Janine Kirkwood & Karl Bleakley
18th May 2019
Karl and I have been together since March 2013, having met in 2011. For nearly three years, our relationship was long distance, with him living in Northern Ireland and me in Scotland. He proposed in summer 2017 on a rowing boat.
I wanted to get married in May 2018, but our venue – Errol Park – had no availability, meaning we had to choose a date in 2019. I wouldn’t have dreamed of marrying elsewhere, as one of my bridesmaids used to work with the family. Even without that personal connection, we still loved the venue. A luxurious house, rustic barn, gorgeous grounds: it really does tick all the boxes.
Our humanist celebrant, Lucie Johnston, was amazing. Although we wrote our vows in secret and sent them to Lucie individually, I couldn’t believe how similar they were!
One of my favourite parts of our ceremony was the quaich. My uncle Warren loaned us a giant, antique-silver quaich (he also gave us an old US military sword to cut the cake with) and my dad poured in a dram of Scottish single malt and Karl’s dad poured in an Irish whiskey. The idea being that once these two whiskies are blended, they cannot be separated.
The ceremony was my favourite part of the day. For two years, I had imagined our wedding ceremony to be outside, in front of the stunning lilac wisteria, but it rained. Poured. We had to finally accept defeat and move it indoors. We were married at the bottom of the stairs in the big house with our guests standing around the bottom. All I could focus on was how to walk down the stairs whilst holding my skirt, my bouquet and my dad’s arm without tripping – until I saw Karl at the foot of the stairs, tears in his eyes: my favourite moment of the entire day.
Aside from our vows, the most special moment of the day was changing into my gran’s 57-year-old wedding dress for the evening reception. My grandad was in on the plan, but my granny had absolutely no idea. Even though it’s from 1963, it’s elegant and timeless with a boat neck and long sleeves. Its tea-length skirt was also perfect for dancing – and showing off my fabulous velvet Prada shoes.
My wedding dress was pre-owned from Still White. I didn’t want to spend a large chunk of our budget on a dress to be worn once (especially as I planned to wear my gran’s dress in the evening). The seller was the same height and dress size as me, so I didn’t need it altered to fit. It cost just £450.
I was surprised at how much work planning a wedding really is! We were so tempted to chuck in the ‘big wedding’ and elope, but having all of our close friends and family celebrate with us was important, so we trudged on. Karl and I bickered sometimes, but I think ultimately it cemented the fact that we have very similar ideas about what’s important in life (although, he’ll tell you photographs and flowers are just a bit more important to me!).
My wonderful bridesmaid Abbie makes the tastiest cakes and I boldly asked if she would make ours. The bottom tier had to be carrot cake with cream cheese filling as it’s Karl’s favourite. We also had a treat table consisting of sweet treats home made by my wonderful friends and grandparents. I didn’t have much appetite on the day, but one of my favourite moments was hanging out with our friends the next day in the driveway of the venue, tucking into our leftover cake, macaroons and chicken burgers (evening reception food) on the bonnet of a friend’s hire car.
Our photographer, Melanie at Fiander Foto, and videographer, Little Films Official, were total stars. They worked so incredibly hard and went above and beyond for Karl and I. I cannot thank Melanie enough for travelling overseas for our wedding. Little Films might not have come as far – but it was still a five-hour drive! It makes such a huge difference when suppliers really care.
Top tip: Decide what the most important elements are that you’re going to allocate the biggest chunks of your budget to, then beg, borrow and steal everything else (ok, don’t steal, but you know what I mean). I had friends and family gift skills and resources everywhere I could. I also DIY-ed as much as possible, although I wish I’d known how much work was actually involved in a totally DIY wedding. Never be shy about asking for more help.
Celebrant Lucie Johnston
Bride’s ceremony dress Still White
Bride’s evening dress from her granny
Bridesmaids’/groomsmaids’ dresses Oasis, Chi Chi London and Little Mistress
Mother of the bride outfit Frox of Falkirk
Groomswear Marc Darcy
Catering Season Catering
Cake made by friend
Flowers and foliage for venue decor Amy Annand Flowers
Ceremony and drinks reception music Arta String Quartet
Reception band Northern Star
Filmmaker Little Films Official
Hair Carol Zarebski Hair
Makeup Catherine McCarter