Classic but creative safari animal-themed wedding at Hopetoun House

Gillian Smith & Andrew Lebeter

12th October 2019

Venue | Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh
Photography | Kalisterscope Photography

bride and groom at Hopetoun House

“After five years together, Andrew finally proposed on a holiday to one of our favourite places, Loch Tay. I am not a big hill-walking fan, so Andrew decided to propose on top of Kenmore Hill – he knew I’d never expect it. After saying lots of nice things (and making me cry), he got down on one knee. I instantly said yes and put the ring on my finger. On the walk back down there was no phone signal, so it was just us getting to spend time enjoying our engagement before we told anyone. It was lovely.

Our initial choice in terms of wedding date was April 2020 (on reflection we’re very happy we did not stick with this!). We then thought: why wait? How stressful could it be to plan a wedding in less than a year? How wrong we were…

While we didn’t have major setbacks, trying to tie everything together got stressful. I must admit we are both control freaks (me more than Andrew), so it was often little things that got on top of us. I wish I had entrusted people a lot more to help with things.

We chose the stunning Hopetoun House as our venue. I had assumed it would be well outwith our budget, but my mum arranged a viewing. On the drive up, all of us said, wow, this is it. We had the ceremony in the Stables,  a blank-canvas space with quiet grandeur. As it was autumn, we were able to use the main house for our drinks reception. When we saw the ballroom we were blown away.

I didn’t realise how emotional I would feel when we found the right venue. I actually cried when we were walking around, so I knew it was the one. I could see that Andrew and our families luckily felt the same.

We were going on safari as part of our honeymoon and we are big animal fans, so they featured in our décor. Hopetoun House happens to have a Tiger Room at the entrance to the main ballroom, so it all hung together wonderfully.

We tried to do the small touches ourselves: partly to save on some costs, partly because I really enjoy doing these things. I ordered hard plastic animals (which I think were kids’ toys), and painted each one with metallic gold paint. I then inserted a metal photo-holder to display the name card. Each table was a different animal, with the top table being lions.

I actually met our amazing photographer at my best friend’s wedding. Suzanne at Kalisterscope Photography is the most wonderful, kind and funny person. Nothing felt intrusive and she made us feel very comfortable. By the end of the evening, it just felt like we had another, albeit very talented, friend at the wedding.

Our flowers were from Get Knotted. They are such a lovely team. Nothing was a hassle. I was blown away when I saw my flowers.

Hair and makeup artists City Brides gave us such a laugh on the morning of the wedding. Helen and Ali even helped me get into my dress and fixed my veil and jewellery. They went above and beyond to make sure I did not get stressed.

We never stopped smiling from start to finish. Andrew’s and my dad’s speeches were so amusing and heartfelt, but the winner from a comedy point of view was the best man, Struan. His speech, written the night before, had us crying with laughter. A lot later on in the evening, Struan tricked Andrew into getting on stage to perform. It is a running joke that Andrew dances like Magic Mike, so they played the song from the film and he had enough beers in him to entertain the crowd. It was hilarious.

The most surprising thing about getting married was how much fun we actually had. We never really bought into the idea that this would be the best day of our lives, but it genuinely was.”

Top tip: “We had most of our ‘big things’ booked within three days of securing a date with Hopetoun House. This helped relieve the stress and gave us months to do the fun things like outfits and personal touches.”

Celebrant Graham Duff, Humanist Fellowship of Scotland
Bride’s dress Charlie Brear from Olive Jones
Bridesmaids’ dresses Rewritten
Groomswear Slanj Kilts and Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers
Mother of the bride outfit Joyce Young Design Studios
Catering Heritage Portfolio
Cake 3D Cakes
Flowers Get Knotted
Invitations Wagtail Designs
Favours G&Ts with cocktail stirrers from Love Pieces of Eight
Ceremony music Cairn String Quartet
Reception entertainment Jukebox Hero
Magician Grant Mitchell
Flambeaux hire 21CC Group
Hair and makeup City Brides

bride with bridesmaids on bed taking selfiebouquet by Get Knottedbride getting makeup done by City Bridesfather of bride seeing bride for first time on wedding morningbride and father emotional on wedding morningbride with 4 bridesmaidsgroom and groomsmen outside Hopetoun Houseorder of service at Hopetoun House weddinggroom waiting on bride being given away by dadgroom looking emotionally at bride as she comes down aislegroom drinking from quaichbride and groom laughing and holding hands during ceremonybride and groom showered in confetti outside Hopetoun Housebride and groom with wedding guests outside Hopetoun Housebride and groom with bridesmaids and groomsmen with hands in the airbride and groom on stairs outside Hopetoun Housebride and groom in woodland at Hopetoun Housebride and groom in woodland at Hopetoun Housebride and groom with bay trees and ribbons at Hopetoun Housebride and groom nose to nose outside Hopetoun Housegroom and bride with veil flowing in breeze outside Hopetoun HouseTiger Room at Hopetoun Housegolden animal table names in Tiger Room Hopetoun Housewedding-cake-and-gin-wedding-favoursFind Your Party Animal wedding sign in frameBallroom at Hopetoun House set for wedding dinnerbride, dad and mum laughing at wedding speechesbride with 4 bridesmaids wearing leather jacketsbride and groom cutting wedding cake at Hopetoun House

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