Welcome to Wedding Week! All this week I’m going to be sharing details from our winter wedding weekend which took place on the 21st and 22nd of November in Scotland. I’ll be showing you how we pulled our day together, relaying all the emotions from the occasion and hopefully providing you with some inspiration and tips.
The ceremony was, without doubt, my favourite part of the day. If I could, I would re-live it from start to finish over and over and over again. Every single second of it was truly magical.
It is also the only part of the day in which my memories are crystal clear. From the second I stepped onto our makeshift aisle on the forest floor and locked eyes with GB, to the moment our Humanist announced us husband and wife, every word, every emotion, every laugh is engrained in my mind for ever more. I felt fully present in that whole hour, telling myself to take it all in and not underestimate how special it was. And it was special. Probably more so to us than anyone else, but both myself and GB still get those same nervous pangs every time we talk about this part of the day and laugh about the same things we did on the day. I think often when you are planning a wedding you don’t think too much about this section of the event. Your thoughts are consumed by decorations and flowers and clothing and music and the ceremony becomes just that thing that you know will happen before all of that. But I can tell you now, having been through the experience, that it’s really the only part that truly matters, the only part that will stay engrained in your mind fully, and the only part that will have the ability to make you cry each and every time you look at the photos.
As I was busy panicking and doing some ‘I can’t cry, don’t let me cry’ heavy breathing with my Best Women and Dad in the main house, our guests had started arriving and were making their way up to our ‘wedding in the woods’. Since the day, some guests have admitted to us that when they received our invite stating a ‘wedding in the woods followed by a secret wedding party’ they didn’t have a clue what to expect, whether they’d actually find themselves dancing in the middle of a woodland forest until midnight on a cold Novembers day, or what awaited them. But despite our endless worries about making guests sit outside in winter and subjecting them to the cold (and possible rain) of a Scottish day, the amount of people who have told us since that it was one of the most wonderful, unique and magical wedding ceremonies they’ve ever been a part of, has confirmed that we did the right thing. I’m a big believer in the fact that if you organise the things that make you really happy on your wedding day, the things that are truly personal to you both and the things that make for a good laugh, a talking point or funny story, your guests will absolutely thank you for it.
Looking at the photos of all of our guests gathering around in the woods, reading the personal newspapers of the day that my Mum and Dad had kindly put together, laughing at our ‘just in case’ pink and orange ponchos (which thankfully no one needed, one wedding expense I was happy to have go to waste!), getting to know each other and sitting chatting on the wooden chairs we’d laid out with the tartan blankets we’d found in charity shops wrapped around them, makes me smile so much as I had no idea any of this was going on. As I’ve mentioned oh, only a few hundred times before, we didn’t think an outdoor ceremony was going to happen and it was only at around 8am that morning that I’d been told otherwise, so guests saw the beautiful setting on that cold but sunny winters day long before I did.
After I’d waved off my Mum and Brother at our cottage so that they could head up to the woods, myself, my Dad and my four Best Women were left suspended in this strange reality. And then suddenly it was time. Time to move outside and make our way up the wooden path towards the woods, My Dad like a trooper holding my bouquet with one hand and me with the other, while my Best Women lifted the dress off the ground. I can remember feeling so incredibly nervous by this point, so much so that it felt as if my heart was pounding right out of my chest. Strange little thoughts were running through my head and I kept shouting random questions at my Dad, exclaiming that I didn’t know where to walk or who to look at first, but he squeezed my arm tight and just told me to stay close to him.
We reached the top of the path where the woodland track began and I could already see a few familiar faces looking down on us which made me feel even more like I was in some form of surreal dream. My brother, who is an amazing musician, played me down the aisle. Something I’d dreamed of ever since I was a little girl and one of the first things I asked of him when we got engaged, which thankfully he was more than happy to do, stoked to be asked and took the whole thing extremely seriously in order to get it just right for us. We chose a Bon Iver track which will forever make me cry like a baby but is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard (even more so when my brother plays it). It even needs to be played on a completely different guitar in order to achieve the right acoustic sound and, as my brother now tells me, is an extremely technical piece of music and way of playing which took time to master. What a star! We’d done a short practice the night before but hadn’t really factored in the outdoor sound system so we had no idea when to start walking. Luckily the track is on a loop so my Brother just kept playing until we were all in the places we should have been. One by one I said goodbye to my Best Women as they made their way up the hill and around the corner to where I could only imagine GB was standing. As my final bestie Laura left she fanned out the back of my dress, wished me luck and set off.
Then there were just two. This was it.
