Who should be attending the bride on the way to the church?

I am not going to make any friends with this particular posting.    But as a couple you really need to know exactly how to achieve the best shots at your wedding – and understand that some stuff is totally outside the control of your photographer.  

With that knowledge you can make decisions beforehand which will affect the look of your wedding photographs – if it is really important to you and if your photography is your priority.  And even though I may think pictures are important it isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.  I understand that  – really I do!  But finding out that things could have looked better by seeing it on your wedding photographs – well, by that time, its just too late.

Last year I photographed two weddings where I felt particuarly frustrated at the shots I couldn’t get.  At the first wedding I didn’t manage to get any shots of the bride arriving at the church door without the car company drivers in attendance. It was a beautiful wedding, lots of emotion and a very pretty church and angelic-looking kids.   An excellent wedding car company, two lovely drivers – but why did they feel the need to take on this ‘role’ at the wedding when there were bridesmaids around who could have done the job perfectly well?  And, sorry to say,  more prettily!

A group of bridesmaids lifting the skirts of the bride’s dress in a lovely procession to the church door is a beautiful moment to capture on camera – it has all the key people you need in there too.  So don’t allow the job to  be done by someone that you’ve only met once or twice – unless you really don’t care. 

At the second wedding the bride walked downstairs to greet her father – his first viewing of his daughter in all her glory – and there in the background the wedding coordinator smiling up at the camera.  Aaagh!  And no matter where I stood during those few moments,  I could not crop out the unnecessary personnel.   So frustrating, as I know that when it comes to your wedding albums, none of those shots will be chosen to go in your final selection.  In fact I don’t even bother putting them in the preview books these days.

As a B&G its up to you both to decide just how much attention you want from your suppliers on the day.  I know of florists who insist on being at the church to instruct on how to hold the bouquet.  Couldn’t that be sorted out at a pre-wedding meeting?   Drivers who insist on the ‘car shot’ with them in it?  Toastmasters who are more interested in the photo for their website than managing the crowds at your wedding.   

Go away, people!  This is an intimate moment – not a marketing opportunity!     

And the really good suppliers – these are the companies and venues that just get on with their jobs and don’t feel the need to dominate.  Their products and services speak loudly for themselves.  In fact, I’ve known businesses lose work because they are so ‘in-your-face’. 

I don’t have a particular gripe against wedding car companies – I have serious doubts about any wedding suppliers other than the photographer, the minister/registrars and possibly,  just possibly, the wedding coordinator at a hotel being present on the photographs in any major way.  I don’t understand why a wedding supplier might consider it to be part of their job description or why they would even want it   (I feel I have failed if I appear on any of the wedding shots when shooting as a team – I want to be invisible!).

So, just to reiterate….decide how much of a role you want your other suppliers to take.  If you have no problem with them appearing on your shots then just go with the flow and don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the shots you may have hoped for (Actually it may be that they are such a part of your day that you want shots of them anyhow).

But if you want to avoid this situation and get the pictures you want and that look nicest  – overcome your embarrassment and tell your drivers/florists/cakemaker etc that you want them to keep a low profile!

Hope I haven’t offended anyone here but sometimes you’ve just got to tell it how it is.   My customers don’t see the things that I do until they’re looking at their photos and by then its too late to do anything about it.  Only then do they realise why I risk life and limb by making posts like this!


When should I book my wedding photographer?

This is just a quick post and I may not get much chance to add some photos so forgive me in advance.

Book your wedding photographer (and your cars incidentally) as soon as you have sorted out your dates, booked the church and/or venue.  Obviously it depends on the state of your funds at the time but it should be the item that gets sorted after these other priorities.  Then comes any entertainment if you specifically want a particular person or act – in fact, if its that important to you I’d book this at the same time as you book photographers and cars. 

Invitations, flowers, cakes, venue dressing, make-up, hair, formal wear etc etc can all come later.  Dresses tend to be an emotional purchase but unless you see the dress of your dreams give yourself a little time so that you can investigate what’s available as thoroughly as possible.  I always think, if you can afford it, its worthwhile checking out wedding dress suppliers in London so you can get a much more up-t0-date idea of what is available.  Local dress shops can sometimes, though not always, carry stock which isn’t necessarily of the moment and maybe a little more middle-of-the-road.

All of this depends upon how close your wedding date is.  For a wedding in 2010,  you ought to have booked cars, photos and entertainment by now and be committing yourself to the rest too.  For a wedding in 2011, you can leave the second phase ie: invites etc. until this time next year.

And just be warned.  None of your suppliers will consider a verbal agreement as a binding contract.  Until you have returned the completed paperwork and paid a booking fee it won’t be considered a proper booking.  All wedding professionals will work on a first-come-first-served basis and won’t turn down another booking for your date until they have all the relevant paperwork in their hands.

Don’t wear rose-tinted specs about this or you might be disappointed.

Wedding Venues in the Fylde area

Ok, Ok  I think it is about time I stopped going on in such loving terms about The Barton Grange and started talking about one or two other venues.   After all you might be unlucky and Barton Grange might be unavailable on your chosen wedding date!

So where else would I recommend?  Are you asking me to name names?!   That’s very dangerous territory for a wedding photographer as I’m likely to become very unpopular with those I don’t mention.  But anyhow here goes …..

