Henley-on-Thames Wedding Photography: Alice and Dom
Alice and Dom's Hotel du Vin Henley on Thames Wedding
2022 was the first full year back following the Covid-19 pandemic. As I get towards the end of the year I have been spending some time reflecting on how the year has gone and what the future may bring. This would be my final wedding of 2022 and what an amazing place to be shooting. It hasn't been the most hectic of years but it has been busy and a lot of fun. Alice and Dom's wedding at Hotel du Vin was a perfect way to finish off the year. Henly-on-Thames Wedding Photography as a conclusion isn't too shabby at all.
I was first approached by Alice's sister Toni. She's a project manager and was doing all the planning for Alice and Dom. "Is Henley too far for you?" she asked. Absolutely not! I love Henley and have been many times before as my best friend, Frank, lives not too far up the road from there. After a bit of a chit chat Toni booked me and the planning began.
Between booking and the big day, Alice, Dom, Toni and myself exchanged emails and zoom calls whilst we put all the details of the day together. By the time we got to Halloween weekend I felt like I knew these guys well.
I travelled the night before and stayed at Frank's farm about 20 minutes from Henley. The farm is one of my favourite places to go to. Situated in the middle of the Chilten Hills, it's very much a "Ye Olde" farm. And rather than staying in the farm house with Frank and his family I would be staying in their new holiday cottage; The Coach House. It all meant I would be nice and relaxed for the wedding day.
On the morning of the wedding I got up and looked outside. It was pouring with rain. However, there was no panic about this. I love shooting weddings in the rain but the forecast did hint that it wouldn't last long. In fact we'd peak at 22ºC on a barmy sunny day. In the early morning mist I made my way down to Henley and to the Hotel du Vin. I'd shot at the Newcastle HDV a few times so knew what to expect. Henley's HDV is a converted brewery with lots of quirky nooks and crannies......and a lot of stairs. By the end of the day I would have walked 5.5 miles around the hotel and surrounding streets. Who needs the gym?
I bumped into Toni in the courtyard of the hotel and from there I was given a tour of the venue. The theme was very much yellow and butterflies. Upstairs in the bridal suite was where all the prep was taking place. This is quite a unique suite over two levels; bedroom downstairs and bathroom upstairs with a rooftop balcony overlooking the river complete with a bathtub.
As we came to the time for the ceremony I waited at the bottom of the stairs from the bedrooms for the bridesmaids to escort Alice to the ceremony. In the room, the 30-40 guests were sat waiting on chairs finished off with yellow sashes and butterflies. The music started, Alice entered, Dom turned around and all his nerves which were there before the ceremony vanished.
In the low lit room, the ceremony was filled with laughter and tears. The sun was beaming through the small windows adding a real sense of character and atmosphere and with the vows and rings exchanged I headed up to the balcony to look down on the scene and capture the newlyweds signing their certificate.
Instead of confetti we had bubbles which filled the courtyard after the ceremony. After a few family shots I escorted Alice and Dom round the corner to the banks of the Thames. There was a mini regatta going on so we had shots with rowers and dragonboats in the background. It was a busy Saturday afternoon in Henley so there were loads of people around. People were shouting "CONGRATULATIONS" or honking their horns as they drove past. I love it when this happens as it is a great distraction for the couple especially if they're nervous about getting their photos taken.
In a small garden hidden from the street we stopped to get some more shots. The ground was covered in yellow and red leaves. There was a family there; two boys and their parents, playing in the leaves. The dad jokingly said "Shall we throw some leaves over them?" He was shocked when I said "I was about to ask if the boys want to do a little job for me". So there we were, by the Thames in this garden, two newlyweds totally lost in the moment whilst the dad and boys were hiding behind them. ONE, TWO, THREE, GO!!!!! Leaves were going everywhere and it certainly got the desired reaction from Alice and Dom who cracked up with laughter.
So after a brief walk around the town centre getting some more shots we went back to the hotel and got ready for the evening fun and games. There would be no sit down meal or speeches. This would go straight into the evening celebrations, cake cutting, first dance and buffet. There was a bit of a lull in the day as people checked into their rooms, but in general this wedding was full on from the start and seemed to go in a flash. Normally there's a wedding breakfast and at that point I get a couple of hours break. It was actually quite a refreshing change to just slam straight through from Bridal Prep, the ceremony and formal shots through to the first dance and evening fun in one blast.
The evening guests began arriving and the hall (Henley Vineyards) began to fill. Signature Moments had lit the room brilliant and were beginning to bang the tunes out as everyone arrived. We waited in anticipation for the newlyweds. Eventually they came in, welcomed the guests and went to the cake cutting. We watched on as they cut the cake and then fed each other. Some people egged them on to rub the cake in each other's faces. But despite that temptation they decided not to and went to the first dance.
The first dance was split between a bride/groom dance and a bride/father dance. Alice and Dom slowly danced for a minute or so before Dom stepped back and welcomed Alice's dad to the floor to take his place.
After that it was a case of "Buffet Open" and a disco. After grabbing some extra shots on the dance floor and then some of Alice and Dom outside in the evening under the lights of the courtyard, I packed up ready for the drive back. I heard some laughing behind me as I packed away. Toni was stood with some of the bridesmaids. "You enjoying this song?" she shouted to me. Dolly Parton's "9 to 5" was on. I was in my own little world as I packed away whilst doing a bit of a dance and sing-a-long. Hey, it's a classic!
And that was my day done. A brilliant day and perfect finish to my year of weddings. Thanks Alice, Dom and family for making me feel so welcome.