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Client: Becky & Chris Smith
Venue: Westenhanger Castle – website
Date: May, 18 2013
Package: SoundProof Package – website
Music Requested: Latest Charts, R&B/Hip Hop, 80s, 90s, Party Classics & Guest Requests
Every week we are fortunate to work at top venues and hotels throughout the South East, so I get to write a lot of reviews on weddings and venues …as an independent supplier I like to write how I see things because I think it’s hugely important for anyone sourcing a product or service for their wedding day to have the benefit of user experiences. In my opinion you are about to read about one of the best wedding venues that I have ever had the privilege of working at …Westenhanger Castle in Folkestone.
It was my first visit there on Saturday and we supplied our SoundProof Package, a completely unique and bespoke package designed for the wedding industry with Phil Webster taking care of all the Music, DJ Sound and Lighting …and Wedding Photography by Julia Keeley, Phil also converts to a second photographer during the day to give greater coverage of the bridal preps, ceremony and group shots. Having gained a number of amazing client reviews for this service we are in the process of building a new website that is dedicated solely to this package, soundproofweddings.co.uk. Becky & Chris’s wedding will be the showcase wedding once the website is live.
So lets get stuck into Westenhanger Castle as a wedding venue …because there’s a lot to get through.
Marquee & Set Up Of Disco Equipment
We arrived around 9:30am to firstly set up all the disco equipment in the beautiful marquee that is a permanent structure built into the original grounds of the castle. Its a lovely size and can accommodate up to 200 people eating on a wedding day, the dance floor area is a large black wood area in a half moon shape that compliments the rounded end of the marquee very well with a starlit ceiling draped over it. Around the dance floor the marquee windows are draped with black curtains which tie in very well with the floor and you have the option to have these tied back or closed, we opted to have them tied back as we were installing our creative mood lighting uplighters around the dance floor area and the shafts of pink light look more effective that way.
We spoke to Mandy (wedding co ordinator) a great deal throughout the day so we could really understand what the venue was all about and it transpired that one of the best aspects is that the venue is not hosting weddings to make money. Whilst we were setting up the disco Mandy told me, “we prefer to host only one wedding per week because we want to offer a more relaxed and exclusive feel offering the bride and groom access to the house and grounds the day before and day after if they wish, we wouldn’t be able to offer that if we had weddings every day. The main reason we host weddings here is to raise money to pay for the restoration work to the castle rather than the more commercial conveyor belt type of approach”.
I believe its this ethos that the venue have adopted that reflects one of the main reasons it feels very special, so if your looking to not be viewed as “just another wedding” then you won’t find better …Mandy is an attentive host and you can feel the personal touch during the day. One thing that made Saturday flow particularly well was the fact that there were not lots of outside suppliers who didn’t know each other, Mandy has her own marquee kitchen with catering staff and with us taking care of Photography and DJ’ing there wasn’t anyone else actually there from the outside. One of the guests set up a tripod and covered the crucial video aspects of the day, a mobile pianist played a set during the meal and obviously the registrars came in for the ceremony but effectively it was ourselves and Westenhanger Castle working together.
Castle Gardens & Photography Opportunities
Once the disco equipment was set up we then made the short walk across the immaculately maintained garden and gravel pathways to meet Becky and the bridal party who were using the georgian house for the bridal preps. A great feature the venue have installed is a speaker system in the garden area, this is suitable for background music during the day and can also be used for the speeches, this is also piped into the marquee and controlled from behind the bar so during the morning Becky could listen to her favourite songs whenever she moved between the house and the marquee.
There are so many places in the castle gardens for photo opportunities including the sunken garden, ruined towers and walls, elegant driveway with wooden gate and there’s an arbour with its thatched roof that can also be used to stage your wedding outside.
The georgian house is actually built very creatively into the north east corner of the castle using the original walls, its impressive in itself as a stand alone property but when you walk through the entrance gate and view the house from the north wall it’s beautifully incorporated into the castles original features. There’s also a bit of a bonus within the grounds on the north wall side of the castle, a full sized replica of “The Discovery” …a ship used for many voyages since it was built at the Blackwall shipyard in 1601. She had been ordered by Sir Thomas Smythe, born at Westenhanger Castle in 1558 who became a very successful businessman and entrepreneur. In 2008 the replica Discovery was handed over to Westenhanger Castle, we used some of the boat’s wooden frame as a rustic backdrop for some close up photography of Becky & Chris’s wedding ring shots after the ceremony.
