High school sweethearts Ellen and Callum plan for their "I Do's" on 30th March 2023 after a twinkling Christmas engagement

Eight months to go… Graphic designer Ellen got engaged to Callum, an environmental consultant, at Christmas. They’ve set the date for 30th March 2023 at The Byre at Inchyra

June 2022 - Introduction, engagement story, initial plans and photography

Callum and I met what feels like forever ago, back when we were in high school in our hometown of Dundee. Who could believe we would be here now, more than ten years later, planning our wedding together. Certainly not our teachers!

When we were back in Dundee for Christmas last year, we had our annual festive meal with all our friends. After dinner, Callum got everyone’s attention and made a very sweet little speech. He then got down on one knee and popped the question, offering me the engagement ring of my dreams (made by Scottish designer Sarah Brown). Of course, the answer was yes!

A few months later, we have slowly started the process of planning our wedding. We knew that the venue and date had to be our top priority, so we looked up a few places with some things in mind. We wanted to marry relatively close to Dundee so it would be easy for our relatives there to get to; we were drawn to a more rustic barn style; we wanted to host the whole wedding at the same venue; and we needed somewhere that would offer vegan catering as both Callum and I are vegan.

After some searching, we organised a trip to see the Byre at Inchyra. It was rustic and cosy, with lots of fairylights, a big dancefloor, an intimate space for the ceremony and a huge and beautiful garden for photographs. It was the perfect fit, so that night, once we got home, we emailed to secure a date – 30th March 2023.

We are trying to keep the budget quite low, so we knew we had to get the more costly and necessary parts sorted first. We were a bit stressed about how expensive it might be, especially as we’ve only recently bought our first flat in Glasgow, but we agreed we would rather have the wedding sooner at a lower budget than wait an extra year or so. We are not too fussed about having it be perfect – we just want it to be a big fun day for everyone. We’re hoping to keep the whole thing under £10K, so we’re looking for more budget-friendly options.

The venue, the catering and the photographer felt as if they’d be the biggest spends, so these are our priorities. We have written a rough guest list, currently sitting at just over 60, but it won’t be over 100 once we add on any extras.

I’ve been doing some local photographer research and I’m deciding between two at the moment. One of them I have followed on Instagram for a long time and he follows me too, and his work is gorgeous.

We plan on getting in touch with our old school (the High School of Dundee) to see if it has any pupils who could be a piper at our wedding – the pipe band has some amazing young musicians.

We’ll be sorting the catering very soon from one of our venue’s approved suppliers. We want it to be fully vegan and hopefully a buffet style. I’ve also ordered two dresses and plan on booking some trips for dress try-ons with my bridesmaids very soon.What’s next? Being a graphic designer, I’m looking forward to designing all of our invitations and stationery. I might even make us a website! I’ll probably regret saying that later when I am snowed under with work… but I have lots of ideas!

August 2022 - Catering, photography and dress shopping

Another few weeks have flown by, but luckily we have made good progress with a lot of the major parts of our wedding. It has felt great to get some of the larger elements booked and organised so we can relax a bit and start to think about all the fun, small details.

First off, we’ve got the catering sorted, which is a huge weight off our minds. When I was at uni, I used to work at a local restaurant in Dundee called Avery and Co. Unfortunately this has now closed, but the owner Grant runs two other restaurants in the city – Mas and Loco Rita’s. When I worked there, we catered a few weddings and I was always lucky enough to bag some of the delicious leftovers. So, I knew it was good food and a great company.

The colourful exterior of Loco Rita’s where Ellen used to work

I got in touch with Grant and he was happy to help – he sent over a full vegan Mexican-inspired menu for our buffet, and we are just finishing off sorting that with him just now. We’re excited for all of our guests to enjoy Loco Rita’s amazing food!

