In January I was fortunate enough to be flown to the island of Koh Phangan in the gulf of Thailand to join Donna & Dan to photograph their awesome, exotic wedding!

[I’ve set the scene in two previous blog instalments documenting the hen do & pre-wedding hangout, so if you missed em, click here to see part 1 and here to see part 2]

This was possibly the most brilliant wedding I’ve papped in a good while, I’ve picked out my highlights to fill in the story behind them.

BUT BE WARNED: Although I’ve tried to be selective, there are 80+ pics in this post, so grab your slippers & a brew, cos it’s a bit of an epic one… 🙂

To drop y’all in the geography again: Koh Phangan is in the gulf of Thailand, South of Bangkok, and Dan and Donna hosted their wedding at the stunning Santhiya Resort and Spa to the North-East, at the top of Thong Nai Pan Beach.

I’ve been to Thailand a whole bunch of times and simply adore the place.  I love the the gracious, accommodating Thais, incredible food and exotic smells & views at every turn.  While it pays to be a vigilant traveller, it’s been handling tourists for over 30 years so it’s so much easier to get around without feeling harassed than many other South East Asian countries, yet still presents that Asian culture-on-the-street that’s so wonderful to photograph.  It was also easy to get to, and after landing in Bankgok, I hopped on a short flight to Koh Samui & took a ferry to Phangan, settling into the Thongtapan Resort, just over the headland from  Santhiya.

The’re a fun backstory behind this exotic wedding adventure: Basically, Donna’s from England and Dan from Australia.  They met in Aus while Donna was travelling, and have enjoyed travelling far & wide together.  They’ve lived in Perth & Leeds, which is where I met them, and since following my blog, Donna sweetly always said she’d want me to photograph her big day when the time came (little did I know where!).  Last year they decided to unite their UK & Australasian crew by hiring a villa in Thailand for New Year.  Then one of their mates joked that while everyone was there, they might as well go the whole hog and get married too!  So they did!

Happy days, eh?

In spite of having a ‘photographer’ included in their wedding ‘package’ from their resort, I was chuffed to bits when they made true on their desire to have me join them to photograph their big day!

As choosing your wedding photographer is a VERY personal decision, it’s always a gamble taking a punt on a wedding package photographer (all the more so in a country where the shooter may not speak your language!).  There’s barely any guarantee of quality, and having seen the ‘official’ slideshows at UK wedding celebrations I’ve done for couples who’ve married abroad, I’ve seen some pretty shocking work!  Especially considering when exotic weddings in the Maldives etc should really be like shooting fish in a barrel!

Now I understand the additional expense incurred in flying me out & putting me up, so the way I decided the way to approach this was to ‘add value’ by documenting more than just a single wedding day, but to capturing the whole experience around the wedding, and I hope I’ve done just that.

So!  Enough waffle: and onto the big day:

As Donna & Dan’s wedding wasn’t until pushing-sunset, I wandered over after lunch in the baking 30°C sun and started to set the scene…

Santhiya had it’s very own private beach, with the usual ace traditional rock formations you find on Thai islands.

The Santhiya Resort & Spa kinda blew my mind.  It ACTUALLY looked like the images you see of impossibly exotic resorts on the covers of paradise holiday brochures.  The finish was brilliant, and near everything was ornately carved in wood or landscaped in stone, with the scents of eucalyptus oils floating gently on the breeze.  It was kinda out of this world.

…I mean, the landscaped 1200m² pool even had it’s own 30 ft waterfall!

I rode up to join Donna on one of the camouflaged open-backed trucks Santhiya use to shuttle guests around the resort, past this cute little Thai shrine.

Donna & team bride were getting ready at Dan’s mum’s ‘presidential’ villa, with its own monster pool & a view over the island!

When I arrived, the bubbles were already flowing and Donna was in great spirits!

The mums carefully unveiled Donna’s wedding gown…

…and a thing of beauty it was too.

There were two pairs of wedding kicks, the official…

and the unofficial!

(I’m not sure which I prefer to be honest!)

One of their buddies had bought them wedding stubby holders to keep the beers chilled!

Downstairs in their vast villa the girls began putting their faces on.

The hair & make-up lady who’d come over from Koh Samui was hilarious…

…and skill!

I like this one of Donna’s chief BM, Jo – best mates since childhood – running over her speech with mum.

You simply couldn’t ask for a more excellent place to pap a bride getting into her dress than this!

