Real Scottish Weddings - Autumnal Wedding - The Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh
When Alix first contacted me about her wedding at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh with her then-fiancé Ben, I was excited and not only because it’s one of my favourite wedding venues.
Half the wedding party, the happy couple included, would be flying over from Vancouver, Canada, which just happens to be one of my favourite cities in the world and one that for me contains so many happy memories of adventures along the fringes of the West Coast of the North American continent.
In other words, Alix & Ben were living my absolute dream - Downtown Vancouver on weeknights, hiking in the nearby mountains on weekends and nipping over to stay in tree houses on tiny islands in the Salish Sea. If you think my heart is yearning for another adventure, you must be psychic!
On the morning of the wedding, I went straight to the boys getting ready at their Airbnb flat in the New Town.
Sunlight was streaming through the tall windows in the living room area as Ben and his best friends got ready. The group were not the usual troop of Groomsmen though, as amongst them was Bridesman Wesley. I love it when couples tweak tradition to something that is more true to their own friendship dynamic.
As I took their getting ready shots as well as details shots of their beautiful wooden cufflinks and colourful boutonnieres, an unexpected standout star of the show revealed itself in Ben’s taco socks.
Why have boring socks when you can have taco socks? Ben did wedding socks correctly, guys. Learn from him!
The guys were all in high spirits in their stylish blue suits and with such perfect weather, I took them out along the cobbled streets for some “Reservoir Dogs meets Trainspotting” inspired shots. Bestman Alejandro was clueless - I hope you have now finally seen the ironic Scottish film!
The New Town always looks fabulous in photographs, but it was especially beautiful that morning. The sky was a giant softbox, casting a rose-gold light on the cobbles as I instructed the guys to walk towards me like they were rockstars, and I think they more than looked the part!
With the groom side completed, I jumped in my car to join Alix and her bridesmaids who were getting ready at her Grandparents house. When I arrived, hair & makeup were in full swing so I headed straight to the details shots and started with the gorgeous wedding dress.
A small, let's say "situation" arose when my request to see the wedding rings was promptly met with a look of sheer panic. Ben had told me Alix had them, but they weren't where they were supposed to be. A few frantic calls to Ben and some upturned suitcases later, they were eventually and the crisis (and potential divorce) was averted. At least no one left them back in Vancouver!
There was such love between Alix and her Papa for the First Look - a very special moment for a special bond between grandpa and granddaughter. His first reaction was emotional, but for me I love his little wink as he leant in for a hug - glowing (quite rightly) with pride.
The Wedding Ceremony
Arriving in style in a Lincoln Capri, driven by Edinburgh Classic Wedding Car's very own John, Alix was grinning from cheek to cheek. Her bridal party were there to greet her at the East Gate, as well as myself and videographer Craig Heaslip. Papa wrapped his arm around Alix and they took their first few steps towards the most important part of the day: the ceremony at the John Muir Grove.
The John Muir Grove is a stunning, secluded part of the Royal Botanic Gardens and one of the most beautiful places to be married in the city. Giant sequoia trees line the ceremony space, providing a quiet and private place for Alix & Ben to exchange their vows.
We found Ben loitering at the top of the aisle, looking a little nervous as sunlight pierced through the branches above. It was evident how excited he was for his soon-to-be-wife's arrival, and I'm sure for him the minutes leading up to the big moment certainly seem to last an eternity!
And then I saw the first flashes of a white dress through the trees behind him... it was time to begin.
Sunlight beaming behind them, the Wedding Party arrived with Groomsmen walking arm in arm with Bridesmaids down the aisle, before finally Alix and her Papa made their grand entrance. Ben patiently waited for my nod so as to not catch an early glimpse.
When it came for Ben to finally turn around to see his gorgeous bride, he was in absolute awe. His reaction is one of my all-time favourites - so many emotions and feelings contained within one single expression. He was absolutely speechless.
Their stunning ceremony was complemented by readings from Ben's sisters, and Alix's own sister occasionally bursting into tears with the emotion of it all. They had a handfasting ceremony featuring Alix's family tartan and a ring exchange initiated by Chief of Ring Security and Alix's nephew making the very special delivery. Thankfully by this time, we knew exactly where the rings were!