The next thing we ticked off the list was a photographer. I had researched a few who had brilliant portfolios, but we are still trying to keep costs low and some we just could not afford for the day. However, my friend Peter Clark is a wonderful photographer, and I have always loved his work. He has just graduated from Glasgow School of Art but has been working freelance for a while now.

We met up for a chat about the wedding and set out a plan. We discussed the look and feel, and I showed him my Pinterest board of photo inspiration. We trust his work and talent and are so excited to have him on board as our photographer! It’s also nice that he is a friend who can enjoy the day and know other people there.

The next (and perhaps the biggest) thing that has been sorted is my wedding dress.I spent a day in Glasgow with my maid of honour and one of my bridesmaids trying on dresses for the first time.

I chose Wed2B as the shop to test these out, as it is a free appointment and you don’t need to book. The staff were so helpful, and picked out four or five dresses for me to try on. We got the rest of the wedding party set up on FaceTime so everyone could be part of the experience.

The first dress was lovely, but not really my style – the big princess shape made me feel like a cake topper! The others were a lot more me, and I realised that dresses fitted at the hips suit me best. There was one that stood out, with a very unique lace and a lovely low back. I put on all the accessories including the veil to see it in full, and everything felt very real in that moment. It was so sweet to have my friends there being far too complimentary! It was a lovely dress, but I didn’t buy it.

I had ordered a gown online and it was waiting back at the flat, so I brought the girls home to see me in it as the last try-on of the day. I was already pretty sure that this was the one, and trying on the dresses in the shop confirmed that. But I’m so glad I had the boutique experience (as it’ll hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime thing).

I locked Callum in the kitchen, and did a final try-on with my heels and earrings on and came through to my friends in the living room. We all knew that this was The One for me, and that they had pictured me in it all along.

I’m so happy with my dress and I’d love to say more about it, but I won’t reveal what it looks like in case any of my family are reading this. But it is completely different to all the dresses I tried on in the shop, with not a drop of lace in sight. I just need to get a veil to complete the look. I’m considering some pearl-scattered ones I’ve seen on Etsy.

What’s next?

We are chatting to a couple of ceilidh bands at the moment so I believe that will be the next thing sorted, and then we’ll start to look at cakes, flowers and decor.

October 2022 - Wedding expenses, venue change, suits and bridesmaid dresses

Since our last update, things have been a little up in the air, as the reality of just how much it costs to put a full wedding together has sunk in. We are still so excited about our day, but we’ve realised that we don’t need or want an extremely extravagant wedding; we’d rather put that money towards a honeymoon (which we wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise), doing up our flat, and other things that matter more to us as a couple.

We have an Excel spread­sheet that Callum’s mum kindly put together for us, and we started to chip away at it, entering in all of our plans, deposits and details. Things were quickly adding up, and we realised a lot of this was due to the ‘blank canvas’ nature of the venue and accounting for things we hadn’t been aware of when we put down the deposit (e.g. only using venue-approved caterers, corkage charge for drinks per guest, late fees etc).

The casual and relaxed wedding we’d hoped for was turning into a much more formal affair as a result of these constraints, and we were starting to have real doubts if this was actually the best idea for us. So, we weighed up the cost of losing our deposit if we cancelled, and began looking at more budget-friendly alternatives, and wrote a lot of lists!

Left: Ellen has been looking at Duntery for bridesmaids’ dresses. Katelyn off-shoulder maxi-dress, £79; Right: Callum is heading to Slater Menswear. Modern Douglas kilt outfit, from £118.50 to hire

As the days have gone on, we now feel that changing the venue to somewhere more reasonable is the best decision for us. After a lot of hunting and phone calls, we managed to view two possible options in and around our hometown, Dundee. Both are beautiful, would still give us the type of day we’re after, and are much more flexible in terms of price.

The first one we visited was called Verdant Works. It was an unexpected gem and not at all what you would normally think of as a wedding venue – but it has hosted several already and the building is unbelievable, with a huge open space, gorgeous restored ceiling and amazing old machinery on display that’s still in working order. We are currently in talks with the venue to host our day. We’re really hopeful, as it ticks every box for us.

