Jenna is from Chicago. Stewart is from Belfast….and they married in Scotland.
Sounds strange I know but all will be explained very shortly when I hand over to Jenna for all the details from today’s contemporary cool wedding.
Photography is by Louie Abellera.
Fresh And Natural
Stewart proposed in my hometown the summer before our final year of university. We chose to have our wedding in St Andrews, Scotland, because if was a sort of mutual, neutral territory, and felt like ‘our’ home rather than his or mine. My family is from Chicago, and his is from Belfast, but we met in St Andrews the very first week of our first term of uni (I like to pretend we’re like Wills and Kate). We chose the week after graduation for our wedding so that my family would only have to travel over once, and all of our uni friends could stick around to be there.
Our ceremony was at our beautiful church, Holy Trinity. Our reception was at Craigsanqhuar House, in nearby Cupar, set in the rolling Fife countryside. You can see cows and sheep from the front windows which made me very happy.
We tried to approach the wedding planning process as building the foundations of our marriage. I have been told by many wise people that compromise features heavily in married life, and it certainly did in our wedding as well.
My problem was that I had too many visions for our wedding day, and hadn’t really counted on my groom having opinions too (ha!!). So I had to reign back, let a single vision emerge over the months, and I honestly was really pleased with how it came out on the day: Fresh and natural, antique and quirky, book-ish and bright.
Say Yes To The Dress
My dress was bought less than 24 hours after I got engaged I am ashamed to admit! My sister was leaving for university and we wanted to go shopping together, so she sneakily booked an appointment for the next morning. It was the first dress I tried on. I didn’t really ‘know’ then, but only after I tried on about a dozen others, including what I had thought would be my ‘dream dress’ (all lace, cap sleeves, deep v, backless). I put the dress back on, and just knew. I felt comfortable, I felt like myself, and I felt like Stewart would like it. It wasn’t fussy or body hugging, two things I hate, but youthful, pretty, and with just enough detail. The silk shantung made it so lightweight that I knew I would be able to just forget about it on the day. The best bit were the strings of fabric flowers trailing down the back.
It was from Bella Bianca, a bridal shop near my hometown in Illinois. The designer was Lazaro, whose name I had only heard from watching too many episodes of Say Yes to The Dress. The consultant was so helpful, and patiently brought out dress after dress, and then veil after veil, necklace after necklace, for me. I bought my veil with my dress. I wanted cathedral length to help fill the aisle because our church is very big! It was trimmed with something sparkly which kept it from being plain. I also chose a headband to swap with the veil for after the ceremony.
No Big Deal
Shoes were just not a big deal to me. I had my eye on some designer nude heels but once I tried on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s and could barely stand in them I gave up on that idea. Instead I bought a pair of low slingbacks from the bridal shop that went remarkably well with my dress. They had a very similar flower to the ones on my dress, and the colour matched well. I hadn’t walked around in them until 2 days before the wedding, after which I sent my bridesmaids on a hunt for a pair of white Toms, because I knew I wouldn’t last all day in those heels!
Bring In The Professionals
Hair and makeup is not something I know very much about, so there was no doubt I would be turning to the professionals. I think a Google search brought me to my two helpful ladies, Rosie Fraser on makeup and Charlene Wilson on hair. I gave them a few words (fresh, natural, young, romantic) and they both just did what they wanted. It worked! I was really happy with my hair and makeup on the day and it lasted throughout, even in the rain and wind that is inevitable in St Andrews.
Artistic, Creative And Natural
One of the first people I contacted once we were engaged was Sophie Wilson, of I Heart Flowers, who I found on the Love Lust List. Her artistic, creative, natural, floral arrangements were just what I had in mind. She was a joy to work with, and put up with my never-ending emails of ideas and images, and often sent me long emails back. In the end I just told her to surprise me and do what she wanted because I trusted her vision so much. I loved my flowers!!! She even made this incredible tree archway into the reception room, it gave the room such a magical garden feel. Whenever I look at photographs from our wedding I spend a lot of the time just staring at my bouquet, which was perfect.
Well, to be honest, I had my bridesmaids dresses picked out about 2 months before we got engaged (oops! The Hubby doesn’t know that!). I knew that most people don’t look good in the colours I wanted (either pale yellow or green), so I thought a cream top and coloured bottom would work really well. There aren’t too many designers out there who do that, and we managed to find the one shop in the Chicagoland area that had the dress I wanted in stock. I’m not sure if all my bridesmaids were on board with the idea, but I did it anyway, and I really, really loved them. The floral brocade top and chiffon skirt suited the vision of the wedding perfectly, and I thought each girl looked so pretty in the dress.
I also made them wear the shoes I was too much of a wimp to wear, though I couldn’t buy them all Jimmy Choo’s, so Nine West did the trick. Jewellery for the bridesmaids was a bit of a nightmare. I just did not like anything with the dress. I gave up and told my sister to deal with it, and I think it was my mom who ended up finding the earrings. Big, bold statement earrings. It was the only Jewellery they needed and I think it looked great.
A Scottish Twist
The groomsmen were left to my fiancé. He flirted with the idea of kilts because we were getting married in Scotland, but as neither of us are Scottish we decided against it. He chose to hire grey morning suits from Slaters, with yellow cravats that matched the bridesmaids.
