A traditional Kyrgyz Muslim wedding

Ever wondered what a small, rural wedding is like, in a country few people could spell let alone point to on a map? Where no photographer is present, internet is sparse and so images aren’t generally seen? During my trip to Kyrgyzstan I was honoured to be able to capture Kayrat & Ayzada’s simple Muslim wedding in their home in a small rural village near Lake Issykul.

I was welcomed with smiles and invited to join the family on beautiful patchwork cushions surrounding a low table full of food, in a room hung with carpets. They insisted my friend sat next to the grandmothers and treated her as a VIP, everyone laughing when we dazzled them with one of our six words of Kyrgyz. I met the bride Ayzada, who wore beautiful midnight blue velvet with a dazzling white headscarf, and the groom Kayrat, casual in jeans and a t-shirt but finished with a striking embroidered Kyrgyz hat.

When the Imam arrived and sat with the rest of the family, Ayzada covered her whole head with her scarf and accompanied by her family, she entered the room and knelt on the floor. Kayrat followed taking his place next to her. There was a short speech and prayers by the Imam before the couple were ushered into a smaller room with another table full of food where they fed each other a special milk dish.

The formalities over, bride and groom were dispatched to continue work – helping with the slaughter of a goat and preparing the meat for the meal, and serving tea to the older members of the family. Whilst I photographed, my friend was being introduced to vodka shot toasts and fed delicious dill-flavoured salads, borsook (a type of fried dough, used as a lavish display at celebrations), homemade jams served in cut glass dishes and delicate fried pasties. Meanwhile the children helped Ayzada and her sisters to arrange sweets, nuts and dried fruits on many painted china cake stands.

The family took me out into their garden where I was able to take some family photos – they insisted on taking some with me and my friend as the ‘guests of honour’. I asked to take some portraits of Kayrat and Ayzada which caused surprise, but they were happy to leave their tasks and come with me giving me a chance to use one of my six Kyrgyz words ‘Suluu’ (which means beautiful) to great effect! Ayzada then shyly took me to see the bedroom that had been prepared for them that night, a part of a room separated by a pink curtain decorated with lace, where she asked for a final photograph.

Throughout the day we were a curiosity, the children especially giggling at us and dashing off to hide. I saw a few mobile phones with basic cameras, but felt so happy to be able to send them prints of all their wedding photos – including portraits of each guest for the couple to give out. It was such a privilege to spend time with them on their wedding day, and despite no shared language, to be able to celebrate together.

                                                        

Thanks to my amazing guide Tilek at CBT Kyrgyzstan for connecting me with Kayrat & Ayzada. For more Kyrgyz family life and culture you might also like to read about my stay with an eagle hunter.

And whether you’re planning an adventurous wedding in some far flung destination, an intimate at-home celebration or something in between, please send me a message – I’d love to talk to you about your plans and how I can capture the story of your wedding day.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

 

Jo & Ali’s festival wedding

There are so many things I love about this wedding – and I’m not the only one! Featured on top wedding blog Love My Dress, free-spirited bohemian inspiration blog Festival Brides and an article on Huffington Post about genius wedding ideas, it was such fun to photograph.

Jo & Ali’s fabulous Glastonbury-inspired festival wedding on a rainy day in Oxford was full of personal touches, quirky details and handmade items. Jo created a stunning look with a veil over her stylish pixie haircut, short dress, gorgeous heels with a lucky sixpence (later swapped for pink flip-flops) and personalised nail art. They had masses of bright, locally grown flowers arranged in an eclectic collection of teapots, rugby-playing superhero figures on top of their cake and miles of homemade bunting. After a moving ceremony in the beautiful Catholic Church of Saint Gregory and Augustine they travelled in style (vintage buses for guests, an orange campervan for the couple) to The Perch, a lovely pub by the river. Here they enjoyed picnic style sharing feasts, laughter-filled speeches and took advantage of a break in the rain for riverside portraits at dusk. They ended the night with a silent disco that had everyone on their feet. Jo and Ali each created a playlists of their favourites and with the headphones’ coloured lights showing which playlist guests were listening to, there was lots of hilarity as new songs started, two very different dancing styles mixed or people were persuaded to switch over!

