If you’re getting married at Chateau Soulac (lucky things) and you’re looking for a Chateau Soulac wedding photographer then good news, you’ve come to the right place.
I first visited the Chateau when the lovely couple, whose wedding is featured here, invited me along on a road trip to view their shortlisted French wedding venues, of which Chateau Soulac was a strong contender. So important was photography to Sarah and Phil, they wanted to get my perspective as a photographer on how photogenic each venue was to help with their decision making. I mean, talk about the ideal client!
We flew into Bordeaux, hopped in a rental car and embarked on a fab three days driving around to different chateaus in the South West of France. You generally can’t go wrong with a French chateau as they all have their own version of charm whether its rustic or opulent. They settled on the fabulous Chateau Soulac for the all round winning package it offers, and its perfect mix of modern French chic with medieval charm. A special thanks to the owner Jo for showing us around and making us feel so at home there. If photos are super important to you too then read on to the end for my round up of how it feels from a photographer’s perspective to photograph a wedding at Chateau Soulac. If you’d like to see how Sarah & Phil’s day panned out at Chateau Soulac then play their highlights slideshow below, with music on if you can, as it’s always so much nicer a viewing experience.
“Simply stunning – we just can’t thank you enough – we are IN LOVE with them!”
Chateau Soulac – the perfect French wedding venue?
If you love the idea of getting away from it all to some place nice and rural, then Chateau Soulac is set in 8 hectares of grounds and you get the whole place too yourself. That’s plenty of space to enjoy the peace and quiet. Interestingly it started its life as a 14th Century Monastery and Chapel so if it was peaceful enough for the monks…
As a side note, for a while it also formed part of the French National Stud. Some of the original stables from the studdery are still in tact so ‘romance’ is part of its heritage…take care on your first night folks and warn your guests, just saying! I’ve quite possibly gone too far with this remark but it will be a good test of our compatibility so I’m going to take the risk and leave it in!
About an hour’s drive from Bordeaux and even less from Bergerac airport, Chateau Soulac is easy to get to. It stands high on a rock formation overlooking the Dordogne river and valley which offer fabulous views for reception drinks from the terrace to welcome your guests when they arrive. And if you’re like Sarah and Phil and lucky enough to get a sunset that looks like Mother Nature just took an art class, then you’re all in for a treat.
One of the beauties of having your wedding at Chateau Soulac are the flexible accommodation options. It can sleep up to 22 guests in assorted arrangements within the main cheateau and its three apartments around the Pool, the Perch and the Gate House, so your closest friends and family can move in for the few days and properly make a mini-break of it with you.
Despite its rural location, you’re not short of things to do in the area. From canoeing on the Dordogne, cycling, golfing, day-tripping into Bordeaux, and most significantly of all, wine tasting. Chateau Soulac is surrounded by wineries but the infamous world heritage site of Saint-Emilion is just 30 minutes away, and it would be rude not to drop in and sample some of the local produce, and maybe take some home with you too. Special thanks to Phil for being our designated driver on our road trip, meaning we were able to do just that…I am pleased to report its every bit as deserving of its reputation.
The wedding venue that has it all
When you’ve finished taking in the sights of the Bordeaux region, and its time for the big event, your guests have just as much beauty to explore in the grounds of Chateau Soulac itself. The long, tree-lined drive makes for an impressive entrance, after which you’re greeted by the symmetrically pleasing visage of the house, perfectly in line with the grassy courtyard in front. As a photographer I’m a sucker for symmetry so this front aspect was the perfect backdrop for quite a few of my photos that day.
Indoor or Outdoor Ceremony
For the ceremony, you have the choice of where to hold it. You can get married inside one of the barns, where there’s great light from the front, providing shelter from either the sun or the rain, should you need it. Alternatively you can be outside in the open courtyard under the shade of the trees and in full view of the house.
It was beautifully sunny the weekend of Sarah and Phil’s wedding so they opted for an al fresco ceremony with the chairs laid out on either side of the lawn to form the aisle. It was a bit of a scorcher come the afternoon so they thoughtfully provide fans and some parasols for their less heat/sun tolerant guests. I can’t get enough of it myself but I realize I am in the minority like that. I can most likely count on one hand the times I’ve actively chosen to sit in the shade…in fact, no, I’m not sure I ever have ‘chosen’ to, but I digress.
