Harriet and Rob married in that weird gap between Christmas and New year and they won the wedding weather lottery that day.
The air was crisp, the sunlight clear. It was the winter day I don’t mind being outside on. A perfect day to marry your sweetheart then.
Tithe Barn at Bolton Abbey is very, very far from South Wales, but Steve Rooney needed a second shooter to cover their massive wedding. So journey up I did.
It’s grand, no other word for it. Couples and photographers love it for its rustic yet refined vibe and view out over the priory ruins.
I love it because of its floor-shaking Funktion-One sound system.
It can hold 200 people for the ceremony and feast, 300 for the party and Harriet and Rob had no problems filling it up.
They are unpretentious, sweet and ace to photograph and when they need photography again I’ll be in my Mondeo, Audible on, and cruising up the country in a heartbeat.
If you’re looking for wedding ideas, they have two corkers.
They brought their own limbo kit for the dance floor. “Dance floor limbo” is scribbled in my wedding idea notebook, right next to “free bar – start saving now”.
The second nice touch (they were plenty of others btw) is organising a sing-off. Each table had to sing their part of 12 days of Christmas with the best-winning something.
Anyone will tell you..given the chance I’ll talk all day about why photographing weddings is the best job ever so I’ll limit it to one sentence.
Just for one day, I’m allowed in to share in someone else’s story, it’s eye-opening and humbling, exhausting but I come away that bit fuller.
In true festive spirit, this was one of those extra filling ones.
Another one of those weddings I’ve second shot for Steve Rooney that’s miles away from South Wales. It was a whisker under 5 hours to get up there. Worth it?
Linthwaite House sits high in the Lake District with views of Windermere, England’s largest natural lake.
Fun fact: Windermere is home to Tizzie Whizzies. Water-loving but shy, they have a hedgehog’s body, a tail of a squirrel and wings like a bee. I wasn’t unfortunate enough to see one of these “mini monsters” although I could have hallucinated one on the way home.
Linthwaite house doesn’t feel corporate, it’s cosy, tastefully decorated (to me) and with 36 rooms is no behemoth. It’s a solid venue choice.
And besides, I’d trade day or two in the lakes for a week on a foreign beach anytime. Unless it’s Ibiza. Or the Andamans.
Steve and Eve invited the closest family and friends only. It’s a fine approach. I’ve been a plus one at a few weddings and haven’t seen the couple since. If that was you..thank you for inviting me.
And thank you to Steve and Eve and all their friends and family for letting us in to see lives well lived.
“Hi Dan, Just wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of Steven and I for coming up to us. You worked incredibly hard, and we loved having you there. Esp during the portrait shots. We can’t wait to see them when they are ready!"
I was watching a Netflix show last week in which a woman says how she doesn’t listen to her lover’s words, but to the tone. That way she can tell how close he’s feeling towards her.
I couldn’t understand Tina and Muhans words, but I could hear the sounds. Their whispers and giggles sounded like they weren’t meant for anyone else. Lucky my Chinese is limited to two words then.
The cutest couple to photograph, they married one year before, and found out that morning they are about to be parents. No joke, you couldn’t make it up.
I risk becoming sickly about them so I’ll hand over to someone else:
They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scroll through and you’ll see what I mean.
So, I get all giddy when a couple goes for a walk in public.
It takes balls. But it turns heads and makes total strangers stop and stare (in a good way).
If you’re thinking about it. Do it. Rachel and Ben married at Didsbury House, it's website describes itself as a “luxury Victorian villa hotel” and has an “intimate house party feeling”. How neat is that?
Its ceremony room is attractive, natural light pours in, and it's dotted with has period features from its Victorian past, it feels intimate. It's a nice place to get married. And a fitting space for these two.
Ben, who towers over me (I’m 6ft) is one of those blokes I’d want to be if we were at the same school or college. (Can’t believe, I just said that out loud). His large build goes hand in hand with his warmth and friendly way he carries himself. Rachel, an intelligent, flame-haired beauty, stole the show (as she should) in a silky, elegant wedding dress.
Forced to wear a wedding dress, I’d wear that one.
The weather held out for them, the staff at Didsbury house knew what they were doing and the bride and groom's plans of good times for everyone was a success.
The reception felt like an intimate house party as promised, it even had the beer pong and one room dedicated to pumping dance music.