                                                    

Jo & Ali chose ‘Flaws’ by Bastille for their first dance – I loved this acoustic version and used it for their wedding story slideshow:

Click here to see more of my wedding photography and if you’re planning a fabulous, personal, quirky wedding I’d love to talk to you about your plans.

The fabulous team who made it happen:

Sparkling Santorini

Looking for the perfect spot to propose, a magical setting for a destination wedding or the ultimate choice for a luxury honeymoon? With sparkling seas, gleaming white washed churches & the most incredible sunsets – Santorini truly is an island made for romance.

This crescent shaped island is the top of a volcanic caldera, with steep cliffs running down into the Mediterranean Sea. Here are some of my favourite spots…

Oia – home of the luxury hotels and packed at sunset, Oia is popular for a reason. The sunsets here are incredible – bathing the white washed buildings and coloured roofs in beautiful golden light.

         

Oia-Fira Hiking Trail – to escape Oia’s crowds, hike South along the crater’s edge from Oia towards Imerovigli and you’ll find little blue and white churches tucked away and breathtaking views over the ocean.

Imerovigli – another lovely spot for sunset is the little Chapel of Theoskepasti near Skaros Rock with the ruins of a Venetian castle.

 

Finikia – a small village walking distance to Oia, with small winding pathways lined by tall white washed walls and friendly donkeys who carry supplies into the village.

  

I fell in love with Santorini and I’d like to go back! If you’re planning an island proposal, a Greek elopement or Santorini wedding I’d love to talk to you about capturing your special memories on this beautiful island paradise.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

How to photograph your engagement ring

Just engaged? Have you had a sparkle on your left hand since Christmas or New Year? Here are seven ways to photograph your engagement ring to share your news with friends and family…

1. Simple ring lying down

Place the ring on a flat surface – a windowsill, table or even a blanket. Get low down so you’re eye is level with the ring and get close up to capture every detail of that sparkle.

2. Simple ring standing

With a little white tac on a white surface you can balance your engagement ring standing vertically. This perspective allows you take a photo from directly above looking down, focusing on the stone.

 

3. Pair with perfume

A miniature bottle of your favourite perfume works beautifully to show off your engagement ring – and you can slip it in your purse to top up your fragrance on your wedding day.

   

4. Beauty in the box

If you have a beautiful ring box then use it – place it on a clear surface and try different angles to capture the profile and stone of the ring nestled in the velvet.

  

5. In your hands

One of my favourite ways to capture an engagement ring is to have held loosely in both hands – you’ll need someone to take this shot from slightly above, focusing on the stone.

 

6. Holding hands

An engagement ring is a promise between two people – so holding hands is a perfect pose to show off that sparkle. Face away from a friend whilst holding hands and ask them to take a photo level with the ring. Or hold your hands out towards them so they can take a photograph looking slightly down at the ring.

  

7. Spell it out

Break out the scrabble or bananagram tiles, take the magnetic letters off your fridge or use your ring with calligraphy to spell out your love.

 

And of course I’m always happy to lend a hand and would love to photograph your ring in an engagement shoot or as part of your wedding photography. Please send me an email – I can’t wait to hear the story of your proposal…

5 Christmas Photo Ideas

I know it’s not December yet but Christmas trees are popping up, Christmas lists are being written & it’s the perfect time to plan your Christmas photos. Whether for Christmas cards for friends & family, prints, canvases or photobooks as presents or gifting a session itself, here are my top 5 festive photo session ideas for couples & families – plus some on my own Christmas wish list…

1) Romantically wrapped up warm

Winter is the perfect time for those snuggled up couple photos. Add chunky knit scarves, bobble hats & winter coats then cozy together for warmth – giving natural, relaxed & romantic photos

 

2) Family fun decorating

Family traditions are always special – I remember the excitement when my dad took down of our box of Christmas decorations from the loft each year! Whether you’re in novelty hats putting lights up outdoors, or snugly gathered together hanging Christmas stockings by the fire – capture these traditions as your family grows

3) Christmas jumpers & mistletoe

Mistletoe is the perfect prop for a couples Christmas shoot allowing plenty of kisses & laughter, while celebrating a (possibly) ancient Norse tradition. Add a festive winter woolly to keep you cozy for a fun-filled couples shoot

4) Pjs & favourite toys

Capture that Christmas morning feel with a relaxed session at home in your pjs. Add current favourite toys, or even (if you’ve been really good) open one gift early for that Christmas present joy & excitement

5) A visit to Santa

Santa’s pretty busy in December & can be found in magical grottos, farms with reindeer & even on the Polar Express. I love to capture the awe & excitement from stroking Rudolph, baking with Mrs Claus or telling Santa what they want for Christmas

And my wish list? This year I’m asking Santa for a Christmas photo session for furry friends (pets can be Christmassy!) & photographing a trip to choose, carry home & decorate your Christmas tree (bonus points if you cut it down yourself!)

