The offbeat bride: Maureen, Health and Well Being Support Worker (and Tribe member)
Her offbeat partner: Derek, Health Improvement Officer
Date and location of wedding: Arbroath, Stonehaven, and Laurencekirk, Scotland — August 5, 2011
What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding was a two-parter! On the fifth of August, we had a very small and intimate humanist ceremony at Arbroath Abbey which included our two bridesmaids, best man, and our mums. This was followed up with a gorgeous meal at a lovely seafood restaurant back up the coast in Stonehaven. We had a day in between to gather our thoughts and get ready for the wedding ceilidh on the seventh of August, which included about 90 friends and family members.
We wrote our ceremony with our humanist celebrant so that it was about us and what marriage meant to us as a couple. I didn't go for a frothy white dress and instead found a cracking vintage blue cocktail dress at my favourite vintage emporium in Edinburgh. I made my own bridal shrug.
One of my bridesmaids made the most gorgeous posies out of old vintage jewelry. Our ceidilh was in the local village hall that we decorated ourselves with vintage teacups filled with cream carnations, vintage plates filled with Orkney Fudge, floral tablecloths, and tealights. We made sure to mix up various Scottish and Orcadian elements that reflected out heritage.
There was no need for a seating plan so everyone could relax with whomever they wanted. We kicked off our dancing with a Gay Gordons that everyone knows, and could join in on. We had a curry buffet for the meal that went down a storm, especially when the leftovers were packaged up for folk to take home with them at the end of the night so they could have curry for breakfast.
Tell us about the ceremony: In Scotland, we are lucky enough to have the option of a Humanist marriage ceremony. We met with our celebrant, Rachel, before the ceremony, and she spent time finding out about us and our relationship before drafting it. We then included our vows, a reading of the poem "The Invitation" by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and the lyrics of "Constant Companion" as sung by Johnny and June Carter Cash into the ceremony.
We also included a handfasting which used a rope that we made from some berry twine from the farm where my husband grew up, some alpaca used to knit the kilt socks that my husband wore, and some North Ronaldsay wool from Orkney to reflect my roots and where I grew up.
We both spent the ceremony grinning away and cuddled up while various members of our bridal party teared up at parts. I ended up putting Derek's wedding ring on the wrong hand, but so far this doesn't seem to have an impact on the marriage since the wedding! A local piper did an ace job of setting the scene, piping us girls in and piping us all out of the Abbey at the end.
It might seem contradictory that we chose a former religious building for our non-religious ceremony, but Arbroath Abbey is associated with the Declaration of Arbroath, which fits in nicely with our strong interest in Scottish history and our beliefs regarding the independence of individuals within a partnership. It is a dramatic ruin set within a small town that turned up to be a grand spot on a sunny day for us to make a stand in front of friends as to what we mean to each other.
Our biggest challenge: Trying to make sure that Derek's children from previous relationships were made to feel included in the event, even though they weren't at the actual ceremony, and that they understood how they fit in to this new version of a family. We took it slow and steady and didn't push them too far. Being a blended family is a work-in-progress which will never stop.
My favorite moment: Being a two-parter, there were a few. I loved walking through the big gates at Arbroath Abbey and seeing my honey looking absolutely gorgeous in his kilt. He's a stunning boy all dressed up. We had pictures taken down at Arbroath Harbour after the ceremony, as we seem to spend a lot of time at the local harbours. I took photos and Derek fishing off the pier.
I loved knowing that this was really "it" when we said our vows and that we meant every word and still do. And it was great going around the hall at the ceilidh with my new husband and passing around the Bride's Cog as many other Orcadian couples have done through the ages.
My funniest moment: Apparently I was supposed to walk slowly up the nave of the Abbey, towards my groom, behind the piper. It was a major fail as I hadn't been told that beforehand and so pranced up the aisle in double-quick time as I was impatient to get there.
The ceilidh dancing was a tad hardcore and the Orcadian Strip the Willow. It's known as the "dance of death" as it was so full-on. There really was blood on the dance floor by the end of it!
Prior to the wedding, I got IDed when buying all the alcohol for the knock-you-back punch. (It goes into the traditional Bride's Cog at the wedding party.) I was 42 at the time! We also found out that our wedding car was going to be driven by a cousin of Derek's, which is a total coincidence as we'd booked the car without knowing that he worked for the company. An extra bottle of champagne came our way with that one.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? It turned out that our caterers "forgot" to apply for the drinks licence in time, meaning that they couldn't sell drink at the ceilidh. We had to cover the cost instead which stung a bit, but at the end of the day it's only money. Though being a Scottish wedding that did mean a reasonably large sum of money. There were not many teetotalers in our wedding party!
The day before the wedding Derek and our best man went to pass on final instructions to the restaurant where we were originally going to have our wedding meal. Nothing major, just which table we'd prefer, the time we should be arriving, etc. Unfortunately, the management team had changed between us booking it and the wedding date, and to say that they were unhelpful was a slight understatement.
We decided to call an alternative local restaurant that we knew were good, booked with them, and then phoned the original booking to cancel it. My husband got a different member of staff who was much nicer, but by then it was too late and they were told exactly why the booking was being cancelled, and suggested that some staff training wouldn't go amiss to prevent a further loss of sales.
The meal at Tolbooth in Stonehaven on the wedding day was awesome and we had a grand time there over the course of the evening.
My advice for offbeat brides: Choose your wedding party carefully as they are definitely your fallback team when things get a bit much. Ours was ace! If you don't add certain stuff in and don't draw attention to it then nobody will notice. We didn't have a top table, favours, a choreographed first dance, etc. and nobody cared. If you want curry for your meal, then have it. The only people who questioned our choice beforehand on that decision were "the mums," and funnily enough, they were pretty near the head of the queue when it came time for seconds!
And definitely go away afterwards so you can have a chance to chill out with your new partner in a way that suits you both best. We tootled about the Northwest coast of Scotland for a week, staying in the most gorgeous cottage, eating grand food, and puddling about just enjoying each other's company.
Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently? I hadn't been married before but Derek had. This time the wedding reflected him much more and what he stood for. We made sure that there was compromise between what I wanted, as a first-timer, and what he wanted this relationship and the celebration of it to mean. There was thought behind everything and nothing was picked out a of bridal magazine or because "that's what you do."
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? We never looked on the wedding as the marriage. We viewed our wedding as the starting point for the next stage in our life together. Nobody missed the traditional must-haves because they were too busy enjoying themselves and catching up with folk. It would also have been helpful to start knitting my wedding shrug slightly sooner as it was only completed the night before the actual wedding. Procrastination is definitely not a helpful trait!
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Bride's dress: Armstrong Vintage
- Bride's shoes: Irregular Choice
- Bridesmaid dresses: Rosehip Tutu
- Bride's cog: Orkney Jar
- Cake: Aberdeen Weddings
- Car hire: Chauffeurs of Carnoustie
- Ceilidh Band: Andy Kain Band
- Ceremony venue: Arbroath Abbey
- Honeymoon: Badrallach
- Photographer: Lynn Robertson
- Sweeties: Judith Glue
- Wedding celebrant: Humanism Scotland
- Wedding meal: Tolbooth
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!