Through the lens: Recommended Hampshire & Dorset Wedding Venues for 2021
Updated: Mar 23
Lately I have photographed weddings at some positively breathtaking locations across the country but I'd like to concentrate on my top 10 favourite local venues to photograph based in Hampshire and Dorset and give you some of the reasons why they made my list.
#10 The Domus, Beaulieu, Hampshire
The Domus in Beaulieu is situated on the grounds of Beaulieu motor museum and is a short walk from Beaulieu river and the village. Steeped in history, couples that choose to have their wedding here have a beautiful backdrop for their photos and are able to have use of the quirky museum within the Domus for their welcome drinks. If the weather is good the couple and their guests have exclusive use of the cloisters (a private garden outside the Domus with beautiful arches which lend themselves well to group shots). There are plenty of opportunities for couples photos with several gardens, fountains and points of interest on the grounds as well as the river just outside. There is a lovers lock tree in which couples can fastened an engraved lock with their initials and wedding date for a permanent reminder that they can revisit for years to come.
The weddings I have photographed at the Domus have been in the winter months and the Domus looks lovely and cosy at this time of Year. During the winter months the big fire is lit which adds a magical atmosphere to proceedings. The tapestries on the walls also lend a magical, medieval vibe which is likely to be remembered by your guests for years to come.
Things to consider when choosing this venue
If you're booking this venue in the winter months it's important to bear in mind that the light will be limited and the sun will set early. There aren't any ideal places inside the building for group shots so ensure your photographer has a plan to accommodate the group shots and couples pictures before the sun sets and a back up plan should it rain. They may need to bring extra lighting with them should inside shots be the only option.
The bar area in the museum below where welcome drinks are offered can get quite busy for medium to large weddings parties. It's great for mixing and milling around but the best photos will not be achieved in this area.
The main banquet room upstairs has beautiful tall ceilings and dark castle-like walls. This can be difficult for an inexperienced or natural light photographer as the ability to bounce the on camera flash is limited. Your photographer will either need a camera and equipment which has amazing low-light capability or use the aid of off- camera flash and external lights to mitigate any lighting issues. The trick is to have enough light that pictures are not too grainy but to maintain the atmosphere of the day.
The real wood fires are a real talking point and a beautiful focal point for photographs but the heat that comes off the fires does not heat the entire room so that guests with less warm clothing end up gravitating towards the fire. It's worth considering having blankets on hand or advising guests to bring shawls and jackets. Once the dancing begins the temperature of the room is never an issue.
The winter weddings I have photographed here been spectacular events to remember, however, I would love to photograph a wedding here in the spring or summer as the flowers on the grounds are beautiful at that time of year!
#9 Parley Manor, Dorset
Parley Manor is an enchanting Georgian manor house situated near Bournemouth airport in Dorset but is surprisingly quiet and secluded considering it's proximity to the airport. The grounds are set far from the road and off the beaten track.
There is a great area to the side of the house which can be used for the big group shot. Just ensure that if you choose this venue your photographer is not afraid of heights and is amenable to signing a waiver as this will be required when climbing on the roof from one of the bedroom windows to achieve the perfect group shot.
The grounds are a real focal point, adorned with flowers and areas of interest such as statues, bridges and benches which make stunning photographs. There is also a cornfield on the grounds which is great for couples shots.
The area where the ceremony is held is beautifully unique with it's roman inspired columns and drapery and the whole area lets in a lot of natural light.
The marquee where the reception is held is great for natural light and for bouncing light later on in the evening so there is no need for your photographer to bring lots of extra cumbersome lighting equipment.
#8 Audleys Wood
Audleys Wood is located in Basingstoke. The hotel is part of the handpicked group . Inside is decorated in a traditional and opulent style. This is definitely a sophisticated venue.
The bedrooms for bridal prep are a nice size and have a good quality of natural light as well as a fairy-tale four poster bed. It's important to consider room size and light when choosing your venue if the bridal preparation photos are important to you. I have photographed in very small rooms with a very large bridal entourage of bridesmaids and aunties and mother/mother in laws. The paraphernalia which accompany such groups can be expansive and although I try my best to clear some of this away when setting up a shot, most of my shots are of a candid style and clutter can often be unavoidable in a smaller room.
The ceremony room has a light an airy feel which lends itself perfectly to natural light photography. The ceiling are nice and tall and all angles are accessible including a viewpoint from the mezzanine style balcony.
I photographed a wedding here in 2019 which you can read about in Your Hampshire and Dorset wedding magazine. The wedding reception was held in a marquee on the grounds. The marquee was spacious with it's own bar and dance floor and amenities such as toilets were on site so guests need not walk up to the main hotel. The grounds are ensconced in trees with a picturesque field to the back. There are plenty of lovely places for couples shots and the evening light falls in the most enchanting of places which make for some spectacular golden hour shots if you are lucky with the weather!
# 7 Sopley Mill
Sopley Mill is a beautiful wedding venue located in Christchurch. It still maintains some stunning original features such as the old water mill and beautiful beams.
The suite set aside for bridal prep is everything you would want as a bride getting ready for the big day. The room is light and airy with ornate and full length mirrors perfect for photos. When I photographed here the spacious suite had plenty of room to accommodate the bride, bridesmaids, mother of the bride, flower girl, page boy and several visitors throughout the morning.
