A few short weeks ago, before the madness descended, I was asked to be a part of a photoshoot at Bicton Park Botanical Gardens. I have to say it now feels like a lifetime ago, but it was only late February.
You probably know that I trained in horticulture when I left school (don’t ask how long ago that was!!) And although I no longer work in that industry, I do still love plants and flowers. These days it’s the sugar kind I spend my time with. But a photoshoot in a botanical garden was something I jumped at!
And it didn’t disappoint.
I don’t know why we have never been to Bicton Park before. I guess it’s that old thing of knowing it’s there whenever you want to visit, so you never get around to it. Something none of us will be doing in future I suspect. This whole situation we find ourselves in right now certainly makes you appreciate all the things you can no longer do, like visit gardens. And these are ones I will certainly be returning to when I’m able.
The Gardens were originally part of Bicton Park, which was built by the Rolles family in the 18th century. The gardens were laid out at the same time as the house, and much of the original features still exist. Such as the Palm House, one of the areas used in the shoot, which is around 20 years older than the famous Palm House at Kew.
There are 60 acres of gardens to explore, with lots of places to stop and have beautiful wedding photos taken. And there’s a train!! The Bicton Woodland Railway is a 25 minute ride around the gardens, a bonus for any train buffs in the wedding party.
The shoot was the brainchild of Helen Chapman of Helen Chapman Photography and the theme was Victorian high tea, a theme that fitted in perfectly with the venue and its history.
Having the wedding fit in with the chosen venue is something I have spoken about before. It really does make a huge difference. If you’ve chosen a particular venue then the chances are it is, in part at least, because you know it fits with the type of wedding you want. But bringing elements of the venue into the details of the wedding will make it even more perfect.
For this shoot we very much kept with the Victorian botanical theme. The stationary had beautiful, botanical style, painting. The table was set up on the terrace with echoes of the greens that were all around us. And, of course, there were lots of flowers!
Greens and whites were the colour scheme, with a hint of blush pink. This gave a very fresh feel and fitted perfectly into the palm house. Although I don’t think you can actually get married in the palm house, I would recommend going there for a few photos, you won’t regret it.
The set up.
While our lovely bride was being photographed in the palm house, I took the cake and sweet treats around to the terrace to help get the table set up.
Now last time you will remember me talking about outdoor weddings, and how it’s a good idea to have at least one area partially covered. This photoshoot day proved my point perfectly! There we were, merrily setting up the table and making the terrace look beautiful, when the heavens opened. It didn’t just rain, it poured! If we had been fully outside then everything would have been ruined. Soggy tablecloths, washed out stationary, ruined cake….. you get the picture. But, because it was a covered terrace we just carried on! And, ten minutes later, the sun was back out.
At Bicton Park the terrace is in-between two orangeries and looks right out over the gardens. It makes it the perfect setting for an outdoor wedding, because you are under cover but still open. And you can dive into either of the orangeries if needs be. You can then have your reception in the orangery and still be looking out over the gardens.
Of course I’m going to say that the cake was the star of the day…….
I was asked to create a cake with a Victorian vibe, but very much in keeping with what a modern day couple would actually want.
If you have ever seen images of wedding cakes from the Victorian era you’ll know they are very elaborate affairs! Lots of royal icing and complicated hand piping, and nothing like the wedding cakes we have today. Although that style is starting to make a come back, and done right it can be stunning.
I decided not to go full on Victorian though, it’s not really the style my couples would want. Instead I used the petal shaped bottom tier as a nod to the period, but took the rest of my inspiration from the botanical setting.
You know that I love sugar flowers, so there had to be plenty of those! But I added a bit of a twist (as I’m known to do) by including a glass separator filled with silk foliage. This was a nod to the glass houses and Palm House.
Mixing in the silk foliage with the sugar flowers is a great way to get high impact. Having that foliage in sugar would have taken days of work, added a lot of weight and been at high risk of breakages.
The sweet treats
Confession time, dessert tables aren’t really my thing. Don’t get me wrong I love them, I just don’t really do them. Mostly because it’s just me, and I only have so many hours and one pair of hands! But I really enjoyed doing these.
The Victorians took afternoon tea very seriously indeed. And the more elaborate the better. Again I didn’t intend to recreate a full High Tea, just some sweet treats that could be an accompaniment or alternative to the cake.
So we had mini vanilla sponges with raspberry buttercream, meringue nests with creams and fresh fruits, lemon madeleines and pink sugar mice (if you’re going Victorian then you have to have sugar mice)
Recreating the look
Something I think comes across well with this shoot is that you don’t need to go full on Victoriana in order to get the feel. And also that it pays to work with the setting and backdrops the venue already has. Neither the Palm House or the Terrace needed any dressing, they spoke for themselves perfectly.
Have a chat with your wedding planner or stylist. Everything we used in the shoot can be hired in, and this is something I highly recommend doing. Not only will you get exactly what you want without having to spend weeks tracking each item down, but it can all be returned at the end. There are many wedding stylists who will come in on the day and dress your venue for you, then come back and take it all away again.
These are all the lovely people who were involved on the day.
Photos by: Helen Chapman Photography, https://www.helenchapmanphotographyuk.com/
Venue; Bicton Park Botanical Gardens, http://www.bictongardens.co.uk/
Hair and beauty: by The Courtyard Hairdressers, Honiton,www.facebook.com/TheCourtyardHairdressers/
Wedding dress by: Lovely Bridal, Honiton, http://www.lovelybridal.co.uk/
Flowers by Bridget The flower shed, https://www.bridgetsflowershed.co.uk/
Wedding cake by Claire’s sweet temptations , https://www.clairessweettemptations.com/
Wedding venue decor by Bold and Beautiful Weddings https://www.boldbeautifulweddings.com/
Invitations by Dilly and Dilly, https://dillyanddilly.co.uk/