Laura first contacted me in April 2014. Laura was based in London along with her fiance Mark but they planned to “come home” to Laura’s family village of Tomintoul in the Cairngorm National Park to marry. For some of you, Tomintoul might be more famously associated with Terry Wogan jokes about Mrs MacKay and her shovel in the winter snow. No risk of that with a September wedding. Mind you after the “summer that wasn’t” in 2015 you would be forgiven for praying harder than usual for a fine day. Referred to as the highest village in the Scottish Highlands it was constructed back in the late 1700s by the 4th Duke of Gordon – a name which still lends itself to many aspects of the village today. With a backdrop of heather moorlands and conveniently situated on the Whisky Trail and producer of its own whisky it is everything you might associate with a Scottish village.
Over the coming months we would begin to build a picture of their day. Laura and Mark were to wed in the village at Tomintoul Church of Scotland and planned to celebrate the occasion with family and friends in the Richmond Hall, the Tomintoul village hall. With both families, friends from the South and the North plus a heap of locals who have seen Laura grow up in the village it would be quite a guest list. When asked how many guests she simply said “We will be filling it to capacity”.
The brief? A dressed hall which incorporates much of their beloved Scotland and their tartans yet doesn’t feel like a clan gathering or a village fete. Laura and Mark already had an idea for their table centrepieces – Scottish heather in dressed pots and local whisky bottles set with dinner candles. They were also keen to have elements of both their own “clan” tartans included. The Stewart Royal tartan is a strong red, while the Ancient MacNeil tartan a mix of teal blue greens. Not an obvious combination you might think? Several times Laura checked herself (and me) and asked “does it feel wedding enough do you think”? Well watch this space.
The bridesmaids were dressed in Royal Blue – a shade which does in fact bring a little from each tartan. I am a fan of letting the bridesmaid colours make their own statement and so really wanted to avoid the obvious Royal Blue chair sash. Theirs would be the only occurrence of that shade and so they would stand out against the decor. Laura’s own dress was a beautiful straight cut lace dress which, except for a “nod”, would also not feature greatly in the decor.
The village hall lends itself perfectly to my favourite layout. Dining banquet style with row upon row of tables. Laura and Mark opted not to seat guests except their nearest and dearest who would have reserved places up near the top table. A recipe for mayhem you might think? Well pop in a few spare place settings and low and behold you have a happy party which is much more about good company enjoying good home food and a dram than it is about rigid formality. And that is exactly what your day should be. “Sit yersel doon” as their very retro menu board said. To a tea of Prawn Cocktail and Broth followed by Mince n Tatties or Macaroni Cheese. It doesn’t get much more Scottish than that. And who doesn’t love a trifle? “Affa Fine Dining” cooked and served by locally known A&J (Jenny) Durno.
Our couple were keen to use local suppliers wherever possible. We are just a short distance down the road at Glenlivet. The Flower Box, their florist, is from Grantown on Spey just a few miles the opposite way over the high road out of Tomintoul. They created white rose bouquets for the bridesmaids and a lovely red rose bouquet for Laura and a red rose buttonhole for the groom – all mixed with thistles of course ;). They also placed floral displays in the church. Laura was keen to ensure their London life featured in the decor too. Enter Jo of JLR Sugarcraft and her fabulous themed wedding cake. From the hills of the Scotland where they grew up and onwards up the tiers through the poignent skylines of their life. New York was where they met (ironic for two who grew up in Scotland) and London is their home. A London Bus? Well even that was the No 345 which connected their homes when Mark first moved to London and also past the first two places they lived together! Sadly Jo is retired now from occasion cakes now though is continuing with toppers. We will all surely miss such a great talent.
I should say we all searched high and low for London Bus confetti too. Perhaps there is an opening for an entrepeneur somewhere, though tartan heart confetti is surely the next best thing.