The morning started out nice and cool with a little mist over the valley…but it was one of those days you could tell it was going to burn off quickly. Sarah and all her bridesmaids and flower girls joined her in the bridal suite, which was the most gorgeous, subtle shade of blue. Jo and Liz were working their magic creating cool up-do’s and natural, subtle make up, perfect for the hot day lying ahead. With the high ceilings and tall windows the room was flooded with oodles of natural light and views out over the valley, perfect for shooting different perspectives of what’s going on both inside and outside. I love the image of Sarah’s dad keeping her nieces entertained outside while she had her makeup done inside. These layers in an image really do it for me, where you capture more than one moment happening in the frame.
Over at Groom quarters, on the account of Phil being the most popular man in the universe, it was going to be a tight squeeze capturing him and all of his 14 groomsmen getting ready in his room. On my venue walk around the previous day I’d clocked the amazing soft light filling one of the open sided barns. It was light, airy and spacious made the perfect dressing room with a view for all the guys, and a nice, cool space for them to enjoy a little tipple before the ceremony.
Preceded by her bridesmaids and maid of honour in lovely jade green and emerald dresses, Sarah made the long walk through the cool corridors of the house. With her dad by her side, she emerged into the bright sunlight and made her way down the rose petal-lined aisle, to a Phil who could barely contain his excitement. There may have been a crowd-pleasing ‘get-in’ style fist-clench seeing the girl he was about to marry sporting the biggest smile, which she wore just as radiantly as her stunning Pronovias dress.
They exchanged their vows under the relative cool shade of the tree, officiated by their good friend Ed, which made for a relaxed, heart-warming and at times hilarious ceremony. Sarah’s sister and maid of honour delivered a beautiful reading next to a vintage wine barrel decorated with a gorgeous arrangement of white roses and hydrangeas supplied by the supremely talented Fairy Fleur.
After the ceremony, the new Mr & Mrs B and their guests headed to the terrace at the back of the house where the cool drinks couldn’t have been more welcomed. A particular favourite was the gin table where you could unleash your inner barista and create your own, with a plethora of craft gins and unusual tonic waters to choose from – delicious!
Dinner and speeches, ably managed by their friend and master of ceremonies Glyn, were held in another of the barns. The tables simply but beautifully decorated with white flowers, sprigs of lavender from the venues own bushes, votive candles for a delicate warm glow and a mini-limoncello shot to give the guests their very own inner glow!
An ankle-breakingly good party!
The same barn later became the scene for some epic dance offs, crowd surfing and general tom-foolery, which ‘may’ have resulted in Phil breaking his ankle, but that wasn’t going to stop him enjoying the best party of his life. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is dedication to the cause. It did mean him spending a little bit of time in hospital the next morning but he got the most rapturous applause as he hobbled in on crutches to the pool party the next day. Sarah may been less enamoured about spending the rest of their honeymoon as the designated driver, waiting hand and foot on Phil but that’s true love for you – in hindsight, that may have been an unknowingly fortuitous move on his part!
Chateau Soulac from a wedding photographer’s perspective
So clearly Sarah and Phil had the time of their life getting married at Chateau Soulac and it would be difficult not to. They were at a beautiful venue, with most of their favourite people in the entire universe and they had glorious weather to go with it. However, in my many years experience of shooting weddings, its not always the top venues and locations that make for the best photos. A lot of it can depend on things like the lighting, or access to the most photogenic areas, and sometimes even the attitude of the staff. So how was it at Chateau Soulac? In a word…
First of all it was access all areas, with all the onsite staff being extremely welcoming, helpful and involved. From showing us around the house and vineyards, to fetching a step ladder for the big group photo, they helped make life so much easier.
Beautifully kept grounds
The grounds were impeccably kept with amazing views, so a lot of epic, scenic vistas to work with. All around the venue there’s a plethora of interesting touches, from rustic lanterns, to big urn planters, wine barrels to creeping vines on the walls. Immaculately kept lavender bushes provided that authentically French vineyard feel, and everywhere you looked there were artifacts to make nice backdrops, or provide great foreground interest to shoot through.
The main rooms of the house had such tall ceilings and big windows allowing lots of natural light to flood in which makes for really flattering light for getting ready photos in particular. I’m also a fan of dark spaces with pockets of light to create a more dramatic feel to the photo. The long corridor leading to the room where Sarah got ready, with the big window at the end, was one of my favourite indoor spots, which wouldn’t be the obvious choice to the untrained eye. I took some lovely pictures of Sarah playing with her dress right there before her father walked her down that corridor to give her away.