Inside The Georgian House
So whats inside ? As you walk through through the beautiful pillared entrance there is a lovely room to the left with a stone floor and fireplace where we captured some “thoughtful” shots of Becky looking out of the window in her wedding dress just before the ceremony. There is also an impressive staircase, we used this to capture some shots of Becky in her wedding dress, some using our wide angle lens to get all the detail into the shot. At the top of the stairs is a lobby/hall area dominated by the amazing georgian windows looking out onto the drive, gardens and marquee – all with window seating and framed by some heavy golden curtains. There are also 3 hooks built into the ceiling for chandeliers and a staircase leading up to the attic (not accessable). The bathroom comes complete with a stand alone vintage bath and a seperate curtained off area for the toilet and washbasin. Also in that room is a full length mirror, rocking horse, harp and a large grand chair, not forgetting a pair of white robes on the wall provided for guests use. We used this room after the ceremony to stage some lovely shots of Becky relaxing in the bath (wearing her wedding dress of course) and with Chris sitting to the side in the grand chair.
Across the hallway the bedroom is where the bridal preps took place, and with Becky in an excited and not at all nervous frame of mind the next couple of hours we spent with her, the four bridesmaids, mothers of the bride and groom plus Roy (my only male allie) were hugely enjoyable. The room itself is lovely with some great features such as a stunning fireplace which we used to frame the shot of the girls shoes, another full length mirror which we set up a photo of the bridesmaids looking into to look at the bride in her wedding dress, window seating, period furniture and the large leaded georgian window above the bed that dominates the room.
The window is at quite a high level but I managed to get up onto the sill and hang the dress in front of it for photographs before going back outside to where the ship is to get a shot of the dress hanging up at the window from the outside of the castle wall. Its a gorgeous period property and if I had a spare few million pounds I’d snap it up !
With all the bridal prep shots completed we then had a bit of time to get some off the cuff fun shots with the girls before we spotted Chris, his best man and 3 ushers arrive at the venue just after 1pm …I popped out to say hi and get a few pre-ceremony shots with the boys whilst Julia remained with the bridal party. The best man would later deliver the most funny and articulate best mans speech ever, but before any alcohol had been consumed I made my way to the sunken garden to grab a few photos of Chris and his best man, including one particular favourite of theirs which involves Chris squaring up to his best man who does a sneering impersonation of Michael Schumacher.
I also managed to get quite an arty shot from the ground of the all the guys arms meeting in the middle which formed a spiral shape effect.
You have the option to get married outside under the arbour (weather permitting) which was Becky and Chris’s preference, but with the weather clouding over they opted for a final hour change to the inside, which in my opinion worked in their favour.
Its a recently built room which Becky & Chris hadn’t actually seen completed, like the rest of the environment it incorporates the original castle features which add to the atmosphere, its a stunning room and gave us the opportunity to get a wider variety of ceremony shots.
Meanwhile outside the weather had taken a turn for the better and after an extremely relaxed ceremony the new Mr & Mrs Smith emerged into the castle grounds to blue skies and the sun beating down which was lovely as the rest of the afternoon was set to unfold.
Post Wedding Photos
Firstly we concentrated on the group shot so that guests could then filter away and have a drink and start to enjoy the day, whittling it down to the bride and grooms families and closest relatives. One fantastic photo we captured from the first floor of the house looking down onto the group of around 80 guests was that we managed to get them to stand in the shape of a heart with Becky & Chris at the tip. We noticed the potential for the shape as the guests gathered outside, it was just left to Julia to go down and spend a couple of minutes organising one or two people around to get the final effect.
Once the group shots were completed we spent a further 20 minutes or so getting some additional shots of the bridal party and groomsmen which included an album cover style shot in one of the castles ruined towers, it was a really relaxed and fun part of the day because we had already met Becky and Chris about 8 months ago to discuss what they were looking for so had built a rapport with them which is so important. At one stage during the afternoon we were with Mandy and she mentioned that she’d never see photographers move around so much and make so much use of the venue, but the fact is that if your lucky enough to work at Westenhanger Castle then there is simply an abundance of opportunities for great photos.
We had a huge portfolio of ideas already for this wedding and had done a lot of ground work by visiting the venue to establish the best places for photography. We then spent the final hour with the newleywed’s covering the personal shots mentioned earlier plus a few shots for Becky and Chris to use for their thank you cards before we took a well deserved break to sit down and sample the food..
Food, The Top Table & Speeches
Like so many other elements of the day the food was incredible with the highlight being the main course, a beautiful bit of lamb …Julia had the vegetarian option which was red peppers stuffed with seasoned rice. As the wedding breakfast unfolded we had a chance to reflect on the day and back up everything we had captured before preparing for the speeches, cake cutting, first dance and disco photography.
The curved top table is not something I’ve seen anywhere else before, its also quite wide and with its two royal like chairs provided for the bride and groom it feels quite palacial.
