Stowford Manor Farm Wedding Photography : Abi & Matt

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I would always say that it’s all about the people for me, people far more above place, before things. I will enjoy the places that people choose to celebrate their marriages. I’ll take pleasure in seeing the things they make and bring to bear in the decor that permeates the day. This enjoyment though will always stem from the fact that choice of place and space, choices to do with decorative touches, all provide further clues as to the nature and personalities of the people at the heart of it all. It’s all about the people.

I might find myself, of a weekend, in a space that I thoroughly enjoy just for what it is. I’ll be with people that I enjoy being with though regardless of where and what the space might be and the following weekend, often-times even the day before, or the day after, or even on a number of the surrounding days there will be other people bringing their minds and spirits to bear on the utilisation of that space and I’d have no idea who those other people were. They might be entirely different sorts. The space might become a very different thing, whilst still materially being the same. In a retrospective sense, this could be one of the key reasons behind the fact that I latch on to mindsets, not on to places. It’s not something that I apply reasoned analysis to though. It’s a simple enough thing to me.

There are some places though, some places and spaces that one might look at and find oneself thinking, “There’s not many people that would buy in to this. It would take a certain type,” and, “I like this place, this space; I’d want to come and play here even if on my own.”

Abi & Matt first came across my work when they were searching online for images of weddings that had taken place at Stowford Manor Farm in the Frome Valley, Wiltshire. They were looking for somewhere genuinely laid back, as far as might be reasonable unfettered by restrictions; when people could turn up, when they had to leave, who they were allowed to use to provision their wedding and so on; questions that my clients do tend to ask when planning their weddings. They felt strongly drawn to Stowford Manor Farm but weren’t sure that they would be able to make the key space at the venue work for their celebrations, a large stone barn where wedding breakfasts and evening parties tend to be set when the farm is booked out for a wedding. You see, it’s not your upgraded, somewhat modernised, rustically re-plastered and perfectly comfortably weather sealed kind of a barn; it’s a barn, good and proper. Mice roam through it at night when all the humans have departed. It isn’t scrubbed to the pores to say the least. One might easily imagine it having been populated by over-wintering livestock (though it is much cleaner than that :~) or having been used to store farm equipment. Come Spring and Summer, swallows nest in its nooks and crannies. I downright love the place. I hope it never gets a major makeover.

So Abi & Matt were deeply drawn to this space but wanted to see how it might work when populated by a host of wedding guests in wedding day finery and they searched for images of previous weddings at the farm, came across some of the photographs that I’d taken of Tory & Jon’s wedding that I had photographed there the year before, became convinced from those that the space would work just perfectly for them and I was really, truly, very very happy that they also became convinced that I was the right photographer to document what they themselves would do with it all.

And this is what they did…

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Actually, the very first photograph that I took that day, greeted at the door of Abi & Matt’s home by one of Abi’s bridesmaids. I felt warmly welcomed and in safe company :~)…

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Matt is a particularly talented designer, running his own product design centred company. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing his penchant for design brought to bear throughout the wedding day (though this, I don’t think, is one of his creations :~)…

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Abi is a doctor and whilst I’ve not had call to bear witness to her practice her profession, as I had with Matt’s work, I felt sure from her demeanour that she is likewise particularly talented in her field…

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Lizzie had clearly enjoyed the most fantastically warm weather on her wedding day…

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An owl, carved by Matt, a present for Abi…

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Abi & Matt live just several seconds walk down the hill from the church at which they would marry. Several seconds then a few minutes more up the hill from that church is their favourite inn, to which Matt was dispatched for the night before the wedding (they have guest rooms) (he wasn’t consigned to spend the night in the bar) (I don’t think).

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A morn of wedding gift from Abi to Matt…

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And on that note time for me to head back down the hill.

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Abi & Matt’s flower girl was given charge of Matt’s childhood companion rabbit to conduct up the aisle and chaperone through the day. You might spot him pop up here and there throughout the day, which is more than Matt has seen of him since, it seems :~)…

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And it was…

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…that short a walk, just about!…

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With two page boys and a flower girl lined up with buckets of confetti for guests to take a handful, I was struck by the particular kindness of one of the guests as she stopped to take a little from each bucket to make all concerned feel fully included in the process, “A bit from you, and a bit from you, and … a bit from you!”…

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I was, therefore, particularly pleased subsequently when Lottie made contact with me and booked me to photograph her and Maurice’s wedding in Cornwall come this Spring. I know I’ll be amongst the very best people once again :~)

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Flapjacks made by Matt’s mum – wrapped in Matt’s typography, a brand theme one might say that ran through the wedding – were handed out to keep guests going until everyone had made their way to Stowford Manor Farm. I can report with authority that they were delicious and that they really did the trick…

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While the guests set off on their journey for the next stage of the day, I took a walk with Abi & Matt up a bridleway close to their home, a place special to them as they walk their dog along it every day…

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Matt, not one to miss out on the fun :~)…

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Abi & Matt’s was my one hundred and fiftieth wedding, as it happens. A numerical coincidence, no more nor less significant than my 149th or 151st but it felt poignant none the less and there was nowhere I would rather have been to observe such a milestone, the best possible environment both material and personal. Their guests were brilliant to spend time amongst and I found great value in spending time with Abi & Matt; I’m left a fan of the way that their brains work :~)

