A slick Scottish-American same-sex wedding at a castle in the Borders

Paul O’Donnell & John Chiero

14th September 2019

Venue | Neidpath Castle, near Peebles
Photography | Story of Love

Story of Love Photography two grooms outside Neidpath Castle

“John and I had been together for three-and-a-half years when he asked me to be his husband. We live in New York, so were away for the Labor Day holiday with a group of friends in Provincetown, Massachusetts. We went for dinner and drinks one night and he decided to pop the question. We were able to have a full night of celebrations with our friends and some family who happened to be in Cape Cod at the same time.

As a child, I spent time in and around Neidpath Castle. Paul and I later toured the castle together on an earlier visit to Scotland to get a dose of local history. We realised soon after our engagement that it was the ideal venue to show our American guests a Scottish wedding experience.

We planned everything ourselves, which – with us planning from the USA – was a lot of stress at times. We managed to get one long weekend trip back to Scotland in May 2019 to meet some of our vendors and get a better idea of how the day would work. We made a lot of progress in just  a couple of days and all our suppliers put us at ease.

We aimed to bring together a mixture of Scottish and American wedding traditions in order to make it a unique experience for our guests from both sides. Our desire was to have everything in one venue, so that guests travelling from overseas didn’t have to worry about logistics too much. They also got a chance to tour the castle throughout the day, so whenever anyone wanted a break from the festivities they could have fun exploring its history.

We had a non-religious ceremony with a local registrar named Paula Goodall. She made us feel at ease and comfortable with plans for the ceremony and explained the options for rituals we could include in our ceremony, such as the quaich.

We filled the quaich with an American bourbon instead of a Scottish malt whisky and shared it with both our fathers. Nerves got the better of me and without thinking, I drank the entire contents of the quaich before sharing it with John and our fathers! So we had to attempt it a second time. This was hilarious and definitely a highlight.

We also had two readings during our ceremony: one from my cousin Caitlin who read a Robert Burns’ poem for the Scottish element and one from John’s sister Jenny who read the US Supreme Court opinion on same-sex marriage for the American element.
We had a custom-made flag which was half Scottish Saltire and half American flag. Graciously, Neidpath Castle allowed us to fly it from the top of the castle. That was very special to us and a hit with our guests.

Gary Moore Catering did an unbelievable job. We were very particular in our requests and tried to give our guests a true taste of Scotland, but didn’t want to scare everyone off with too much haggis! Gary came up with an awesome menu, the presentation was amazing and it tasted even better than it looked. We got so many compliments on the food.

We wanted the reception to have a more casual atmosphere. We really just wanted everyone to relax and have a good time. Using long tables was a great way to get different groups to mix and mingle. Later in the night, pairing up Scots with Americans and attempting to do a number of ceilidh dances was hugely entertaining.

We have been to a number of weddings where Natalie Martin from Story of Love was the photographer. She always does a fantastic job thanks to her unique, artistic way of capturing weddings. She also happens to be one of my closest friends from growing up, so it was all the more special having her capture the big day for us. (We made sure she was able to enjoy herself and let her hair down too!)”

Registrar Paula Goodall
Groomswear McCalls
Catering Gary Moore Catering
Cake 3D Cakes
Flowers Fountain Flowers
Stationery Simone Russell Design
Venue décor Events by Something Borrowed
Piper Graham Connor
Reception band WooHoo Band
DJ DJ Abracadabra
Photobooth Odd Box Photobooth

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