And what marriage would be complete without lots and lots of very merry people celebrating with them?
There's a lot of moving parts to getting married in a foreign country. Getting there has to rank in the top five of importance. We might have made the flight to Vienna on time if security had a sense of urgency.Time slowed down, but not enough.
We missed our flight. A hefty credit card bill for several extra tickets and a private bus to another airport and we were on our way.
What wedding would be complete without things not going to plan, overcoming a little adversity and succeeding in the end?
Holly and Josh married in a white and gold room in the fairy tale Schönbrunn Palace. Schönbrunn translates as beautiful spring. It was fitting for them to marry in Vienna after Holly said yes to Josh’s marriage proposal there a year before.
Built-in the 18th century with a mind-boggling 1141 rooms. It boasts a 300-year history, 3.8 million visits a year, a maze to get lost in, a fountain to look at, and ancient Roman ruins to ponder. The garden’s archways, leafy trees, immaculate hedges, white crunchy gravel and choice of pretty flowers make it an enjoyable place for portraits and post-ceremony drinking.
Holly and Josh wanted a smaller, intimate wedding for close friends and family. Two tight family units, they brought me into the fold and made me feel welcome right from the get-go.
(Note to self: I need non-black wedding attire for times when it’s 27 degrees and I’m committed to carrying two bags of camera stuff).
I’m at risk of sounding cheesy here, but I’ve been at the computer for 20 minutes now and I’m struggling to say it any other way.
Holly stepped in and brightened the room. Josh, a 6ft 5inch soldier, a beer brewer and a blokey bloke couldn’t fight the tears.
And neither could I.
It was an emotional moment for everyone and I reckon the violinist's secret plan was to make sure there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Violinist 1. Men 0.
I won’t go into the finer details, you can see the reactions to the best man's speech below, all I’ll say is that it went down in the personal histories of everyone as the funniest, most cringe-inducing speech ever.
Their day was warm, funny, unpredictable, characterised by everyone being the best of friends. It had an open bar, more wedding cake than anyone could cope with, and a little touch of fairy tale.
If you’re planning a wedding in another country, don’t pick the security checking line with the person who’d get outrun by a sloth-like we did.
Get there early and hit the bar.
Update: the best man met his now girlfriend at Holly and Josh’s wedding and they’re expecting a baby!
Let’s do a little history, I had to look this up so I’m gonna share it.
“A tithe is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a contribution to a religious organization or compulsory tax to the government.Historically tithes were required and paid in kind, such as agricultural produce.”
Ahh those were the days..10%..yes please.
A tithe barn is a barn to store the tithes. Not sure why they needed all those tithes.This place is massive.
Feeling brainier now?
Tithe Barn at Bolton Abbey was turned in to a wedding venue by Cripps & Co (sounds very non-pc).
Their speciality is restoring old barns and walled gardens for weddings & events. Looking at their website and reviews this isn’t their first rodeo and are well on their way to owning all the barns and doing all the weddings.
The venue is 15 miles from Harrogate (you may have tasted the spring water) and sits up on a hill overlooking the grounds of the grand old Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey.
Fun fact: Bolton Abbey is on the cover of a Cure album.
The abbey was built in the 16th century, the same century as the European discovered the Pacific ocean. Bolton abbey is old.
If your’e wondering, It’s also in ruins. Right beside, is the winding river Wharfe which is easily traced looking down from Tithe Barn. The river is 21st on the list of the longest rivers in the UK, but it makes up for it with a solid 4.5 star rating on google from 258 reviews. It’s deserved. Probably because of its famous stepping stones and soothing gurgling sounds. (Note to self: take wellies next time).
So the location is top notch. What about the inside?
Well. Where do I start? Tithe Barn seems to have everything. They renamed the wedding breakfast a “feast”. I hope that sticks. Who wouldn’t prefer a feast over a breakfast when you’ve been on your feet all day and had a few.
I’m flicking through their menu now as I write this and it looks good.
Rotisserie pork shoulder, crackling, fennel and apple slaw. Or how about sirloin bricks? Yes please. No idea what that is. But, I’d be disappointed if it’s not brick-sized rectangle of meat.
Your dining experience is enhanced with an open kitchen with indoor BBQ and rotisseries, it’s all very master chef, and it works.
