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Rachel + Rónán

by SDM Photography

at Dunnet Head Lighthouse

Caithness-Scotland

If you’re dreaming of a venue that is a little different, then today’s wedding is going to be right up your street. Rachel and Rónán were married earlier this month at a vintage lighthouse situated at the most northerly point of the Scottish mainland. With views to the Orkney Islands, and an Old Engine Room for the rustic after party, we can see exactly why they fell in love with this rugged and romantic setting.

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Who saw who first?
Rónán and I met at work in London. We are both Town Planners and worked for the same Local Authority in South London – It was a bit awkward at first! but when you know it’s ‘the one’ you find a way to make it work, despite the difficulties of the circumstances. After a few years of working and dating each other, I eventually found a new job so we didn’t have to date, live AND work with each other anymore!
And how was the big question popped?
We got engaged in January 2014 – Rónán organised a weekend break in Brussels for us – my Christmas gift. When we got to the hotel in Brussels, we went to check in, but found other guests already occupying the room! Had I known what Rónán was planning, I would have understood why he didn’t find this as funny as me! but eventually we were given the correct room, and whilst I was sorting out my things, all of a sudden Rónán was down on one knee proposing – I was shocked and delighted all at once! I was so happy I couldn’t stop laughing – so Rónán had to confirm what the answer was – which was yes of course. We went to a two michelin star restaurant to celebrate.
We were inspired by…
The location. The beautiful, dramatic expanses of the landscape and the remote setting of the cliffs, with Hoy (Orkney Islands) in the backdrop. The lighthouse had a vintage feel to it, and as we selected our outfits and decorative items, it was clear that the day was going to have a vintage style.
What an amazing location! Tell us more about your venue…
We know our friend, Norman, from previously working with him in London. He is originally from Scotland, and decided it was time to move back to his homeland! The Highlands hold a special place in his heart and so it was quite natural for him to set up base there. However, it was a bit of a shock to all his friends to see just how far north he was going! Rónán and I decided to visit Norman last year, and during the visit Norman offered us the lighthouse buildings and cliffs as a wedding venue. We had previously been looking in Dublin (as Rónán is Irish), but nothing we had seen felt like the right location for us. Upon visiting Dunnet Head we were completely blown away by the dramatic beauty of the landscape and scale of the cliffs – we could immediately see the potential – although the buildings required a lot of renovation!
It felt like the right place for us and we knew that we had found the special place for our wedding. We have always loved coming to Scotland to escape the madness of London, and so it felt appropriate to share the amazing beauty of this remote outpost with our friends and family on our wedding day. However convincing everyone to make the trip and organising it all was definitely a challenge! But once there, everyone immediately understood our decision to get married there – it was just perfect for us.
In the week before the wedding, we had to completely redecorate the hall to be used for the reception venue. It was hard work, but great to see the end result and know that we had created the venue through our own hard work – and team work – as future husband and wife. On the day, everything went perfectly and we had an amazing day – the best day of our lives – the weather was perfect for the ceremony outside on the cliffs, and the photos capture the amazing backdrop that convinced us that this was the right place for us to get married.

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And something surprising about your day…
We had been busy decorating the venue in the week leading up to the special day. We decided to spend the night before the wedding apart in a nod to tradition, and unknown to me, Rónán was still getting the venue finished on the morning of the wedding – the cast iron railings around the ceremony area were still wet with black paint when I arrived in the wedding car – and myself and my bridesmaid/flower girl had no idea! The best man had to make sure that our dresses didn’t touch the paint without telling us or making it obvious to the other guests! He did a great job, and it all went off without a hitch in the end.
We love your vintage-inspired dress – how did you find it?
I decided to go wedding dress shopping in Brighton as that is where my Maid of Honour lives. I knew that I didn’t want a traditional dress, but also decided that I would try on a whole range of styles before making up my mind. Whilst I liked the look of vintage style short wedding dresses, I hadn’t at that stage decided to have one myself, and it was only through trying on a range of styles that I decided to settle on a shorter wedding dress type.
Imagining the wedding dress at the venue was really important to the decision – because of the relaxed informal setting, I wanted to ensure that my dress felt fun and relaxed too – as well as being gorgeous of course!
When we found the ‘dotty dress’ as we called it – I just feel in love with the fun style. It was the only dress that I tried on that made me happy, the other dresses, whilst beautiful in their own way, felt stuffy and formal to me, whilst the ‘dotty dress’ made me smile! We were also planning a ceilidh band for the evening and I knew that the dress would be comfortable for dancing. I also knew that Rónán wanted a brown tweed suit and I thought the dress would match his style perfectly.
It was when I put the birdcage veil on that I knew for sure that this was the dress – the birdcage veil made me feel so special – and from that moment on the vintage style was embedded for the day.
Tell us more about the music & dancing…
We wanted a ceilidh and folk band and found the band online, looking at recordings and You-tube videos to decide whether they were right for us. They were great on the day – most of the guests had never been to a ceilidh before, but they soon got us all dancing the right moves! I laughed so much – and everyone said that the ceilidh was a real hit with all the guest – young and old.
Before the ceilidh we wanted the first dance to work for a folk music style, and settled on Andrew Bird’s cover of ‘If I needed you’ – a beautifully sweet song.
After the ceilidh we asked the band to do a traditional Irish acoustic folk type session – that you would normally see in local pubs in Ireland. They did a range of folk Scottish and Irish songs that were great to listen too for all ages. The band finished at 11pm and most of the family and older guests left at that point, leaving the more energetic guests to some louder pre-recorded music that we played through our own speakers, using a pre-arranged wedding playlist that Rónán put together. We danced till 3.30am!
Any advice?
Organisation is the key. We put together an itinerary for the day as well as the week leading up to the wedding day, with all key actions listed and time slots allocated. We also put all of the key supplier contact details and other key information on the itinerary, and gave copies to our best man/maid of honour, so that on the day Rónán and I could sit back and relax, leaving all of the organisation to the best man and bridesmaid.

