The Elvetham Hotel Hartley Wintney Hampshire is one of Peter's favourite wedding venues as its such a delight for professional photographers and videographers - stunning interior design, gorgeous well maintained grounds with lots of mature trees and shrubs, a pond, a river, and staff who always work to a very high standard. A real treat. Add to that the great attitude of the registrars responsible for conducting wedding ceremonies at The Elvetham and its a 100% winning combination.
The Elvetham as it is commonly known ("Hotel" is often dropped from its name), is located midway between Farnborough Basingstoke and Reading on the border of North Hampshire and Berkshire; this makes it very easy to reach via the nearby M3 M4 and M25 motorways. Double check your satnav as the main entrance is on the A323 Fleet Road. There is plenty of secure onsite parking.
Peter has worked at the Elvetham Hotel many times and this certainly helps as the whole site is enormous and it can pay to know the "best bits" when time is short or when the weather is against you. There are so many photogenic locations around and about The Elvetham that its all but impossible to try them all at a single wedding - what a great dilemma for any photographer or videographer to be in!
Peter has supplied images to the Elvetham to promote the hotel as a wedding venue, including shots from a low flying light aircraft.
The first image below shows the main building in the foreground and the lovely extra accommodation wing towards the top right. You'll see that the optional marquee has been erected for this event. Part of the Italianate-style pond is visible in the bottom right.
The yew trees - some of which you can see bottom centre in the photo - were used by the late comedian Benny Hill as the location where he was famously filmed being chased by a bevy of scantily clad girls - hard to imagine that would make it onto our TV's now, but he was a national institution back in the day!
Peter shot this photo (and some video) from a light aircraft - drones were not used!
The iconic and probably most well-known view of the Elvetham Hotel - the main entrance including the grand Carriage Porch which was added in 1901.
Wedding ceremonies usually take place in the Oak Room at the front of the Elvetham Hotel. The Oak Room started life as a billiard room in 1913! You'll see it certainly looks the part for gorgeous wedding photos and video. Peter usually starts shooting your ceremony from the rear of the Oak Room and then moves up to the front right corner next to the window. If you have musicians they would normally be located at the front in the left corner:
Coverage usually starts with some shots of the dress flowers shoes and so forth and the girls going about their wedding day preparations.
The bouquets are must have photos for the start of the wedding album:
Other personal touches such as this message from groom Andy to his new bride work great:
Detail photos of the dress look great at the start of your wedding photo album. Sometimes Peter uses these as backgrounds for montages - you can see this in action in the sample album designs on the main Albums Page:
Flowergirls make for some charming wedding photos all day long:
The Elvetham has lots of big well appointed rooms suitable for the girls to get ready in without being short of space:
There are some great photos to be had whilst the bride finishes getting into her dress:
Mementos such as our bride Nicola's ring which was her nan's engagement ring make for extra-special photos:
A few semi-formal photos of the bride once she has finished getting ready can be a nice touch.
The registrars will want to interview both the bride and groom before the start of the wedding ceremony to complete a few legal formalities. Usually the groom is scheduled for twenty minutes before the start and the bride ten minutes before the start. The interviews are not in the least bit formal. The registrars from nearby Aldershot Register Office are great and can be relied upon to keep everything relaxed:
A professional toastmaster can make a big difference in the smooth running of your day:
Peter usually shoots a few semi-formal portraits of the groom and best man moments before the start of the wedding ceremony. The last photos of the groom as a "free man" you might say! Many couples like to include some shots with brothers / sisters / parents etc if there is the time available:
The wedding ceremony in the next photo was planned to be outside but until the very last moment it seemed the weather was having none of that! Rain rain and more rain, and the staff were not able to put the guest chairs in place until the very last moment. No chance of scene setting photos beforehand showing the ceremony area dressed ready for action. We took a chance on what appeared to be a short break in the wetness and the ceremony went ahead in the grounds.
Brides grooms witnesses and registrars have to be under a permanent structure to comply with English regulations regarding outdoor ceremonies, but guests - and photographers - have to take their chances. As a result the main participants remain dry. Our registrar took the precaution of explaining to the guests that should the rain return the ceremony would continue but the guests would have to take their chances. The Elvetham staff were on hand with lots of umbrellas!
We got away with it. Phew!
