Simrit Ghatorae and Craig Johnstone
29th May 2021
“For my 30th birthday, Craig took me to Bergen in Norway and proposed to me at an abandoned ski jump looking out over the city – it was pretty magical and started snowing the second I said yes!
We planned to get married a year earlier in May 2020 but then Covid hit. Our plans changed over a weekend – on the Friday we ordered our wedding wine and on the Monday we cancelled everything. In the end we had to change from a 140 person wedding to a small wedding with 14 people including ourselves. We ended up having two intimate and stress-free weddings – both very different but special in their own ways.
Balinakill Country House in Clachan was the only place we visited, but we immediately fell in love with the big ensuite rooms and privacy it offered. Argyll and the west coast of Scotland is probably our favourite place in the world so it was an easy choice. We had our registry ceremony in Glasgow in advance and did a handfasting ceremony and my mother passed her wedding scarf to me as a small gesture.
At Balinkakill on the Friday, we took part in some Indian ceremonies: a ‘haldi’ ceremony which involves the family rubbing a turmeric paste on the skin of the bride and groom to cleanse before the wedding; a ‘choora’ ceremony which involves the bride’s maternal uncles giving her wedding bangles (but since the uncles couldn’t come with restrictions my gran did that) and the ‘jago’ ceremony which means ‘wake-up’ and is noisy dancing traditionally meant to let the neighbours know a wedding was happening.
On the Saturday, we put garlands on each other as did both mums and dads. We had a quaich ceremony too which ended up being really beautiful and a lovely moment of signifying the two families coming together. In all the chaos, we realised after that we didn’t actually do a ring exchange ceremony!
Also in Indian culture, the sisters of the bride often play tricks on the groom, so they kept hiding Craig’s shoes and they wouldn’t let him in until he gave them money (he didn’t have any cash on him so had to give his bank card!)
As soon as we cancelled the big wedding we felt a huge wave of relief and in the end knew a small wedding would suit us just fine. Other than our band, we were lucky to get back all of our deposits. I had to learn to do my own hair and make up (thank goodness for Youtube and Instagram!) But there were silver linings – since we weren’t catering for 140 people anymore we had our caterer do the whole day including breakfast and extra canapés!
We had lots of food and drink and spent the afternoon together as a family in the private gardens. Craig and I love our food and drink so we had sharing plates as starters and mains – that way we could avoid anyone suffering from food envy!
Covid meant we didn’t have any other entertainment. Balinakill has a bar room which my now brother-in-law dubbed ‘Matt’s Bar’. We all congregated in there for a lot of the evening with Matt serving us to chants of ‘Whose bar? Matt’s Bar!’ Although there were only 14 of us there, everyone made so much effort and got along so well that it still felt like a proper party.
When Craig bought Harris Tweed from a small shop in Harris to make his kilt jacket and waistcoat, the owner gave us free off-cuts to make wedding bunting. I also made our wedding cake. Get everyone involved to help – my dad was even icing my wedding cake with me! As he put it, it’s just the same as laying cement…
It was important to have a photographer that got to know us so that we felt comfortable in front of the camera. Neither of us particularly enjoy having our pictures taken. Claire took control and told us where to stand and what to do – that made us feel at ease from the outset. She also takes great candid and background shots which we think capture the day even better than a posed picture.
I didn’t feel nervous, but at one point I was running late and my mum came in to see how I was getting on. I was flustered and she just said, “oh don’t worry, I just wondered if I should get another prosecco”, and that was when I realised that having a small wedding meant there was no time constraint or rush and it immediately became a more relaxing day.
I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the day. Since it was a small affair it meant there was very little stress and I loved every minute.”
Top tip: “Take out wedding insurance! You never know what disasters might strike. One thing I would book if I was doing a bigger wedding is a wedding planner – they take so much pressure off the planning and the stress of the day. Depending on the level of help you want, it doesn’t need to be that expensive an undertaking.”
Venue Balinakill Country House
Photography Claire Millar Photography
Ceremony venue Glasgow registry office
Bride’s dresses Ladlee Direct
Seamstress Finnieston Alterations
Bride’s hair and makeup Bride did her own
Shoes, accessories and bridesmaid dresses Asian boutiques in Birmingham
Groom’s outfit Tweed from the Lewis Loom Centre; made into jacket and waistcoat by Kilts 4 U
Groom’s kilt pin and sgian dubh Islay Spalding
Engagement and wedding rings Blair and Sheridan
Menu and catering Reagan Hallett Catering
Flowers Rose ‘N’ Thyme and Briar Rose Design