A chance meeting in Hong Kong in 2012 led to what Stephanie and Chris would later refer to as ‘love at first sight’ – that fabled occurrence that sounds improbable, but when it happens it feels as natural as can be. Following a beautiful proposal that saw the couple return to the spot where they’d taken their first ever photo together, Stephanie and Chris set about planning the sumptuous autumnal wedding they’d always dreamed of. We spoke with Stephanie to learn more about the couple’s big day.
We set a date for our wedding shortly after our engagement. I had always liked the idea of an autumn wedding as I love the colours and how crisp and fresh the weather can be. It also meant we had 18 months to plan our wedding, which worked perfectly for us. Chris and I planned the wedding ourselves but our parents and siblings were on hand to help and offer advice whenever we needed. They were the biggest support and we couldn’t have done it without them.
We both love the area (my mum is from Inverness and most of her family still live there) so we knew almost immediately that we’d like to get married in the Highlands.
When it came to a venue, my mum had come across Achnagairn online and suggested we take a look - we fell in love instantly! As almost all of our guests would be travelling a significant distance to the wedding, the fact that Achnagairn had so much accommodation on site was a huge plus. We booked a visit for July 2018 and came to take a look around with my mum, dad and sisters.
Within minutes of stepping out of the car we knew the venue was for us!
Even without any decoration, the ballroom couldn’t fail to impress and we could imagine how amazing it would look on a crisp autumn day. The bedrooms were beautiful and had loads of personality - just our style! The grounds were stunning, the Mini Manors were amazing, the location was perfect for the airport… there was just so much to love. But one of the most important factors was the team. We knew from that first meeting that our wedding would be in safe hands with Kirstie and the gang (and we were right!) Throughout the planning process Kirstie and the team were so responsive and extremely helpful. The team at Achnagairn worked tirelessly to make sure we had the wedding of our dreams - paying attention to everything from the smallest details to the overall concepts/timings of the day.
Even without any decoration, the ballroom couldn’t fail to impress.
Achnagairn were really helpful in suggesting vendors. My mum/family/friends in the area were also able to recommend some suppliers, otherwise it was down to careful googling! Our vendors were as follows:
Angela Hunter (flowers): Angela was a friend of the family and recommended by Achnagarin, so it was a no-brainer! Angela was able to guide us through the entire process: from an initial brainstorm to presenting perfect flowers on the day itself. I had an idea of the ‘look’ I wanted for the flowers but didn’t know anything about specific types etc. – Angela was able to take my idea and bring it to life with arrangements that were beyond my wildest dreams.
Euan Robertson (photography): Chris came across Euan on Instagram and we were immediately impressed with what he saw. Chris enjoys more artistic wedding photos - ones that have a ‘cinematic’ feel - while I like candid moments caught on camera. Euan could do both! On the day itself, Euan was a calm, fun presence who kept things running smoothly and made us and our families feel relaxed throughout.
MacDonald Studio (video): Robert was a delight to deal with from start to finish and produced a wedding video that we both adore! He captured the beauty of Achnagairn as well as the fun of the dancing. Best of all, he was fantastic on the day itself and made us both feel totally at ease.
Leeming Brothers (stationery): Based in London, the Leeming Brothers were recommended to me by a friend. We knew we wanted something simple, classic but still personal, so we eventually asked the Leeming Brothers to design our invitations, notecards and a monogram that we reprinted across other stationery, including letters to guests. The invitations were beautiful, just what we asked for, and were delivered in a timely manner.
Papier (stationery): For the on-the-day stationery we used Papier. We were able to use similar fonts/colours to the invitation in order to produce pieces that were in keeping with the invitations. The website was extremely easy to use and gave us lots of freedom and flexibility in designing.
UK Gospel Choir (entertainment): Chris and I both love music so it was always going to play an important part in our day. One of the first things we booked was the UK Gospel Choir, who flew up from London for the day! While we never had the opportunity to hear them live, there were plenty of YouTube videos that showcased their talent. Having them sing me down the aisle and entertain guests was an absolute highlight of the day. Kirstie and the team at Achnagairn also helped us keep the choir secret from the guests until the moment they took their seats - it made the entire thing even more amazing!
Celtic Rouge (entertainment): As we were living in London, Chris and I relied on YouTube and the Music For Scotland website to find our band. We wanted a ceilidh and covers band and Celtic Rouge fit the bill! They were great to deal with, were happy to learn our first dance song (Paradise by George Ezra) and were fantastic long into the night. They kept everyone going!
Piper on Parade (piper): The lovely Kirstie at Achnagairn recommended a Piper to pipe us around the estate. Dougie the Piper was fantastic for that additional Scottish feel to the wedding!
