I absolutely love the New Forest. It was my playground growing up, and it always puts a spring in my step now when I return there with a camera. And return there I did, to one of its most beautiful spots right in the heart of the national park: the ornamental drive at Rhinefield - and more specifically Rhinefield House Hotel - home to Caroline & Alex for a wonderful autumn wedding full of dramatic skies and a sunset which pretty much defies description.
Bridal prep in the stunning main suite at the hotel (and a very welcome opportunity to catch up with the hugely talented MUA Pamela Moss who just happened to be there doing the hair and make-up). I absolutely love this room - there's so much to play with photographically; so many lines and angles, and the view across the grounds from the large bay window is magnificent. The view today, it has to be said, happened to include some rather moody and dramatic skies. Little smatterings of rain would make an appearance on and off, but nothing which would impact on the day (other than to add even more drama to the photos, as you'll hopefully see a little further on into the blog). Caroline was serene and beautiful in the middle of it all as family members started to arrive (including our almost-too-cute flower girls who took up residence and positioned themselves perfectly at the window for a photo which really just made itself), and how about that dress...
The ceremony took place in nearby Brockenhurst - a short and extremely pleasant drive along the forest back roads amongst the autumn colours. Really, the New Forest looks great at any time of year, but this particular part of it I believe is at its best at this time of year - a real riot of golds, oranges and reds. St Saviours is a lovely church on the outskirts of this famous Forest town, and Alex was there ready and waiting as I pulled up. We managed to take a few moments to capture some shots of him and his best man - also his brother - as guests started to arrive and take their seats, and Caroline wasn't far behind (in fact, I believe the car had to go off and do a little extra tour of Brockenhurst while the last few guests joined the congregation, so keen was she to get down the aisle!). The choir was in place, and as the organist piped up Caroline made her entrance on her father's arm, looking - it has to be said - absolutely stunning.
After a beautiful ceremony and a quick few family photos outside the church while we could be sure that the weather was still on our side (in conditions like this, where it's all a bit changeable from one moment to the next, it's often wise to be a bit flexible and take your opportunities as they present themselves to be certain of capturing those photos which are most important to you, and I always try to ensure that there is a little contingency time and some alternative locations available just in case...) is was back across the heathland to Rhinefield to start the celebrations. But just before we get into the wedding breakfast and the speeches, a little time out with our bride and groom in the grounds of the hotel, and in particular in front of the iconic blue gates at the far end of the lake...
One of the major attractions of Rhinefield House as a wedding venue is having the stunning banqueting hall for your wedding breakfast. This towering, wood-panelled room with its huge stone fireplace makes a wonderful impression, especially when viewed from on high up in the gallery (which is where I took the main group photo from on this occasion). It's beautiful enough on its own, but when it's laid out for a grand meal it really comes into its own. And as a bonus it then forms part of a suite, meaning that you and your guests are all in one place for the rest of the day, so you can kick back and celebrate in style.
Towards the end of the meal Caroline and Alex were also treated to the sight of me hurtling towards them with a big grin on my face, to tell them that I suspected there was just about to be a very serious sunset outside (I've become a bit of a connoisseur of these things over the years and I'd already tipped them off that I had a suspicion that I might be taking them outside for a moment or two. Lo and behold, as the remnants of some very brooding storm clouds swept away to the east a massive double rainbow burst through to our left, while over to our right the sky suddenly lit up like it was on fire. I've seen a few sunsets in my time, but this one really was something else. It just got better and better, more and more incredible, until finally - just as soon as it appeared - it was gone. The whole thing lasted perhaps a few minutes at most. But we got it. Oh yes, we most certainly got it! As day turned to night, the bride and groom cut the cake in the dining room before leading their guests through to the adjoining room to start the evening party off with the first dance. The first of many dances in fact - turns out Caroline & Alex's friends are a definite party crowd! So nice to see a dance floor rammed with people all the way through the night - this celebration most certainly had legs.
What an absolute belter of a wedding, and what a truly fantastic couple. Huge congratulations Caroline & Alex - I can't even begin to say what a treat it was to be there and capture your special day. Wishing you many happy years together!
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