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I love photographing Weddings at The West Mill – A unique Industrial Wedding Venue in the Heart of Derby

I was very excited when I first heard about The West Mill Exclusive Use Wedding Venue opening for weddings. It’s quickly become one of my favourite venues for wedding photography. Before that I don’t think Derby really had much going for it for alternative wedding venues – most of the interesting places were out of town, in the surrounding villages or even out in the Peak District. Since then Derby Museums have stepped in to add some different flavours to the cities wedding venues – but when it first opened The West Mill was really one of a kind.

The West Mill created quite a stir when it opened – It’s a grade 1 listed building with beautiful vintage decor, industrial-chic style and Riverside location. It’s an old converted mill set on the River Derwent in Darley Abbey. Most importantly, everything is set out over four floors for as seamless a wedding experience as possible. There’s no awkward stepping out whilst the team turn around rooms. Although if it’s a nice day you’re really going to want to take a step out – as one of the things that stands out about this beautiful venue are the lush grounds it’s situated in.

I’ve been returning year on year to photograph weddings at the West Mill for seven years now. And my experience of photographing Weddings at the West Mill means I can work with the team to create a seamless day. Here’s a bit of a breakdown of what you can expect.

You can view Rebekah & Philips West Mill Wedding here

“Where do we start?! Simon was so relaxed and unflappable. As plenty of people surely say, neither of us love having our photo taken, but Simon has a calming approach and doesn’t demand anything of you that you don’t want or aren’t comfortable with. We have beautiful, natural photos that captured the day just as it unfolded.”

Rebekah & Philip – Former West Mill Wedding

History Of The West Mill

Delving into the rich history of this wedding venue – The West Mill was built in 1821 by the Evans family of Darley Abbey on the west bank of the River Derwent as a cotton and textiles factory. (The Darley Abbey settlement itself dates back to the medieval era, when it was the site of an Augustinian monastery).The mills were known for their advanced technology at the time, and they contributed to the economic development of the region. They have since become a wonderfully preserved artefact of the industrial revolution. In December 2001, the Derwent Valley Mills in Derbyshire was inscribed on the World Heritage List.  Recently The West Mill has been restored into a spectacular multi-storey wedding venue. If barrel vaulted ceilings, exposed brick walls, and Georgian-paned windows a that create the most incredible golden light are your vintage-industrial vibe the West Mill is definitely a venue that should definately be on your to-view list.

A Wedding Day at The West Mill

Guests usually gather in the Gallery on the ground floor, whilst one half of the couple is getting ready in a dressing room upstairs (the dressing room is excellent for preparation photos). After that they move all the way up to the top of the building (yes, there is a lift) for the ceremony. The vintage bare brick feel of the Cotton Quarter lends itself well to all sorts of styling. There’s even a piano already supplied (so all you need to bring is a pianist)

After the wedding ceremony it’s usually back to the gallery for drinks and canapés, before dining in The Breakfast Room and dancing the night away in The Spinning Room. There are plenty of areas for group portraits (even if the weather isn’t what you were hoping for) and the courtyard is a wonderful area for a confetti shot.

Wedding Preparations at the West Mill

Preparations start at 11am in the Dressing Room (although often brides or groomsmen can stay at a cottage over the road from the night before). The dressing room is on the top floor, light and airy and is well stocked with mirrors and room for getting you and your bridesmaids ready for the day.

Bridal Preparations at The West Mill Derby
Wedding dresses at The West Mill Exclusive Use Wedding Venue Derby
Bride getting ready at The West Mill Exclusive Use Wedding Venue Derby

The Gallery

When your guests arrive they’ll usually congregate in the Gallery on the ground floor of The West Mill – this is an area that really sets the vintage industrial mood – with old machines, typewriters and a vintage Chesterfield sofas.

Later in the day the gallery can becomes a quiet space, an area for the children to play or somewhere to put your photobooth later in the evening.

“We’re both in awe of our wedding photographs. Whenever we take a look and show our friends and family, we are all taken back to the day. You can feel the energy, nervousness and excitement all through the photos. I’ve never been someone who likes to stand in front of a camera and pose for photos. So Simon’s style of journalistic photography worked perfectly for us. He blended into day and captured moments to cherish.”

David & Lois 

Guests arriving at The West Mill Gallery

Wedding Ceremonies at The West Mill

Wedding ceremonies happen at 1.30pm on the top floor of The West Mill in The Cotton Quarter. The room itself is light and airy and the way the light reflects off the old brick gives it a warmth and softness that only usually exist in a wedding photographer’s dreams. Whether colour or black and white, it always makes for amazing wedding photos.  There is a grand piano upon entrance and couples often hire a pianist, or get a guest who’s good at tinkling the ivories to serenade them down the aisle.

There is plenty of space at the top of the aisle and I’ve witnessed couples using this to create a huge range of different backdrops. I always find myself photographing an elegant display that reflects their personalities and unique aesthetic for the day.

Being large, light and airy the Cotton Quarter is also an excellent location for group shots on those colder or rainier days.