Cakes at No. 9 (cake): Cakes at No. 9 was recommended by Achnagairn and Jo (who runs the business from her home) couldn’t have been better! She offered us a fantastic tasting and produced the most delicious cake.
D&E Coaches (transportation): We arranged for two coaches to shuttle guests from the airport to Achnagairn throughout the Friday afternoon/evening. The company was excellent to deal with and were flexible when we had to change travel plans at the last minute.
Betty Booth Photo Booth (miscellaneous): This was the last thing we arranged and we didn’t regret it! The team were fantastic and kept things running smoothly throughout the night. It was great to have something to keep guests entertained, and we got a copy of every photo to take home - yet another incredible keepsake!
I LOVED the process of finding my dress… I just couldn’t stop trying them on! As I live in London, I focused mainly on bridal boutiques here although I had the great pleasure of visiting Olive Jones in Edinburgh which I would highly recommend.
I knew I wanted something timeless with a touch of fabulousness and found that in Halfpenny London. The chic separates meant I could put together a look that was entirely my own, and gave me the flexibility of wearing three different outfits on the wedding day without needing a complete change!
I kept the rest of the accessories pretty simple. I chose a pair of Sophia Webster heels - I’d had my eye on her designs for ages because her bridal shoes have ‘Wifey For Lifey’ written on the bottom (fun!) and a simple pair of crystal drop earrings.
Other accessories were my granny’s wedding ring (something old) and one of my mum’s bracelets (something borrowed). The ‘wifey for lifey’ on the bottom of my shoes was written in blue… and my earrings were new!
I was lucky enough to have my two sisters as my bridesmaids which made finding a dress relatively straightforward. Given that my dad would be wearing tartan, and my husband-to-be wanted some colour in his suit, I thought it would be nice to keep the bridesmaids in white to create more of a crisp look. In the end we settled on dresses from By Malene Birger. They were classic but not traditional ‘bridesmaid’ dresses. They both looked beautiful.
Hair and make-up were done by the incredible Stephanie and Laura from The Doll’s House, Inverness. The Doll’s House was on Achnagairn’s list of recommended suppliers and came recommended by friends and family in the area. Both Stephanie and Laura were amazing at working with me to create my dream bridal look and were very responsive to feedback on trials. They also created looks that were perfect for my mum and my sisters. Everyone looked and felt their best! Perhaps most importantly, Laura and Steph were a pleasure to spend time with and made the wedding morning even more of a joy.
Chris decided he wanted something extra special for the wedding day and so opted for a bespoke suit from Suit Supply. Working with an experienced tailor, Chris decided on a velvet tuxedo jacket in a rich emerald green colour, worn with a formal dress shirt, waistcoat and tuxedo trousers in a navy blue. Chris wore a tie in a matching tartan to my Dad, which really tied the whole look together!
I bought him a pair of hummingbird cufflinks as a wedding present to open on the morning which were really special, and he also wore the ring his parents gave him for his 18th birthday.
The talented Angela Hunter made Chris, the groomsman, my dad and Chris’s dad beautiful button-holes that really added a certain something to the outfits.
We went into one of the reception rooms, just the two of us, and took a moment to look into the mirror as husband and wife for the first time.
Everyone tells you ‘your wedding day is the best day of your life’ and for us that couldn’t be more true! From start to finish it was absolutely everything we had imagined (and more!)
There are so many memories that stand out but I think for both of us the best bit of the day was the ceremony itself. We worked with Linda Stewart, a humanist celebrant, to create a ceremony that was exactly as we wanted - choosing everything from the readings to the vows - and it made the whole thing that much more special. On Linda’s suggestion, we also wrote ‘three things we love about each other’ that we kept secret until the day. Having that special, personal, romantic revelation was just incredible. Finally, the choir providing the music for the ceremony (the walk-in music, a ‘sing along’ song, two songs while we were signing the register and one as we were walking out) really set the tone. We encouraged people to get up on their feet to dance and sing. It meant our life together as a married couple got off to the most joyous start!
The other moment that we loved was when we went into one of the reception rooms, just the two of us, and took a moment to look into the mirror as husband and wife for the first time. It was full of such happiness.
Finally, at the end of the night, the band sung Loch Lomond. That song is always emotional but it was especially poignant standing in the middle of a circle of our loved ones, singing at the top of our voices, and seeing them singing back at us. We’ll never forget it!
I guess our main piece of advice would be to do things ‘little and often’. We tackled tasks every week (almost) to try and avoid a period of time when things were overly stressful (although it inevitably seeps in).
Kirstie also gave us a wonderful piece of advice as we got closer to the wedding: she said it was the time that couples started to add extra bits/overcomplicate their day and she advised we keep it simple/stick to our plan. I’m so pleased we listened.
The team at Achnagairn worked tirelessly to make sure we had the wedding of our dreams.