Claire & Stevie's Sydney meets Edinburgh garden wedding

By on Sep. 29th
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Photos by Lauren McGlynn

The offbeat bride: Claire, Architect

Her offbeat partner: Stevie, Sailmaker

Date and location of wedding: Kirknewton Stables, Edinburgh, UK — July 13, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: I never dreamt about being a bride like other girls, so Stevie and I started from scratch with how we wanted the day to be. My black and white dress was a huge secret (only my mum and bridesmaids knew) and everyone gasped when I walked into the garden. I never wear white, so it seemed ridiculous I would wear white on our wedding day. I looked at amazing vintage gowns and had not really considered black until I saw the black tulle skirt in a shop window on Gertrude Street in Melbourne. The store, Sadotna, is full of black pieces and nothing else, so it was hilarious when we told the shop assistant it was for my wedding.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Juliet Wilson, our humanist celebrant, encouraged and guided the writing of our personalized vows. We had been to a Jewish wedding where the bride and groom alternately read vows to each other. We wanted to do something similar, with a splash of humour:

Claire: I vow to strive to make you happy at every moment.
Stevie: I vow to always go exploring with you no matter how old we are.
Claire: to always comfort you when Hearts loses, and celebrate when they win.
Stevie: to listen to your architecture stories attentively.
Claire: to learn how to drive a manual car.
Stevie: to praise your garden growing magnificent daffodils and gladioli.
Claire: to stand by your side and support your choices whatever lies ahead.
Stevie: to laugh with you in the good times.
Claire: to struggle with you in the bad times.
Stevie: I vow to you that this is a marriage of equals.
Claire: I vow to be your best friend and companion.

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Our old friend Sarah read a beautiful story that she wrote about how Stevie and I met in Edinburgh and our time together there. It was one of my favourite parts of the day, as we only see Sarah every one or two years, and she knew Stevie and I from the early days. She has a beautiful way of speaking and telling stories (plus a great sense of humour) , and we wanted to share that with our Australian friends and family that had never met her.

My sister Louisa, read a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem that Stevie had found:

stwedding-212To answer a child's question

Do you ask what the birds say? The Sparrow, the Dove,
The Linnet and Thrush say, "I love and I love!"
In the winter they're silent–the wind is so strong;
What it says, I don't know, but it sings a loud song.
But green leaves, and blossoms, and sunny warm weather,
And singing, and loving-all come back together.
But the Lark is so brimful of gladness and love,
The green fields below him, the blue sky above,
That he sings, and he sings; and for ever sings he–
I love my Love, and my Love loves me!"

The celebrant had previously introduced my bridesmaids as my best friends, which had set Loui off crying. When she started to read her voice cracked and through tears, she said she couldn't finish the reading. Then, totally randomly, a nearby house/car alarm went off and the whole congregation laughed – so Loui was able to take a deep breath and go on.

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Finally, Stevie's grandfather, Lawrence read a blessing:

In this place,
In this period of quietness,
Let us all think for a moment
Of Claire and Stevie.
This is a new beginning for them,
With all their hopes and dreams of love.
May these hopes and dreams be realised.
May they believe in each other;
May they be devoted to each other;
May the warmth of their love for each other,
In the kindness of their home,
Allow them to be charitable
To others as well as to themselves.
Through their years together,
May their love grow and deepen
Through giving each to other.
May they learn the great joy
That comes from sharing.

He read it in such a clear, stoic, Scottish accent, I was so glad we asked him to close with this reading. I feel there is more gravitas when you ask an elderly person to read such a heart-warming verse.

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Our biggest challenge: I met Stevie when I was living in Edinburgh nine years ago. We moved to Australia seven years ago, so I could finish my architecture degree. We now live in Sydney. Stevie's family assumed we would get married in Sydney, however I often feel bad that we get Stevie all to ourselves, so we decided to have the wedding in Edinburgh. Therefore, organising the wedding from Sydney was our biggest challenge. We did as much before we arrived as possible, as we only arrived in Edinburgh one week before the wedding. For example, we had a series of outdoor tables, with a simple single flower in glass votive arrangement. I printed a series of old maps of Sydney and Edinburgh, cut them in circles a little smaller than the table, and carried them on the plane from Sydney!

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Susannah from Event 88 organised all the table settings, flowers and decorations for us. We had a clear idea of what we wanted, but it was still difficult to communicate via Skype and email. In the end we were so pleased we asked Susannah, as she took all the stress out of the day and we were able to relax.

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My other huge challenge was finding a top half to my wedding dress! After I found the black tulle skirt in Melbourne, I searched for something, but I was either getting singlets/vests or structured work blouses. And then I met Melissa Kritsotakis! She had made my sister Jemima's dress and we were all on the same wavelength. She immediately knew what to do, and it was such an enjoyable process to see her design and mould the blouse to suit the skirt.

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My funniest moment: Craig, Stevie's best man, gave an amazing speech. He paced the lawn for an hour before, rehearsing in his head. The result was one of the best and funniest speeches I've ever heard. Practice makes perfect. Plus, he did a nice job of embarrassing Stevie!

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Stevie found the venue, Kirknewton Stables, online. We could see the stable was a blank canvas, with beautiful timber ceilings and stone walls. However there weren't many photos of the venue setting, garden, and entry. We just crossed our fingers. When we visited the venue two days before the wedding, Edinburgh had put on some sparkling weather and the garden looked absolutely beautiful.

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The owner of the stables, Charles Welworth, suggested we disembark the guests from the coach at the opposite end of his private garden, weather permitting. On the day, the guests had this wonderful walk through his garden in full bloom arriving on the lawn where the reception was held. Later on, the garden was a beautiful quiet retreat for Stevie and I when we had our photographs taken.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Stevie and I planned this wedding together, and the guests responded to the day because it was an expression of both of us. From Stevie's cricket in kilts, to my Australian flowers and our combined vows, we achieved a nice balance. Therefore, my advice is to brides is to include your husband in the planning (except for the dress)!

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I never wanted bridesmaids because I thought the idea of having a maid was old-fashioned. My sisters were my bridesmaids and we could not have planned this wedding without them. Louisa found our amazing hair and makeup stylists, and Jemima attended week after week of dress fittings and shoe hunting.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
Halfway through the process of organising the wedding, I realised how lucky we were to have found all these amazing people to help make our ideas real. I really enjoyed the creative process, especially with Melissa Kritsotakis and Gerard Wollaston. I'm an architect, so I'm usually the one designing something for someone else. It was such a pleasure for it to be the other way around!

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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