With the wedding industry suffering so much over the past year and a half due to the coronavirus pandemic, finding new inspiration and content for social media etc has been a real struggle for so many wedding suppliers. How do we post fresh and relevant images to connect with potential brides/grooms when our wedding work has been so hugely diminished by covid restrictions? I decided to tackle this problem by organising my very first “styled shoot” – something I’ve been really interested in doing for a long time. I thought it would be the perfect way to meet and network with lots of fellow local wedding suppliers, build some momentum, inspire others and be inspired myself, and provide lots of fresh new images for all of the suppliers involved, so that we could start building our brands back up again ready for the easing of restrictions and the start of a proper wedding season ahead.
The first thing to consider was finding a venue willing to host us all for the day, and I knew I wanted to use somewhere local, with lots of beautiful outdoor space as well as a great rustic interior for some indoor shots too. Bellows Mill instantly came to mind! This is a beautiful watermill offering self catering accommodation, set in stunning grounds near the village of Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire. I have only shot here once before, and it POURED with rain for the entire day, meaning I completely missed any opportunity to photograph their outside space. I was gutted, as I saw instantly that there was so much potential here to get some stunning shots in the grounds, and I hoped that I’d be able to go back one day to get a chance to do it justice. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity! I spoke with Elaine, the wonderful wedding coordinator and owner Rachael, and they were kind enough to agree to me coming in to do the photo shoot, and from there our plans grew and grew!
The next thing I needed was someone to help me with the overall styling/logistics for the day, and I couldn’t have asked for a better right-hand woman than Kelly from Pink Peony Weddings. Organised and efficient beyond belief, and with so much creative flair, I was so pleased to have Kelly on board to help me with the overall look and feel of the shoot! After an initial meeting to brainstorm ideas, she sent me a mood board which was exactly the kind of thing I had been hoping for – rustic yet elegant, natural woods, soft candle light, blush pink florals and natural foliage. This gave us the perfect starting point to get creative and to start contacting suppliers who could best help us achieve this look.
After lots of behind the scenes work and planning, contacting all of the suppliers and getting arrangements in place, shoot day finally arrived, and it’s fair to say I was a little nervous! The weather had not been on our side in the run up to the shoot, and I was envisaging another wash-out and all of our outdoor photo ideas going wrong… But fortunately, the rain held off, and on the morning of the shoot I was ready and raring to go – so excited to shoot a wedding again after so long in lockdown, even if it was a pretend one!
I arrived at Bellows Mill around 10am, and things were already starting to take shape, as Pink Peony Weddings and Bloomfield’s Florist had already been in the evening before to begin set up, so there were already some amazing flowers and decorations in place which looked great!
At around 12.30pm, Niki Lawrence (make-up) and Bridal Hair Design by Lorraine (hair styling) arrived to get set-up, along with our incredible models, Joanna and Ryan (a real life couple, not professional models – they did such a brilliant job though that you’d never know they hadn’t modelled before, so I was so grateful to them for agreeing to take part!). Niki created a stunning, natural look for Joanna and she looked absolutely glowing, whilst Lorraine did an incredible half up-half down hairstyle for her with gorgeous curls and a beautiful floral hairpiece from Thistle and Moss which completed the look perfectly!
We’d allocated around 2 hours for hair and make-up, so after getting plenty of shots of them in action I moved on to capturing some more detailed shots of things like the stationery (provided by Pink Peony Weddings), the cake (from Sweet Marguerite Cakes) and the rings (from Pyman Jewellers).
The stationery was just beautiful – everything was so well coordinated and fitted in perfectly with the theme we had chosen!
When it came to choosing a cake supplier to approach, I was so impressed with what I saw on Sweet Marguerite Cakes’ website/Instagram that I knew I had to ask if she would work with us. Her cakes look like works of art, beautifully decorated and with such a signature style – she works with sugar-paste, creating handmade sugar flowers, and the floral patterns and designs she uses look so elegant. What she created for us in the end was just perfect!
Pyman Jewellers are local to me in Leighton Buzzard, and I was really grateful to them for loaning us the stunning rings for the day, which looked great!
I made sure to get plenty of shots of the room dressed for the ceremony at this point as well. One of the great things about Bellows Mill is that the indoor space is so beautiful, and can be decorated entirely to your own taste as well, so even if you are unfortunate enough to have a lot of rain on your wedding day, you can be confident that you will still have some stunning shots using the set-up inside, and you and your guests will be cosy, warm and well fed in their lovely surroundings. We then went on to hold a mock-up ceremony inside the barn with Kelly Hawes, our celebrant for the day. It must have felt a bit unusual for her having to do a pretend ceremony, but she was an absolute natural! Her warm smile and bubbly personality are exactly what you would want to keep you calm on your big day and to put your guests at ease too, so it was great to have her on board for our shoot!
After a few confetti shots (thanks so much to Dreaming of Confetti for providing this!), we headed outside for some photos with the stunning classic car, provided by Wedding-Car.co.uk – a vintage Rolls Royce from 1937. I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph a few weddings already where these cars had been booked for the bride and groom, so knew we were in for a treat getting to borrow one for the day! We got some gorgeous shots both inside and out, which added a real touch of class to the shoot.
After the photo session with the car, we headed down to the lake, an absolutely stunning area and one of the definite highlights of the grounds at Bellows Mill – it is such a peaceful setting, with no sound at all other than the birds in the trees – the perfect place to take some time out on your wedding day and have a quiet walk together, with some wonderful photo opportunities along the way. It was here that I got to try out the smoke bombs I’d bought especially for the shoot. I’d seen them used in plenty of wedding photos before, but had never done a wedding with them myself, but the colour and the vibrance they can bring to a photo has always been so appealing to me, so I really wanted to try them out. They looked amazing, and after posting a photo of them on my Instagram page a few weeks later I was contacted by one of my brides who also loved the look, and wanted to try them at her wedding too – I have a feeling these might be making an appearance at many more of my weddings in the future, and I can’t wait!
We followed the smoke bomb shots with a mock-up outdoor ceremony on the pontoon, which had been beautifully decorated by Pink Peony Weddings and Bloomfield’s Florist using an arbour, adorned with a white fabric drape and two stunning garlands of flowers. Bloomfield’s provided some really gorgeous flowers across the whole day, from the bridal bouquet, to the arbour decoration, table centrepieces and groom’s buttonhole – they fitted perfectly with the theme and added a beautiful touch of colour and class to the whole day.
Next up was the wedding breakfast set-up in the barn, so I took the opportunity to photograph the magnificent cake again (this time doing a mock-up cake cutting), as well as the gorgeous set-up of the tables which Pink Peony Weddings had organised. The barn looked amazing, dressed with fairy lights and soft candle light, creating the perfect cosy and intimate atmosphere for a wedding reception.
By this point it was around 7pm, and I don’t know how, but our models still weren’t flagging (or if they were, they didn’t let it show!), so I took the opportunity to get some more couples portraits outside in the softer evening light. I should mention at this point their outfits, which both looked incredible and created the perfect look for the shoot! A huge thanks to Ivory and Lace for supplying what can only be described as the “dress of dreams” (my wife’s very accurate assessment when she first saw it!) and the veil, which was just perfect for all of those windswept, dramatic veil shots I’d been hoping to capture! Massive thanks as well to Fogarty Formal Hire for providing the suit, which was exquisite tailoring, fitting in perfectly with the theme of the shoot.
After what has been a really tough time for the wedding industry, this photo shoot gave us all something exciting to work towards, and to plough our creative talents and energy into. I’m so pleased with how it all went, and am really thankful to have met an amazing group of local suppliers who I’m sure I will work with again in the future.