I have limited dates available in London & Northumberland & I’d love to talk to you about your plans

Sile & Andrew’s wedding on the Thames

Sile & Andrew created a wonderfully personal wedding. They mixed Irish & English cultures & foods, incorporated literary references for English teacher Sile and nautical touches fitting for their wedding on the Tereza Joanne boat on the Thames. With beautiful stationery and welcoming words from talented friends they wished their guests céad míle fáilte – a hundred thousand welcomes. They described the day ahead as “the meeting and melding of two distinct cultures: Corkonian & Birkenheadian: Irish & English: Roy Keane & Dixie Dean”.

Waiting for the bride, Andrew was checking his gold pocket watch, kept company by gorgeous identical twin page boys looking dapper in bowties. Sile chose a beautiful tea length dress, the skirt covered with lace flowers, ‘something blue’ shoes and a nautical necklace. She asked both her parents to walk with her down the aisle for an intimate ceremony on deck. Later there were portraits on the dock against the London cityscape and then lots of speeches full of laughter. As the sun set, there was an incredible pink sky reflected in the water and Sile & Andrew snuck out with me to enjoy the last light of the day, before a private first dance on deck surrounded by the city lights and happily ever after cupcakes.

                                                        

You can see their wedding story:

Click to see more of my wedding photography, and if you’re looking for a wedding photographer I’d love to talk to you about your plans.

Romantic Iceland

Looking for the most romantic places in Iceland? Iceland is an incredible country filled with beauty, whether you’re looking for the perfect place to propose, a magical spot to elope, a wonderful wedding location or the honeymoon of your dreams. From majestic icebergs to soaring basalt, tumbling waterfalls to rocky reflections, safe harbours to culture central and spots to soak under the stars…. Here are my top 7 romantic Icelandic destinations:

Majestic Icebergs – Jökulsárlón

This may be the most magical place I’ve ever visited. As you drive along the south coast of Iceland from Reykjavik you suddenly round a corner to this amazing view. On your right is a beautiful black sand beach and on your left is a lake filled with icebergs – glacier lagoon. When the wind is low the water is still and calm giving perfect reflections of the incredible shapes and colours of the icebergs which calf from the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. There’s a small cafe, a nice spot to sit and watch the seals in the lake, you can stroll along the beach where icebergs sometimes wash up shining white against the black volcanic sand or wander around the lagoon until you find the perfect place.

Soaring Basalt – Reynisfjara, near Vik

This stretch of coast between Reykjavík and Jökulsárlón is a black pebble beach with a dramatic view and a beautiful backdrop. Looking out over the ocean you see Reynisdrangar – 66m high columns of volcanic rock that stand out of the Atlantic. According to legend these three pillars of rock are three trolls who stayed out too late and were frozen by the light as the sun rose. As a backdrop there’s an amazing pyramid shaped cliff of basalt columns.  There’s a shallow cave in the basalt rocks that allows you to tuck away out of the rain, look out at the sea stacks and admire the neatly stacked hexagonal columns up close.

Tumbling Waterfalls – Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss

Iceland has many beautiful waterfalls so there’s plenty of choice if you’re looking for romance by tumbling water. Whilst Gullfoss is the big name waterfall – if you’re looking for a slightly quieter spot I recommend Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss. These two waterfalls are between Vik & Reykjavík, near Skógar just off Route 1. Skógafoss is over 60m high and you can climb the rocky steps for a view from the top or walk by the foot of the falls and according to legend a chest of gold was hidden behind the waterfall. Seljalandsfoss falls into a deep pool and there’s a hidden path behind the water so (in summer) you can peer through a curtain of water out at the meadows surrounding it.

