Beautiful Sopley Mill, nestled on the banks of the river Avon in Dorset, has it all as a wedding venue, and I have to say I loved every minute photographing Caroline & Darryl's wedding there in the early Autumn sunshine. With its ceremony room, reception spaces, bar and bridal prep room spread across its several floors, interesting features, extensive grounds and magnificent views, it's entirely self-contained and perfectly set-up for exclusive use for the day. Ideal from a photographer's point of view - less time travelling between venues means more time taking photos! And there was certainly no shortage of things to photograph at this one, with such a fantastic couple and so much going on...
While Caroline was getting ready - and managing to stay more or less hidden from the guests as they started to arrive - in the huge dressing room on the first floor, Darryl was downstairs (looking appropriately calm and composed) to greet them all, and we were able to grab a few moments to nip into the building for a few portraits with his best man, taking advantage of the fantastic and very atmospheric old workings of the mill - all wheels and cogs and ancient timbers - before heading on up to the ceremony room. Meanwhile, everyone was enjoying the glorious sunshine and exploring the grounds, taking in the gorgeous views across the river Avon and the water meadows beyond. Eventually however, they were all assembled upstairs and ready for Caroline to make her entrance...
Immediately after the ceremony it was downstairs and into the sunshine for drinks served on the terrace, with the bridge spanning the Avon rushing below. Bags of space for people to spread out here, with seating dotted around the gardens and little hidden corners to explore. Also, plenty of options for group photos which is great news for me, including the holy grail of a fantastic vantage point at height, up on the fire escape, for the big group photo with the river and the Dorset countryside stretching out into the distance beyond.
Before heading up to the reception room for afternoon tea (another big tick - a whole separate floor for this meaning no need for a quick turnaround of the ceremony room) I nipped up to capture some of the details, and these were details well worth capturing: afternoon tea turned up to 11! Along with the beautifully coordinated crockery, tying in perfectly with the country feel of the day, there were cakes in abundance. The bride's mother had taken it upon herself to bake the cakes herself and had, well, approached this task with enthusiasm. I've never seen so many cakes in my life; there must have been at least half a cake per guest, or every shape and flavour, and these are ll, proper sized cakes we're talking about here, not fairy cakes and cupcakes. Along with the scones, sandwiches, scotch eggs and all the rest the tables (and, I suspect, quite a few of the guests!) were positively groaning! An absolutely incredible spread.
As the sun drew towards the horizon over the water meadows the light reach that wonderful stage - the golden hour - when, if your bride and groom are willing you can capture some truly lovely portraits in the soft evening sunshine. Joy of joys - for Caroline & Darryl's wedding we had the most perfect spell of sunshine, capped off with the most incredible sunshine, and they were more than up for heading off into the countryside for a few photos together before returning to their guests for the start of the evening party. Plenty of time for some more relaxed photos with family and friends, before heading back upstairs for the start of the evening party, kicked off with the first dance. And as the band kicked in the the guests hit the floor it was time to discretely slip away for the long, dark journey back to Winchester (and a huge pig pile of photos to edit!
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