Pennsylvania Castle Wedding : Cheryl & Matt

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Rising proud and majestic on the Jurassic Coast between Weymouth Bay to the East and the broader sweep of Lyme Bay to the West, the Isle of Portland stands its ground in the English Channel, a place that resonates with the constitution of limestone that has weathered millennia of the sea’s advances. The southernmost point of the county of Dorset, to my eye it is England’s Gibraltar. On a related thematic note, it is said that from the tip of the island, the Spanish Armada could be clearly seen as it made its way up the English Channel.

Portland is famed for its stone, mined there since Roman times. It was used to build the Tower of London, the Palace of Westminster and to rebuild St. Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of London. An island with the geological will to last providing material for buildings raised to last.

And it was on this island that reverberates with a lasting energy that Cheryl & Matt chose to marry. This is the story of their Easter weekend wedding day.

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Actually, the following is the story of their wedding day. The preceding photographs I took the evening before though none-the-less they represent to me an intrinsic aspect of that story. Just shy of a hour and a half’s drive from my home, I might normally have chosen to make the journey on the morning of the wedding itself but my mental arithmetic led me thus: I like to arrive a little earlier than appointed on a wedding day so I can ease myself into the day’s proceedings rather than hitting the ground all camera shutters shuttering; with a ten o’clock start, probably at around nine-thirty. That would have meant setting out from home at eight, not at all an onerous start to the day. Oh but then, what if there’s a lot of traffic, it being the Easter weekend? Perhaps I should add on a hour just in case, just to be on the very safe side? Ultimately I was faced with the calculated notion of rising at six in the morning to shower and breakfast and this, combined with the fact that I do love a visit to the Isle of Portland, led to a snap decision to go on a mini-holiday of my own, of an evening and a night’s duration. If you’re planning a visit to the Isle, one combined with a stay, I can heartily recommend a night or more at the Lobster Farmhouse, about as close as you can get to sleeping (in a bed) on the very tip of the island with a fantastic home cooked breakfast served in front of panoramic views of the English Channel. I had a great time of it, and didn’t have to get out of bed until eight :~)

Enough though of the adventures of Portland Phill. Time for the adventures of Cheryl & Matt. The stage for their wedding weekend was Pennsylvania Castle, a grandiose yet truly homely edifice of the Gothic revival architectural mode, a beautiful representation of use of the stone that runs deep beneath its foundations.

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With the ceremony time some three and a half hours yet in the arrival, I encountered Matt already suited and booted for the day ahead. Five hours sleep, I believe he reported; Cheryl likewise when I met her a little later. Plenty for a couple fuelled by the excitement of their wedding day. Both were staying at the the Penn across the weekend, with friends and family occupying a myriad warren of guest rooms throughout the castle…

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Raising the Bunting on Pennsylvania…

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In the lead up to the wedding day Cheryl, a talented professional designer, had been busily preparing an array of materials to add a flourish of decoration to the celebrations. She made enough bunting to embrace the entire circumference of the island :~) It truly brought a joyful Easter festival feel to the environment and added perfectly to the Penn’s consummately manicured classical grounds…

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The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for Cheryl & Matt’s outdoor wedding ceremony. I usually avoid checking the forecast prior to a wedding with the notion in mind that I have to perform well and often-times turn on a sixpence responsively in my role, regardless of climatic circumstances and that there’s no point in worrying what might be before what might be comes to be. I did however check the forecast in the lead up to Cheryl & Matt’s wedding day, what with such a key aspect of it planned for outdoors. I was reassured by a procession of warm sunny icons on my ‘phone’s weather app, across the hourly time bands for Saturday. I was however highly intrigued by the forecast of snow for the night-time, until I realised the icons represented stars :~) All perfect timing on the weather front considering what ensued on the Sunday!

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A lovely accompaniment to the signing of the register in song, by one of Matt’s sisters, Kat…

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…accompanied skilfully on guitar by her boyfriend, Dom…

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Paul & Kayleieh. I’ll be photographing their wedding day on another Dorset Isle, that of Purbeck, in early June this year :~)…

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(My thanks once again to Cheryl’s brother, Patrick, for rounding everyone up so efficiently for the group photographs!)

