumn of 2018 they enquired about my wedding photography packages, booked me 6 months in advance without meeting me in person as they lived too far away, and mentioned that Devon holds a special place in both their hearts. A Dartmoor shoot and some wedding wellies were high on their list of priorities, and aside from that, just do my thing. That suited me to a T, and I began imagining the wild and windswept moors in March, and concocting ways to make even the rainiest day look amazing for them... From our conversations I was imagining puddle jumping and clear umbrellas and something very fun, natural and 'undone' in its vibe..,
Well... wellies were worn, clear umbrellas did emerge, and I had been right on the weather. Most of their big day was raining like craaaazy - and sadly Dartmoor was invisible by the time we got up there due to thick, impenetrable mist. Gutted is an understatement, but I knew that could be a possibility - moorland weddings are always going to be hit and miss in March.
But what I really hadn't expected was to discover that Hermione and her sisters - who were her gorgeous bridesmaids - were oozing the energy of old Hollywood Glamour icons. SO much so that I can pinpoint who each of them looked like! You have Hermione, the bride, reminiscent of Grace Kelly, or a blonde Audrey Hepburn or Veronica Lake. Then you have her sisters, clearly echoing the beauty of Hedy Lamar and Elizabeth Taylor. And not only that, but the wedding preparations were set in a house filled with floor-to-ceiling bay windows, chandeliers, grand archways, grandfather clocks and an old world charm that perfectly enhanced the old Hollywood vibe I was picking up on.
It was an early start, and after makeup was done by @JadeIslaMakeup we headed off to @AndrewHillSalon, where the glitz and glam continued. It was almost overwhelming capturing the girls getting ready and seeing them literally transform into absolutely STUNNING iconic-looking beauties! Absolute jackpot. And entirely unintentional! Nothing about Hermione's wedding styling was based upon old Hollywood glamour - and yet here it all was! Back at home again and the flowers arrived, delivered by the inspiring @LauraHingstonFlowers, with super romantic pale pink roses and jasmine and butterfly ranunculus. Perfect.
The wedding party got ready, everyone got dressed, the tension was thick, and we relaxed a little with a pre-wedding bridal shoot, by the bay window, taking a moment to be calm and be still and breathe.
Roll on to the church - St Mary's in Newton Abbot - and again, I was blown away. I'd driven past that old church up on the hill literally hundreds of times, and NEVER had I expected to find that it looked like a Cathedral inside! Gothic archways and incredible stained glass windows, baroque stone pillars contrasting with incredible wood panelled ceilings. Even a balcony for the bellringers that afforded me the perfect spot to capture the ceremony from above and behind. I was in church heaven!
Christian was nervous, as every groom is at this point, but he was keeping his cool, laughing with his best man, playing with his son, and generally seemingly trying NOT to think about the real reason he was stood in a church full of friends and family, dressed up to the nines.
Hermione arrived on time and looking as every bride does - full of confident and nervous anticipation - determined to get in there and see their partner, but breathless in the weight of the commitment they're about to make. It's a big moment - and one of their last moments of being an unmarried woman. In a few moments time they become a wife.... that's pretty huge. But even a stray dog running amok wasn't going to deter Hermione, and she strode into the church full of keen excitement and increidble beauty.
She was walked down the aisle by her father, who looked proud as ever, and almost floated she was so graceful. Christian looked back (I'm a stickler for superstition but must admit it was nice to see his reaction at seeing her approaching him from afar!) If there was any wedding tradition I'd happily get rid of, it'd be the whole 'don't look back' thing. It's so nice to see the groom see his bride walking towards him and have a chance to truly take her all in - rather than just nervously glance at her when she arrives at his side!
Anyway, I digress...
The vicar was hilarious, fun and down to earth, and even added his own humour to the ceremony, giving the bride and groom a joke-gift personalised to each of them that brought raucous laughter to an otherwise very serious moment. Church ceremonies always feel that little bit heavier - but not in a bad way, just in a way that the sacred and momentous occasion is tangible even in the silence.
The ceremony was poignant and quick for a church ceremony, with all the spiritual sacred moments like the blessing and the hand fasting. (I could get in to the parallels between these moments and various other spiritual traditions/religions but I'll save that for another blog post.)
The rain held off, the bells rang out, they kissed, and just like that, they were husband and wife.
We chose not to do a group shot at the church because the reception venue was such a lovely setting (at the Islington Hotel & Spa), but within half an hour, after the confetti moment was celebrated, we were up on Dartmoor in the pouring rain and mist, kicking ourselves. Dartmoor weather is no joke. When it's bad its REALLY bad... Sadly the rain didn't stop, and although their chosen hotel was glorious outside in the sunshine, it didn't make for the greatest group shots indoors. Luckily, because of the old Hollywood charm that was echoing around us all day long, the indoor shots of this old regal hotel were actually right on point. The wedding photography gods were definitely watching over us!
The rest of the day went as most do - meal, speeches, cake, dance. Mixed in were the really unique moments, such as the cake being made by Hermione's kid brother (his first ever cake apparently!); her baby boy falling asleep on her for the duration of the speeches; the best man's hilarious speech raising eyebrows amongst everyone; the guest who opted to play the grand piano; the kids who opted to play on their iPads beneath it. These are the moments I look for that set your big day apart from anyone else's. The details...
The evening wrapped up with a DJ and disco, and the really beautiful thing was that Hermione's other little brother sang and played the guitar for them (Ed Sheeran of course). Sentimental magical moment for the win! And for his encore he cracked out some Craig David which went down particularly well and got everyone singing by the chorus - including me.
Because of the horrendous weather - and because the next day was set to be a stunner - I offered to come back the next day in the late morning, when my local knowledge told me the sun was sure to be shining and any early mist would have cleared, and attempt their much anticipated wild and windswept Dartmoor shoot. And wow, am I glad that I did!
To date I can safely say that I never ever regret going above and beyond for my couples. Coming back the following morning, with them donning their wedding gear again, wedding wellies, veil, jewellery and all, was perhaps the best decision I've ever made. Hermione pointed out that she was now much more relaxed - her wedding day had been and gone, and now it wouldn't matter if her dress got a little messy climbing the tors, or if her hair got totally dishevelled in the howling wind. Even in the bright sunshine the wind and cold was harsh, but made for some incredible dramatic photos. The cloud formations were heaven-sent, the wind was blowing in the perfect easterly direction, and because of the horrendous day the day before we also had very few spectators! Hermione and Christian climbed the Tor I'd planned so long ago, with Hay Tor set in the background for extra drama, and they stood atop a rock much like Pride Rock in the Lion King, kissing passionately and truly embracing being husband and wife- with nothing else weighing on their mind. It was actually very reminiscent of an elopement - just the two of them, not a care in the world...no pressure, no guests and speeches and cakes and dancing to worry about... just them and their love, staring into their forever with powerful and majestic fervour.