Happy New Year to all my readers! What better start to my 2020 blog than to feature Anna & Kath's stunning Tunnels Beaches wedding last August? Their wedding was so unique, that I thought I'd take the time to tell their story properly, but feel free to skip the text and head straight to the video or photos!
What and where is Tunnels Beaches?
Before meeting up with these two lovely ladies over tea and cake in Brighton (already a great start!), I hadn't heard of Tunnels Beaches. As the couple excitedly showed me photos of this unique venue, built into the cliffs in Ifracombe on the North Devon coast, I realised it was somewhere very special and perfect for beach-loving couples. Not to mention beach-loving photographers! I absolutely love beach weddings, and am fortunate enough to capture them regularly, whether in nearby Brighton or Worthing, or further afield in Cornwall or even Scotland as I did last Summer.
Tunnels Beaches is accessed via a hand carved tunnel through the cliff and has its own private beach. In the evenings, the larger public beach nearby, which is accessed through two further tunnels, is closed to the general public. This makes it perfect for amazing sunset photos, with the rocky ocean backdrop constantly changing according to the tides and weather.
Just click play to view this fab wedding in under 2 minutes!
So many couples have asked to see the images from Anna and Kath's amazing day, that I created a Wedding Highlights Short Story - a little under 2 minutes long and mindful of the couple's request to keep their many younger guests out of the limelight. Simply click and enjoy (there's music, in case you're at work!) or scroll down further to read more about their special day and view the photos - many are included in the video but there's a few additional ones too!
The brides looked amazing!
Anna and Kath wore the most incredible dresses designed by Ian Stuart and purchased from Ian Stuart Blewcoat boutique in London - two very different styles, but perfectly complementary. Their hair was beautifully styled by Kyrelle at Devon Wedding Hair - just check out Anna's rainbow coloured curls! And Anna's specially chosen necklace was from the Wave Collection at Posh Totty Designs.
The ladies' stunning bouquets and the floral arrangements around the ceremony area were created by local florist Twigs Flowers. And although they purchased personalised rainbow-coloured Converse, the brides opted for bare feet throughout their day, their natural preference in sunny weather.
Anna & Kath's wedding day swim
As the day of the wedding approached, I grew a little nervous, knowing the brides had planned kayak competitions from the venue's private beach. Stormy conditions had threatened to cause havoc on the West coast, with severe weather warnings resulting in Boardmasters (a weekend music festival held just down the coast in North Cornwall) being cancelled at the last minute. The wedding was to be held on the Monday. As expected, the kayaks were a health and safety no-go, but happily there were no such restrictions on the swimming. And although I deemed it unlikely that anyone would brave the waves given the forecast, I packed my wetsuit and waterpoof camera just in case.
And thank goodness I did! Yes, the current was strong and the sea certainly far from calm, but the sun shone, and there was no way these up-for-adventure brides were going to let a few big waves dampen their spirits.
Sometime after the amazing buffet meal and speeches were finished, and before the cake was cut, the two brides, myself and a few willing family and friends headed into one of Tunnels Beaches' fabulous self-catering properties, and pulled on swimsuits and wetsuits. I thanked my lucky stars I'd packed the wetsuit - it's one thing attempting a swim without one, but quite another trying to stay in one place long enough to take photos with waves constantly coming over your head. I captured the sea-lovers heading down the steps and onto the private beach. And as soon as they entered the sea, I quickly downed the salt-water-averse DSLR and pulled out my shiny new waterproof camera.
Photographing the brides and their fellow swimmers in the waves was challenging but so much fun! I experimented with my new camera, trying to get some unique shots of the venue too - I was so happy to learn later that I'm the first photographer to capture the venue from actually being in the sea! If you're reading this, Emily and Ben (my next Tunnels Beaches couple this Summer), I'll be packing the camera again - no pressure!
Interested in my camera equipment?
For my photographer readers, or indeed anyone with an interest in cameras, I was recently invited to feature on the revered global photography site Shotkit . My featured kit photo was inspired by this wedding, and you can see what equipment I take out and about with me - including the waterproof camera - by clicking here.
Heather Peace... oh yeah!
The newlyweds later told me that going for a swim was one of the favourite parts of their wedding day. A chance to use up their pent-up energy and emerge from the water relaxed and ready for the evening celebrations. They had managed to secure acclaimed British actress and musician Heather Peace to perform at their wedding, and had understandably been looking forward to it for about a year!
The evening started with the cutting of the delicious cake made by Jax Cakes N Bakes (I was hungry again after my swim, and extremely appreciative of the cake!) Then we all headed upstairs in readiness for the music. Heather Peace didn't disappoint - I actually pinched myself that I was part of this incredible day, and able to enjoy her music while capturing the reactions of Anna, Kath and their guests. Starting with their first dance, Heather and her accompanying guitarist played two amazing sets, with a break for us to capture sunset photos in between. It was simply magical.
A sparkler finale
And 14 hours after I started, just when I thought I could do no more (my average wedding is 10 hours, and that's without a dip in the sea!) someone mentioned having sparkers inside the tunnel!
I asked for 2 minutes, and grabbed a light on a stand from the dancefloor and positioned it at the far end of the tunnel to backlight the brides and light the roof of tunnel. Then stood the other end as they ran through, using a high ISO to capture the atmosphere of the sparklers, plus a little fill-light on camera just to ensure the bride's faces weren't in shadow.
I'll admit, I was so tired at that point I was nervous about pulling it off, but that's where experience pays off: I know my equipment like the back of my hand (probably better!) and just went into a kind of autopilot mode.
Over more tea and cake in another cafe in Brighton, I delivered Anna and Kath's images and played their 15 minute slideshow. We hugged, kissed and laughed at the memories and promised to catch up again in future. In the meantime, the ladies kindly voted for me in The Wedding Industry Awards (TWIA) 2020, with this lovely feedback:
Before the day Jenny was determined to understand our vision, likes, dislikes to ensure intuitive adaptations. She met in advance for engagement shoot, travelling out of her way to ensure we had the location we dreamt of, and the day before the wedding explored the venue with us to seek out special spaces.
The day was manic but she never showed stress or pressure. There was never a formal or awkward moment & she was fully engaged for 14 hours. She went above and beyond, even shooting in the sea, who does that?! The service we received and the photos are outstanding. We couldn’t have asked for a more intuitive photographer, thank you Jenny, you are truly brilliant :)
Anna + Kath
I'll shortly be returning to Tunnels Beaches!
Largely thanks to the venue kindly sharing my work on their website and on social media, I'm already happily booked to return for weddings both this year and in 2021. The majority of couples who choose Tunnels Beaches for their special day don't live locally to the venue - they welcome couples from all over the world. So wherever you're from, if you're getting married there, please do request my brochure! I'm always up for a return trip to this amazing Devon venue.
Thanks for reading,
Anna & Kath's fab wedding team:
Venue and accommodation: Tunnels Beaches
Wedding Gowns: Ian Stuart Blewcoat
Musician: Heather Peace
Cake: Jax Cakes N Bakes
Florist: Twigs Flowers
Hair: Devon Wedding Hair
Jewellery: Posh Totty Designs