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I hadn’t even attempted to crack a joke so I was wondering what it was that I’d said or done…

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Then I realised what was going on over my shoulder :~)…

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And this is what Abi & Matt had done with the space that I have such great fondness for…

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Neighbours…

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A table plan that had tested my sense of balance to the full. I sensed method in the… method :~)…

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The food… the… food. I might need a thesaurus, certainly a transparent heart, to do it justice in the description…

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A big thank you to Abi & Matt for seating me as a guest for the wedding meal and for affording me the opportunity to experience something that transcended the mere act of eating…

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A speech from the groom was expected, I suppose… imminently! :~)…

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Abi & Matt had been particularly diligent in all the choices that they made for their wedding day. Food was of great importance to them and they had been thrilled to come across chef Martin and his team at Bread & Flowers, then excited to experience his culinary creations as the day approached. Matt asked me to take some photographs of Martin and the team as they went about their work; the people behind the scenes were considered as integral to the record of the wedding day as the fare that would be presented on the tables. It was with some trepidation that I entered the kitchen as chefs can be, in my direct experience, somewhat intense at times (those times at least spanning the duration of time that I have sometimes spent in kitchens in honouring similar requests from clients, no matter how quiet and unobtrusive I might have been) but there was an immediate and refreshing lack of palpable tension in this particular kitchen; industrious activity for certain but all quietly and calmly conducted. Martin had the air about him of what I soon became certain that he was, once I tasted his food; an artist. One of the staff in the kitchen, whom I assumed to be Martin’s assistant chef, called me over to try a morsel dipped in a marinade he had prepared under Martin’s instruction. I got the sense that he was especially happy to be in such a position of apprenticeship, learning from a truly great chef. I tasted the offering and… time stopped. Then time started back up again and I rushed back out of the kitchen to tell Matt about the spiritual experience I’d just enjoyed…

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Groom’s speech completed… just… on… time :~)…

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To rapturous applause, chef Martin was called out from the kitchen to take a bow…

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…The door didn’t open though (I learnt later that Martin had been stood behind the door, too bashful to come out but deeply appreciative of the congratulatory sentiment)…

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…So Matt turned on me instead! Turned to me, perhaps more appropriately said. More than that again, had to look around for me, because I was on the floor. Nobody wants my back in the way when there’s a speech being made, after all :~)…

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Three best men, so three times the mirth-ridden pummelling for Matt (including mention of an episode that has become staple of many an anecdote. I’ll just leave that there like some kind of unanchored crossword puzzle clue if only to remind myself of how good a story it is)…

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Abi & Matt had seen Loopy Tom perform at Glastonbury and had been so impressed that they booked him to come play for their guests entertainment between dinner and the evening party. I was enthralled by the art and quality in his act. Tom plays various instruments, sings and beatboxes in phases, all the while recording live samples of passages which he then mixes back in to his ongoing performance, all triggered by foot pedals. Really quite the magical thing to hear, and a lovely person doing it all to boot (I’m listening to a recording played from the front page of his Web site as I write this and accompanied by the photographs, it takes me right back to that place, space and time)…

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I’d photographed Aaron & Natalie’s wedding just a month earlier. They, and Abi & Matt, had booked me entirely coincidentally to each other and Aaron and Matt had only discovered this when in conversation about their respective weddings in a pub one night, each describing – without name being mentioned – the work of the photographer they had chosen, the similarities in their descriptions correlating increasingly as the conversation unfolded. Aaron, another talented designer too (who had once worked with Matt) had likewise produced a plethora of marvellous visual artefacts for his and Natalie’s wedding and apparently Matt had liked one of those things so much that he felt the need to make a keepsake of it :~) Another staple of future anecdotes, I suspect. Aaron & Natalie decided to return the compliment…

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The previously flower jar laden ladders were removed in preparation for the evening party (look out later though for what was made of the supporting ropes, that wouldn’t have been practical to take down mid-flow of wedding)…

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Matt realised that there was a key missing component to the first dance…

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All better now…

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What happens when one of your bar staff is a fitness-dance instructor :~)…

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All that waving, it just kept going…

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…and going…

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…and … then something else…

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…No! Still the waving…

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…And then something else :~)…

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About those ropes. I’d already mentioned how much I was looking forward to photographing Lottie & Maurice’s wedding, hadn’t I?…

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Don’t be trying none of that at home now!

Stick to something safer :~)…

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Then the party – as all parties must, eventually – drew to a close… but like all the best parties it wasn’t giving up without a last word, a sentence, a gently meandering paragraph (and Abi & Matt had very kindly arranged a guest room for me on site so I was perfectly happy to soak up the ambience as I had all of sixty seconds on foot to get to my bed :~)…

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Congratulations Abi & Matt and thank you eternally for drawing me so deeply into the most enriching experience I could wish for. Thank you too to your utterly brilliant party of friends and family. I look forward to our next encounter.

Contact Stowford Manor Farm Wiltshire Wedding Photographer Phillip Allen : phill@misterphill.com : 07870 696248