Rocky Reflections – Snaefellsnes Peninsular

The Snaefellsnes Peninsular includes spectacular scenery and some beautiful windswept churches. Búðakirkja, an unusual black wooden church in the village of Búðir and white-washed Hellnar church are two of my favourites. Further round you’ll find Djupalonssandur beach with its huge waves – and four lifting stones to show off your strength. Along the northern coast of the peninsular you’ll find fields full of jagged lava rocks – a crazy landscape like something from another planet, a mix of hardened spikes and moss-covered boulders. In the midst of the 4000 year old Berserkjahraun lava field is a sea inlet called Hraunsfjordur – its a quiet spot, sheltered by the hills providing stunning reflections.

Safe Harbour – Stykkishólmur

A picture perfect town set around a natural harbour on the North coast of the Snaefellsnes Peninsular.  With painted houses and reflections of coloured boats in the harbour it’s a lovely setting. You can walk out across the stone causeway to the basalt island of Súgandisey with a lighthouse and an incredible view across Breioafjorour – a broad fjord filled with small islands. Local legend says there are only two things in the world that can’t be counted – the stars in the sky and the craggy islets in the bay. Sitting up there enjoying the quiet and tranquillity you can at least try…

Culture Central – Reykjavík

If you’re looking for a pretty city spot you have plenty to choose from in Reykjavík. From Hallgrímskirkja, the immense concrete church designed to reflect the volcanic basalt columns, you can take the lift to the top of the 75m high tower for incredible views across the city. There’s also a quiet tree-lined avenue at the back of the church. Then there’s Harpa a beautiful concert hall also inspired by the natural basalt and featuring walls of coloured glass panels right by the ocean, particularly striking at night. Or for quirky al fresco dining don’t miss the world’s best hot dogs at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, the little shack by the harbour – buy them two at a time… otherwise you’ll simply rejoin the queue as soon as you’ve eaten the first one!

Soak under the Stars – Blue Lagoon

Finally, not far from Reykjavík, you can find the incredible Blue Lagoon. An outdoor pool filled with geothermal water from 2,000 metres below the earth’s surface and rich in silica, algae and minerals. It’s generally a toasty 37-40°C year round and although the water is actually white, the silica reflects the sunlight to give the blue colour of the lagoon’s name – although it’s often hidden by all the steam. With additional spa options available it’s a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the fresh air in comfort no matter the weather. You need to book in advance but they are open from 7 or 8am to 10pm or midnight depending on the time of year, so for extra romance you can even enjoy the lagoon at night under the stars.

To combine all of these, I’d recommend flying into Reykjavík, driving East to Vik to visit Reynisfjara, then travelling further East to Jökulsárlón. Head back West via Skógafoss & Seljalandsfoss. Explore Reykjavík further before heading West out to Snaefellsnes peninsular including a stop at Stykkishólmur then make your way back to the capital, ending your trip by soaking aching muscles in the Blue Lagoon.

                                                

I’ve made several trips to Iceland and I’m keen to go back! If you’re planning an Icelandic proposal, elopement or wedding I’d love to talk to you about capturing your special memories in this incredible country.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com

Top garden wedding venues in London

Looking for a garden wedding venue in London? There’s something so romantic about a garden wedding – but you might not know these very different garden venues in Central London… Whatever your style there’s a garden to fit – from tropical roof terraces to secret walled gardens, urban jungles to quirky garden centres, huge botanical greenhouses to the smallest Royal Palace. Here are my top 5 garden venues in the capital:

The Tropical Garden – The Roof Gardens

Walking in Kensington you’d never know that up on the rooftop there’s a tropical paradise – and once you’re there you’ll forget you’re in London. On the 6th floor of the building you find beautiful garden complete with terraces and courtyards, archways and streams… and flamingos! There are three distinct styles of garden. First a Spanish garden based on the Alhambra with pastel buildings and formal symmetrical layout of paths and waterways, colourful flowers, palms and elegant cypress trees. Then a Tudor Garden comprising elegant arched walkways and three walled courtyards shaded by large umbrellas. Finally, an English Woodland Garden with a twist – thousands of bulbs under the trees, a grassy lawn and winding stream complete with exotic ducks and flamingos.

In the centre of these three gardens is a clubhouse with large windows looking out onto the garden, which is licensed for civil ceremonies (up to 150 guests). You can hire the garden exclusively (100 guests or more) for your ceremony and reception.

