Real Scottish Weddings - Green Craig, East Lothian
Green Craig - Aberlady
The water was as still as the photographs I later took of it. As the road snaked around the coastline, I saw it. In between the greenery and rocky outcrops of Longniddry Beach, a white building standing in stark contrast to the hues of green and blue around it. It was a beacon in the haze.
Turning off the road, I felt the immediate departure from reality, and arrival into an oasis of excitement and celebration. The trees curled overheard to an apex, branches intertwining with one another. The dirt track meandered into the woods. Sunlight dappled through.
A peaceful wind brushed through the solitary tree in the driveway. I took my gear from the car and instead of entering the house to meet the wedding party, I walked towards the trees. My day was due to start elsewhere.
The second I set foot in Green Craig during our venue visit two weeks prior, I knew what I had to do, and so it was not to the bridal prep that I went to first but the rustic swing hanging from a tree. A symbol of childhood whimsy, of adventure, of leaving something behind and yet also starting something new.
I hit record on my camera and slid the lens into manual focus, hold steady... and the first frame of footage for Collette & Ali's highlight video was captured.
I heard voices through the garden gate, and saw black chairs being set up into rows in front of a beautiful floral arch.
The sea stretched out before me, and on the horizon Arthur's Seat peaked above The Haar that gripped the city at its feet.
It was the perfect place to be married.
Leaving the sea behind, I made my way into the house and upstairs to where my bride and her bridesmaids were getting ready. Collette's hair was wrapped up in rollers, and everyone was still in their PJs. Half full glasses of prosecco were on the windowsill as sunlight streamed in.
Dress & Details
Rather than bursting through the door with my equipment and expecting everyone to be camera ready, I always focus on the smaller details of the day, such as rings and other jewellery, hair pieces and shoes.
Bridesmaids dresses were hung above the doors, but Collette had chosen something a bit different, a bit more uniquely her.... a stunning white jumpsuit, codenamed: The Flamingo.
Combining details creatively is one of my favourite things to do during a wedding. It's fun; finding the right light for the sparkle of a diamond, or experimenting with arrangements of rings and flowers.
At each wedding there is something new to play with, and I love the challenge of finding just the right set up.
Sunflowers and sea were striking features of Collette & Ali's day. Incorporating these two elements together, I was able to show off Collette's mum's floral arrangement skills as well as their ceremony setup.
Green Craig was buzzing with excitement.
Ali zoomed around making final preparations before heading upstairs to don his kilt and spend a few moments alone with his best man and dad. Father and son had such a close bond, and it was lovely to see how they interacted and cared for each other on the day. As they affixed their buttonholes to each other, they exchanged a knowing look: it was time.
These are one of my favourite shots to set up. Capturing such a heartfelt moment that can never be recreated is so rewarding.
As her dad watched the golfers next door, Collette strode over the gravel to tap her dad's shoulder and the photographs say more than any words could.
We had a few minutes before the ceremony began. Through the gate that led to the ceremony, I saw Ali waiting nervously. After a few more photos with Collette, I assumed my position by the flower arch, quickly adjusting my cameras to best capture everything that the next few minutes would bring.
The few seconds before any bride arrives is always exciting and I thrive off the anticipation. Every single ceremony is different, and I have to be alert at all times to the subtle glances, the knowing looks and the in-jokes and emotion scattered throughout the vows.
Ali was in tears at the sight of Collette.
She is radiant as she walks arm in arm with her dad, and it's not long before I myself am holding back the tears. As Ali declared his love for Collette, I doubt there was a dry eye among us.
A Perfect Day
We had incredible weather for the ceremony. After days of rain, Collette & Ali were so incredibly lucky to have the outdoor ceremony that they'd planned, and to have this view as the backdrop to their lifelong commitment was just breath-taking.
Their ceremony was full of little flourishes of their personality. From the ring box that played the Imperial March from Star Wars, to their own engraved Quaich and unrivalled passionate first kiss.
It can feel somewhat tiresome to say how much this pandemic has affected our lives, and though I repeat that sentiment now I recall that first moment when I arrived at Green Craig, turning left, leaving reality behind.
From the moment that Ali saw Collette, and the first of his many tears that day trickled down his cheek, there was no pandemic: just two people madly in love. It was as if The Haar that still clung to the city was not hiding Edinburgh from sight, rather protecting us from the little reminders of chaotic confusion of lockdowns and rules.
Today was not about what could not happen, simply what could.
However, there was one small reminder of the world beyond the garden gate. Ali's brother and his wife live in America, and so they could not be there in person. A live stream was set up so that Johnny could watch the ceremony - whisky in hand I believe.
And yet I felt over the course of the day that I had met them. I can't think why.....
Face-mounted-paper-plates-stuck-on-easels they may have been when I first arrived, but by the family photographs they were simply Johnny and Heather, two silent guests who were somewhere out there in the world cheering on this beautiful couple.
Into the Wild
We took a walk into the woods at first. Newlywed portraits is a part of the day I most look forward to. It's very often the first few moments a couple have alone together after they've married, and it is such a special time to capture.
The sun - which had been mostly hidden by the day's haze - broke free of its cloudy prison to shine down upon us, glittering through the forest canopy.
Into the woods, I hit record on my camera, gathering more footage for their highlight film. Collette & Ali were naturals - it was as if I weren't stalking them with my cameras, following their every move.
High tide obscured the silky sands. Along the coastal path and crunching across scattered shells we made our way to the rocks by the sea.
It was such a peaceful scene. I kept my distance from Collette & Ali in order to encompass the whole environment, from the seaweed strewn shore to the glittering water across the Forth.
When I looked back at my recorded footage, I knew how their highlight film would end. Simplicity. A couple in love, alone on a rock, there for each other no matter how high or low the tides of life became.