Thornton Manor offers complete luxury, with settings straight out of a period BBC drama and service unparalleled. There are a few options when it comes to getting married at Thornton Manor and the idea of this content is to give you a sense of the venue from a wedding photographer & videographers point of view. I have focused on three of the 4 options available at the venue, The Manor House, Lakeside Marquee and the Dell Pavilion. I have purposely left The Walled Garden Marquee out of this article as for us it's the least visited venue and usually caters for much larger events.
The Manor House
The first element to impress me about Thornton Manor is the parking situation. There are many venues which allow guests, suppliers and other visitors to park directly outside of the venue. This is fine if all your guests drive Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but when I pull up in my 2008 Nissan Micra with one missing hub cap and a Pink Floyd "Rule the Universe" bumper sticker it somewhat detracts from the glowing ambiance of the building! So when venues have dedicated parking out of view but close enough for guests to walk it is brilliant. Furthermore to this, Thornton Manor have crew parking at the rear of the building so you don't have to battle past the army of suppliers vehicles.
I joke about this but it truly is important, especially when it comes to the group photographs later in the wedding day. It's nice to be able to shoot the venue free of parked cars, giving us clean and unobscured images in a location we choose.
Once out of your car and walking towards the venue, you can’t help but take in the grandeur of the building. The detail and architecture is stunning and will impress all of your guests. The staff at the venue are always on hand to greet your guests and direct them to the relevant part of the house.
Walking through the corridors and lounges of Thornton Manor is a treat for all, not only is the interior as impressive as the external architecture and design but the place is peppered with antique furniture and overwhelming items which attract all guests attention. In the winter there is the option for open fires, further adding to the ambience the venue has to offer.
When it comes to bridal preparations, I believe there a number of options and if there is a wedding the day before your wedding I have seen rooms and cottages made available for the night before your wedding. On the morning of your wedding they can move you with military precision to get you and your bridal party into the bridal suite inside the manor.
The bridal suite is large and has plenty of natural light. There is also a number of spots to hang the wedding dress, making it easy to shoot details of the dress, shoes, jewellery etc.
I love the fact that the bridal suite overlooks the entrance of the manor, so your eagle eyed bridesmaids can keep an eye on the arrival and condition of your partner.
Once the bride is ready we co ordinate a shot with whoever is giving her away, then the staircase provides a lovely backdrop for the two walking to the ceremony.
When it comes to the ceremony there are multiple options and configurations on offer. There is the option for an outdoor ceremony, although out of the many times we have shot at the venue this isn’t as popular as hosting the ceremony indoors.
The room in which the ceremony is held indoors can be set up in two ways, with the ceremony taking place in front of the large double doors, or at the opposite end of the room. From a wedding photography point of view it's nice to have the couple stood directly in front of the double doors, as the natural light enhances the images. It is possible to shoot the other way around but the lighting isn't as natural and in the summer months the harsh light can pose difficulties.
The next thing to consider is the entrance of the bride, do you want to walk down the aisle coming from the outside? The tree lined path leading to the ceremony room makes an incredible entrance, but perhaps this is something you may think is limited to summer months? Well, we have shot an entrance of a bride from this route in the snow!
This entrance provides an excellent opportunity for photographs and video whilst also extending a natural emotional part of the wedding. I personally think this is a great option and would recommend this and I have seen this entrance selected for both possible set ups of the room too!
Once the ceremony is over the happy couple exit down the aisle and they are escorted to the bar area for a well deserved glass of Prosecco. Whilst they enjoy the bubbles we, along with the help of the registrars will gather all the guests either side of the tree lined path previously mentioned. This is in anticipation of the return of the couple who will be announced as officially being married and walk down the tree lined path to a massive cheer and guests throwing confetti. This is a great location and time for the confetti shot to be done .
Once complete we then ask all guests to follow the couple to the rear of the manor where our group photographs will be completed.
Going straight into the group photographs serves two purposes, initially it allows the venue staff to move all of the chairs from the ceremony room to the grand hall where your wedding breakfast will be served, plus it also eliminates wasted time as the group photos and confetti will be complete within circa 20 minutes after the completion of the vows!
The backdrop of the group shots has the entire manor in the background, a fantastic spot. If you prefer the front of the house this is another spot that can be used for group photos, although for weddings with 50+ guests the rear provides better depth.
Once the group shots are complete we would usually take the couple and bridal party around the grounds for photos. There are so many spot to use at Thornton Manor which is a great thing for when it comes to wedding photography. The only problem it poses is that although your photos are important, we can't keep you all day from your guests! We would suggest perhaps shooting for around 10 minutes after the group shots, then leaving you both to get around your guests and enjoy the day. We will have an opportunity later in the day after the wedding breakfast to return to the grounds for further photographs.
As you both mingle with your wedding guests we will visit the Music Room which is the grand hall in which your wedding breakfast will be served. This is a stunning room with stainless panels in the ceiling and a magical organ over the top table. Once decorated in your chosen style, this space is completely overwhelming and must be the focus of numerous photos and film to document the efforts you have both put into dressing the venue.
We spend around 15 minutes gathering all of our images of this room then return to the bar and terrace area to capture natural shots of you and your guests. A lot of people choose to have live music during the drinks reception and on occasions this same performer will transition into the music room for atmospheric music during the wedding breakfast.
