Emma & Tom’s West Green House wedding was my first opportunity to shoot at this lovely venue just round the corner from where I live in Hartley Wintney. Emma & Tom were married in late October on a day that was by turns, sunny, wet and extremely windy but fairly consistently mild. A classic English autumn then! Occasionally I work with couples that are so incredibly tuned in to what I’m trying to offer that frankly they might as well have written my Client Guide. Emma & Tom were one such couple and consequentially their wedding was a real treat to photograph. Emma & Tom are warm, naturally friendly people and incredibly down-to-earth; the emphasis was very much on family, friends and spending quality time with everyone rather than running around in full photo shoot mode all day.
Emma got ready at home in Fleet, while Tom started his day at the Hook House Hotel; both, just a short drive from West Green House. I started off with Emma then scooted over to Tom, who was bang on time (good man!), before heading back to Fleet to capture the final elements of Emma’s bridal prep. Nisha of Blush & Curls was looking after Emma’s hair and makeup and kept everything nice and relaxed while ensuring Emma looked incredible. Flower girl and pageboy positions were ably filled by Tom’s daughter Louisa and Emma’s son Issac and these little dudes were astonishingly grown up and absolutely ace all day. Once everyone was ready to roll it was off to Basingstoke Register Office for the formal part of the day.
The ceremony was lovely. It took place in a pretty room filled with love, laughter and great light (yay!) and Louisa & Issac both gave faultless, and very moving, readings. The registrar on the day, though very lovely and effusive, was somewhat strict – think Miss Tibbs meets Sybil Fawlty – a slightly hair-raising combination that led to some quiet giggling in the back (and behind the camera). Following the ceremony we headed for West Green House, Emma & Tom in a lovely old 1932 Rolls Royce Cabriolet while the guests hopped aboard a beautiful orange liveried 1950 Bedford OB bus. Both vehicles were provided by Mark Sleep of Ages Past.
While this may have been my first West Green House wedding, I very much hope it won’t be my last. West Green House is a million miles away from a ‘typical’ wedding venue, and that’s a good thing. The gardens are undeniably beautiful and the greenhouses, where the wedding breakfast was held, are simply breathtaking – marinating in English country charm. As the weather had been decidedly changeable and was forecast to remain that way, when we arrived at West Green we slipped away for two group photos and a few portraits while the sun was shining. I typically recommend doing portraits in the evening, close to sunset, but with the weather unable to make its mind up, I’ll often grab a few shots earlier in the day to be on the safe side. The drinks reception took place in a marquee adjacent to the glasshouses and after suitable time for fizz quaffing and canapés snaffling, Emma & Tom’s guests made their way across to the incredible greenhouses. I can’t overstate just how amazing a setting the greenhouses are. They are the quirkiest, best looking location I think I’ve ever encountered! A spectacular setting with zero sense of pretension or trying hard. For all the other great things about a West Green House wedding, it is the greenhouses that set the place apart. The main course was beef, carved at the table by a designated bladesman, each furnished with natty apron and fearsomely sharp steel! Food that gets guests involved is always good fun and it tends to be good for photographs too.
Between courses, as Emma & Tom were keen and the weather was still behaving, we stole away for 10 mins of photographs in the evening light before heading back for the final toasts. The speeches were magnificent and varied, with significant detail from the Best Men about Tom’s questionable adolescent wrestling antics sandwiched cannily between reminiscences attesting to his undeniable good egg qualities. Excellent work folks! Emma also gave a lovely speech and, by the end of the meal, there was a real sense of being at a large family gathering. Exactly as Emma & Tom intended, their wedding felt personal and intimate throughout. After the speeches had concluded, caricaturist Steve Garner joined the post dinner drinks in the marquee and, as the evening progressed and with more guests joining the ranks, we crossed back to the marquee for Emma & Tom’s first dance. Ollie Moore of Farnham Sound & Light kept the dance floor filled all evening and, come the end of the night, all the guests gathered outside the greenhouses to bid Emma & Tom good night and good health in the form of a reassuringly rowdy sparkler send off.
What a wedding, what a couple. I am sat here, typing this up, with a huge grin on my face. It was such a tremendous day and an absolute pleasure to photograph. My thanks to Emma & Tom for having me and I can’t wait for my next chance to shoot a West Green House Wedding. As always, here’s a selection of my favourite from the day. Enjoy!