In essence, all the areas within the control of the venue are superb and an absolute delight to work with. On the day, there will always be some variables that are less controllable, such as the weather that can affect how your photos will turn out. With it being such a bright, sunny day, at the time of day that Sarah and Phil held their ceremony, the only challenge from a photographers perspective was managing the extreme contrast between the couple standing in the shade of the tree, with half the guests behind them sitting in bright sunlight, and the other half sitting in shade.
With conditions like this there is little you can do to expose everyone well in camera, so I exposed for the highlights, the brightest part of the frame (all the white parasols) meaning that I would have to lift all the shadows in post production. What that meant in practice was that on my view finder, all the key action of Sarah and Phil making their life long promises to each other was almost completely black, and I had no way of knowing if I had truly captured those moments, with both of their eyes open, smiling lovingly at each other, until I could get to my editing screen. Shooting through the key moments, and putting that shutter to good use, is even more paramount in situations like this and fortunately what I saw in the editing suite perfectly captured the goodies I witnessed happening right in front of me…which is always a relief.
I’m a true sun worshipper, almost a slave to its rays, but bright sunshine at weddings and the shadows it creates does mean you have to think a lot harder about how to make nice photos. As my approach is predominantly documentary its definitely not my style to ask guests to move out from the dappled light and fully into the shade to make my photo look cleaner, or to ask the bride to take a step forward during the ceremony so that the white of her dress isn’t blown out in the image. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and watch, and wait for things to happen naturally and be prepared to go take that photo again when all the elements naturally line up. It means constantly observing when you’re in reportage mode, and then when you’re in a position of control, say during the group photos or couple portraits, its about embracing the hard light and looking for interesting ways to harness it to create something magical.
Direct line to Mother Nature
Golden hour. Ahhhh, its my absolute favourite time of day at a wedding. It’s the one hour just before the sun is due to set, and the one time of day guaranteed to have your photographer poking their head outside just to see what the light is doing. And oh my goodness, at Sarah and Phil’s wedding we were blessed with the most amazing golden light so I whisked them off for a quick portrait session Child in a sweetie shop didn’t even come close to explaining how excitable I was, seeing the magical images we were getting with the sun setting low over the valley, enveloping their bodies with soft, warm halos. Mother nature was on fire that evening, and definitely deserved an A+ for the art she painted in the sky that evening – fiery red, burning orange and the deepest blues had all the guests spilling out onto the terrace with their sundowners, as I made one of my all time favourite silhouette shots with the richest coloured sky.
If you are lucky enough to be blessed with golden light and a mesmerizing sunset on your wedding day, then Chateau Soulac gifts you so many different vantage points to bask in that warm light and make some truly unforgettable images. Even if it doesn’t though, it matters not – there’s so much to work with at Chateau Soulac that your photos will be incredible anyway. Better still, investing in a skilled photographer experienced with using artificial light as well as natural light, means the world is your garlic-infused oyster and we can even make you a golden hour if you really, really want! I’m a fan of keeping it largely authentic but a little bit of playtime and creative fun does no one any harm, especially if you come out with a cracker of an image to adorn your living room wall!
I genuinely had the most amazing time and would go back in a heartbeat to capture more wonderful images at this gem of a wedding venue. So if you’re looking for a Chateau Soulac wedding photographer please do watch the slideshow above if you haven’t already, to see the kind of collection I could create for you, and if you like what you see, then please do click the button below to get in touch and check my availability…I’d love to hear from you.
Special thanks to this amazing team of fellow suppliers who made this wedding an absolute dream.
Venue Owner: Jo Bussell
In-house planner and coordinator: Sue Christie at Chateau Soulac
Hair: Hair by Jo France
Make Up: Liz Harbottle
Shoes: Carvela at Kurt Geiger
Jewellery: Monica Vinader
Groom’s Suit: Reiss
Flowers and Table Centrepieces: Jenny Fairbanks Flowers – Fairy Fleur
Stationary: Dimitria Jordan
Wedding Cake: Jane Bedford
And just to leave you with a few more images, what better way to round off an amazing long weekend with your favourite people than at a BBQ and pool party…even if you are somewhat incapacitated!
If you’ve reached this far and you still want to see more then check out one of my weddings at one of the other venues that was on Sarah and Phil’s shortlist. Its another cracker of a French venue – Chateau Blomac – and Julia and Faris had the time of their life there too!