Sadly the brides father is no longer with us but he was most definately there in the thoughts of the family during Beckys mums emotional opening speech in the presence of his photograph proudly displayed in front of daughter Sarah, Becky’s sister and bridesmaid. Chris’s speech was an honest and amusing account of his life to date and drew many laughs from the guests before it was left to the best man to steal the show with an almost poetic story of his friendship with the groom. In a memorable 10 minutes, I can’t really describe a better way to explain it other than eloquent abuse of his best mate and political correctness gone wrong, but his tales of stories from their friendship since school had the whole marquee in hysterics and he worked his audience a treat with the bride and groom in tears of laughter throughout. A great set of speeches containing many different emotions and devoid of the usual wedding jokes and cliches.
Cake Catting, First Dance & The Disco
With the evening guests arriving from 7:30, the formalities drew to a close at around 8:15 with the cutting of the cake, the venue provide a small sword for this …and then rock fan Chris and Becky took their first dance to Aerosmiths power balled “I Don’t Wanna Miss A thing”.
Something that’s is also great about this package is that when your working throughout the day you get to build a rapport with the guests and once you have explained that your going to be DJ’ing in the evening the requests came flooding in from the wedding party throughout the afternoon, particularly the groomsmen and best man who were clearly steering towards a set of 90’s R&B & Hip Hop tunes.
Check out the playlist below, I generally focused on giving each preferred genre a 30 minute set so everyone had their time on the floor plus incorporating a small selection of pre selected tracks by Becky and Chris throughout the night. Both bride and groom were on the floor for long spells throughout particularly Becky …we also managed to shoot a video showing all the lighting going which looked very impressive thanks to being able to use haze to set off the lighting effects. We wrapped up our 15 hour day at the scheduled finish time of midnight, as we were all saying our goodbyes a surprise limousine pulled up outside the marquee to whisk the newleyweds off for the night to signal the countdown to their dream honeymoon in Hawaii.
With the guests departed all that remained for the venue staff and ourselves was to pack up and disappear into the night …but after our 15 hour stay at Westenhanger Castle the hour packing up seemed to pale into insignificance.
It had been a truly amazing day full of adreneline, fun, laughter, emotion and excitement …the perfect day encapsulated at the perfect venue !
If you were at Becky & Chris’s wedding how about leaving us a comment at the bottom of this page
First Dance I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing AeroSmith
Return of the Mack (C & J Radio Edit) Mark Morrison
She’s Got That Vibe R. Kelly
Gettin Jiggy With It Will Smith
Rock Your Body Justin Timberlake
Miami Will Smith
Dance With Me Tonight Olly Murs
Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) Beyoncé
Valerie (Feat. Amy Winehouse) Mark Ronson
Gangnam Style PSY
Sexy and I Know It LMFAO
Drinking from the Bottle (feat. Tinie Tempah) Calvin Harris
Two Can Play That Game Bobby Brown
Show Me Love Robin S.
Finally (Its Happened To Me) CC Peniston
I’m Gonna Get You Baby Bizarre inc
Get Up (Everybody) [Parade Mix] Byron Stingly
Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough (2003 Edit) Michael Jackson
Le Freak Chic
September Earth Wind & Fire
Celebration Kool & The Gang
I Want You Back The Jackson 5
December 1963 (Oh What A Night) Frankie Vallie
Mysterious Girl Peter Andre
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) Backstreet Boys
If Ya Gettin’ Down Five
Spice Up Your Life Spice Girls
Relight My Fire Take That
California love Tupac & Dr Dre
Hypnotize Notorious B.I.G.
I Got 5 On It Luniz
Regulate Warren G & Nate Dogg
Gravel Pit Wu-Tang Clan
Candy Shop 50 Cent
Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
You Can Do It Ice Cube
Lean Back Fat Joe, Remy & Terror Squad
Party Up (Radio Edit) DMX
Be Faithful Fat Man Scoop (Ft. Faith Evans)
Gold Digger (Radio Edit) Kanye West & Jamie Foxx
This Charming Man Smiths
I Love To Boogie T-Rex
Let’s Stick Together Bryan Ferry
Crazy Little Thing Called Love Queen
The Boys Are Back In Town Thin Lizzy
A Town Called Malice Jam
Tiger Feet Mud
Summer of 69 Bryan Adams
Jump Van Halen
Back In Black ACDC
Sweet Child of Mine Guns ‘N Roses
Passion (Naked Mix) Gat Décor
Let Me Be Your Fantasy Baby D
Insomnia (Monster Mix) Faithless
Fire Starter Prodigy
Living On a Prayer Bon Jovi
The Final Countdown Europe
Y.M.C.A. Village People
One Step Beyond Madness
Everybody Needs Somebody to Lo Blues Brothers
Don’t Stop Me Now Queen
Dancing In The Dark Bruce Springsteen
I Wanna Dance With Somebody Whitney Houston
Toxic Britney Spears
Walking On Sunshine Katrina And The Waves
Mission Impossible – Main Title Theme Artie Kane