Lots of emotion as our bride Laura enters the Oak Room arm in arm with her dad:
Wide-angle lenses can work well to take in the entire room. Peter usually shoots a few scene-setting photos from the rear of the Oak Room before discreetly moving to one of the front corners:
Once the ceremony is underway Peter usually shoots most of the photos from the front corner nearest the window. This ensures that there are plenty of opportunities to photography both the bride and groom and lots of guests as they look on. It can be a tight fit in that corner as it is also occupied by the second registrar at her desk whose job it is to complete the paperwork. But the Aldershot staff are a great bunch and we are all used to playing at sardines! Christmas weddings are even more of a challenge as this spot is usually occupied by an enormous tree:
A key moment at the start of the wedding ceremony is where the brides father gives his daughters hand to her groom:
There are some lovely mid-ceremony portraits just begging to be shot:
The vows are another great moment to capture on stills as well as on video. Peter shot the next photo from the back of the Oak Room using a special long lens - you can read our bride Nicola's notes even from that distance:
There can be some great opportunities for character photos of guests during the ceremony:
The exchange of rings is another key moment in the ceremony. Whether is can be photographed depends on the bride and grooms positions at that moment, but the registrars often make a point of ensuring that their hands are visible to the cameras just for a moment:
Wedding ceremonies often have one or more readings. This young chap overcame any nerves and did a great job:
At the end of the ceremony its time for the bride and groom and the witnesses to sign the marriage register. Photography and video is not permitted at this point - or at least not of the readable document itself. Most registrars including the Aldershot posse impose a blanket ban on photography whilst the signing is in progress. Once the official document signing is completed its normal for the bride and groom to pose for a few photos pretending to sign:
The Library at the Elvetham Hotel is also licensed for wedding ceremonies. As with the Oak Room it dates back to 1913. It is trickier for professional photographers and videographers to shoot wedding ceremonies in as it is darker than the Oak Room. Photographers would not usually want to use flash during ceremonies as it can be distracting.
Then it becomes a free for all as the guests are invited to shoot their own photos:
The ceremony in the next photo took place in The Morning Room at the Elvetham Hotel. The venue has several rooms licensed for ceremonies including the Oak Room, the Library, the Conservatory, and outdoors as well. The Morning Room has beautiful decor and is ideal for small numbers of guests:
At the Elvetham the bride and groom are presented with their celebratory drinks immediately on exiting the ceremony room. The Elvetham staff gather in the main hall to proffer drinks to the guests:
A genuine ex-Scots Guards piper adds something special to the day:
Confetti is allowed at the Elvetham so long as its used outside and its biodegradable. Our little pageboy has rather taken over in the next photo!
The period after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast is known as the cocktail hour and its a time for candid photos as well as the must-have posed photos with family and friends:
Everyone wants photos in "Yew Tree Avenue" and its easy to see why:
The riverside on the opposite side of the Elvetham Hotel is another great photo location:
The manicured garden surrounding the pond at the Elvetham is yet another great photo location. Here is Susie with her Star-wars fan / new husband:
The oak tree in the background in the next photo was planted by Queen Elizabeth 1st on her visit to the Elvetham in 1591:
The Italianate Pond looks wonderful featured in your wedding album:
Of course bridesmaids and flowergirls make great subjects:
The "formal" photos usually start with a big group shot of all the guests attending. If there are lots of guests this may be best shot from a first floor vantage point. The Elvetham staff can let professional photographers into the appropriate rooms:
Family groups tend to be smaller and therefore quicker and easier to set up:
There are lots of photogenic positions around the Elvetham both inside and outside. Another popular photo is the bride and groom with all the parents:
And with the various dads and mums:
The fellas have their own way of being photogenic!
The Conservatory at the Elvetham Hotel has great natural light and is ideal for professional photography and video of your wedding breakfast:
Peter shoots lots of photos of the details in the wedding breakfast room. These look great in your wedding photo album:
The Library at the Elvetham Hotel is the usual choice for the wedding breakfast. The next photo shows it all ready for battle to commence!
Believe it or not these wedding favours were home-made. Marvellous:
The optional marquee is a great choice to accommodate large numbers of guests and as with the Conservatory is bright and therefore good for photography and video:
Many couples have a "receiving line" before the start of their wedding breakfast. The bride and groom - and usually all the parents - line up at the entrance to the reception room and greet each guest individually. This ensures that you have exchanged a few words with every guest at your wedding even if there are lots of them. The receiving line can have terrific photo opportunities:
The speeches can be crammed full of marvellous photo opportunities, not only of the speakers but of the many guests laughing and enjoying themselves. To really make it count get Peter to shoot video of the speeches as well as make lots of photos.
This little chap grabbed the best mans speech and then proceeded to mimic him!
The next photo is the very definition of reportage style wedding photography. A totally natural, unposed, unscripted, decisive moment as our groom is embarrassed by his best man's speech:
Lots of brides and guests recommend Peter. The next photo below shows a guest who was a bride Peter shot more than a decade ago!
There was a strong Irish connection with this groom. Who would have guessed!
The bouquet toss is usually best performed outside otherwise it can get entangled with fixtures inside
Peter can shoot some groups in the evening after dark if required. This can be useful if some of the VIP wedding guests are not available until the evening or, heaven forbid, poor weather prevents outdoor group photos earlier in the day:
The wedding cake is usually cut in the evening shortly before the first dance:
The first dance is a must-have for photos and video:
A live band can really get things going:
A firework display can really make the evening special:
Yes that really is a full moon rising over the Elvetham Hotel. No photoshopping going on! A photo of the venue at night can make a terrific closing spread in your wedding album:
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