For most newly engaged couples, the first question will be “When shall we get married?” and the next question will be “Where shall we get married?”. I know from my own very recent experience that choosing a venue is not an easy task and I understand that looking through venue brochures might not give you all the answers you are looking for.
In this article I will illustrate my experience as a wedding photographer in one of Scotland’s finest wedding venues - Carberry Tower, just outside Edinburgh. I am planning to provide more information about the venues I have worked at, so watch this space :)
The first time I was contacted to be the wedding photographer at a wedding at Carberry Tower I had to look it up, as I had not heard about the venue before. It’s well hidden, in its own private estate, just outside Musselburgh, and not too far from Edinburgh, Scotland.
Carberry Tower belongs to the tiny village of Carberry and is only just under three miles south of Musselburgh. The Mansion House in East Lothian is approximately 10 miles to the east of Edinburgh City Centre. So if you were thinking about staying in Edinburgh, wedding transport would probably take approximately 30-40 minutes from Edinburgh City Centre to Carberry Tower.
Visit the Carberry Tower Wedding Venue website for full address details.
The first time I drove there I trusted my sat nav and it took me to the front gate. :)
Whenever I receive a booking for a wedding at a venue that I haven’t been to before, I always make sure to visit the venue a couple of weeks before the wedding, approximately around the same time of the ceremony to see what the light will be like on the day. I introduce myself to the staff and have a chat with the wedding coordinator, so they know who they are dealing with on the day and they can also give me some useful tips about good photo spots in the gardens and the house. The friendly Carberry Tower staff showed me round and I could explore the gardens at my leisure.
The first thing you notice driving into the estate is the majestic drive, lined with mature trees, leading up to the wedding venue.
There is lots of parking outside the venue and the staff will greet you in the main building.
When I photographed a wedding at the Carberry Mansion House, both the bride and groom stayed there the night before and all the hair and make-up professionals joined the girls at the wedding venue before the ceremony. The groom and his groomsmen got ready in a different part of Carberry Tower, and the venue is big enough for the bride and groom not to bump into each other before the wedding ceremony. The couple had booked two photographers for their wedding day, and the second photographer took photographs of the guys having a game of snooker and also outside the venue, while the girls enjoyed their own time in a different wing of the mansion.
To the left of the building - only about 1-2 min walk away from the main entrance - there is a smaller building called the “Ceilidh Hall” - a glass-fronted private chapel - where the wedding ceremony took place. This building can easily seat up to 150 people. The chapel was an absolute joy to take photographs in during the ceremony as it was sun-kissed during the whole time - and I love working with natural light. No harsh camera flashes going off during the ceremony means that no one even notices me taking photographs! What I particularly enjoyed as a Scotland wedding photographer was that the guests arrived in the main building and then the piper escorted all the guests in one long procession into the chapel. So there was no one sitting around on their own waiting before the wedding ceremony. All guests arrived at the same time.
After the ceremony, the staff and the piper helped organise a “people corridor” just outside the chapel for the bride and groom to walk through and their family and friends to shower them with confetti. What a fantastic opportunity for photos, and well thought out by the wedding venue! I am often asked by my clients when we can do the confetti photograph, and sometimes there is either no time, or the guests are ushered into a room before the bride and groom can have their confetti moment, or the venue doesn't allow it. But Carberry Tower had it all wonderfully planned and organised for me to take a few romantic photographs of the joy after the wedding ceremony.
After the ceremony, all the guests enjoyed canapés in the gardens in the sunshine behind the mansion house - and they looked so yummie!! There was a good 90 minute gap between the end of the ceremony and the call for the guests to sit down for the wedding breakfast. My personal recommendation from seeing hundreds of weddings would be at least a 90-minute reception time - starting at the end of the ceremony until the call for dinner. This will allow the guests to personally congratulate the bride and groom; canapés and champagne can be enjoyed and the guests can have a break before the next formalities - the speeches. Also, the photographer takes up quite a big portion of the reception time - both for family group photographs and the romantic photographs of the bride and groom.
I tend to take the requested family group combinations not long after the ceremony so they are out of the way. I plan them very carefully with the bride and groom before the wedding to have minimum time impact on their wedding day celebrations. Experience has shown that on average six group photographs cover the most important people on your wedding day, and if time and space permit this - a group photograph of everyone. After that, I have time to take photos of the dining-room setup and the cake, and capture the guests during the reception and take a few reportage-style photographs.
Once it gets closer to the time for the guests being called in to the marquee, I will ask the bride and groom to join me for the romantic photographs. I keep this time to no more than 25 minutes and I always make sure that I am not the reason for the couple arriving late for the wedding breakfast. We walked away from the reception and the wedding guests, and the bride and groom enjoyed a little bit of romantic quiet time before the speeches. The gardens are so vast at Carberry Tower. We walked under the trees towards the wooden walkway which made for great photographs and also provided a lovely view of the mansion house and the guests enjoying themselves. We also couldn't resist taking photographs in the amazing tree-lined drive towards the mansion house.
When I photographed the wedding at Carberry Tower, the weather was great, and the guests enjoyed the amazing gardens and could wander around. Beside the formal gardens, in the 35 acres of private grounds, Carberry Tower have set up a wonderful marquee - their very own Banqueting Pavilion - with chandeliers and amazing garden views, where the wedding guests can enjoy the wedding breakfast.
The couple opted for the speeches before the wedding breakfast which I would always recommend. From a photographer’s perspective, the tables still look pristine, there aren't too many empty bottles on the tables and the napkins are still nicely folded too. In eight out of 10 weddings I photograph in Scotland, the speeches take place before the meal. The piper welcomed the newly-weds into the banqueting pavilion and he enjoyed a wee dram before he piped himself out.
After the meal, the guests could spend a bit more time outside, enjoying the last rays of sunlight, before the evening celebrations.
The last two formal events on that particular Carberry Tower wedding were the cutting of the cake and the first dance. The evening celebrations at the Carberry Tower wedding took place in the main Mansion House, in the Rose Garden Rooms.
Most couples whose weddings I photograph decide to cut the cake before the first dance. The cake is usually on display in the room where the wedding breakfast takes place for the guests to see. The venue staff will then move the cake on the dance floor and when the couple is announced in for the first dance, the cake is cut, and everyone in the room has a chance to take a photograph. Most couples leave the cake cutting until the evening so that their newly arrived evening guests can see a bit of the “action” and have at least one formal element of a typical wedding day in Scotland.
Once the cake is cut, the band or DJ will announce the first dance and the couple can enjoy a few minutes on the dance floor on their own. I have seen all sorts of different options: some couples learn a dance routine and own the first song. This is wonderful for me as a wedding photographer, as I have three-and-a-half minutes to take many photographs of the dance routine. Option two which is probably the most used first dance option is where the couple dance for their full first dance song on their own. After the first song, mums and dads and the bridal party are invited to the dance floor and half-way into the second song, other guests are encouraged to join in too. Option three is for couples who want to share their first dance with their nearest and dearest. They only enjoy the first 30 seconds of their first dance song together and then the DJ starts inviting the parents and the bridal party to join in.
And after that the party can begin….
I am already looking forward to going back to the Carberry Tower Wedding Venue. It’s a great venue for weddings and fantastic for me as a Scotland wedding photographer with so much space and time to create romantic photographs and tell the couple’s story at the start of their married life.
Find out more on the Carberry Tower website.