The French Riviera meets the Quintessential English Rose for Buckinghams’ cover shoot at Hodsock Priory, Notts, featuring three magnificent gowns by Joanna Leigh Couture.
Written by EJ Wright, Photography by Dottie Photography
I first met Joanna Leigh Couture at our wedding show at Belvoir Castle in the Autumn of 2017. Her designs are sensational and I knew we’d definitely want to work with her on a photoshoot. I called her after the show and asked if she would be interested. She said yes and we set about discussing dresses. Jo sent over detail shots of several gowns she was working on. The first was ‘Florence’ – or 3D Silk as we were affectionately calling her at the time. After my initial gasp, my mind’s eye wandered instantly to the beautiful gardens at Hodsock Priory. We just had to shoot this dress at that location.
[Come to the Hodsock Priory Wedding Fair]
‘Little Bow’ followed along with immediate inspiration to pair her with a sharp suited Riviera styled groom. Last, but by no means least, ‘Birdy’. A breathtaking humming bird gown so beautiful it is beyond words.
So who would we ask to go behind the camera? Myself and Mandy Carter at Dottie Photography had been chatting for nearly a year about working together on a project and I had a feeling this would be the perfect one. When I showed Mandy the dresses and the venue, she was on board.
‘Florence’ embraces lavish textures, exquisite embroidery and the rustle of silk taffeta. A hand pleated silk bodice accentuates the waistline. Chiffon petals and floral detail delicately flutter revealing rich pearl and crystal adornments. The sheer, voluminous sleeves and veiled shoulders create a dramatic sense of romance as the floral embellishments softly trail away from the train.
Our backdrop was Hodsock Priory, the beautiful country house in Blyth, Nottinghamshire, once visited by Henry VIII in 1541. With the impressive Tudor Gatehouse, the Panelled Hall ceremony room, glamorous chandeliers and the stunning gardens with its own lake, we were spoilt for photo opportunities.
I’d been praying for a dry day and although it was really overcast when we arrived, we took the risk and set up our first scene in the gardens. I’d been speaking to George Buchanan, owner of Hodsock, about what was in bloom and when. I wanted to create an al fresco double depth top table with the front table doubling as a dessert table with cake centrepiece. A waterfall of fabric was to froth onto the grass below it. I invited beautiful harpist, Soraya Vermuelen, to complete our scene.
For cakes and favours I went straight to Lorien Storey from Storeybook Cakes. I haven’t known Lorien for long but she’s already in my little black book of go-to cake designers. Her attention to detail is epic and I was confident she’d totally smash it, and she did. Leading up to the shoot, Lorien sent me teaser shots of the cakes and favours she was working on. From the first photo I knew she’d taken what was in my head and turned it into sweet reality.
Mandy had recently launched ‘Dottie Events & Hire,’ her new marquee company. This was a great opportunity to delve into her extensive stock of hire items and she had the very pieces I was hoping for – gold cutlery, cut crystal and lots of candle sticks! We borrowed gold edged chargers and votives from our friends at Nerissa Eve Weddings in Market Harborough. Millie Stone UK designed our beautiful name cards for the table and the lovely ladies from Nuptia, set about adding sashes to our ceremony chairs and draping the backdrop, kindly assisted by Anna Straw.
‘Little Bow’ was designed especially for the Hodsock Priory shoot and inspired by a single pair of silk retro styled gloves which represent elegance in its simplest form. Appropriately named, it displays a delicate bow positioned in the centre of a clean cut and sensual bust line without interrupting the sophisticated décolletage.
When Marianne Slater at Frances & Rose checked her schedule and said she was available, we knew we were on to something special. Marianne’s combination of home grown ‘just foraged’ flowers were perfect for the table setting and bouquets.
With Adele Coxon MUA and Kirby Blythe Hair on beauty, the stage was set. Our models, Sadie Straw and Josh Oxley Adams made the perfect couple. We styled Josh in a selection of suits from Christopher Scotney Mens Hire in Leicester. For gloves, there’s really only once place to go if you’re looking for the best. I approached the fabulous Cornelia James. I always love the moment their little packet of gloves arrives at my office.
Birdy – a glamorously fitted and semi sheer bustier is artistically decorated with intricate embroidery in magenta, kingfisher and green, all the shades least expected to be found on a bridal gown. Even more captivating is the way the intertwining branches, climbing roses and hummingbirds dance around the hemline of soft draping silk tulle. A couture bridal gown in every sense of the word.
After several hours, scene one was set. The gardens burst into petal and bloom right on cue and the rain swept over us very briefly and promptly disappeared. Thank you to everyone involved in this project, especially to Hodsock Priory for looking after us. To Florence, Birdy and Little Bow – we love you.