Want to know a secret? Possibly the best kept secret of the destination wedding world? Pssst, come closer! Lake Bled weddings!
When it comes to European wedding destinations, it’s all ‘Santorini this’ and ‘Tuscany that’. But were Santorini and Tuscany made by fairies? Didn’t think so! Nestled among snow-capped mountains, the crystal clear lake is steeped in folklore, and just beyond beautiful. Of all the places to elope in Europe, I can’t imagine a more picture-perfect place than Lake Bled, Slovenia.
So when Kate and Craig asked me to shoot their wedding there this year, I was absolutely buzzing. A bell that grants wishes, in a 17th-century church, on an island in the middle of a lake. A lake that was created by fairies once upon a time! What’s not to love?! Romantic, emotional and utterly magical, this is the fairytale story of when I photographed Kate and Craig’s Lake Bled wedding.
Like with any good fairytale, our story starts with a villain. And our villain was the near-constant rain on the four days before the wedding! But as if by magic, when the wedding day came we were greeted with glorious sunshine. And a view of distant snow-capped mountains sitting beneath clear blue skies. The weatherman said it was a warm front moving in. But I like to think it was the Lake Bled fairies!
Kate got ready in the morning with her mum and soon-to-be mother-in-law at the Grand Hotel Toplice. After a blissful morning of sipping prosecco and looking out over the tranquil waters, we headed down to the shores of the lake where the rest of the wedding party was waiting.
As the bridesmaids said their hellos and mingled with the other guests, Craig stood resolute. His eyes fixed firmly on the top of the steps where Kate would soon appear. And the moment he saw her was just magic. He hopped from foot to foot waiting for her to come down the steps. And when she finally reached him he squeezed her in the tightest of hugs.
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
Slovenia became the first green country in 2016, and has banned motorboats from the lake. And in place of those noisy, polluting machines float something truly special.
The Pletna boats with their signature colourful awnings are an iconic sight on the waters of Lake Bled. The Pletnas are passed down from generation to generation. And to be a rower (or pletnastvo) is considered a great honour.
And so it was that we sat on the gently bobbing Pletna, cutting through the crystal clear, blissfully tranquil waters towards Lake Bled Island, where fairies are said to dance at night.
Slovenia is blessed with so many wonderful traditions. And if you immerse yourself in the culture, Lake Bled weddings are always a truly unique experience. I was so excited to witness the beauty of Slovenia whilst working as a Lake Bled wedding photographer.
It’s a centuries-old Slovenian tradition that the groom should carry his bride up the 99 steps to the Church of St Mary. And in spite of his nerves, the steepness of the steps and the blazing sunshine (not to mention the crowds of tourists watching!) Craig was determined to do it. So determined in fact, he basically ran up them with Kate in his arms!
I had to keep ahead of him and run backwards up the stairs to get the shot! And by the time we got to the top, I was exhausted! And I was only carrying my cameras, poor Craig was carrying a person! But it was totally worth it! Such an amazing moment, and without a doubt one that Craig and Kate will never forget.
The Church of the Assumption on Lake Bled Island dates back to the 17th Century. Kate’s brother walked her down the aisle, natural light streamed through the windows and the breathtaking gold-plated altar glinted in the sun. After the ceremony, Craig and Kate had a chance to ring the ‘Wishing Bell’. Long story short, the bell was blessed by The Pope and is said to grant the wishes of anyone who rings it. I wonder if Craig wished he’d never have to climb those steps again…
They came out to a snowstorm of confetti and had a champagne reception on a terrace overlooking the sparkling waters. While the guests were chatting in the sunshine, I snuck Kate and Craig away for some couple’s photos around the island.
I always love this part of a wedding day when I get to sneak you away from the crowds. Giving you some time alone as a couple is such a special little pocket of intimacy and calm. It’s when all the best parts of your relationship start to shine, and you can completely let your guards down and just be yourselves. And with centuries of history and the stunning scenery of Lake Bled as a backdrop? Well that’s just the icing on the cake.
We headed down those fateful steps and got back onto the Pletna to Bled town for their legal ceremony.
As we got off the boat, we had a few more moments alone together before the ceremony began. They walked along the banks of the lake, kissing in the sunshine. And went to find the padlock on the jetty, that they had placed their a few months prior added, alongside countless others from all the happy couples who’d come before them.
The legal ceremony itself was small and intimate, with just myself, Kate, Craig and their mothers. It was the most beautiful legal ceremony I’ve ever heard. The translator told Kate and Craig everything that was expected from them as a married couple. The support they should give each other, the patience they should offer, the love they should hold, and the companionship of marriage. Ending with a fist bump of course.
After the ceremony, we headed back to Grand Hotel Toplice for the sun-drenched reception. Wine flowed, smiles were endless, and laughter peeled out over the water.
As the sun began to set, Kate and Craig left the crowds behind one last time for a sunset shoot with me on the banks of the lake. The thousand-year-old Bled Castle climbed into the sky behind us, making it feel all the more like a fairy tale. Eventually the sun disappeared behind the snow-capped mountains and Craig kissed his wife, silhouetted against the still waters of Lake Bled.
If you ever find yourself dreaming of a Lake Bled wedding, I’d love to be the one to capture this fairytale chapter in your love story. Please get in touch today and let’s chat about your wedding dreams and get to know each other.
July 1, 2022