Throughout the ceremony, Celebrant Annalese wove in stories from their adventures together. This day was about Alix & Ben, and it was essential that love and their passion for life were integral to the ceremony.
There were anecdotes of their cycling trips together (including one involving a very long & unplanned trip back to civilisation for Ben!) to the story of their proposal at Elfin Lakes in Garibaldi Provincial Park with groomsman & professional Vancouver photographer Jack taking their surprise engagement photos; it was a rollercoaster of laughter, happy tears and fond memories.
Neither of them could stop grinning, and when it came to the vow exchange Alix was overcome with emotion. Sister Ashley raced to the rescue with a tissue in hand.
Laughter, tears, more laughter, their ceremony came to a close with a first kiss underneath those giant sequoias, which were also the perfect nod to their home back in Vancouver where they enjoy weekend walks in the lush forests around British Columbia.
The John Muir Grove always sends my senses right back to places like Stanley Park and Capilano, so it must have been amazing to have a little touch of home for their vow exchange.
One of my favourite shots of the day was during their exit as husband & wife, when they turned to glance at each other with a look that spoke of so much love, happiness and their exciting new journey together.
Drinks were served at the Caledonian Hall, and with the warm sun shining down upon us everyone was in the mood for a little fizz and fun. As guests from all corners of the world mingled in the stunning surroundings and caught up over old times, I flitted around them all catching the little moments on camera. I love candid moments where no one is looking - by this point in the day everyone knows who I am and can relax and be themselves. If you don’t realise I’m even there, my mission is accomplished.
lix & Ben chose to keep their formal group shots to just their closest family & wedding party, with a few fun ones spontaneously thrown in at the last minute. The Botanics has so many wonderful backdrops, but the gently curving slopes near the Caledonian make for such a simple, elegant setting.
After Group Shots, we snuck away from the party for some truly special couples portraits.
This is one of my favourite times of any wedding day - and it was a chance for Alix & Ben to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy a moment alone together (well apart from a photographer & videographer shouting at you to stop looking at the camera).
Bless, him, Ben was a little nervous about what he was doing and kept glancing towards us to check that he wasn't being a complete numpty - he wasn't, they were both naturals in front of the camera, but it was hilarious to see him look nervously towards us before Alix burst out laughing.
When I say the lighting was perfect that day, I truly mean it. A little overcast, a little soft warm hue. The colours in the leaves were simply fantastic, and we could honestly have spent all day out in the gardens.
Every time I visit the Botanics, it offers something a little different, and Autumn is no exception with its gorgeous lighting and the burnt orange leaves starting to take hold.
When we returned to the Hall, their guests were all waiting for them inside. For Alix & Ben though, they wanted a little more time with their wedding party and opted to share a glass of fizz & a toast together with their friends.
It’s a lovely idea, and one I’d recommend to other couples who are looking to unite your wedding party after the ceremony and group shots.
The Wedding Breakfast
One of my favourite things about Alix & Ben's wedding - aside from their legendary presence, the epic lighting and their fab friends - was their table theme.
Each table was named after a special location where they'd been hiking together, with their sweetheart table featuring Elfin Lakes, where they were got engaged. It was such a lovely idea that not only symbolised their sense of adventure, but highlighted locations that held so many treasured memories for them.
They're incredibly lucky to have visited these places, and as I went up to each table for details shots I found myself reliving my own experiences as I'd also visited many of these locations.
While Yosemite's Valley Loop table brought back memories of hiking up to Nevada Falls in near 40 deg heat, as well as setting eyes on the iconic Bridal Veil Falls for the first time, my favourite amongst the table names was Grassi Lakes.
A small hike just outside of Canmore in Alberta, it sports breath-taking views of Banff National Park and its magnificent landscape. If you've ever been on a Zoom with me and wondered where those mountains are in my virtual background - that's the view from at Grassi Lakes. It was also one of the last places I visited in Canada, before driving to Calgary, taking a red-eye to Heathrow, spending a day in London and then heading on a very crowded (and delayed) train to Edinburgh. In the morning I climbed Grassi Lakes, by the time I next slept I was home in Edinburgh.
Before the meal kicked off, MC Brooke announced the wedding party and the happy couple into the Hall. As a bit of a surprise though, she also had arranged a wee game before dinner was served.