Once all of your guests are seated in the Music Room we go around each table gathering images of the guests seated and from here we await the speeches. The speeches are a dream to shoot in the Music Room as the room is large, giving us space to move around. There is an in-house PA system and speakers are usually given the option of using the microphone. This room benefits from uplighters in my opinion, as they provide contrast in your images. The walls are finished in dark wood panels, which look lovely but in the images dont give a great deal of depth. So when there are uplighters used, the extra colour and lights gives an extra dimension to your imagery.
Once the speeches and wedding breakfast is complete, all guests are directed back to the bar/terrace area. They are also free to filter into the lounge area, which again provides the same character and aura that the rest of the venue provides.
This is a great time to go back around the grounds with the couple, the light at this point is usually lower and we can get some stunning sunset shots. The light is particularly nice on the rear terrace with views overlooking the grounds.
As your evening guests turn up, we capture their arrival and around 8pm the doors to the freshly transformed Music Room are opened, allowing all your guests to filter back into this amazing space. The bar will now be in position and open whilst your band or DJ is set up in the alcove at the end of the room. This room really has a different vibe in the evening, it's hard to explain why but I think the lighting has a lot to do with it. Given the natural light during the day coming through the glass panels on the ceiling, when it comes to the evening the atmosphere does change and perfectly sets the scene for your first dance.
The cutting of the cake is usually done in the bar area and we try to get all guests behind the camera for this shot, but this is something we would discuss before the wedding as some couples like the idea of the guests being in shot for this moment.
Overall, Thornton Manor is a fantastic choice for couples looking for this style of venue. The access you have in this venue is excellent compared to some similar venues where access to certain rooms is restricted or there are many rules on what and how items can be used. The Thornton Manor team always seem happy to help and will make your dreams come true!
The Lakeside Marquee offers a bit of a unique offering when it comes to a wedding venue as there are very few venues that benefit from a lake on their doorstep! Sure, many venues have water nearby and I’m no expert on what makes a pond a pond and a lake a lake, but many other venues have what I would describe as an impressive water feature (pond) whilst without any element of doubt the water at The Lakeside Marquee is a lake! It's huge and instantly impresses guests as they arrive.
In a similar fashion to the Manor House, parking has been thought about and all guests vehicles are parked out of site whilst all crew vehicles are at the rear of the marquee, allowing easy access but most importantly out of sight. This is perfect for photos and enhances the atmosphere for guests upon arrival and their overall experience throughout the day.
The layout and adaptability of this venue is very impressive. I see the marquee as having three interior sections. The entrance is home to the bar area and perfect for mingling and the next section is where the wedding breakfast is served. These two spaces are often separated with a low partition, allowing guests to see where the meal will be but preventing access for the early part of the wedding. The third section is hidden for the daytime but in the evening reveals the dance floor and another bar.
I love the fact the evening space is concealed as it provides a fantastic crescendo for the first dance as the happy couple are revealed from behind a previously disguised curtain wall.
It also provides a practical benefit which makes the logistics of your day seamless. During the course of the day your band, DJ and other evening suppliers can set up behind the curtain, leaving your guests unaware of the work taking place. This culminates in the evening reception being able to open on time no matter what the delays of the day. It's not uncommon for a wedding day to be running 30-40 minutes behind come 7.30pm so having the ability to make this time up is a massive bonus. There is no need to exit the space whilst your band set up as they are already done, allowing proceedings to continue.
There is an option for the couple to arrive by boat and if you choose to have your ceremony off site then this makes the perfect entrance for your arrival. However, if you choose to get married at Thornton Manor then this still remains an option and can perhaps be done for your return, post wedding photographs. It works very well in the summer months as your guests will be gathered for their drinks reception on the decking.
We have shot this many times and using a drone have captured some stunning moments of the boat approaching whilst crew on the ground get the guests reactions. This is a unique element that the venue has to offer, I believe this comes at cost however and is something you need to speak to the venue about in advance.
The grounds for photographs are also great here. There is an area to the side/rear of the marquee which has fantastic gothic style structures, along with wooded areas and large fields which offer alternative textures in your photos. Lets not forget the lake and the viewpoint this offers, along with one of my favourite shots of the path leading to the marquee. Of an evening, this makes a great shot if you choose to have sparklers for your guests. We can get all guests lined up along the path, the venue usually have gas lanterns peppered down the path, combined with guests and sparklers the photos are magical.
In terms of lighting the marquee is very bright and provides a great setting for wedding photos and film. During the speeches the windows can be removed which is great in summer months providing views over the lake.
The Dell Pavilion or Waterside Marquee
The Dell Pavilion at Thornton Manor is a great alternative to the Lakeside Marquee. It is smaller and is ideal if you have less guests or want a more intimate wedding.
Again, this marquee is situated next to a body of water and it feels isolated once you are on site, which creates a real sense of exclusivity for the wedding.
The Pavilion can be split into two sections, allowing the ceremony to take place at the back of the marquee with the drinks reception happening in the bar area and outdoor terrace.
There are many spots for photographs at this venue, most notable is the body of water directly outside of the marquee. There is a lovely bridge which during the summer months is backlight from the sun, allowing for atmospheric images with the reflections from the water. There are countless spots of wooded areas we can utilise and vast landscapes.