21st August 2018 /
Helen & Dan - A Hestercombe Wedding
Wedding photography has always been, for me at least, a form of artistic expression. Family and friends would tell you how I would tend to shy away from speaking about anything remotely personal, especially in public. Being able to photograph a couple on the most joyful day of their lives, and capturing their wedding story from the details to the celebrations is something I can only describe as exhilarating. After all, who doesn’t love a good wedding? And more importantly, who doesn’t love a good love story?
Wedding Photography is a form of artistic expression.
If you’re reading this, you may already know my work. And you probably know that I’m a terrible hopeless romantic who will admit to crying at more than a few weddings!
Love, after all, is the reason we are all here, one way or another. As clichéd as it may sound, love really is the key to happiness.
The first time I met Helen and Dan was when photographing their good friends’ Albina and Dan’s wedding, last year at The Kings Hotel in Stokenchurch. I instantly noticed how they were like two magnets drawn to each other; when one half of the magnet was pulled away for a little, the other one was there before you knew it. It would be easy to think that they were still in the early stages of dating because they just couldn’t keep their eyes off each other.
The universe conspired to bring them together.
I remember sitting down with Helen and her lovely friend Audrey from France, and she asked me what it was like to be a wedding photographer, before going on to talk about love, life, and Dan.
Dan was sat back in a cosy armchair and I noticed how he would look at Helen and smile to himself. This cat had definitely got the cream, and he knew it. Everyone did. They were in love.
The universe conspired to bring them together. They first met at a fancy dress party at University. Dan’s housemates just happened to be Helen’s course mates. One meeting turned into two, then four, and then it became something that only the heart understands. That internal language that speaks louder than our thoughts, that beats in our chest and makes it feel as if it’s going to explode. That feeling that can make even the strongest man feel weak; love.
The wedding day came around quickly, and on the morning of the wedding, there was an air of excitement as Helen got ready in a beautiful cottage with her five bridesmaids; her new sister-in-law Emily, her friends Charlotte (Howes), Charlotte (Tuplin) Dawn and Laura, and her mum. They laughed and sang, and of course opened more than one bottle of Prosecco.
“Love, after all, is the reason why we are all here in one way or another.”
Helen wore a Justin Alexander long-sleeved ivory dress with a beautiful sparkly detailed illusion back. It was elegant and understated, and suited her perfectly.
Dan had put together a wedding gift for Helen, showing just how loving and thoughtful he is. He created an album with photos from when they first met, documenting everything from their first trip to India, to their new home and their engagement. Eight and a half years of memories in one album. Two best friends sharing so many beautiful moments, and here they were, about to start their new adventure.
Helen was so deeply moved and it was a touching moment watching her open her gift, realise what it was, and then go through each page.
Helen’s dad arrived just in time to see Helen come down the stairs in her dress. Helen’s mum struggled to hold back her tears and was lost in the emotion of the day as her beautiful daughter got ready to marry the man of her dreams.
Dan was getting ready with his three best men; his brother Chris, and his friends Dan and Jack. When I got to them, they told me stories about their celebration the night before, and I couldn’t help but laugh as they relayed how a neighbour had thought they saw a dead groomsmen in the pool in the early hours (well he was very pale!).
Helen and Dan have an amazing connection, and they share a passion for travelling. They travelled to India for a month- long adventure just six months into their relationship.
Helen laughs as she recalls getting an eye infection when they were in India and having to travel to a Doctor with Dan on the back of a moped. Helen put all of her trust in him to guide her while she kept her eyes closed (and protected). But as they rode along, Dan forgot his protective duty. As they were going around a corner, into the path of an enormous cow, he forgot to tell Helen to duck, and she bashed her head on the cow’s horns!
“I can’t imagine living without Dan, we work better together than we do apart.”
Luckily for Dan, Helen knew she couldn’t be without him. She explains, “I can’t imagine living without Dan, we work better together than we do apart.”
When I asked Dan about when he knew Helen was the one, he replied, “I always knew. It just took me a little longer to ask her to marry me!”
The couple had been together for eight and a half years before Dan proposed but it was definitely worth the wait. They love random and spontaneous travelling adventures and they’ve travelled to many beautiful places in their beloved VW campervan. When they travelled down the Atlantic coast of France, they stayed on a peninsula called Cap Ferret; think beautiful beaches, pine forests, and little typically French towns. They went out on their bikes and cycled to the end of the peninsula and walked down to the waters’ edge. There, amid the beauty and the drama of the crashing waves, Dan got down on one knee.
‘They loved being creative.’
The proposal was fitting for them, so it only made sense that the wedding reflected their passions and personalities too.
When asked about what they enjoyed most about planning their wedding, Helen told me that they loved being a bit creative. They made a lot of the decorations themselves; from sewing the bunting to growing the little succulent plants that were to be their favours.
