Up at the top end of Winchester, near the Westgate and the old Castle area, you'll find the Great Hall - a huge, ancient and beautiful medieval building which simply oozes character and history. It's a stunning space, with huge flint walls and stone pillars, accessed through a cobbled courtyard, and over the centuries it's seen its fair share of history. And as of a couple of years ago, some lucky couples have been able to get married in it. Earlier in May, Hannah & Frank were one of those couples.
Both bride and groom were getting ready a little distance away in Fareham - not in the same place, but happily close-enough together that I was able to capture a little of both sides of the story. It's always nice when it's possible to do this, as it's one part of the day which the partner very rarely gets to see. The men were keeping themselves occupied with guitars and the intricacies of cravat-tying (this is a skill that I really should make the effort to learn, as I get asked how to do one at pretty much every other wedding I attend. If you need a button-hole pinning though, I'm your man!). Hannah, bridemsaids, parents and a few others were meanwhile at her family home, coordinating hair and make-up around flower deliveries and the many and varied other components of pre-wedding preparation. I'm always impressed how cool and calm people manage to stay in amongst all this, and Hannah was no exception - simply breezing through it all. Simply put, she was looking absolutely stunning, and as the dress was laced up it was clear that she had chosen one which would look perfectly in place in such spectacular surroundings. This wedding was most certainly going to be a feast for the eyes for the lucky guests there to share in it.
And as the absolutely gorgeous Rolls Royce wedding cars pulled up to the drive ready for the bridal party, it was on to Winchester (and all the excitement of trying to find a central parking space on a Bank Holiday Monday - experience has taught me to allow a little extra time for things like this!) and up to the Great Hall to capture images of the guests arriving and exploring the hall, and of course Frank and his groomsmen there to welcome them. The whole venue, inside and out, was looking resplendent in the beautiful Spring sunshine, and even the short walk across the cobbles of Castle Avenue felt special as I approached the arched doorway.
One of the things which struck me most about the Great Hall whilst I was covering this wedding was how it so effortlessly manages to combine a real sense of grandeur in terms of its scale, and intimacy at the same time. I've photographed in some very large churches and other venues over the years and while they can feel very grand, you can sometimes feel just a little bit lost in them. Not so here - the set-up really does give you the best of both worlds.
The guests arrived and settled, and as the wedding cars pulled up outside Frank took up his position at the front of the Hall - directly underneath King Arthur's Round Table no less (if you like a bit of myth and legend with your weddings) and there aren't many couples who can claim that as a back-drop - ready for Hannah to make her entrance. And it most certainly was an entrance; the enormous wrought-iron gates were opened revealing the staircase beyond (this is a rare sight indeed) and Hannah crossed the ancient hall floor on her father's arm...
One of the nice things about using the Great Hall for your wedding ceremony is that you and your guests get to enjoy it and Queen Eleanor's Garden - the little spot just outside - afterwards as well, with drinks and canapes served right there. We had a good amount of time here, meaning that we didn't have to rush straight into the photographs before heading off to the reception; much better this way - everyone wants to give you a kiss and a hug and congratulate you on your marriage, and I always think it's a great shame when the couple has to disappear immediately afterwards and no-one gets to see them. We did indeed get to take plenty of photos as well though - in and around the Great Hall (including on that magnificent hidden staircase), out in the garden and also up in Peninsula Barracks, an architectural gem which backs on to the Hall. And then back out to the front for group and family photos in front of the lovely arched doorway, and a few more candids with friends and family before the wedding cars filled up and moved on to our location for the reception - the gorgeous restored barn at Norton Park Hotel.
I've photographed several times at Norton Park, and it's a wonderful hotel with all sorts of options and plenty of variety for wedding photographs. Hannah & Frank had chosen the barn as the setting for their wedding breakfast, and were also foregoing any evening celebrations as they moved straight on to the honeymoon, but we still had plenty of time to take further photos inside and out. The seating plan in particular caught my eye as I explored the room taking photos of the decorative details - each table was named after a hill or mountain they had climbed together. I'm a bit of a hill-walker myself so I was feeling very pleased with myself being able to walk around muttering "done that one", "done that one too..." as I strolled from Tryfan to Pen-Y-Fan to Scafell Pike, before the top table pulled the rug from under my feet - Kilimanjaro. And it was all going so well. Hey ho, that's another one to add to the 'to do' list then.
The speeches in particular are always one of my favourite parts of the day to capture - I love the expressions and reactions on the faces of family and friends. Frank's best man took his speech to a whole other level with a song that he had written specially for the occasion which had me as well as all the guests in stitches (I'll do everyone a favour by not re-printing the lyrics here!). And following the speeches, the wedding breakfast and the cutting of the cake, a final opportunity for a couple more time-out photos with Hannah & Frank. A few little spots of rain towards the end didn't deter them in the slightest, which was great news as we were also able to head out into the grounds by the Manor House and the lake beyond for the last few frames. And as sun set and darkness started to encroach, the newly married couple prepared to make their exit and set out on the next chapter of their lives together...
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The photos above are just a small selection from the day - friends and family can see many many more, and order prints and downloads, in Hannah & Frank's private viewing gallery, but you'll need to ask them for the password first.
If you are planning your wedding at Winchester's spectacular Great Hall or at beautiful Norton Park and would like to know more about my wedding photography services, packages and prices, please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss your plans and ask me any questions you might have.
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I hope you enjoyed the photos - feel free to leave any comments or messages of congratulations to the happy couple below - and thanks as ever for reading,
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