Clear as day I remember the moment I took my first step onto the path and edged forward with my perfectly fanned out dress behind me, only for the edge of my cape to snag on a tree branch, catch and pull me back in a true Madonna moment. The split second experience shook me and I panicked. Before I had time to tell him to stop, My Dad (bless him trying to help) had picked up the entire back of my dress and cape and announced he would just carry it down the aisle. Even in my nervous state I was well aware that this was not the elegant look I was going for coming down the aisle, and now panicking more that he had messed up the lovely way Laura had fanned the dress, and then panicking again that by now each one of the girls were no doubt at the top of the aisle and waiting patiently for us (it felt like a long time for me but in reality was only a few seconds) I told him just to drop it down as best he could and let us get going. I have no idea how my dress looked from the back as I walked down the aisle. Perhaps not as perfect as it should have, but at the same time walking on a bed of leaves and twigs in an outdoor setting never was going to provide the ideal even ground. Only a few minutes later, just as I’d turned the corner and seen all of the faces of our guests, I stepped on the front of the dress, felt it catch under my shoe and yet again nearly toppled over. You’ve got to laugh right? (People have since told me that they noticed none of this so clearly I managed to style it out!) At this point I picked up the front of my dress so that I could walk and got myself, finally, onto the make shift aisle we’d created using vintage rugs. It was only then that I was able to look up, see the beautiful arch and the setting the guys had done such a good job creating, see GB for the first time and smile (don’t forget to smile as you walk down the aisle girls – I look so nervous in my snaps!!). Once on the familiar terrain of carpet I was able to let the skirt fall once again and heard a collective ‘aaaah’ from the women (mainly my Aunties) around me. I can remember thinking how beautiful it all looked and I was filled with love for those who had worked hard that morning so that I didn’t have to, and filled with gratitude that we had been lucky enough to have this outdoor ceremony we wanted.
I always find it funny to remember the faces that stuck out to me during this brief few steps towards GB. I’d maintained all the way through wedding planning that I would only be able to look at him otherwise I’d be much too nervous, but certain faces caught my eye and are the ones that feel so vivid in my memories. My Auntie Ellen who put her hand to her chest as I passed her, marvelling at the dress. My cousin Chris who gave me the biggest cheesiest grin as I nervously glanced his way, my friend Helena who I spotted once I’d reached the top and who was beaming at me so happily, and my cousin Joanne who was in my eye line all through the ceremony and who I couldn’t stop looking at because I thought she looked so beautiful.
Before I knew it I was at the top and there he was. The photo above is my favourite from the day (which GB berates me for because he says you can only see the back of my head, but I simply love it) because that look on GB’s face when he sees me for the first time just makes it all so worth it. My face on the other side was probably a similar expression (although no doubt not nearly as attractive!) as I can clearly remember this moment when I stepped onto the rug we would be married on, under the beautiful arch Sophie had created for us, looked at GB with the biggest grin, laughed, grabbed his hand in mine, and said ‘Oh Hi!!’.
People have since asked me how I stayed so composed throughout the whole ceremony, as I’m known to be a pretty ridiculously emotional person and was so throughout the whole wedding planning process. I had a few happy tears in my eyes at certain points during the ceremony but overall I was (or so it appeared apparently) pretty calm and collected. Inside of course there was a huge pot of emotions bubbling up inside me and there was nothing about me that felt calm, but the one over-riding emotion that allowed itself to spill out was simply unadulterated happiness. Someone commented on my post yesterday (sorry Chloe – I still need to reply!) asking for advice on how to avoid being a blubbering mess on their big day, and while I can’t really offer any (I had no magic formula), I have a feeling you’ll be just fine. I could have cried at so many points in the day but I didn’t. For us, I think the run up to the day itself had been so stressful, so emotional, so much hard work and so much had gone wrong, that by the time the moment had come and we were there, we were doing it, the sun had come out and everyone who loved us was with us, there was nothing to cry about. I was just so god damn happy to have got to that point, and to be standing next to my best friend, and to be saying the words, that crying wasn’t even an option. In fact it was GB who got choked up saying his vows not me, when we’d all thought it would the other way around.
We chose to have a humanist ceremony, as neither of us are religious and it felt important for us to have a personal ceremony that was about us, rather than about religion or law, as ultimately we weren’t getting married for those reasons. Everyone will have a different view on this and all I’d say is choose the ceremony that is right for you, and your guests will love it for that very reason. We had a fabulous Humanist celebrant, Evonne, who was absolutely one of the best things about our ceremony. She had really taken the time to get to know us, our story, and the type of day we wanted. She was brilliant, making the ceremony funny as well as emotional, personal to us and inclusive of everyone there. I don’t really know how we can thank her for making our ceremony so special but she nailed it!
