A few miles off the south coast of Portsmouth, Spitbank Fort is a completely unique exclusive wedding venue. When I first met Hazel and Ben two years before their wedding, and they told me where they planned to get married, I immediately said yes. I have wanted to work as a wedding photographer at Spitbank Fort for quite a while, and the plans they had for their day were incredible, I always knew it was going to be a truly memorable day, though none of us knew just how unforgettable it would be! It was a real privilege to cover Hazel and Ben’s Spitbank Fort wedding photography.
Hazel grew up in the village of Fawley, near Calshot, and her family have always been keen sailors, so it was only fitting that when she decided to get married, then the celebrations just had to have a nautical feel, and to be at sea, and there is nowhere quite like Spitbank Fort to fit the bill! The history of the Fort is quite incredible, being built in 1867 to defend Portsmouth from a possible French invasion, and it is a marvel of engineering, with its impenetrable walls. The naval history here is incredible, and there is a real sense of place, as you look out over the Solent in a 360 degree panorama.
After a long hot and dry summer, the day started wet and then got progressively wetter, to the point where the rain at the church was almost biblical in proportion, and we had to run through ankle deep water to get to the ferry. One thing I loved about this wedding was that no-one was fazed by this at all, it was part of the day, and one very exciting adventure, as we headed out to sea in a storm, with churning waves and black clouds on the horizon. This is the best way to approach a wedding, whatever will be will be, and to make the most of it. A very British picnic was prepared for all the guests as they would embark the ferry on the big adventure, following the hints of where we were going, which were beautifully laid out in the invitations.
The fort appeared out of the rainclouds as we drew nearer, and Hazel and Ben attempted to pour champagne on the heavily rocking boat which caused much amusement! As the day drew on, the clouds began to part, and the stormy skies gave way to reveal the solent in all its glory, with a stunning rainbow. As Dolly Parton once said, “if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain”. As this was happening, the Red Arrows flew overhead in a breathtaking display, circling the fort, almost as if planned! Then the ‘Three Queens’ – Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, our three biggest cruiseliners came sailing past, followed by a fireworks display over Cowes. All of this of course, wasn’t just for Hazel and Ben, but it was no co-incidence they chose to get married on the Friday of Cowes Week and make the most of these additional events for free!
As the night drew on under a starlit sky, Spitbank Fort was beautifully lit with fairly lights and the distant skyline of Portsmouth, and the party carried on till midnight, as guests sat around the outside fire pit. It was a surreal experience, which felt partly like being on the top deck of one of the cruise ships, yet firmly anchored to the ground with the history of the fort open to explore in the nooks and crannies of the bolt holes below.
The ferry came back for us at midnight, and I was genuinely sad to leave; what a beautiful and inspiring venue, and what an incredible wedding! See you again sometime Spitbank Fort.
As we say in the seagoing world, ‘Fair winds, and following seas’ – Congratulations Hazel and Ben!