  

The Secret Garden – Chelsea Physic Garden

This hidden gem, a secret walled garden, is right in the heart of Chelsea. London’s oldest botanic gardens, it was founded in 1673 and is tucked away by the Thames. With beautiful greenhouses, lawns for lounging and little winding paths through the flowers it’s perfect for romantic walks and relaxed wedding portraits. The garden itself has a warm microclimate so you can stroll in comfort, admiring over 100 different species of trees, ponds full of water lilies and romantic secluded benches surrounded by climbing plants.

Although the garden isn’t licensed for civil ceremonies the central location means it’s only a 10 minute walk from the beautiful Chelsea Old Town Hall where there are rooms to suit every ceremony size (from 8 guests in the Harrington Room up to 360 in the Main Hall). You can exclusively hire the whole garden on Saturdays so your guests are free to explore, if you have more than 90 guests then a marquee is advisable.

 

The Urban Jungle Barbican Conservatory

If you love the idea of garden wedding but want to keep an urban feel to your day, then the Barbican Conservatory is the place for you. The Barbican is a Grade II listed building which opened in 1982. As one of the most iconic Brutalist buildings in the world, it’s distinctive with a very urban style. However, hidden away is a tropical jungle in the Barbican Conservatory. This magical and unexpected space is full of light from the walls of windows and glass roof skylights offering views of the city skyline. It is home to over 2000 species of tropical plants, succulents and palm trees. There are even pools of terrapins and exotic fish – a true urban jungle.

The Conservatory is licensed to host wedding ceremonies and the adjoining Garden Room, with its floor to ceiling windows, can seat up to 250 guests for a reception with an incredible view.

     

The Quirky Working Garden – Petersham Nurseries

A wonderful mix of greenhouses, flowers and antiques – Petersham Nurseries is tucked away between the river and Richmond Park. They have a range of different spaces from a courtyard covered in vines, wisteria and roses perfect for al fresco dining (up to 85 guests), to a cosy little greenhouse that heats up so much it’s best for October-May weddings (up to 44 guests). Their main restaurant (up to 140 guests) is a beautiful glasshouse scented by bougainvillea and jasmine and decorated in a quirky style with a range of antique furniture, statement mirrors and pieces of art – a veritable treasure trove.

Although they don’t have a licence for civil ceremonies they are only a 13 minute drive from York House a 17th century Grade II listed building on the banks of the Thames. There you can have your ceremony in the Terrace Room (up to 50 guests) with french doors opening out onto the terrace, the Loggia Room (up to 75 guests) overlooking the garden, or the Salon (up to 70 guests). Alternatively, St Peter’s Church in Petersham is just round the corner less than 5 minutes walk. You can exclusively hire the nurseries (50 guests or more) so your guests are free to explore, and delicious food is provided with vegetables, herbs & edible flowers grown in the walled garden.

The Biggest Garden – Kew Gardens

Probably the best known and certainly the biggest London garden, this UNESCO world heritage site has the largest and most diverse collection of living plants in the world. Featuring the Palm House, a huge Victorian glasshouse filled with tropical plants in a rainforest climate and acres of landscaped garden, it’s a botanist’s dream.

You can get married at Kew Gardens in a civil ceremony (up to 200 guests) in the stunning Nash Conservatory – with a glass roof and floor to ceiling windows on three sides you’ll feel like you’re getting married outside. If you opt for a religious wedding ceremony this can take place in the Sir Joseph Banks building (up to 200 guests) with large windows giving a view out over the lake. For a drinks reception with a difference you can visit the Princess of Wales Conservatory a large glasshouse containing ten different climatic zones, raised walkways and ponds. The 18th century grade I listed Orangery, with high ceilings and grand arched windows, is the spot for dinner and dancing.

Alternatively for smaller celebrations you can have your civil ceremony (up to 80 guests) and reception (up to 120 guests) in Cambridge Cottage a former royal residence with a drawing room and a gallery of botanic artwork opening onto a quiet and secluded garden. Or in Britain’s smallest Royal Palace – Kew Palace. Set in the quiet Queen’s Garden within Kew Gardens, this red limewashed palace offers a variety of rooms available for your reception (up to 60 guests or 30 for dinner).

     

I love garden weddings, especially when the venue lets your personality shine through. I’d love to talk to you about your perfect venue and how I can photograph the story of your day.

www.hannahlarkinphotography.com