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The history of wedding photography in Wales


Photography is a relatively recent invention, with the first photograph ever taken dating back to 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in France. The invention of photography had a profound impact on the world, allowing people to capture and preserve moments in time like never before. Photography quickly spread throughout the world, and Wales was no exception. The history of photography in Wales can be traced back to the mid-19th century when the first cameras were introduced. Early cameras were large and bulky, and the process of taking a photograph was time-consuming and complicated. Despite this, photography quickly became popular in Wales, and many Welsh photographers began to make their mark on the world of photography.


One of the most famous Welsh photographers of the early 20th century was William Hope. Hope was born in 1863 in Crewe, England, but moved to Wales when he was a child. He became interested in photography at a young age and went on to become a successful photographer. Hope was particularly interested in the paranormal, and many of his photographs were of spiritualists and séances. He also claimed to be able to capture the spirits of the dead on film, and his photographs often featured ghostly images.

William Hope Photographer

William Hope, the famous photographer known for his spiritualist and paranormal photography, moved to the town of Crewe in Cheshire, England when he was a child. However, he later moved to the town of Craig-y-Don, located in Llandudno, North Wales, where he set up his photographic studio and lived until his death in 1933.


In the early days of photography, cameras were large and expensive, and the process of taking a photograph was time-consuming and complicated. However, advances in technology soon made cameras smaller and more affordable, and photography became accessible to a wider range of people. This led to an explosion in the popularity of photography, and by the mid-20th century, it had become one of the most popular hobbies in Wales.

Wedding photography in Wales


One of the most popular subjects for photographers in Wales was weddings. Wedding photography has a long history in Wales, with the first recorded wedding photographs taken in the mid-19th century. These early wedding photographs were usually taken in studios, and the bride and groom would pose for a formal portrait. As cameras became more portable, wedding photography moved out of the studio and into the church and reception venues. However, early wedding photographs were still relatively formal, and the bride and groom would often pose for a series of posed shots. These early wedding photographs were often black and white, and the poses were very traditional.


In the mid-20th century, wedding photography began to change. As cameras became more affordable, more people began to take photographs at weddings, and the traditional formal poses began to give way to more natural, candid shots. The trend of wedding photography in Wales also became more colourful, with the introduction of colour film and later digital cameras. Today, wedding photography in Wales is a thriving industry, with many professional photographers offering their services to couples getting married. Wedding photography has become more creative and innovative, with photographers using a range of techniques to capture the magic of the day. Some photographers worked in reportage-style photography, capturing natural, candid shots throughout the day. Others prefer a more formal approach, taking posed shots of the bride and groom and their families.


The first weddings in Wales were likely to have been very different from modern weddings. Weddings in the early medieval period were often held in churches, and the ceremony would have been very formal and religious. Weddings were also expensive, and only the wealthiest families could afford to hold lavish ceremonies.In the 18th and 19th centuries, weddings in Wales became more affordable, and they began to take place outside of the church. However, weddings were still relatively formal affairs, and the bride and groom would often dress in their Sunday best for the occasion. Wedding receptions were also popular, and they would usually be held in the home of the bride or groom.


The introduction of photography in the mid-19th century revolutionised wedding photography. For the first time, couples could have a permanent record of their wedding day.


The rise of wedding venues in Wales


It is difficult to determine the exact first wedding venues in Wales during the 1930s, as there were likely many different venues that hosted weddings during this time. However, we do know that weddings in the 1930s were often held in churches, as this was the traditional location for wedding ceremonies.


Many churches in Wales have a long and rich history, and some of them have been hosting weddings for centuries. Some of the most popular churches for weddings in Wales during the 1930s may have included St. David's Cathedral in Pembrokeshire, Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, and St. Asaph Cathedral in Denbighshire.In addition to churches, some other popular wedding venues in Wales during the 1930s may have included hotels, country houses, and town halls. For example, the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny and the Royal Hotel in Cardiff were both popular wedding venues during this time. Country houses such as St. Donat's Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan and Plas Rhianfa in Anglesey were also popular venues for weddings, as were town halls in many of Wales' towns and cities.


It's worth noting that during the 1930s, many couples would have chosen to get married in their own homes or the homes of their families. This was often a more affordable option than hiring a venue, and it also allowed for a more intimate and personalised ceremony. Overall, while it is difficult to pinpoint the exact first wedding venues in Wales during the 1930s, we do know that churches, hotels, country houses in Wales, and town halls were all popular options for couples looking to tie the knot.

Black and white film wedding

Digital black and white wedding

Above, an early example of black and white traditional wedding photography in South Wales and also a modern digital example of wedding photography in Wales taken at Oxwich bay Castle by Karl Baker photography Ltd


Wedding venues in Wales

The first wedding venues in South Wales likely date back several centuries, as marriages have been taking place in the region for many years. However, in terms of formal wedding venues, there are a few locations that stand out as being particularly notable. One of the earliest wedding venues in South Wales was St. Donat's Castle, which is located in the Vale of Glamorgan. The castle dates back to the 12th century and has been used as a wedding venue for many years, with its picturesque setting and historic charm making it a popular choice for couples.


St. Donat's Castle was particularly popular during the 1930s, as it was owned by the famous publisher William Randolph Hearst and was a favourite destination for Hollywood celebrities. Another popular wedding venue in South Wales during the early 20th century was Cardiff Castle. This impressive 19th century castle is located in the heart of Cardiff and was owned by the Marquesses of Bute. The castle has been used as a wedding venue since at least the 1920s and continues to host weddings to this day.


One of the most famous weddings that took place at St. Donat's Castle was that of the Hollywood film star Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and his first wife, the socialite Joan Crawford. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford were married at St. Donat's Castle in June 1929, in a lavish ceremony that was attended by many of their famous friends and colleagues from the film industry. The wedding was a major event at the time, and it attracted significant media attention, with many newspapers reporting on the lavish decorations, the sumptuous wedding breakfast, and the stunning bride and groom!


Overall, St. Donat's Castle has a rich and fascinating history as a wedding venue in Wales, and it continues to attract visitors and couples from all over the world who are drawn to its stunning location, its historic charm, and its links to some of the biggest names in Hollywood and beyond.