Should you fancy, you’re able to do your whole wedding here and not have to leave (well, you will at 0100am) as it’s licensed for civil weddings. Have your heart set on that church wedding? No problem, 200 years ago someone built the Bolton Priory Church for you.
No need for extra jackets either as they provide outdoor heaters and fire pits and I quote “advanced underfloor heating”. Toasty.
It has space for your whole extended family and all their friends too with the capacity for 200 ceremony guests, and if that’s not enough you can invite a wallet closing 100 more to your reception.
Club quality acoustics come as standard. Tithe barn is fitted with its own PA for your wedding speeches and drunk mates accapellas and the best bit (for me) a tinnitus inviting Funktion one sound system.
So there you have it. If you’re the one person other than me who read to the bottom, email me and I’ll send you a key ring.
No really, thank you.
Here’s a bunch of photos I took second shooting for Manchester’s best documentary wedding photographer. David Stubbs. I give you Dan and Livi’s Bolton Abbey Tithe barn Wedding.
Amber and David are wonderfully down to earth and level-headed. They planned a super low-stress wedding which didn’t cost the earth and was super fun.
I knocked on a few wrong doors before finding Amber’s parents’ house. (At my first ever gig as a wedding photographer, I turned up on time, at the right room, in the wrong hotel).
Amber and David realised their dream of living on a canal boat a few years back, and four months prior their family had grown to three. So getting ready there was out of the question, opting instead for Amber parents “bricks and mortar” house.
They tied the knot in Leicester city. It was standing room only as more and more friends crowded into the ceremony space, freaking out the registrar. After she regained enough composure to marry them… rapturous applause.
David makes his money as his band’s frontman, writing song lyrics and showing people a good time at his shows.
Multi-talented, (not jealous at all) he wowed us all by swapping brogues for boots with wheels. Ever seen the first dance on roller skates? Me neither, and it’s awesome. (Fun fact..roller discos are re-surging in 2020).
Two bands kept us dancing until it was their time to join the floor for a journey through the decades with a hand-picked playlist.
Big shout to Janie and her crew from Orangetree Weddings for making Seagrave Memorial Hall boho and pretty, impressing us with authentic Indian, serving beer after beer to the heaving bar, and doing it all without a hitch, all night.
The newlyweds have since moved into a bigger boat as Mylo’s crawling. Amber reports she is much happier.
Chhaya and Joe hosted their marquee wedding in a vast green field. I suspected it would be a ton of fun to shoot.
I was right.
The smell of shwarmas sizzling on open coals. Hanging garlands of orange flowers. Laughing, mingling people drinking outside.
A DJ, a band, a trio of drummers.
Intricate henna designs on every women’s hand and colour everywhere.
It felt awesome right from the get-go with a super friendly, super positive crowd. What British summer festival is complete without a few heavy downpours to make everyone huddle for shelter anywhere they can? This wedding was no exception - it turned out ok.
The day ended warm, hazy and dry.
Their marquee ceremony, decorated with those orange flowers, had a friendly, joyous, intimate vibe. Being my first Sikh wedding, I soaked it all up. Every wedding fascinates me, but no matter what the timeline, level of fancy or where, at it’s core, it’s two people coming together, and often two families. There’s something timeless and ancient about it all.
Did I mention that I love them? I do.
Forced to use one sentence to describe their day, it would go like this. Marquee, flowers, colour, confetti, kebabs, boozing, hugs, laughing, portraits, more drinking, more laughing, more hugging, dancing, and drumming and more dancing.
They opted for a super short portraits session, (like 5 mins) preferring more group portraits with their mates and families. Between you and me, I think your group shots benefit from everyone spending a bit of time at the bar beforehand. It’s a good remedy against stiff group shots, it adds a bit hilarity to it all and makes the whole thing a bit more unstaged.
To sum it all up then, marquee weddings can be major fun. They created their own little enclave in a field and had it all to themselves. Chhaya and Joe put thought into their guest’s experience and spent cash on things that mattered to them - people having a wonderful time.
The entertainment, food and location were all top-notch. If your budget stretches to a live sax or a bongo player to compliment your DJ.
Your dance floor will be loud, hot, sweaty and rammed all night. Just like Chhaya and Joe’s.