Heather & Darren - Brooklodge, Wicklow

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I was looking forward to Heather and Darren’s wedding for a number of reasons, one of which was their choice of venue. The ceremony and reception were both taking place at Brook Lodge – a place I’d never been to, but had heard (and seen) lots about, and I was eager to get the chance to photograph a wedding there. And it didn’t disappoint. From the grounds, to the chapel, from the reception room to the staff, everything was fabulous. And the weather – which, given this was an October wedding, could have gone either way – was more than kind with the sun shining for almost the entire day. In short, this was a wedding I enjoyed, at a venue I’m very much looking forward to returning to.

Heather got ready in the main lodge, along with bridesmaids Hazel, Mairead and Denise and her mum Sharon, with all of them having hair and make-up done in a lovely split level room. I like the photo of Heather catching up with messages on her phone as Hazel has the finishing touches put to her hair.

Once all the prep was done, and with the clock ticking, it was time for Heather to pop up to the mezzanine level and put on her fantastic dress, all the way from New York. Hazel was taking on the role of Social Media Photographer for the day, capturing photos as she went for sharing on Facebook later, and the first glimpse of the bride in her dress was definitely a Facebook moment!

If you’ve seen any of my wedding photos ever, you’ll know by now that I love mirrors and a wedding isn’t complete without a mirror shot, so when Heather went to see how she looked, I took my chance.

I do the "headshot from above" shot a lot too, as it’s one that the make up artists especially like. Sometimes time doesn’t allow me to get it, but if I can I will – it’s a simple shot that gives everyone a good first look at how the make up photographs, but when the bride is beaming like Heather was, it’s definitely a keeper.

With the chapel just a stroll across the garden I got the chance to scout it and other locations for some quick formals during a bit of down time in her morning prep. The chapel is lovely – small, intimate and cosy. And it’s also quite dark. I have a rule about photographing ceremonies – I never use flash. I feel it’s distracting and draws attention away from the couple and onto the photographer, which neither they nor me want, and so I’ll always push my aperture wider, my ISO higher, and my shutter speed slower before I’ll turn on a flash. This particular chapel tested that rule, but by finding pockets of available light I was able to get a nice set of images from the ceremony even in almost no light. A case in point is the photo  of the signing of the register, where I used the candle as the sole light source to throw warm light over the happy couple as they signed the register at the end of the ceremony.

The light outside the chapel was lovely soft autumnal light, which I availed of for a photo of Darren and his groomsmen Gavin, Alan and Lorcan, as I popped over just before Heather was ready to leave for the chapel.

The image of Heather about to walk along the corridor is a shot I had pre-planned, but that’s not to say it’s posed. I had earlier spotted the possibility of catching the bride in a nice pool of light as she walked along the corridor from her room, so went ahead when the time came and waited for her to round the corner.

An essential element for that particular shot to work was that the door to the bride’s right had to be open, spilling day light onto her, but the problem with that was the for the door to be open, it would mean the room was being cleaned. Hence the laundry bag on the ground, which, like the fire extinguisher on the wall, is a bit annoying. I toyed with cloning these out, but I don’t like to do too much of that with a photo like this which is documentary rather than manufactured. They are less distracting in the monochrome version of this photo, but personally I don’t think it works as well in black and white as much of its appeal (to me at least) is the warmth of the tunsten light and the relative coolness of the day light and how the contrast to make the bride stand out.

As Heather walked across the garden the sun was shining in a cloudless sky, but as she crossed the foot bridge to the chapel she dipped into a pool of shade, which allow me capture this photo of her with her brother Sam, who was about to walk her up the aisle.

Inside the chapel I photographed most of the ceremony from the back (at the celebrant’s request) but did have a minute or two at the front during the first hymn, and while I waited I spotted a few smiles in a pool of window light, and thought they made for a nice candid image.

Speaking of smiles, have you ever seen a happier groom? By now the formalities were all done and Darren had married his bride. I captured a photo of him as he was being congratulated by friends and family after the ceremony. Sure why wouldn’t he be beaming?

Once the receiving line finished we quickly took the family photos before moving on to some bridal party photos in the beautiful scenery that Brook Lodge has to offer.

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One of the most stress free ways to have a wedding (at least for those opting for a civil ceremony) is to book a venue that allows you have your ceremony and reception in the same place. It makes for a more relaxed afternoon, more time spent with guests and, if the venue is Brook Lodge at least, a quick and easy post-ceremony photo shoot in beautiful surroundings. If you go for the triple whammy of also getting ready at that venue, your photographer gets a good opportunity to scout in the morning which, if its their first time there, can be beneficial for all concerned also. Given that Heather and Darren went down this road at Brook Lodge, I really couldn’t go wrong.

Let’s me briefly walk you through the route I took the bridal party on, as we strolled from the chapel on the grounds to the reception room across the gardens. First of all we came to a bridge, so we stopped and posed for a moment.

Just over the bridge there is a bench, and with the chapel in the background and some lovely light it made for a nice photo of the happy couple which would, ultimately, make the front of their Thank You card.

On to the main lawn where the lodge itself made for a lovely backdrop for a photo of the full bridal party (one of my favourites from the day).

Next stop (having sent the bridesmaids and groomsmen to go enjoy some champagne) was a covered walkway which I would certainly take advantage of on a rainy day – it was here I got some nice relaxed portraits of the happy couple.

A few snaps as Heather and Darren walked to the drinks reception hand in hand, but that was pretty much it. Quick and easy.While they mingled with guests I gave them some downtime from the camera to photograph the function room – their layout was unusual in that they only had four large tables – Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connaught as it turned out – and that worked well in the space available. 

This was also a chance to get a photo of the cake topper – I love the different types you see these days, and the fact that the groom here was (appropriately) wearing bermuda shorts.

I took the usual mix of candid shots at the drinks reception, but as a detail liked this alternative angle on the champagne.

While the guests were seated, best man and Darren’s brother Gavin reviewed some literature ahead of his speech.

The speeches themselves were great, and gave me the opportunity to grab what I think of as classic speeches photos - reactions, smiles, mortification. You get the idea!

The night finished (for me at least) with the traditional first dance. I photographed the first dance (as I do if I’m staying until then) with off camera flashes, taking advantage of the balconies overlooking the function room to place them high and out of the way.

A good day for all concerned at Brook Lodge, then, on my first (but hopefully not my last) visit there.

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