Jaime & Neel – Woburn Abbey

By the end of July, the UK wedding season is in full swing. Sam is very much in demand and, on a couple of occasions, has had to shoot more than one wedding ‘back to back’. If I’m able (day job notwithstanding), I’m helping out by working with Sam on some of the larger events.

One of the advantages of being a wedding photographer is I get to shoot some amazing locations. Sam and I had a lot of fun at Foxhills Country Club a few weeks ago, so I was really excited to be asked to work at another beautiful venue, Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. The Abbey and Estate is the home of the Duke of Bedford and our bride and groom, Jaime and Neel, chose the Sculpture Gallery to host their wedding ceremonies. Together with patio and private rose gardens overlooking the Camellia lake, this elegant venue space was built in 1789 and originally intended as an orangery, only later being used to display the Duke’s collection of sculptures.

Jaime & Neel opted to have both their wedding ceremonies (a short civil ceremony followed by a much longer Indian wedding) and their reception event on the same day. It’s a long day for everyone, requiring an early start (I was already clicking away at 7:50am), a load of stamina and good humour to get through it. Jaime & Neel were brilliant as they laughed, joked and looked like they were having fun the whole day long.

Sam and I started out with a few shots of the venue and then some individual shots Jaime and Neel getting ready, but by 10am Jaime was already walking down the isle…

British summers, being what they are, never guarantee sunshine, and as we finished the civil wedding and began our preparations for the Indian ceremony, it began to rain. The ceremony normally commences with the Baraat, the groom being led by a procession of dancers and drummers to the place of marriage. The plan had been to start out under an enormous and beautiful cedar tree in the centre of the abbey grounds, but with time slipping away, the soggy and inclement weather looked like we might have to perform this particular ceremony indoors. However, just as we were about to give up, the rain suddenly eased and (with a little encouragement) everyone quickly ran outside and the dancing commenced…

With the baraat over, the bride and groom are led to the mandap where the main ceremony is performed…

At one end of the room is a rather impressive statue of Apollo. When I arrived he was completely naked, but by the time the guests took their seats, the venue had thought it prudent to preserve his modesty with a strategically placed sash! You really don’t want to upset the aunties! 🙂

It had been spitting with rain for most of the morning, but a brief respite after their Indian wedding ceremony gave Sam and I an opportunity to take J&N out into the gardens overlooking the lake for some couple shots. Although we tried our best, a wind quickly picked up blowing the crimson umbrella they’d taken for protection inside out! However, when it started raining again, we knew we were beaten and scurried back to The Sculpture Gallery. Just before we jumped back inside, I noticed these guys enjoying a drink and laughing at our antics on the lawn…

After a late lunch, Jaime & Neel retired to the Woburn Hotel for a well earned rest and glass of champagne, and Sam and I took to the lounge for afternoon tea and biscuits. While we were away, the Sculpture Galley was transformed for the evening’s reception party. And it looked amazing! At one end are the columns and pediment of a neoclassical portico, and at the other, Apollo in all his glory. The tables were set with white linen, gold sashes and napkins, and the centrepieces contained orange flowers (lilies?) that cleverly hinted at Jaime & Neel’s evening outfits.

Sam and I had a little time to take a few more couple shots, but then the party began in earnest. Jaime & Neel were announced into the reception by Stewart the Toastmaster and everyone clapped and cheered as they paraded the length of the gallery. After cutting the cake, everyone sat down to dinner. Between courses, we were treated to both funny and moving speeches by Jaime’s friends, Aman (Neel’s brother) and then by Neel himself. Just before it got dark, a few of us spilled out onto the patio for some fun group shots. Everyone had had a glass or two of champagne by then, so there was no problem persuading Jaime and bridesmaids to do a group ‘pout’!

A little later, I ventured out one last time. By now the sky was rapidly darkening and the soft summer rain began to fall once more. I walked in the garden and looked back at the Gallery. As the windows glowed in the dusk-light, you could see the figures of waiters busying themselves and of guests laughing, joking and having a wonderful time.

By the time Sam and I left, the dancing was in full swing and Jaime & Neel were still partying strongly. Pretty amazing stuff considering how early we started that morning! I know everyone had a fabulous time and will take home many fond memories of a great day.

Wishing Jaime & Neel a lifetime of happiness together,


Images captured for Samir Arun Photography.

Posted bySteve Butler

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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