We asked my Best Woman Laura (who is part of the reason we’re together) and GB’s brother Rob to say a few words on the day, asking them to write something themselves and to keep it a secret from us. This was one of the best decisions we could have made and I’d urge anyone to do the same – not knowing what was coming from either of them made it so much more special and both wrote an incredibly beautiful piece for us. Laura told our story, in a hilariously witty way which had us both laughing at the memories and getting teary eyed at the meaning behind it. Rob, knowing we are both big Foo Fighters fans, scoured the web for their song lyrics and weaved together a story about us using only the medium of Foo Fighters songs. It had everyone in the crowd in belly aching laughter at some points and then sobbing like little girls at others – it was epic. I’d love to relay it to you all here but it was SO good that I’m worried every one of you might steal it for your own wedding and I need it to be just ours, so just trust me when I say it was incredible.
It’s the little memories such as these; hearing the readings friends had written especially, listening to my brother play the song he’d written for us, having my Dad squeeze my hand as we walked down the aisle, looking over to see my Mum smiling at us as we said our vows and wiping a tear from her cheek, which are the one’s we truly cherish. We were blown away by how talented, creative and kind our friends and family are, and what they were willing to do for us.
We chose to write our own vows, again wanting this part of our day to be as personal as possible, and sometimes when I’m feeling down I take a little peek into the folder Evonne gave us after the ceremony and re-read the words GB said to me. He was constantly worried about this part beforehand. He told me repeatedly in the run up to the wedding that I had an unfair advantage being a writer and that he’d mess it up on the day, but to the contrary his vows were just beautiful. Again I won’t relay them but they were simple, understated and said everything they needed to say. I think in some ways being a writer was more of a hindrance than a help as I felt the pressure to write something truly excellent. Although GB still laments the fact that everyone clapped after I’d said mine but not after his. Which I think was mostly because everyone was on tenterhooks waiting for me to break down in uncontrollable ugly sobbing tears, and when I didn’t they were all so triumphant!
Suddenly, just like that, we’d said the words, given the rings and we were being excitedly told by Evonne that we were now – husband and wife! The shot above, another favourite, was our first married kiss, and I’ve been told (I was a little pre-occupied) that the sun emerged from the trees at just the right moment. It was only then as we moved to sign the register, after not feeling the cold one single bit up until then, that I was suddenly very aware that I was standing outside in November in very little other than a couple of layers of chiffon, and my knees started to buckle with the cold. My brother began to play us out with the song he’d written and it felt so good to walk back down those rugs, this time a lot more sure on my feet, and this time married(!!), with everyone cheering around us. As we walked down the path hand in hand towards our beer and bubbles reception I remember turning to GB and saying ‘I’m so proud of us’ to which he said ‘I am too, that was incredible’.
My diary style entry of the day might not be quite as cohesive from this point on, as from here everything became a little hazy and I felt as if I was just being carried through the rest of the day in a bubble, almost watching it pan out in front of me. I can remember our friend handing us a glass of champagne as we came back into the lodge which had become our reception room, and then suddenly everyone else piled in and from then it was a flurry of hugs and kisses and ‘oh my goodness it’s so good to see you!’. I tried my very best to work my way around that tiny room and weave my way from family member to friend and say hello to everyone but was only half way around the crowd, when our photographer urged us to move out and take some photos before the light went. She was right of course (the perils of a winter wedding) but I still feel terrible that I didn’t manage to hug everyone at that point.
GB and I braved the cold once again (I added a jacket and a more sensible pair of shoes eventually) to get some snaps in the gorgeous woodland location before our guests came out to attack us with confetti (and when I say attack I mean it – I could see the evil glint in their eyes). And then in what felt like no time at all, the buses had arrived to take everyone to the party and we were on to the next part of our day.
Tune in tomorrow as I finally go into more detail about my wedding outfit – share the design, inspiration and incredible hard work from my talented dress designer, and show you how it came together from a simple drawing over a year ago to the outfit that came to be my wedding attire! I can’t wait for this one!
Key players (check back at the end of the week for details on all our suppliers)
Photographer – Amy Shore Photography
Floral Arch – designed and created most wonderfully by I Heart Flowers
Ceremony – conducted by Evonne McLaughlin of the Humanist Fellowship of Scotland
Dress – Charlotte Wilden
Tiara – Samantha Walden
GB’s Suit – Gresham and Blake