Projecting goodness in every element and essence, the styled shoot that we’re sharing with you today focuses on a growing desire for both wedding couples and suppliers to be more eco-friendly in their plans and choices.
In doing so there is no sacrificing of style or enjoyment, but instead a huge boost of feel good factor with stunning big day celebrations that harbour beauty far beyond the aesthetics.
Perfectly co-ordinated and directed by Leeds-based wedding planner, Charlotte Duckitt, who specialises in eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable weddings, through her business Our Story Begins, the aim of this shoot was to show how such celebrations can be kind to the environment whilst still being truly elegant and appealing.
Sticking entirely to that ethos, Charlotte selected a ‘self-sufficient’ National Trust venue to form the shoot backdrop, and brought onboard suppliers that used either vegan products, ethically sourced décor or sustainable methods in the production of their contributions, resulting in an inspiringly beautiful and eco-conscious collaboration.
Charlotte says: The shoot was designed to showcase the true beauty of an ethical and sustainable wedding. The phrase ‘Back to Nature’ was the inspiration behind the concept and it was important that the venue and suppliers involved would get on board with the eco-friendly ethos of the shoot, even if this wasn’t standard practice for them.
I wanted the shoot to show brides and grooms-to-be, as well as other wedding professionals, that being eco-conscious does not mean compromising on beauty or style in any way. I hope that the shoot can be used to encourage both couples and suppliers to consider how they can make small changes to help our planet.
When searching for a location I wanted to source a venue which would hold the same values as Our Story Begins, and when I came across Gibson Mill in West Yorkshire, I knew it was the perfect place for my Back to Nature shoot. They celebrate the natural woodland around the mill and do as much as possible to ensure the venue remains self-sufficient and off grid. It was really important to me that the backdrop for the shoot would celebrate these values and I couldn’t have asked for a better example than Gibson Mill.
Everything they do is eco-conscious, and they are not afraid to shout about it. Even their loos are dry-composting loos, though this was a bit of a shock to some of the suppliers on the day! Add to this a complete lack of phone signal and wi-fi and we were able to truly focus on the shoot without any distractions, even if it did mean a few lost suppliers in the local woodland to begin with!
I worked closely with Spectacular Scenes and Where Bees Meet to create a tablescape which would mirror a Yorkshire woodland floor. I wanted purposefully messy florals which would look like they were part of the landscape and which would promote the use of local and seasonal flowers. Where Bees Meet also created a bridal bouquet and hoop in the same style and two ‘meadows’ to stand at either end of our tablescape, giving the illusion of being outdoors in the woodland. The tablescape was also a fantastic opportunity to show off the beauty of local charity shop finds, as well as handmade items which any couple could incorporate into their big day, for example, we chose to feature handmade beeswax candles from Spectacular Scenes.
The cake, by Mrs B’s Cakery, and stationery, by Made by Rae Designs, then mirrored this idea of natural beauty by featuring a delicate array of flowers on a plain background, to ensure the flowers were the focal point of both designs. For the cake, we opted for a vegan Victoria sponge and edible flowers. To avoid waste, leftover flowers were turned into elderflower lollipops to go alongside the cake. The stationery was crafted using recycled card and brown kraft envelopes to match the values and theme of the shoot.
As it was springtime, and a whole array of flowers were blooming outdoors, I decided not to stick with one or two colours for the shoot and instead opted for an array of colours, which you might find by taking a walk in the Yorkshire countryside.
When searching for bridal attire, it was really important to me to find a supplier who specialises in preloved and vintage gowns. Nowadays society runs on fast fashion and the wedding industry is one place where people are less likely to buy preowned. I wanted to show that a preloved gown is still just as special and beautiful the second or third time around and that a wedding gown is all about how you feel, not necessarily about the label or the price tag.
I opted for a female/female shoot as I just love to see and work with wedding dresses. Charlotte and Stacey at Bridal Reloved Wakefield, sent me photos of a selection of dresses which used delicate tulle and lace and I opted for two similar skirts matched with statement pieces on top.
Model Abigail’s dress was a very soft ivory and had a beautiful floral, lace design to the top and sleeves, a great match for the style of the shoot. Our other model Jessie’s dress featured a white skirt with a soft-pink, satin top. This was covered with a gorgeous statement pink bolero, again with floral patterning. To top off her dress without the bolero, Jessie also modelled a fantastic hand-finished veil from Quinlan Couture Bridal, which featured delicate pink flowers along the bottom – this statement piece stood out beautifully against her red hair and white skirt.
The beautiful rings that we featured are by Jacqueline & Edward.
To contrast with the backdrop of an early spring woodland and a Yorkshire-stone building, I wanted the models to both sport a bold lip and smoky eyes. To me, the soft-glam look created by makeup artist Lucy Porter, was perfect for showing off both models’ natural beauty with a little bit of added romance in the bold lip.
Both models had lusciously long hair and I wanted this to be styled to look romantic yet natural. Stylist Amy Fletcher created a curled look on them both with pieces pinned back to enable clear shots of their faces, in order to capture their emotions. Both the hair and makeup stylist used cruelty-free products, as well as mostly vegan products to create the looks to show that ethical brands can stand up against the industry-leading brands. This look would definitely suit brides who typically wear minimal makeup and want a softly enhanced natural look for their wedding day.
On the day, the shoot was incredibly fun. I got to work with so many fantastic women who are true experts in their fields. I was determined to capture as many elements of a ‘real’ wedding as possible, so we had to be well-organised to get all of this done within a day. When we first arrived, the weather was very cold and rainy and there was minimal daylight coming in through the windows. However, the photographers Charlotte and Louise, offered great advice on where to set up which shots in order to work with the natural light we had and to reduce our need for the electricity being produced by the Mill.
We started with the tablescape, cake and stationery to allow time for the models and celebrant to have their hair and makeup prepped. It was an amazing opportunity to see a florist and stylist at work, merging both of their designs and pieces together to create a masterpiece. Sadly, our stationer, cake maker and veil designer couldn’t attend on the day so it was crucial we captured shots for them which would showcase their creations. Following this, we took shots of both models at the table to show off their styling and the rings, alongside the venue styling.
This was then followed by a fake ceremony and dress reveal, which was the most fun part of the day. Our celebrant Penelope Jayne, performed as if it were a real wedding, with hilarious anecdotes to entertain everyone involved, she had us all in fits of giggles. This was a really special moment where all of the suppliers came together to watch the shoot in action and to have our input on what to capture next. I was blown away by everyone’s contributions to capturing the perfect shots.
Thankfully, once we had finished the indoor shots, the rain had decided to stop so we took the risk and ventured outdoors. As the dresses were off-the-peg pieces, we had to use blankets and some interesting looking wellies to keep them clean and dry, and again we had so much fun capturing the outdoor shots.
We finished off with a couple of photos of the dream team that made the shoot happen and lastly by devouring the gorgeous cake from Mrs B’s Cakery. In six hours, we had managed to style two models, a celebrant and a venue and we were able to capture so many beautiful and intricate details of the event. The day was a fantastic success.
This was the first shoot organised by Our Story Begins… and certainly will not be the last! The next shoot from Our Story Begins will be a British seaside shoot to showcase the beauty of beach weddings in the UK, to encourage those wanting the sand beneath their feet to think more local and celebrate what our beautiful island has to offer!