Wedding Guests Playing on Piano at The West Mill Derby
Wedding ceremony at The West Mill Derby
Wedding ceremony at at The West Mill Exclusive Use Wedding Venue Derby
Walking down the aisle at The West Mill

The Courtyard at The West Mill

Although my approach to photographing weddings at the west mill is usually very hands off – The courtyard at The West Mill is a beautiful space for confetti and group shots. On drier days I often use the bank surrounding the mill to layer people – but quite a lot can be done just using the space in the courtyard. Which is also a wonderful space for guests to mingle on those warmer days.

On colder, rainier days we do (as mentioned before) move upstairs to the Cotton Quarter to take some group shots.

Confetti at the west mill
Large group shot at the west mill, Darley Abbey, derby
Wedding Guests Mingle in The West Mill Courtyard
Confetti outside at The West Mill

The Breakfast Floor

The breakfast floor is also a floor of large windows and beautiful old brick. The wedding breakfast often happens later in the day as the light is dipping, which brings an ambience all of its own. There is plenty of space for guests and I’ve seen it laid out in a variety of ways on the different events I’ve covered at The West Mill.

“We’ve looked at these SO MANY TIMES and I just can’t tell you how happy we are with them. You’ve captured the mood, the colours and pretty much every single guest. They’re exactly what we wanted – thank you so much. Everyone we’ve shown them to has praised them to the skies! We’ll recommend you to everyone we know who’s getting married Please could you also pass our thanks to Kathryn? It really shows how worth it it is to have two photographers because you captured lots of different angles so well”

Emma & John

Speeches at The West Mill Derby
Speeches at The West Mill Derby

The Grounds At Darley Abbey Mills

Often after the wedding breakfast (especially in the summer months) I’ll whisk you away for some quick portraits in the grounds. The sun sets over the River Derwent in the most perfect way for taking couple portraits at the West Mill – such as the sunset silhoutte taken by the weir over looking over the Derwent. But even on a dark night the Pontoon lighting creates a beautiful atmosphere for some quick portraits however cold the weather gets (See the minimalist photo of Rebekah & Philip below)

The Darley Abbey Mills are also full of quirky and interesting backdrops – I really feel that there is so much room for experimenting and creating something uniquely you.

On days where the weather isn’t cooperating, as a wedding photographer I’ve plenty of experience of making the most out of window light. Hell, I’m even going to be using that window light in the nice weather – both for portraits and the candid moments I’m better known for as a photographer.

If you want to see more – check out this full wedding at The West Mill

Bride and Groom sunset portrait at The West Mill Derby
Couple portrait under festoon lighting at The West Mill Derby

Dancing The Night Away In The Spinning Room

Always one of my favourite parts of any wedding – the wedding dancefloor!

The Spinning room offers an excellent ambience for dancing the night away. Often couples will also use the Gallery on the ground floor for a quiter space, games or a photobooth.

Each wedding at The West Mill has been an adventure, I think I’m growing all the time as a wedding photographer – and a lot of my favourite images (including this favourite from last year) have been taken here.

You can view Rebekah & Philips West Mill Wedding here

The Horse Box Bar

Out in the riverside courtyard sits the renovated horse box bar. It’s perfect for your drinks reception on those warmer days. You can also take advantage of the no corkage policy and top it up with drinks of your choice. (On colder days I’ve also seen it used for serving mulled wine.)

Wedding guests Dancing at the west mill wedding venue, derby
Dancing at the West mill

Accommodation at the West Mill

Ensuring your guests have a comfortable stay is also an important factor in deciding on a venue for your wedding.With The West Mill both having on site option and being in quite a central location to Derby city there are loads of places for you and your guests to stay.

On Site Accomodation

The Mill House – This is a converted house on site. It used to be the Mill Manager’s house, but now has 8 ensuite double bedrooms, including a luxury suite for the married couple on the night. Also included is a breakfast buffet the morning after

The Mill Cottage – Also a converted house on site. It has 3 double bedrooms and can sleep 10 adults. It is flooded with natural light and has a gorgeous courtyard garden for pre wedding day drinks and photos.

More about On-Site Options

Off Site Accomodation

The Coach House is a Boutique Guesthouse situated on Darley Park – just over the river from The West Mill.

Affordable Hotels Nearby.
Both of these hotels are a short journey from The West Mill
Travelodge at Derby Cricket Ground
Leonardo Hotel ( Derby Cathedral Quarter)

Meet Simon The Photographer

Hello, I’m Simon and I’m a Derbyshire Wedding Photographer (the West Mill is actually so close to me that One DZ across the road is my preferred Gym and I spend a lot of time walking around and drinking coffee in Darley Park, because it’s just a beautiful location for all sorts of things)

I’m not for everyone. I’m interested in the people and the stories and emotions of the day and will always go for the authentic moments over styled prettyness. Which is why I am not telling you the perfect places for photos (it’s where the nice light is at the time) or best times to have your photo taken at this venue (because the best times are when you’re most relaxed) or even the best seasons to get married in (some of us are just Autumn / Winter personalities and totally rock that).

If you want authentic, natural photography that documents the moods and feelings of your wedding – from the anticipation of the morning preparations to the energy of the dancefloor. Please get in touch about your wedding plans.

Want to see some more West Mill Wedding Photos?

Flowergirl and boy at The West Mill Exclusive Use Wedding Venue Derby