A Boy From School
Our photographer was one of my best friends from school, Louie Abellera. I’ve watched Louie become the photographer he is today, from often being his test subject to holding lights and lenses for him on ‘proper’ shoots. He was my first and only choice. I love how his photos aren’t posed, but just a capture of natural moments. We were lucky he was able to visit St Andrews earlier in the year and do our engagement shoot. We used the photos from it to create a guestbook that people signed at our reception.
We also chose to have a videographer, so my friends and family from America who couldn’t fly over would have a better sense of the day. I’m really glad we did this, and it is so lovely to not only see the day, but also to hear it, especially our ceremony and the speeches.
The cake was never that important to me, but I felt such pressure to have the perfect one because it’s something everyone asks about. My online searches were not turning up anything I was happy with, and it was only by chance I found our baker, Sucre Coeur, at a wedding fair I passed by. She was young, cool, and her wedding anniversary was our wedding date – fate! I sent her loads of pictures I liked, with strict instructions (NO fondant! NO ribbons! Round!), and she sent back a mockup sketch. She sent us a huge box of cupcakes to sample the flavours, which we polished off with a bottle of cheap champagne one night instead of dinner (I highly recommend this). We chose 3 tiers, each a different flavour: chocolate and cherry, pina coloda and carrot cake. It was fabulous! I was really not keen on fruit cake and I’m glad I stood my ground on that.
Our cake toppers were little bride and groom birdies a local artist made from fabric scraps.
The Perfect Band
We both wanted a live band that played a variety of music. DJs are just not for us; my worst nightmare would have been house music pounding at the reception. Stewart was in charge of finding the perfect band, and he did! We found The Magic Keys through a handy website called Music for Scotland. They were one of the more expensive bands we had quotes from, but they were fabulous and inspired some great dance moves!
Our first dance was to Ray Lamontagne’s ‘You are the Best Thing’. Stewart had put that song on the first mixtape he gave me, and we would often sing it to each other, usually while dancing around the kitchen while making dinner. It was the obvious choice.
Meant To Bee
Favours were another headache. I don’t see them as necessary, and only wanted to do them if I found something I really liked. An email to the Fife Beekeepers Association yielded up a local woman who would make some honey for me, and voila, in early June I was presented with a big box of perfect wee jars of honey from over the hill. She even printed labels that read “Jenna and Stewart – Meant to Bee”.
One of our dear friends took care of all of our wedding-day stationery. After just a brief meeting where I said a few words (“watercolours” “literature” “birds”), she exceeded our expectations and gave us some beautiful products. One of my favorites was the table signs which were names of couples from my favorite works of literature.
To personalise our reception a bit more, we bought in a load of crates of Scottish ale from our favorite brewery The Williams Brothers. We chose the cheeky ‘Birds and the Bees’ as a free option at the bar. Went down a treat and caused a few chuckles. We also served deep-dish pizza, “Chicago-style”, for the evening buffet to help make the Americans feel at home.
I know most of the day is spent at the reception, but the ceremony should not be forgotten. About a week before the wedding I sat weeping in my room (this is normal, brides-to-be!!), and wrote some extra vows, which we worked into our ceremony. I didn’t want to not use the traditional ones, because they have such depth and meaning, but I felt like we had more to say to one another. Our minister helped us shape them into something usable in the ceremony, and just before the “Do you, Stewart,…” part, we very quietly promised each other what we wanted for our marriage. Many people have said that was the most moving part of the day.
I was also rather adamant that we have a choir, and only managed to secure one a liked who would sing the songs I wanted about 3 weeks before the wedding. They sang whilst we signed the register, and it was perfect.
Planning was exhausting for me. I fell entrapped in Pinterest and it’s friends, and had idea overload most days. A lot of what I ‘pinned’ never happened for one reason or another. Usually the reason was reality!! A lot of the images we see of ‘perfect’ weddings are because the couple has a much larger budget and a planner. For those of us brides who are going it at it alone, there is only so much we can do. I wish I had realized that earlier in the process, rather than expecting myself to plan and execute the best wedding anyone in the world had even been to or seen a photo of (my original aim…).
The wedding industry can be consuming, and it is easy to buy in to all the things you ‘need’ for your wedding day. But I learned you don’t need a unity candle, a choreographed dance, or a falcon to fly the rings in. You need love, you need commitment, faith, friends and family. That’s it. Everything else is extra. I had my fairytale day, but it doesn’t match my Pinterest board or my numerous spreadsheets. And honestly, the best thing about our wedding day was actually the next day, when we drove away, and realised, this is it, our marriage, our adventure, together.
Boutique – Bella Bianca
Dress – Lazaro
Make up – Rosie Fraser
Hair – Charlene Wilson
Florals – I Heart Flowers
Photographer – Louie Abellera
Band – The Magic Keys
Stationery – Palette Press
“Our Marriage… Our adventure together” Sounds pretty good to me.
It is probably worth remembering from time to time that the perfect wedding may not be the one that is meticulousy planned, exactly how you always dreamt it would be or one that runs like clockwork.
As Jenna says it’s about the things that are really important to you – and that is most likely to be your motive for marriage and the people you want to share it with.