Normanton Church Weddings
For me, weddings at Normanton Church always seem to have a touch of magic about them. Standing on its own small island at the edge of Rutland Water, when seen in the right light the elegant lines of the church take on an ethereal quality – at high water, squint a little and the church appears to be floating, making for some serene, rather surreal views across the water.
Growing up in the local area, Normanton Church always intrigued me – I remember being fascinated by photographs my father had taken of the hamlet of Nether Hambleton in 1976, just before it was flooded to make way for the reservoir (along with Middle Hambleton and six or seven square kilometres of the surrounding Gwash Valley). As a child, these images turned the reservoir into a kind of Rutland Atlantis – even today, the thought that homes and farms once stood beneath this beautiful expanse of water is enough to fire my imagination.
Thankfully, after a public outcry Normanton Church was saved from the flooding, and although its floor had to be raised half way up the building, it now stands proudly at the edge of the reservoir as the most iconic landmark in Rutland. Deconsecrated in 1970, it’s now one of the most popular civil wedding venues in the county and is undoubtedly one of my favourites to work at.
Normanton Church Weddings: the photographer’s view
For photographers, the views over the water and the classical beauty of the church are obviously irrestistable, and the dramatic romance of the location mean you’re not relying on perfect blue skies to give you the ideal images of the venue.
What’s more, whether it’s dark and stormy skies outside or a beautiful summer’s day, the windows all around the church mean the light inside tends to be fabulous to work with.
For most weddings, the marriage itself takes place at the ‘bank side’ of the church. Here, there’s an arched recess where the couple stand with the registrar. This image of Steph and Dom walking up the aisle shows the gold archway in the background:
While in this image – one of my favourites from recent weddings at Normanton Church – you can see the domed recess behind the registrar’s table:
The beauty of this is that the photographer can be positioned far enough away from the couple to be unobtrusive, yet still get intimate shots of the couple during the ceremony. With civil ceremonies being relatively short, this ease of access is a big plus for a documentary wedding photographer. Even better, unlike most churches and many civil venues, the photographer can easily move from one side to another, meaning you can get intimate images of both the bride and the groom during the exchange of rings, without creating a big disturbance:
A few thoughts on planning your Normanton Church Wedding
Having photographed a few weddings at Normanton Church now, I thought it worth offering a few words of advice to anyone planning to get married there. One of the quirky features of the building is it only has one entrance and this takes you straight past the archway where most marriages take place.
This creates an issue for the bride as she’d have to walk straight past the groom and all the guests to then be able to walk back up the aisle. At most weddings, the way around this is for the bride to break with tradition and arrive around an hour early, before the groom and guests have turned up, and then hide in a room at the back of the church until it’s time to walk up the aisle.
While most couples seem to be happy with this, on one occasion I photographed a wedding where the couple decided turn the venue around, well, the chairs at least, so that they would be married at the other end of the building. This then allowed the bride to arrive in a more traditional way, after the guests and groom were all safely awaiting her arrival inside the church. This meant that guests would be looking at the end of the church where the agricultural tools are hanging on the wall (you can see these tools in the image above of Edwina walking up the aisle). As a photographer, there was a slight disadvantage in that the stairway at that end of the church meant that I had less room to move during the ceremony. However, on the day, I used the stairs to my advantage and hid halfway down them, which gave me this unusual perspective of the ring ceremony:
From this position, I thought the view of the church behind the couple was stunning:
After the ceremony is over, it’s worth bearing in mind that due to the water and wildlife, you aren’t allowed to throw confetti near the church. A lot of couples opt to arrange for this at their ceremony venues, but you can always go for bubbles:
All aboard the Rutland Belle
After spending a little time meeting and greeting your guests around the church, it’s normally a case of everyone back to their cars and off to the reception venue. However, another unique touch is the idea of taking your guests for a celebratory cruise around the reservoir on The Rutland Belle, a boat that can be hired exclusively for your wedding party.
As you can see, on the one occasion I’ve done this, the sky was pretty grey and dramatic, yet on board the boat the light was still great to work with. It certainly didn’t seem to stop the couple and their guests from having a great time:
Edwina and Neal even enjoyed their first speeches of the day on board the boat:
One final great thing to mention about Normanton Church is its close proximity to many of the best wedding venues in Rutland. Click on any of these links to get through to individual blog entries on weddings at some of these locations:Barnsdale Lodge
Normanton Park Hotel
Rutland Water Golf Course