Natalie and phill's gorgeous stratford park wedding
I first met this gorgeous pair when I was photographing Natalie's sister's wedding in May 2016. So when Natalie got in touch to ask me to photograph her wedding I couldn't be more honoured!
Natalie and Phill had chosen Stratford Park Hotel and Golf Club as their venue. The venue perfectly combines the popular barn style of venue as well as having the sprawling grounds of a golf club which lead to some utterly gorgeous portraits.
On a gloriously sunny Saturday morning I headed down the M40 (with three spare shirts in the car because of the forecast temperatures - I'm always prepared!) to photograph Natalie and her glam squad all getting ready in the morning.
Whilst everyone was getting ready Phill had left a little bundle of thoughtful and funny presents for his wife to be (this is one of my top tips for grooms, look out for that blog in a few weeks!). Who wouldn't be happy with a star, an adult Little Miss book and a little something representing that they're a 'match made in heaven'.
Once the bride was in her absolutely stunning dress (and Sam, one of the bridesmaids, had cried for the 90th time that morning) I headed down to the barn to get ready for the arrival of all of the guests. The room looked stunning with an aisle adorned with lanterns and petals and the rustic wooden LOVE letters suiting the venue perfectly.
The ceremony was beautifully simple with two heartfelt readings by Nicola and Sam (and Sam managed to not cry!) celebrating the love of Natalie and Phill. Once they had said 'I do' and walked back up the aisle as the new Mr and Mrs Atkins everyone headed outside into the summer sunshine and, of course, two adults were the first to be playing with the kids area that had been set up.
After a chance for everyone to have a drink and a game of giant Connect 4 we started the group photographs. At every wedding I ask for someone to help chase people up so that everything runs a little smoother and, quite frankly, I think I'm going to request that this person is always former army. Everyone fell in line as his voice boomed across the courtyard. Thanks!!
Whilst the guests were entertained by the magician I stole Natalie and Phill away for their formal portraits and for the first time I got to drive a golf cart. Whilst the newlyweds seemed to have a relatively smooth ride I managed to hit every bump and hole that was to be found. I don't think that golf cart-ing is a natural gift of mine.
Giving Natalie and Phill a little break away from the wedding to be themselves and to breathe (accompanied by mini fans to keep us all cool) we used some of the gorgeous areas Stratford Park has to offer. There really are some stunning backdrops at this venue! From the small copses of silver birch trees to the rolling hills looking over the Warwickshire countryside this venue has everything you would want as a photographer.
Getting back in time to catch the magician causing one of the bridesmaids minds to explode and ready for him to do his trick for Natalie and Phill (which I still don't understand how he did it) they walked through a tunnel of confetti to head in for the wedding breakfast. As the guests sat down for their meal I went off for shirt change number one and to throw some food into my face to get ready for the speeches and the evening.
The speeches were wonderful. Heartfelt, funny and strangely enough the father of the bride's speech was more of a roast than the best man's. Once Phill had been suitable in embarrassed by his new father in law it was time for Phill's speech. Managing to make most people cry with a poem he read for his new wife and incredibly touching words for his mom Phill's speech was what groom's speeches should be. He handed over to the best man who told stories of Phill's time in the army and the three things he has learned about Phill. Namely he's a terrible liar and can't handle his drink.
"I love you, not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me"
Whilst the room was turned around for the evening the guests were kept busy playing in a ball pit, rolling down the hill on scooters and having roll poly races. I'm pretty sure that Natalie and Phill planned of this to keep the kids entertained but the adults made full use of it. Being a gorgeous clear summer day there was a beauty of a sunset starting to fall below the trees so I borrowed the newlyweds to take full advantage of the light and give them a chance to practice the first dance.
Arriving back to find guests with faces covered in glitter (and I was still picking it off my face many showers and two days later) and in time for the DJ to start playing their first song. A Million Love Songs by Take That soundtracked their first dance as Phill twirled Natalie around before they were joined by other couples.
Once they had cut the cake, the DJ had got people on the dance floor and most of the guests were at least partially coated in glitter it was time for me to leave everyone to enjoy themselves without the worry of it being permanently recorded!
"A million love songs later and here I am trying to tell you that I care"
Dress | Melissa Sweet for David's Bridal
Hair | Hayley's Hair Designs
Make Up | Hayley Thompson
Suits | Peter Posh
DJ | Stratford Park's House DJ
Magician | Paul Grundle
Children's Games | Best Party Hire
Glitter | The Glitter Lady