I think one of the loveliest places on the Fylde is Lytham Hall.  It has great grounds, impressive gorgeous interiors especially if you’re having your ceremony there too and the catering is done by Paul Rowley (Rowley’s Catering).  You can’t beat Paul Rowley – if only because he is super efficient, the food is great and nothing, nothing is too much trouble.  He’s also really nice to photographers – it always helps! 

On the stairs at Lytham Hall
On the stairs at Lytham Hall

You won’t be bothered by the idea that there may be more than one wedding going on at the same time either (though I think that its easy to get carried away with the idea that it will ruin your day if you see another bride.  It won’t – if it’s handled correctly).  A wedding at Lytham Hall has a very special and unique feel.  Julie and Jane are very friendly as your wedding coordinators and its all very professionally done.

Becky and Lee's wedding at Lytham Hall last year in the Gold Room 
Becky and Lee’s wedding at Lytham Hall last year in the Gold Room

The downside for some people is the fact that there is no accommodation on site – but the Clifton Arms Hotel is only a short taxi hop away and we live in one of the best areas for plentiful accommodation.  So it oughtn’t to be a problem.    There’s also something very special about being whisked away in the middle of the night in a taxi at the end of the party and on to the next stage of your lives.

Further afield is The Inn at Whitewell with the lovely little church next door.  This is a very special place and is equally as lovely as Lytham Hall but in a different sort of way.  We’ve done several weddings over here and popped in for lunch too – fabulous food.  Some people don’t warm to the marquee, or at least have commented to me as such, but I think it is elegant and in keeping and shouldn’t turn you off from booking.  For those with transport issues getting that far out into the countryside might represent a problem – but the upside is that once there you have no need for cars at all – thus eliminating some cost!

I haven’t photographed there for a while but somewhere else worth checking out is The Clifton Arms in Lytham.  Fotoamour and Martyn Pearson have done many weddings at the hotel in the past and really appreciated the family atmosphere.  They also do a very nice lunch with Pam waiting on – who knows everyone and what they’re likely to want to eat too!  Photographically the function room is now great with plenty of lovely light to illuminate speech shots – if this is part of your package.  You’ve also got close access to the green, minding the road of course, and the windmill. 


 Helen and Chris before heading off to the Clifton Arms

Helen and Chris before heading off to the Clifton Arms

They have a licence for weddings if a civil ceremony is what you’re after and accommodation is plentiful, if not in the hotel itself, then you have plenty of other places locally too.

A ceremony venue I love is Ashton Memorial at Williamson Park in Lancaster. It really is stunning and a superb backdrop for wedding photos.  You have to select a reception venue for afterwards and people might be put off by the transport issues – but there’s nothing to stop you booking a coach and eliminating the hassle for your guests. You’ve now got the Midland Hotel in Morecambe close by – but I haven’t eaten or photographed there so I haven’t got a clue what you might expect.   Weddings we’ve photographed there have gone on to places like Garstang Country Club, The Barton Grange and Miller Howe (a long time ago!)

I’ve just visited Samlesbury Hall and was very impressed by the approach of the staff I met – I can’t guarantee the food as I’ve never eaten there (though I did happen to notice some fantastic cakes there one day!)  The setting is very unique too, although the ceremony room did seem a bit on the small side if you have a larger party – but there might have been other options which I didn’t get to see.   I just warmed to their friendly approach – a wedding venue which really is on the side of the bride and groom!  (You’d be surprised just how many times I’ve seen the opposite).


 In the gardens at Samlesbury one hot October day

In the gardens at Samlesbury one hot October day

Another place I adore for smaller parties is The Tower Restaurant at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  I know it sounds mad but the food is fabulous and a wedding during the illuminations season is splendid, fantastic, amazing!   There is plenty of secure parking and a private entrance which protects you from the general mayhem that comes with the lights switch-on.

In fact, once up there you feel like you’ve got a birds eye view of the comings and going of the prom and it feels very special and pretty swanky too.  A very upmarket reception venue.  Discard your preconceptions and check it out!

There are other places that are good too – like Singleton Lodge and I’ve photographed there many times this year.  I like Jo who is the wedding coordinator and the fact that they deal with one wedding per day.  It is a good choice if your wedding party is slightly smaller as it has a very intimate feel.   I’ve only heard good things from my couples so I am sure the food and service is good – and they have great gardens.  Interiors-wise they have decorated in light neutrals throughout so that makes for a much nicer feel to your photographs.  In our climate where you can’t be guaranteed a day of sunshine, interiors are incredibly important.


 Waiting for the bride at Singleton Lodge

Waiting for the bride at Singleton Lodge

Although I have just talked about gardens/settings etc.  you should know from talking to me that the most important things to investigate are the food, the service and the friendliness of the staff and the interiors.  More important – far more important – than spectacular gardens or impressive settings.

These are just a few ideas from some of the venues that I have been to over the last few months or years.  They are ideas though.  If I haven’t mentioned a venue here then its for one of two reasons – either I have no strong feelings about it OR  I don’t like it for whatever reason.  If you really want the low-down you’ll have to arrange to meet me and have a chat – be warned, I’ll frisk you for recording devices!