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And there be Purbeck, indeed…

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Cheryl’s deliciously designed table plan, table name cards and menus…

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Cheryl hand painted a hundred pebbles with the names of each guest :~)…

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Seven was always my favourite number as it happens, in those days of my childhood when I had a favourite number and a favourite colour and an array of favourite this and thats :~)…

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And my thanks to Cheryl for my pebble, now perched atop my computer monitor as I write, and to both Cheryl & Matt for doing me the honour of seating me as a guest for the wedding breakfast…

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I loved the flowers used for all aspects of floral display throughout Cheryl & Matt’s wedding, provided by Melinda at Little Strode Flower Farm near Bridport in West Dorset. Each stem brimming with Spring freshness…

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A goody bag for each guest. The lovely little heart peg certainly seemed to get the full seal of design approval from my little un as she immediately liberated it from my trove of wedding memorabilia when I returned home…

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The Easter eggs, though, might not have made it as far as home in order for her to liberate them too :~)…

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I wonder how many of the guests knew they were sat directly over a swimming pool?…

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I was seated for the wedding breakfast between Genie (marginally left of frame centre there; a professional designer too, she’d studied with Cheryl in their degree days) and a slightly defocussed George, frame left (photographically defocused, not metaphorically so! :~) I had a good geek out with Genie about vegetable growing. With George, we discovered a pleasantly surprising coincidence. She went to school with and is a good friend of a former student of mine, Ben; in turn a good friend whose wedding I photographed a few years back. I’ve just delved back into the historical depths of my blog and I’m sure I can see her in this photograph. And in this one too. And almost fully visible in this one!…

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Everyone was delighted with their personalised pebbles but none more so than Harold! :~)…

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The menu. Oh, the menu! Where do I start? Where do I stop? I want to eat it all over again. I’m not sure I can find the words to describe how delectable was the taste of each aspect of the fare, the abundant freshness of the ingredients, the subtle yet all-engaging flavours imbued in each morsel, the marriage of each bite with the palette, a meal that lifted the soul and satisfied the appetite with a kind and gentle touch. Okay, maybe I can find the words :~) It was all of that, and more. The catering team from Thyme After Time, led by Margot, certainly came up trumps!…

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Sharing platters for each table. I do like sharing platters, for what they symbolise and for what they bring to bear in practice, the act of sharing, simply put…

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I had an existential crisis on viewing this image as I can see the seat of my chair but I appear not to be sat in it. I’m quite convinced I didn’t stand up to take the photograph :~) Maybe I did. I’ll never remember. I just remember fantastic food and the great spirit of sharing. I also recall, prompted by the photograph, that I’d perhaps inelegantly plucked the top off of my mini cottage roll to breathe in the aroma of its crumb; just flour, water, yeast and salt, my olfactory senses confirmed; bread unsullied by stabilisers and preservatives, baked to fluffy perfection (I’m in to bread baking these days so I find myself doing this kind of thing, only to the bread rolls on my own platter though)…

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Dorset Born. Dorset Fed :~) Thyme After Time’s logo was designed by Cheryl when she was a student…

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One of numerous aspects of the Penn that makes for a great venue, the ease with which one can step outside and back in again, in between courses or portions of the day’s celebrations…

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Wheeeeeeeee! :~)…

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The speeches were as warm hearted and humorous as the people that delivered them and as the subjects of their words…

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Best man, Will, delivered a particularly mirthsome testimonial…

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Oh those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer :~)

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Henceforth I’m going to adopt this approach when taking group photographs at weddings :~)…

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A beautiful chocolate wedding cake baked by Matt’s godmother, Frances…

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…topped off with Hinterfolk cake toppers made by Cheryl’s friend, Jes…

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New York, London, Portland, Weymouth; Everybody talk about (Indeedy) Musical Bingo!

Dynamic trans-atlantic duo Jess Indeedy and DJ Helix provided post wedding-breakfast entertainment in the form of their Indeedy Musical Bingo game (they also went on to DJ into the night)…

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Basically it’s bingo, but with musical tracks rather than numbers, simple as that but a whole heap of fun with some hilarious prizes to be won; one of Cheryl & Matt’s favourite London nights out…

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Jess’s enthusiasm is certainly infectious and everyone got thoroughly into the spirit of things. Cheryl & Matt’s friends and families proved to be a gregarious bunch indeed, highly spirited and very friendly; no surprise considering the couple they’d all come to share in celebrating with. It was a true pleasure to go about my work amongst them…

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The reception at the Penn is pretty poor, it must be said :~) That’s just the mobile ‘phone signal though. The reception from the staff is five bars worth of 4G good though…

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Cheryl & Matt set the dance floor on fire with their first dance (I didn’t bring a coat :~)…

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Easter evening fare…

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It had already been an interesting day, to say the least, from the outset, but now things really were getting… interesting

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Remember the story that you have to relate to the Simpsons, come your turn: “We were at this wedding a few months back and they had a photographer, and he was just… terrifying!” ;~)

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Mike and Finn from Top Button Productions, a fun, friendly outfit, ran their Slo Mo Wedding Booth throughout the evening. When drawn in for a cameo performance I found myself instinctively moving in slow motion, which I believe rather defeats the purpose but it’ll be interesting to see myself moving in ultra slo-mo as a result :~)…

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Congratulations Cheryl & Matt and thank you so much for having me there to witness the story of your fabulous wedding day! Avez vous un minimoon fantastique en France!

Contact Pennsylvania Castle Wedding Photographer Phillip Allen : phill@misterphill.com : 07870 696248