Real Scottish Weddings - The Royal College of Physicians
It was on a bright and sunny day in December 2021 that I met Becca & Grant. With countries and occasionally continents separating them, these few days in Scotland together were precious.
Though American, both Becca & Grant have close links to Scotland as well as fond memories of vacations around the Highlands. While already legally married, it was important to them that the ceremony & celebrations take place in a country and city that they had so much love for and it was during a coffee that we first chatted about the possibilities for their day.
From plans for their couples portraits, ideas for their evening reception and a potential pub crawl into the wee hours... I was excited for July already, but I had no idea quite how epic their day would eventually be...
The Royal College of Physicians
Outside the Royal College of Physicians on the morning of their wedding day, there was no indication of the excitement and anticipation brewing inside. As I arrived, the girls were halfway ready - make up being applied, hair in rollers and glasses of fizz already in need of a top up. Beyoncé was playing and the girls were soaking in the atmosphere one beat at a time.
Becca's beautiful veil was draped over a chair, the soft light from the window illuminating its fine floral detail.
Her dress was a brilliant white, with off-shoulder lace.
With earrings and an engagement ring that matched her United States Air Force Academy class ring, it was a touching theme that symbolised more than just a shared connection of career choices.
It was how Becca & Grant first met.
As the ceremony approached, the emotion of it all began to hit Becca.
The dream of a Scottish wedding was fast approaching, and Grant would soon be waiting for her at the altar.
As Becca's mum dabbed the happy tears from her cheeks, it was nearly time for that dream to become a reality. A day that was years in the making was finally here, and she would soon be reunited with her handsome husband.
Closing the door on her bridesmaids, the next few minutes were an intimate moment for mother and daughter. This is one of my favourite parts of the day - the moment when a bride first sees herself in the mirror, that look from mom as she stems the tears back: the little girl that climbed Half Dome one summer vacation in Yosemite was now all grown up and about to marry the love of her life.
I did have an ulterior motive for asking the bridesmaids to leave as Becca got ready and her mom fixed her veil. The massive double doors that separated the rooms was too good an opportunity to pass on - that opportunity being to set up an epic First Look with Becca's bridesmaids.
Lining up the girls and warning them that the next person to open these doors was going to be Becca created all the anticipation. The look of awe on their faces as Becca walked through says it all - these are the moments that add so much emotion to a wedding gallery.
These are genuinely unrepeatable moments.
Outside St Mary's, Grant was waiting, dressed in his US Air Force uniform, medals shining proudly in the sunlight.
While the main focus on morning prep was on Becca and her bridesmaids getting ready, we still had time set aside for some shots of Grant and his groomsmen. The very dapperly dressed men were getting quite a few looks from the locals, who were very keen to know where such fine looking gentlemen were from.
Though we didn't have a lot of time before the ceremony was due to start, we managed to get several natural shots of the guys as they shared some nervous banter - it was clear to all that Grant was anxious to see his bride.
It was worth the wait. The bridesmaids walked hand in hand down the aisle with their groomsmen, teasing the moment when Grant would finally catch a glimpse of Becca. And sure enough, as Dad walked Becca down the aisle, Grant beamed from cheek to cheek. He did not stop smiling for the rest of the day.
As Dad shook hands with Grant, the moment came for the couple to link arms and take their place for the ceremony.
Flying in from Oklahoma to marry them, friend Father Steve was in awe of the architecture of St Mary's. With its huge vaulted ceilings and grand stained glass windows, it was easy to see why Becca & Grant chose St Mary's for their ceremony.
Immediately after the ceremony, I gathered everyone on the steps. With friends & family flying in from as far a-field as Hawaii, California and New York, an entire wedding guest group shot... what an opportunity not to be missed.
But with 70+ Americans standing on the steps outside St Mary's Church, OA and myself were initially disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm they had for making some noise for the video footage.
"C'mon you guys, you are American! You can do better than that!" I shouted, and the roar of joy that came next echoed around Picardy Place. That's more like it!
Raymond from Edinburgh Classic Wedding Cars was waiting patiently for us outside, ready to take us on our private city-centre tour for couple portraits.
Into the beautiful Beauford we went, with the city waving at us as we drove by on our way to Princes Street Gardens and the famous Ross Fountain.
