A Swinton Park Estate Elopement, North Yorkshire.
Weird though it seems, I am not a romantic. In fact, I’d go as a far to say I’m the least romantic person I know. Yes I’ll agree, that is a totally weird thing for a wedding photographer right? But at the same time, it always surprises me how emotional I get during a wedding. Turns out I am actually a big jessie. But, despite all the big parties, the huge luxury weddings and the crazy shindigs I photograph, the ones I get a kick out of creatively, are the tiny elopements.
Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that you’re forced to find the story more… at big weddings, there are numerous stories revolving around you all the time. You turn your back for a second and 30 other mini interactions are happening. You can’t even hope to capture them all (though I give it a good shot).
But when it comes to micro weddings or elopements, you have to be more observant. More attune to your surroundings and your couple. You are forced to pay attention much more closely. It’s like walking into a giant supermarket but you’re only allowed to look at the cakes. Really, focus on those cakes. It’s intense. I love cake btw. Just sayin.
Maybe that’s a crap analogy but I think you get what I’m saying. And I think that’s why I love elopements and little weddings quite a bit. Most wedding days are frenetic, action packed and there’s always something happening in the next five minutes. We’ve got a schedule to keep to. Elopements are a bit more relaxed. A bit more intense, a bit more otherworldly. I dunno… I just like em ok?
So on a zoom call across the pond in America with Billy and Liah, they tell me they’re getting hitched in the UK… just the two of them at Swinton Park Estate. No-one else. Just them and me. Oh and Zena Birch who is the best known celebrant known to man. It’s going to be intimate, classy, quintessentially British. And could I photograph it and film it? Which all seems ok until you realise these two work in the film industry. Nervous laugh.
And then a few weeks before the Swinton Park Estate Elopement, I get an email out of the blue to say their parents are flying out secretly to surprise Liah on the wedding day. So now we’ve gone from a secret elopement to a surprise not quite an elopement, and could I turn up the day before to shoot the parents surprising Liah at dinner?
I think both Zena and I deserve an Oscar for our acting performances saying we just thought we’d have a snoop round the estate and me making a ‘call’ in order to grab cameras and be in position. It was EMOTIONAL. Even Zena was crying. And at this point all we’d done was turn up in a room. We hadn’t even got to the actual wedding!
What a rollercoaster of emotions. Like I said, a big jessie… but do not tell anyone I said that.
The next day, was the big Elopement Day…. except of course, now it wasn’t really an elopement. But the incredible Zena treated it exactly like one. We all wandered through the landscape at Swinton Park Estate, capturing the little tiny moments, the sun through the trees, the breeze on the lake.
Zena had tied colourful envelopes on trees with ribbon… all heartfelt wishes from their friends and family back home. There was a fortune teller so Liah and Billy could reveal some of the fun and heartwarming moments from their lives, and then we crossed the lake on the very squeaky ferry, to the Secret Island to exchange vows.
Parents were waiting with chilled champagne, there was a candle to light, personal vows, a handfasting and the birds singing. I mean it could not get any better. I’m just going to say it again, I can’t believe this is actually my job!
I feel pretty privileged to be at every wedding I go to. From bridal prep to dance floor shenanigans, and everything inbetween, I encounter wonderful humans with stories to tell, happiness, hugs and shed loads of happy tears.
It never ever gets old.
Every bride takes my breath away when they put that gown on, every nervous groom makes me grin, every proud mum and dad make me smile. I’m witnessing big historical moments in people’s lives. Who wouldn’t want to do that for a living?
So thank you Billy and Liah – and those cunning parents! Thanks for making me chase the moments. Thanks for giving me a whole ton of laughter. Thanks for looking goddamn incredible. Thanks for being you. Thanks for making us all feel like members of the family for 24 hours. And finally, thanks for having the trust in me, cos I gotta say, I was a little bit bloody nervous!
Here’s the film and some of my fave images from their Swinton Park Estate Elopement.
Venue: Swinton Park Estate
Celebrant: Zena Birch
Blooms: Braithwaite Nurseries
Liah’s gown: Daughters of Simone
Swinton Park Estate Elopement. Swinton Park Estate wedding photographer, Masham. North Yorkshire Wedding photography by Shelly Mantovani at Toast of Leeds. If you’re having an elopement wedding in the future at Swinton Park Estate or elsewhere in North Yorkshire, get in touch by visiting my photography website at www.toastofleeds.co.uk or you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. I photograph weddings across the UK in tipis, barns, country houses , iconic hotels, Industrial warehouses, town halls and cool city boozers . For more information and to check availability, contact me now.