So the day finally dawned when we would set up the hall. Only when you step through the door and see the space laid out with all those tables and chairs do you really appeciate the phrase “fill it to capacity”. Bridesmaids, Mum and Laura were there busy doing their finishing touches. With Jenny Durno’s team also on site following on setting places it really was a hive of activity. I love the stages of a set up. From bare tables to completion it’s great to see the transformation. It doesn’t matter how many times I have done this it always chokes me to see that switch from apprehension to elation when the picture inside their head comes to life and that great big smile (and sometimes tears) appears.
Laura’s bottle/heather combination was fabulous. A mix of whisky bottles set on decorative candle plates – alternating between Black Label (Marks Dad’s favourite dram), Glenlivet (where Laura was a guide for four seasons) and Tomintoul – of course. Interspersed with heathers in terracotta pots dressed in the MacNeil tartan. The whole arrangement creating rise and fall. With napkins dressed in the Stewart tartan bringing both tartans back to the table. They were topped with favours of Tunnocks caramel wafers and marshmallows to bring the fun. Who doesn’t love a retro snack – especially one so rooted in Scotland. An inspired choice! Our chairs were also dressed with a white seat cover and a Stewart Royal sash tied in a big generous bow. A plain red table runner was the perfect canvas for the table centres. The hall is a blank canvas with very plain walls. So a little ambient uplighting colour washed the walls set in a teal tone – picking out the colours in the Ancient MacNeil tartan. Later the candlelight would light the tables to soften the whole look. It was going to be just magic. Whisky casks were used in place of a plain table for the guest book and the cake. Finally a strand or two of bunting in the Ancient MacNeil tartan made by Kelly and Molly was added and the job was complete.
The wedding day itself was a fine one. Cool perhaps but the sun still shone for those all important photos. The villagers turned out to watch our local quine get married. Mark’s friend Gayle playing the organ. Then a fabulous vintage Model T Ford owned and driven by Mark’s Uncle Jim transported them the short distance back down the road. The drinks reception was held in the Balfour Manor before heading across to the hall for their Scottish wedding tea. Time for more humour – we love the bride’s bib. After the speeches it was “all change” for the dance as a space was cleared down the middle of the hall. Finding space for 150+ guests while rearranging furniture could have been a challenge – but we were simply overwhelmed by the true village spirit. In a jiffy linen was stripped, tables and chairs stowed, candle bottles exchanged for lower lace dressed tealights (there’s that “nod” to Laura’s dress) and that was the space created for the party! A massive thank you to all the gentlemen and ladies who offered assistance and to those who simply saw a job and did it. Many hands do make light work – and makes for a lot of laughs. I just know their photographer Iain Bain will have captured some fabulous moments – I cannot wait to see the official photos.
The band were just setting up as we left them to the rest of their evening. It promised to be a fabulous night. “The only thing I can put on my feet today are flip flops” said Mum the following morning. You should have got shoes to match Laura’s dancing shoes, Margo :). I think it is fair to say they danced their feet off.
You know sometimes it is all too easy to follow the same pattern when it comes to dressing a wedding. The bridesmaid colour is often the obvious choice. And centrepieces can often be variations on something you have seen elsewhere. But your day is about you. Don’t be afraid to bring elements in which mean something to you and those who know you. Be it food, favours or a comedy prop. It’s like a private moment shared with all your guests. Those are the things they will remember when all the decor has long since passed.
Laura and Mark’s day was full of love and happiness but most of all it was very tastefully “them”. In their words “We got the traditional teuchter wedding that we wanted. Although we live in London, we are both so proud of where we come from. And what’s more, all of our ‘wouldn’t it be mad if…’ ideas came to life. The menu, the cake, sticking to basics with the whisky bottles on the table (Dad made a good joke about what a shame they were empty!)”.
“We were so thrilled with our day. Went better than we could have dreamed and I loved the decoration – lots of comments about how great the hall looked and how ‘us’ the theme was. We especially appreciate the extra help you gave – we know the space and timescales were challenging! A very happy Mrs Neil!”
Highland Occasions by Design,
Banffshire AB37 9DL
Tel: 07976 918185