The ceremony room also has lovely light and is turned over later to become the room with the bar and dance floor.
the area where welcome drinks are served downstairs is quaint and in keeping with the feel of the venue. The original feature of the old water mill is visible from here. Space may be an issue if you had a large bridal party and the weather wasn't favourable.
There's a space at the side of the building for that all important group shot and plenty of places nearby, beyond the grounds for couples shots.
# 6 Highcliffe castle
One of my favourite venues is Highcliffe castle. Highcliffe castle has undergone restoration and a face lift over the last few years.The castle has a fairytale atheistic and is also set just above a beautiful beach. What more could you want? I have photographed a couple of weddings at this venue and am still struck by the beautiful ceremony room. Tall ceilings and glass window make the light ideal for photographs. The grounds are very pretty and include a mini hedge maze which is fun for the kids. The banquet room has a cozy feel and is always beautifully decorated with a separate room for the dance floor for those guests wishing to boogie the night away.
#5 Rhinefield House, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
The Rhinefield has been on my radar since I was a little girl. I can remember having afternoon tea here and watching a wedding party thinking "one day...!" This is another ideal fairytale venue set in the heart of the new forest. Guests will be impressed with the scenic drive up to the venue where they are bound to come across new forest ponies and other wildlife. In the Autumn the trees take on gorgeous hues of golds and reds and in the summer the weather will allow for a more alfresco wedding in the beautiful grounds. This venue is not short on photo opportunity locations within the grounds but also has the beautiful backdrop of the new forest and Rhinefield ornaments drive. I know this location well as I often take families and couples here for photo shoots.
The opulent interior is ornately decorated and the main reception room which is later cleared for the dance floor has a tall ceiling, beautiful chandelier and a view from the gallery great for shooting from an alternative angle or for the group shot should the weather be adverse. The only thing to consider when selecting a photographer for this venue is that if you have chosen a wedding in the winter months when the daylight hours are shorter, the dark paneled walls mean that some professional cameras may not perform well with the natural light alone and the low ceilings mean that bouncing light from an on camera flash will not be a viable option. Ask your photographer how they intend to mitigate this.
#4 Master Ship Builders, Beaulieu, Hampshire
The Master Ship builders in Beaulieu is a traditional and quirky location set on the edge of Beaulieu river and within the picturesque Bucklers Hard village. The hotel is luxurious and tastefully decorated to include many original features. Guests will be wowed by the scenery and there is also the opportunity to treat your guests to a boat ride on the river. I had the privilege to photograph a wedding here with such a boat ride and it was a really enjoyable experience.
The bedrooms are the original rooms so are quite cosy so may not be able to accokodate a large bridal party comfortably. The light was good though and with some rearranging of people and extra though put into composition, beautiful bridal prep pictures are achievable here.
the ceremony room looks particularly enchanting when adorned in fairy lights which create a beautiful bokeh effect in the photos.
The grounds are perfectly maintained, with trellis arches and shady areas of trees and a winding path which leads to the river.
#3 Avington Park
Avington park reminds me of a quintessentially Jane Austen style manor house. Mr Darcey would not look out of place cantering around the grounds on his stallion. the grounds are expansive here and the prospect from the road is breathtaking. There is the option to have the wedding inside or alfresco in the summer. The location for outdoor ceremonies is truly stunning, framed by large columns. The wedding I photographed here recently had a reception which was held in a marquee on the grounds with the dance floor located in the main house. The two locations were connected seamlessly as the outdoor space between was used for guests to convene and mix. This is an ideal location for a summer wedding.
There are so many beautiful locations within the grounds to take the happy couple for romantic pictures. These include a picturesque bridge and the road leading into the hotel which is surrounded by tree.
#2 Northbrook Park
Northbrook Park is massively popular. I photographed two weddings here within the space of two weeks. This is definitely a favourite of mine as the ceremony room has the wow factor and the grounds are packed with so many beautiful locations for coupes photo. At golden hour the light hits in all the right places.
If you are considering this venue, I would definitely recommend the bridal apartment for the bridal prep as opposed to the onsite accommodation. The bridal apartment boasts a beautiful bathroom and a light an airy bedroom with a four poster bed. The on-site accommodation is great for guests but they are generally darker for photographs and the bedroom can be a squeeze, making capturing shots of the bride getting ready quite tricky.
The reception room is spacious and has plenty of room for the dance floor. There is a pretty, private garden adjacent to the reception venue and majestic peacocks roam the grounds.
#1 Mapperton House
In all my years photographing weddings have never seen such spectacular grounds than the grounds at Mapperton House in Dorchester. I lucked out with this venue and this beautiful couple. This venue is a feast for the eyes enveloped in greenery, colorful flora, and beautiful water features. On top of this there is a beautiful orangery and many stone nooks and hideaways.
The private cottage for bridal prep located on the grounds is surprisingly spacious and perfect for those bridal prep shots.
The wedding ceremony I photographed here was held in the main garden with the bride and groom saying their vows under the gazebo.
The wedding reception took place in the beautiful barn. The tall ceilings and rustic brick walls made for a spectacular venue and the large windows cast a beautiful natural light upon the reception.