As Grant scooped Becca up into his arms - there wasn't a pair of eyes in the park that were looking elsewhere. Edinburgh Castle high up on the cliffs behind them, it was kind of shot that made me yell a little "YES!" internally when I clicked the shutter.
What I love about these images is that they are more than just photos of a couple with a pretty background. They really capture who Becca and Grant are. Fun, adventurous and completely in love.
Next stop was Queen Street Gardens - exclusive access is available for Royal College of Physician's couples. A quiet oasis from the busy city streets around us, we had the place to ourselves. After a cloudy few hours, we were even blessed with a little sunlight that added a golden hue to their images.
Soon it was time to join the party in the Library and Great Hall of the Royal College of Physicians. Their friends & family were already a few Proseccos in, and awaiting the happy couple.
But Grant had a wee surprise for everyone for he had nipped upstairs for a quick costume change.
Out with the uniform - Grant went native and returned looking very dashing in a kilt.
Things got emotional for the after-dinner speeches. With references to the early days in the Academy, there was belly-aching laughter as well as touching words from their loved ones - best man Alan, bridesmaid Hillary, Grant's sister Roz and Becca's sister and maid of honour Devon. Hugs, cheers and love all round.
Father and Daughter, Mother and Son took to the dance floor first - a cherished few minutes between parent and child that needed no words to convey the emotion of the moment. From first steps as infants, to the first shuffles underneath the grand ceiling of the Royal College of Physicians, I wonder if either parent ever thought that they'd be enjoying this eponymous moment so far from home.
As Grant and Becca finally took each other's arms for their own first dance, little did their guests realise what was waiting outside. For no sooner as the first dance ended, than beating drums, bagpipes and be-kilted men marched in with an attitude and an accent that was going to make their evening truly an experience to tell the folks back home about.
As a first introduction to Scotland's raw energy for music and dancing, Clanadonia is really diving in at the deep end!
And they were absolutely fantastic.
They got the entire room stamping their feet and swinging around with their partners on the floor. Though I'm sure their fierce and rugged attire was a bit of a shock to some of the guests, it was brilliant to see everyone get involved and up on the dancefloor getting into the spirit of Scotland and feeling the rhythm of the music through their bones.
One of my favourite moments of the set was when the band got Father Steve to beat the drum for their final song of the night. Barely hiding his big grin, Father Steve was in his element.
And then, the wild leader of the group - in his broad Scots accent - announced the name of the song, aptly named, "Ya Bastard!"
Father Steve's cheeks went the colour of the walls! Classic moment and one I'm sure he'll never forget as well.
As DJ Lee Live took over the music, the night's antics carried on with lots of smiles and laughter as memories were made. Watching several airmen dance to the Beegee's Stayin' Alive gave some serious Airplane! vibes. And it was fascinating to see that even those across the pond knew the moves from the Macarena.
But the best moves of the night were during the Bridesmaids vs Groomsmen dance off. Limbs (and sisters!) were literally thrown around to the rhythm of the music - and there were a few standout performers. As much as the guys tried though - the girls definitely won hands down.
Raymond returned as sunset approached to take us up to Calton Hill for some much anticipated iconic shots over the city of Edinburgh.
It was such a calm evening up there, with the soft hues of sunset casting a golden light on Becca & Grant.
The city lights beneath them sparkled as the last of the evening light faded and night finally fell on what was an epic rollercoaster of a wedding.
As their night with me drew to a close, we took one final shot on the steps to the Royal College of Physicians, the party roaring behind them. And that's when I realised it...
That no matter where Becca & Grant are in the world - separated by oceans, together at a cosy café in their hometown, a candlelit dinner at home, or a zoom call between deployments - they'll always have these memories, those magical moments to look back on... they'll always have Edinburgh and that unforgettable day with the people they love most in the world.
Supplier Shout Outs
Venue: Royal College of Physicians & St Mary's Catholic Church
Transport: Edinburgh Classic Wedding Cars
Videography: OH PROMISE
Make-up: Victoria Foster Beauty
Hair: Janice Dawson
Flowers: Garland's Florist
Catering: Saltire Hospitality
Entertainment: Clanadonia & DJ Lee Live