And to be honest, you couldn’t ask for a better bride!  Donna was & is a total star, and enjoyed every moment of her big day.

A little moment between best buds.

As Donna popped her veil on in the massive villa bathroom…

…the view towards the open-air shower/wet-room caught my eye for a few bridal portraits, then Dan’s mum found this awesome parasol in the bathroom!

Love it when a plan comes together!

One final relaxed portrait before I headed off to join the chaps down near the beach…

Fortunately, Donna had agreed to get into her dress a little ahead of schedule so I’d have time to wander down and catch some of Dan’s preps.  Generally I shoot with a second shooter, to document the entire boys preparations, as well as a second angle on the proceedings throughout the day, but I started out photographing weddings solo and it’s a bit of a tall ask to fly two of us out for 10 days (though Clare might disagree!), so I papped this one solo, and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge (in spite of the soaring temperatures!)

On the wander down through the wonderfully landscaped paths this ace weathered buddha caught my eye.

The Santhiya staff were on the beach busily preparing the scene

By good fortune I spotted this lady who’d just finished preparing the bouquet, so I pinched it for a quick pic on the rocks.

Donna & Dan’s beautiful villa also had its own wicked pool & every day the staff created crazy animals from towels!

Here’s the man of the hour!

Mad Marek

Before shuffling on, their buddies popped in for sneaky drink and a nip on the Johnny Gold

Like this one

What an amazing place to have your wedding eh?

I’ve done a good few weddings overseas, but views like this really make me appreciate why couples choose to marry abroad.

I like the way Mum brought down the parasols she’d found in the bathroom!

I like this one of Dan running over his vows

Here comes the bride!

The ceremony was beautiful and moving, and more than a few tears were shed


Man & wife!

Some people get ‘officially’ married back home before heading out for their destination weddings, then have a marriage ‘blessing’, but Donna & Dan wanted to do it for real; so they had to jump a bunch of red tape in Bangkok, then invite an island official to witness it.

It took a bit of work to make him smile!

Then the celebrations could really begin…


With only around 30 odd guests it didn’t take long to run through a few groupshots…

…and throw a splash of confetti!

Then we headed down to the beach for a few relaxed portraits

Though some old, random speeedo dude thought it his op to take a dip.

Good work squire.

With the beautiful rocks and beach as a background I whistled through a few fun wedding party teamshots.

Team Bride!

Team groom!

(Who were a little harder to control!)

Fun times.

After catching up with their guests, Donna, Dan & I took off for a few laid back portraits.

Love this natural one.

And this one!  For me, it’s all about catching a bit of personality and fun in my pics.

We’d caught up the day previous for a practice portrait shoot up around the resort (check out the blog here) and it made all the difference, not having to coach and coax out the behaviour I required to get such lovely chilled-out, loving pics.

As I left them too it, they spent a moment looking over at their wedding to try and take it all in.

In the whirlwind of a wedding day, I think it’s so important for the newly weds to give themselves an opportunity to soak it up.

Then all of a sudden, the light started to change as the sun set over the other side of the island…

…and in the peach coloured sunlight, we headed down to the old broken pier for a cheeky cuddle

This is probably image of the day; the lines, the light and the love are just right.

Then they headed back to join the party…

…as the peach sun dropped beneath the island.

As they had exclusive usage of the Santhiya poolside area, the wedding breakfast was held in the beachfront restaurant

Nice to hear the sea crashing as you dine…

…on fine Thai cuisine!

A whole crew of near & dear gave a speech

Donna gave Dan his favourite food – a sandwich! – during her speech!

Any bride that gives a speech is good with me.

A lovely moment during first dance

Then the partying began!

And a little later, launched from the pier we’d been on a little earlier, they had a massive firework display!

And with their near and dear, the gang launched Thai lanterns into the night…

You can see why I enjoy my job eh?!

I don’t think I could have asked to be part of a more brilliant wedding celebration: so wonderfully intimate & relaxed, such a stunning location and such a brilliant couple, lost in their love for each other.  A brilliant way to celebrate their marriage and kick off their official union.  Though to make things even sweeter, Thailand is merely the spring board for a several month globetrotting honeymoon!

Can’t complain eh?

Donna & Dan, it was a total honour to join you and your brilliant friends and family for your awesome Thai wedding and I wish you the very happiest life together as man & wife!

Party on,

x Barns x

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