Dan & Nicki’s Autumnal Wedding at Raven Hall
Dan and Nicki hold a special place in our hearts. Our connection with them goes back over 16 years when Lisa and I worked alongside Dan at the Middlesborough branch of Olan Mills. It was Dan, along with his best man Andrew, who beautifully captured the moments of my wedding back in 2007. Nicki, even with her then-newborn Brooke, always ensured that everything went smoothly during that special day. So when Dan and Nicki approached us to photograph their wedding at the magnificent Raven Hall near Scarborough, we were absolutely thrilled.
After a whirlwind summer following the lifting of restrictions, we faced some challenges. Lisa had recently recovered from a bout of COVID-19 and had also injured her back in quick succession. With this in mind, the idea of driving 100 miles to Raven Hall near Scarborough, starting at 9 a.m., shooting for a solid 12 hours, and then making the journey back home on the same day felt a bit overwhelming. Lisa, in her wisdom, suggested tapping into her Sea Cadet connections to secure us free overnight accommodation. She described it as a newly built hostel where she had stayed before. So, with Lisa taking charge of the arrangements, we set out for Scarborough the night before Dan and Nicki’s wedding.
Spooky Lodgings and a Night Out in Scarborough
As we arrived at the address Lisa had directed us to, I couldn’t shake that sinking feeling. She might have executed what I affectionately call a “Lisa” – a quirky, unexpected twist in our plans. The supposed newly built hostel turned out to be a repurposed old church, now serving as a Sea Cadet Hall. It was a far cry from what we had envisioned, and Lisa had mistakenly recalled staying at an entirely different unit. To say the place had an eerie atmosphere would be an understatement. To make matters more unsettling, we were the only occupants in this unconventional lodging. Our sleeping quarters consisted of foam mattresses on the floor, and the bathroom felt like it was straight out of a Victorian-era primary school.
However, rather than dwell on the peculiar circumstances, we decided to embrace the adventure. We ventured out to Scarborough’s seafront, making the most of our unique situation. It was as if we had the entire town to ourselves. This happened to be just three days before Halloween. We had a blast exploring the deserted amusement arcades and quaint gift shops. Turning an unexpected turn of events into a memorable and whimsical escapade.
Needless to say, our night at the unconventional Sea Cadet Hall didn’t afford us much sleep. Despite the advantage of saving ourselves a two-hour drive that morning, we knew we had an early start ahead of us. To kickstart the day, we treated ourselves to a hearty Wetherspoon’s breakfast before making our way to Raven Hall. We hadn’t had the chance to visit the hall prior to this day due to its considerable distance from our homes. It quickly revealed itself as a truly captivating venue.
This 19th-century hotel is nestled amid meticulously landscaped gardens, offering sweeping panoramic views of the picturesque North Yorkshire coastline. Nicki and her daughters, Brooke and Halle, had enjoyed a comfortable stay at one of Raven Hall’s charming lodges. Lisa headed to their lodgings. I took the opportunity to explore the hall’s enchanting grounds and awaited Dan’s arrival, excited to commence the wedding photography for this wonderful couple.
How many blokes can get ready in a Raven Hall hotel room?
Dan and Andrew made their journey from Middlesborough to Raven Hall, where they were warmly greeted by their family. I followed behind with a group of five male family members. Our destination turned out to be what could very well have been the most compact room in the entire hotel for getting ready. To say it was cramped would be an understatement. We made the most of the tight quarters and helped with some cheeky shots of JD.
Two Excited Young Ladies
The girls of course weren’t slumming it. Nicki had everything organised and her daughters were beyond excited. They had been waiting their whole lives for their mam & dad to get their act together and tie the knot. There was a lot of dancing going on with the other bridesmaids, flower girls & pageboy. Remembering Brooke as a newborn at my wedding was making us feel very old too.
A pair of Jokers
Imagine two very good friends who have photographed dozens of weddings themselves suddenly on the other side of the camera. They were having a whale of a time at my expense. They took the mick out of every pose I suggested. It was like controlling two naughty schoolboys and me the stand-in teacher. Everything I was doing to impress my friend on his wedding day was lovingly turned into a meme.
The North Yorkshire Coast at Its Best
After a beautiful ceremony, we took everyone out to brave the autumn air for some groups. The views were stunning. Can you spot Robin Hood’s Bay in the background? The weather had been a worry leading up to the wedding. But aside from a cool stiff breeze the grey cloud only added to the dramatic scenery. Everyone was great sports. We got the groups finished surprisingly quickly. Leaving loads of time to steal Dan & Nicki away to make the most of the Raven Hall grounds.
In a picturesque setting at Raven Hall, we guided Nicki and Dan along the cliffside battlements. Offering a stunning backdrop for their photographs. Below, a curious audience of seals dotted the beach, adding a touch of natural charm to the scenery. For a brief moment, the sun graced us with its presence. Gifting us some of the most unforgettable images we had captured all year.
Nicki showcased immense resilience, braving the brisk autumn breeze, especially as we ventured closer to the cliffs. Her determination and poise amidst the elements made for truly remarkable shots. As we made our way back to the hotel, the timing couldn’t have been better—Brooke and Halle joined us, completing this delightful quartet.
An Autumn-Themed Wedding Breakfast
Nicki and Dan poured their creativity and personal touch into every aspect of their wedding, making it truly unique. They had a do-it-yourself approach to room decorations, using a wood engraver purchased on eBay to craft intricate details. Half a forest’s worth of materials was ingeniously repurposed for everything from the seating chart to personalized table mats. The pumpkins, offering a subtle nod to Halloween, added a whimsical touch, and the tables were brimming with activities to keep the little ones entertained.
We’ve heard stories of the best man running off with a bridesmaid but with the groom?
With Andrew’s speech successfully delivered, the playful side of Dan and him emerged once again, engaging in their customary mischief. It’s no surprise that Nicki occasionally worries about their antics. Now that she’s got a ring on her finger, it’s time for Andrew to understand that Dan is no longer on the market!
In response to their rather outrageous behaviour, Nicki decided to simply overlook the duo and instead celebrated with her more mature and composed friends. We made the most of the stunning views that the day had to offer. Squeezing every last drop of daylight out of this beautiful autumn day.
Night at Raven Hall
In 2021, sparklers had become a popular addition to many weddings, adding a touch of magic and charm to the festivities. However, it’s important to remember that while they sound like a fantastic idea, you’re essentially entrusting red-hot fireworks to guests who might have indulged a bit too much and in the dimly lit surroundings of the evening.
Dan’s recent “barbecue” incident, which left him with severe burns and necessitated a trip to the hospital, was a stark reminder of the potential dangers. Given this, Nicki was in full “mama bear” mode when she noticed that some of Dan’s friends were getting a little too carefree with the sparklers, perhaps not fully appreciating the risks. Nicki has a way of conveying her protective concern with just a glance, but in a situation like this, someone needed to play the role of the guardian, ensuring that Dan didn’t get into any more mishaps and that the wedding remained a joyful and safe celebration for all.
We had an amazing day with Nicki & Dan (& Andrew). Most of the wedding party were at least 5 shots down when Lisa & I had to call it a night and face the 2-hour drive home. It had been a mad, barmy adventure reminiscent of our old Olan Mills days.
Nicki had commented on how much she loved our blog posts and I promised her we’d write one for her. We never dreamed we’d be so busy that it would be days before their second anniversary before it was complete…. but we wish you both the very best and hope to see you all very soon.