Stowe School Wedding Photography – Jo & Phil

This was my second wedding at Stowe School – it really is a truly epic venue – everything is ten times bigger, taller, wider and grander than any other, yet retaining the homely feel and bustle of a busy working school. A great blend – all of the majesty, none of the stuffiness.

I met Jo when she was Wedding Coordinator at Blenheim Palace, at the wedding of Emma and Tijs in 2008. Funny how showing somebody the back of your camera while the wedding party are munching on their wedding breakfast, can lead to so much.

I showed Jo some pics that I had just taken of Emma, on the little camera screen – she asked to see the whole collection when they were ready, so I sent her the link. Having seen the pictures, Jo put me on the Blenheim Palace Preferred Suppliers list, and so many Blenheim weddings later, happily I am still on it.

The other thing she said was that if she ever got married, I was to expect a call 🙂  So after she left Blenheim Palace we kept in touch, and fast forward a few years, here we are at Jo and Phil’s amazing Stowe School wedding!

Now we always say that rain doesn’t matter to the photography on a wedding day – and at Stowe, it actually really doesn’t. There is so much outside space under the cover of vast porticos and collonades, it is a photographers paradise – even in British Summertime. I arrived fully prepared to get totally soaked, and that I did. My rule of thumb with all my brides is – “If it’s raining, let’s go out with umbrellas – as long as you stay dry, it’s all good”. Which generally means that I get very wet – but thats ok – its not my wedding day, and my hair is too absent to go curly these days.

Jo and Phil were the perfect couple and showed not a flicker of disappointment at the weather – quite the opposite – they had an absolute ball, and everyone could see that although this wedding was styled to a tee with amazing detail and huge amounts of preparation and care, the only thing these two really cared about was each other.

It would probably be a bit sacrilegious to say that the Chapel at Stowe was built for wedding photography – but indulge me if you will:


1) Super long runway style aisle – when positioned in the pews (even behind all the guests) a good thirty seconds of ‘bride and dad walking towards you time’

2) Super long runway style aisle Pt2 – after bride and Dad have passed you, at least thirty seconds of ‘groom looking back up aisle at bride as she approaches’ (all this usually happens within the space of ten to fifteen seconds and a lot of camera swapping and lens flipping). I could have curled up with a good book and still got the shots.

3) Football pitch size workspace – stood at the back, no camera clicking to be heard by anyone – and breathtaking vista of high ceiling, columns, paintings, windows and teeny bride and groom at altar – also wonderful heavy duty rumble of mammoth church organ above head – ace!

4) Ratruns – possibly not the official architectural term? Ratruns down both sides of chapel enabling sneaky stealth movement from front to back without being spotted.

5) Choice of two perfectly positioned Pulpits – not just one but two! Discuss with bride and groom which one has better light falling on it for the readings.

6) Pulpit provides perfect cover for photos at front – the pulpit not being used for readings – a comfortable space with the ultimate view of bride and groom, affording photographer total cover from guests – result.

7) Register signed in front of the grandeur of the altar! – No back room vestry – no fluorescent tubes, no fire exit signs, no no smoking stickers, no sinks / taps / coffee cups, no vicars coat on back of door, no leaflets / pamphlets / files or folders. Absolutely no old vases, and definitely no stepladders.

8) Super long runway style aisle Pt3 – even if the guests DO decide to sabotage your IAS (Important Aisle Shot) by stepping right out into the aisle waving their telephones (when does this not happen?…sigh) – the aisle is too wide for any guest to fill! Ha! Revenge! Plus even guests get bored of machine gunning their phones after thirty seconds or so, and this aisle is at least a minute long 🙂

9) Portico – when bride and groom emerge – come rain or shine – there is cover from adverse precipitation or from direct sunlight and nasty shadows.

10) Steps outside- Want an Everybody shot after the service? No problem. Large family photos? Consider it done. We have huge steps!

And these are but a few reasons why Stowe School is now my Chapel Of Choice for Wedding Photography ™

After the service we had to curtail our plans to go off to a far flung bridge because it literally was raining sideways, but Jo and Phil’s colourful (and suitably oversized) balloons led us back to the South Front where their reception took place – outside but under cover. We shot bride and groom portraits comfortably dry and warm under the colonnades, interrupted here and there by the odd builder who felt he was pretty enough to walk straight through the photographs. I’m not sure he was, but that’s just my humble opinion.

I do also need to mention that Phil and Jo pulled out all the stops at one point , by climbing ten feet up a wall using a rickety step ladder to get a rather unusual bridal party shot. You can’t argue with a bride who is prepared to do stuff like that – Jo, we have come a long way since Emma’s wedding.

And so the day progressed, rain did not stop play, everyone had a fantastic time and the supercool Dukes of Havoc played long into the night. Congratulations Mr & Mrs A – you did it!