Colourful outdoor and marquee East Lothian stately home wedding (that almost didn’t happen!) with smoke bombs and Irish dancers

Toni Graham & Kevin Barrett

23rd April 2022

Venue | Gilmerton House, East LothianPhotography | Graeme McInnes Photography

a bride and groom kissing in ground of Gilmerton House with rainbow smoke bombs in background

“Kevin and I were together eight years before he proposed on 12th December 2020. It took me completely by surprise! We were having a picnic at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, overlooking Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. He then treated us to dinner and an overnight stay at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel.

We enjoyed the engagement over Christmas, then set about planning everything in January 2021. We were living in Sydney at the time, but I knew I wanted to return to my Scottish roots to marry.

As Australia and the UK were in lockdown, we couldn’t travel back to visit venues or meet suppliers. We did everything by video call and relied on family and friends for suggestions and help.

One of my friends is a wedding videographer (Armelle Films), so she gave us a lot of good recommendations, including photographer Graeme McInnes. We met him on Zoom and hit it off straight away. He was amazing on the day and his relaxed approach made us feel comfortable. The resulting photos are stunning.

We really wanted to make a weekend of it and have guests stay with us on site. That was the main consideration when it came to finding a location. We booked a venue that met our criteria, but it was under construction and unfortunately we were mislead about it being completed in time.

We flew in from Sydney four weeks before our wedding and finally visited the place. It was clear at that point that it would not be ready and we were forced to rearrange!We were fortunate to find Gilmerton House in North Berwick available at short notice. Luckily, it wasn’t too far from our original venue, so none of our guests had to change their accommodation or flights.

The staff at Gilmerton were exceptional and took such good care of us. They helped us set up a new caterer (the outstanding Edinburgh Catering Company) and our marquee. They have such good relationships with their suppliers that they were able to pull a few strings. We owe them a lot.

We met our celebrant Niki Smith on Zoom and, within a matter of minutes, we knew we had to have her conduct our ceremony. She was exceptionally supportive during the whole planning process. The ceremony was always the part of the day that I was most looking forward to because of her involvement.

The sun came out from behind the clouds as I walked down the aisle with my Dad. We had a beautiful pink tree as the backdrop for our ceremony. Kevin says it was like something out of a movie.

Amy Hawthorn sung Breathe by Faith Hill as I walked down the aisle. She was so good, guests thought she was a recording!

Many of our 120 guests still rave about our ceremony. Niki blew us away with her ability to have people laughing their heads off one minute and crying the next. We asked two of our great aunts to add words of wisdom and my Aunty chose a poem previously recommended to her by my grandmother.

We also included a ‘first kiss, last kiss’. This is when the celebrant calls up the mums to kiss their offspring before they kiss their newlywed husband or wife, as they were the first to do so when they were born. It was really special.

Good food and good music were high priorities for us, but so was paying homage to our combined Scottish, Irish and Australian heritages. We had tartan for our handfasting, haggis on the menu and had a unique Aussie seating plan hand-drawn by Ella Bruty Illustrations.

I couldn’t resist booking a troupe of Irish dancers. I was the only one who knew about them, so they were a surprise for everyone. They were so much fun and our guests loved them.

The smoke bombs we had in some of our photos were green, white and yellow to represent the Irish flag (another Irish touch). Everyone was getting burnt from the ash, so the photos are hilarious as well as beautiful.

We performed a choreographed first dance. It was my idea and I thought I’d love it, but on the night I was quite embarrassed, whereas Kevin absolutely owned the dancefloor! All of our guests were so into it though, and cheered us on the whole way through.

Our original budget was $50k AUD (£30k), but I think it was closer to $70k AUD (£40k) by the end, due to our venue change and lots of last-minute things that we hadn’t accounted for.”

Top tip: “Invest in a wedding planner, especially if you’re organising everything from overseas. We ended up using Events by Anna H on the day (the venue didn’t have a co-ordinator) and she was amazing. She made the day run smoothly and helped with lots of things I hadn’t even thought about. In hindsight, I should have booked her from the outset.”

Celebrant Niki SmithOn-the-day co-ordinator Events by Anna HBride’s dress Brides of Beecroft Bridesmaids’ dresses ASOSMakeup and nails Eren SaygilierBridesmaids’ and mother of bride makeup Emma MotionHair Bridal Hair by Georgia PetersGroomswear Rembrandt Catering The Edinburgh Catering Company Cake Liggy’s Cake CompanyFlowers Occasions of Eyemouth Seating plan Ella Bruty IllustrationsFavours Homemade sloe ginCeremony music Amy HawthornDrinks reception music The Folk Soul BrosReception music The Stereo Beats Irish dancers Siamsoir Irish Dancers Saxophonist Marshali Scott Saxophonist
Wedding film
 Inspire Videos Marquee Queensberry Events

left image a Gilmerton road sign and right image exterior of Gilmerton Housemen wearing suits standing next to the billiard table in GIlmerton Housethe gardens at Gilmerton House with seating for an outdoor wedding ceremonythe back of a bride and bridesmaids wearing personalised robesa bridesmaid opening a door and a bride a 4 bridesmaids wearing dark red dresses standing next to a flowering red busha groom waits with eyes closed during an outdoor wedding ceremony at Gilmerton Housea bride walks down the aisle in the gardens of Gilmerton House on the arm of a man wearing a suitan outdoor wedding ceremony at Gilmerton Housea bride and groom smile during an outdoor wedding ceremony at Gilmerton Housea bride and groom perform a handfasting in the garden of Gilmerton Housea bride and groom kiss during a wedding ceremony in the garden of Gilmerton Housea bride and groom walk through confetti outside Gilmerton Housea bride and groom kiss outside Gilmerton House while guests shower them in confettiGraeme McInnes Photography wedding group shot outside Gilmerton Housea groom shows off his wedding ring as 4 men wearing suits look on and gesturea-bride-walks-hand-in-hand-with-4-bridesmaids-wearing-ruby-halterneck-dressesleft image is of a wedding party posing on the stairs at Gilmerton House and right image of a bride posing with a jewel-toned bridal bouqueta newly married bride and groom walk hand in hand through a garden at Gilmerton Housea bride and groom pose on the stairs at Gilmerton Housebride and groom wedding portraits by Graeme McInnes Photographya bagpiper leads a procession across the gardens at Gilmerton Housea bagpiper leads a bride and groom across the grounds at Gilmerton Housewhite neon sign reading it was always youleft image shows a hanging floral decoration in a marquee and right image shows a ruby and white wedding cake by Liggy's Cake Companymarquee by Queenberry Events set for a wedding at Gilmerton HouseSiamsoir Irish dancers perform in a wedding marqueeSiamsoir Irish dancers raise hands after performing at a wedding at Gilmerton Housea top table at a wedding in a marquee look on and laugh as a man makes a wedding speechwedding guests seated in a marquee laugha top table laughing as wedding speeches are madeleft image is black and white portrait of a bride and groom and right image is of a bride and groom walking as people wave yellow, green and white smoke bombs in the backgroundleft image is of a groom lifting a bride up on a wooden dancefloor and right image shows a bride and groom cutting a wedding cake from Liggy's Cake Companya bride and groom performing a first dance as a saxophonist playsa bride and groom dancinga bride and groom kiss as wedding guests hold sparklers