They both love the outdoors so they chose a botanical theme for their big day. The floral arrangements would include succulent plants, eucalyptus leaves, and coral flowers, the table centre pieces were going to be made from a tree trunk that Dan had sanded and cut, and Dan’s brother Chris designed the beautiful invitations with delicate coral flowers to match their botanical theme.
I took photos of the guys getting ready and Dan gave them each a thoughtful gift box which included a tie, a handkerchief, a beautiful steel hip flask, and a Scotch whisky to go with it. Well, expect for the best man Dan, who everyone knows is partial to a Baileys (Sorry Dan!)
As Dan got ready, he asked how Helen and the girls were, and we chatted about the day ahead before he sat down for a moment. It was his turn to open a gift; this time from his bride to be.
A lifetime of making memories.
As I watched Dan open his card and read it, and he struggled to hold back his emotions after reading what she had written. He let out a huge sigh, and sat quietly for a moment. His hands slowly lifted up his gift, wrapped in brown Kraft paper. He unwrapped it to reveal a fabric bag that held what felt like several loose items inside, then reached into the bag and pulled out a beautifully wrapped wooden embossing set.
Dan loves woodwork and crafting. At first, the set looked like a treat for any woodworker, but then he noticed that it had their wedding date on it. I thought to myself how they had both given each other the gift of memories. One for cherishing, and the other for making. Now they’d have a lifetime to make so many more.
The venue’s pastel décor complemented the floral arrangements, chairs, and ribbons perfectly, and a collection of vintage bottles, excavated by Helen’s Dad and used as tea lights and vases on the day were a perfect finishing touch.
Helen and Dan chose to marry at the beautiful Hestercombe House, a historic country house near Taunton in Somerset. I remember the first time I visited the venue. I travelled from my home in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire in the beautiful Cotswolds to meet Helen and Dan there so I could look around and scout out some nice spots for photos ahead of their wedding day. Being there, seeing the grounds and estate, I fell in love with the venue instantly.
The Wedding Hour
Hestercombe House is a Grade II listed building and the estate is Grade I listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, and it was easy to see why.
The grounds were breath-taking. The gardens are filled with dwarf and cotton Lavender, China Roses, Fuchsia, and two beautiful Bonsai trees that leave you feeling as if you were Alice in a very beautiful wonderland ( and the Pergola in blossom is worth a visit alone.)
Hestercombe’s wedding coordinator, Cas, helped Helen and Dan with much of the planning and the General Manager Richard was on hand on the day to make sure everything went smoothly.
The stage was set. The Orangery, Hestercombe’s dedicated wedding venue was beautifully decorated and looked divine. Everything was perfect, even the weather!
The guests were all seated, as the groom stood with his best men, waiting for his bride.
Helen’s father, who lives in the US, had travelled to be there to give his daughter away. They both looked happy and excited as they began their walk to the ceremony, followed by her bridesmaids.
‘There were gasps of delight.’
The bridesmaids walked in pairs down the aisle before Helen and her father walked down the steps into The Orangery. They were bathed in a pool of beautiful light as they entered and began their walk down the aisle. There were gasps of delight from family and friends, and the look on Dan’s face said it all.
Love and Relativity.
The ceremony was beautiful. Dan’s Uncle and two of Helen’s aunts performed readings, before Helen’s brother Max played the guitar and sang ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ during the signing of the register. The ceremony closed with a reading from Helen’s aunt by Albert Einstein,
“Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That… is relativity.”
After the ceremony, I gave the couple a few moments to enjoy being alone with each other while I organised the guests into two lines for a big confetti exit. I introduced the new Mr and Mrs Perowne which made everyone cheer and congratulate them in a shower of (biodegradable) confetti. I wondered how Helen and Dan felt in that moment, to be so loved and so in love.
The smiles and laughter in these photos could only be a glimpse of the joy they felt, they will always recall and cherish when they look back at their wedding photos.
The reception was filled with beautiful and touching speeches, wonderful food, and plenty of personal touches. The incredible live band, The Stereo Jacks, made sure that every single guest was on their feet, dancing and singing the night away.
The band interracted with all the guests, sang plenty of dancefloor favourites (their cover of Mr. Brightside rocked!) and made sure that the day didn’t just start on a high, it ended on one too.
Albina and Dan, whose wedding I photographed their wedding last year. Oh how I love everything about them!
“Love is the beginning of the journey, the end, and the journey itself.”
What an amazing day and an amazing couple. Congratulations Helen and Dan!
Wedding Photographer: Gracious Photography
Writter: Michelle Robinson
Wedding Venue: Hestercombe Gardens
Getting Ready Location: Mill Meadow Ecolodge
Wedding co-ordinator: Julie and Cas, Hestercombe Gardens
Wedding Dress: Justin Alexander
Band: The Stereo Jacks
Florist: Tilda Rose
Special Thanks: To Dan and Albina for making this happen, and the wonderful people at Hestercombe for giving Helen and Dan their dream wedding.