Two chairs were set up in the middle, back to back for the always-fun Shoe Game. It's hilarious seeing each partner's answers - and hesitation! They were pretty well matched though, so I don’t think any “delicate conversations” were needed post-wedding day!
The speeches were nothing short of heart-warming. Ben opened, thanking everyone for coming before turning to his wife with a look of complete love & amazement. Though he made it effortlessly through his speech, you could tell that he was still slightly lost for words following the moment he first saw Alix in the Grove just hours before.
Bestman Alejandro delivered the jokes, albeit interrupted by one of the tinier guests, and Alix’s sister took no prisoners with her emotional dedication - and recounted one of the most NSFW nicknames for Alix that I dare not ever repeat! Around the room there was so much laughter as old stories from eons ago were retold, but these speeches were also steeped in emotion, love and with the sense of adventure that imbibes Alix & Ben’s relationship.
Golden Hour Photography
And then Golden Hour hit. The Golden Hour to end all Golden Hours. Shards of light splintered through the canopy of trees and a single shaft of red & amber speared its way from the stratosphere to greet us in the gardens. It was nothing short of a dream. The lighting was as soft as silk, the sky a-blaze with colour. Alix & Ben glowed underneath the setting sun, dazzling their guests who watched on in awe. These are moments that I as a photographer will treasure forever, but for Alix & Ben? I can only but imagine how simply spectacular this moment was for them.
Evening Reception & First Dance
As the sun sunk below the horizon and the light began to fade, there was still time for an entire wedding guest group shot - an absolute must in my opinion. And why be boring with just a formal one? Do something extra, be dramatic, be bold. Weddings are about fun, celebration and making memories - so don't let the team down, strike a pose!
Outside, their evening guests were arriving and everyone was soaking up the last of the sun with a glass in hand. It was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere as the kids ran around playing and the adults chatted away, excited for what the evening had in store.
Meanwhile, two brothers snuck inside to set up their soundscape and prepare for the first dance. It must have been an honour for Wesley & Scott to play for their friends' first dance.
As the brothers begun, Ben took Alix's hand and walked her to the middle of the dance floor; the lights dimmed; their friends & family watching, all wearing big, beaming smiles.
There was no cake cutting for these cool Katz, for they had ordered this delicious donut tower instead. Wedding cakes a beautiful, but can you really beat a good ole donut? I don't think so...
The DJ took over from the Attew brothers and as their guests began dancing the night away, I snuck out to set up a little surprise for Alix & Ben. Backlit photography is something I love doing - every time is unique, because it’s the couples who make it so special. Alix & Ben were unstoppable - their love for each other was just too good for the camera. They couldn’t stop laughing, and this probably has to be one of my firm favourites from the day. With the completely black background, their laughter & personalities shine out all the brighter.
Back inside, the party was in full swing. Alix’s Papa was dancing with Ben’s Grandma, and it was such a sweet kind moment between two sides of the family.
Ben's Grandma only spoke Russian, but music is a universal language and a couple of dances later she dropped like a boss to the floor and up again mid-dance. What. A. Lady. If I have that flexibility in even 10 years time, I’ll be lucky!
Coverage was coming to a close, but just before I was about to start packing up, Ben’s sister approached me to tell me the song she had requested from the DJ - well, how could I not stay a little longer?!
To make sure everyone was on the dancefloor, I grabbed MC Brooke to make an announcement and round up the wedding party.
Let the mayhem commence - ill timed turns, misplaced hands, this is a song to span the generations. The Macarena knows no boundaries, transcends all languages, defies all logic & reason to bring everyone together for four minutes of absolute chaos and the perfect way to end a day of such joyful celebration.
Thank you so much, Alix & Ben, for trusting me as your wedding photographer. You had one helluva day, and I feel honoured to have been a part of it all. The Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite wedding venues, but you guys, your friends & family, made it all the more special.
Love what Alix & Ben did for their wedding? Here's a list of their suppliers for the day.
Venue: Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh / Heritage Portfolio
Videography: Craig Heaslip
Celebrant: Annalese Humanist
Dress: Maggie Sottero at Emma Roy of Edinburgh
Hair: KS Glamorous Creations
Make Up: Ciara Mackenzie Makeup
Flowers: Rose Parks Flowers
Transport: Edinburgh Classic Wedding Cars