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Why Scotland?
Since we started dating, we have gone on holiday in Scotland every year, to Edinburgh, Skye, the Outer Hebrides, the Cairngorms and the upper Highlands and Islands. We love the scenery, going for walks and being in remote locations as an escape from the madness of London. We also love Scottish folk who are always incredibly friendly and always happy and helpful. Our Scottish friends were delighted we chose to get married there, even though our families are from England and Ireland. Having a friend with an amazing venue and location sealed the deal for us.
What’s the one truly unforgettable thing about your wedding day?
Being able to get married legally outside was really important to us, and to do it at the most northerly point of the mainland UK, with such an amazing backdrop, and with decent weather – was simply the best ever.
How incredible is this setting! Who else wants to get married at a lighthouse now? Christina x
Suppliers
Venue – Ceremony on the cliffs adjacent to Dunnet Head Lighthouse, reception in the Old Engine Room at Dunnet Head Lighthouse. The venue does not currently have a website. A friend (Norman Brockie) purchased three cottages and the old engine room (a hall) on the lighthouse site last year. Norman is in the process of renovating the venue as a gallery and self-catered holiday cottages that can also be used as a wedding venue – we were the first to test it out!
Caterer Fiona Polson, Clementine and Clove
Photographer – Susie D Swanson, SDM Photography. Susie did such an amazing job capturing the magic of the day. I didn’t want overly posed photos and we prefer more natural shots, and that’s exactly what she delivered. I love how she’s captured how happy we were to be getting married – and some really funny expressions shared between friends and family during the day. It was always intended to be a relaxed, fun day, without any stuffy formalness, and we think Susie totally captured the feel of the day. The photos have an observational style and Susie had a very unimposing presence on the day – we couldn’t be happier with the results!
Florist – Jane Miller at The Flower Shop Wick. I found Jane online and had to correspond with her over email to describe the kind of bouquets I wanted for the day. I wanted a really natural look, with wild flowers and native species to Scotland. The idea was to have bunches that looked like they had come straight from a field. I also love sunflowers, so Jane highlighted my bridal bouquet with a smaller version of a sunflower. I decorated the room with sunflowers, heather, daisies and lavender – all in keeping with a natural look, but also the vintage style that we had for the day. Jane couldn’t have done a better job putting together the bouquets, button holes and flower girl headband – it was all exactly how we wanted – and the flowers smelt amazing!
Hair stylist – Laura at B’Dazzled Hair & Beauty Salon
Make-up artist – Carey at B’Dazzled Hair & Beauty Salon
Wedding dressTrue Bride W113 polka dot in Ivory and Birdcage Veil from Ocean Bridal Studio in Brighton
ShoesDebenhams, Pink by Paradox London Ivory satin & lace ‘Fancy’ peep toe platform shoe.
Accessories – I had a birdcage veil and vintage pearl and emerald earrings – both purchased in Brighton where I got the dress, and in keeping with the vintage style for the day. I also wore a lace bolero, ivory to match the dress, during the ceremony. I wanted to have three looks for the day using accessories, so I wore the birdcage veil and bolero for the ceremony and for some photos afterwards, removing them for more informal photos with Rónán, and for during the meal. In the evening I then wore a feather bolero and gold sequin ballet pumps – to allow some dancing!
Groom’s outfitTweed Addict, Hackney, London. Rónán has always wanted a tailored tweed suit – and our wedding was just the excuse he needed to spoil himself! He found the tailor local to his work place in Hackney, and decided on a brown tweed suit – with wool that originally came from Scotland! Which all seemed very appropriate for the day. Although he told me about the suit and showed me a photo – I didn’t see him in the suit itself until the day of the wedding at the ceremony – we were both delighted with how we looked together.
Bridesmaids’ dressesTed Baker, Faybll Cocktail, Lace Bodice Pleat Dress, Cream
Stationery – We used a template on Vistaprint and designed our own invitations.
Cake – A friend of Norman’s from his workplace.
TransportDunnetts
BandDancing Feet Folk Arts.
Additional suppliers – Our friend Darragh played the violin for the beginning of the ceremony.