We also checked out the Larick Centre in Tayport near Tentsmuir beach, a sustainable activity and meeting community hub. You can have use of the whole building and it can be closed off to the public for your day. You pay hourly for the rooms you wish to use, and it’s all extremely reasonable. The space is gorgeous, with lots of light, and is very flexible. We will hopefully see what happens regarding a new venue in the next week or so. That will give us peace of mind and we can start to get excited again about all the smaller details.

In other news, Callum and his groomsmen will shortly be choosing their new suits and kilts from Slater Menswear, and my bridesmaids have picked their dresses from Duntery. We have decided that we like the olive-green colour and everyone was happy with that after we ordered some swatches to check. The nice thing about this site is that you can have different styles of dress made in the same fabric. My bridesmaids are each choosing the style that suits them best, so they all feel comfortable and confident on the day.

What’s next?

The hen do is booked – in Amsterdam! We’re going at the end of October, and that’s all I know so far. I can’t wait to see what they have planned!

November 2022 - Hen do 

I am happy to report that I made it back from my hen do in Amsterdam alive, and that I had the best time ever! This was all thanks to my amazing maids of honour Araminta and Antonia, and my bridesmaids Barbara, Hannah and Natasha. They planned, booked and organised the entire trip, taking all the stress away from me. I knew I had nothing to worry about – they know me so well and I trust them entirely. All they told me beforehand was the city and the flight details, and to bring something sparkly for one of the events… I couldn’t wait!

We set off early one Wednesday morning from Edinburgh and arrived in Amsterdam, where I was presented with my ‘Bride’s Last Ride’ goodie bag and the itinerary for the trip. It was perfect! I couldn’t have planned it better myself and I was so excited. We were based in the De Pijp neigh­bourhood – it’s my favourite part of the city and is filled with markets and fantastic cafes and vegan food.

We stayed in the Arcade Hotel, where every room has two random consoles in it and you can borrow games from the reception downstairs – Callum was extremely jealous! For the rest of the day, we got some lunch, chilled, then went for dinner and some spicy pineapple margaritas. On our first full day, we wandered our way into the beautiful Jordaan district where we went vintage shopping and had lunch at an amazing Lebanese restaurant.

From left: Ellen’s trip to Amsterdam included an unforgettable, sparkle-filled whizz round the rink at Roller Dreams; Ellen’s friends made her carry a blow-up doll with Callum’s face on it – and her expression says it all; Brunching at Coffee & Coconuts with some obligatory hen paraphernalia

We had then heard that there was a secret spot in the Hoxton Hotel that had a vintage photobooth, so we had to get some pics together. That evening I was taken to Madre, a fully vegan Mexican restaurant with a stunning interior, and had the best tacos I’ve ever eaten in my life. They make fresh guacamole for you at the table, and we got a free round of tequila shots, because I was forced to wear my tiara to dinner! We kicked off the next day with brunch at Coffee & Coconuts, where I had been once before with Callum and remembered it was such a cool place.

After more vintage shopping and a wander round the Albert Cuyp market, we started getting our sparkles on for the big night. Unfortunately (but hilariously), there was a blow-up doll with Callum’s face on it, waiting for me to trek it across town with us! We soon arrived at our location, the Roller Dreams roller disco, which was incredible. Disco balls everywhere, a full baby-pink room, DJ, neon sign wall, prosecco bar and retro American signs. I was in heaven! After that, we were all exhausted, so we made our way to dinner at the Vegan Junk Food Bar in Rembrandtplein where we ate incredible burgers, then hit up some of the bars.

Our final day involved brunch and a bit more exploring before our flight home in the evening. Amsterdam is such an incredible city and there couldn’t have been a better location to find all of my favourite things. My friends did such an amazing job planning everything and showing how well they know me – as cheesy as it sounds, my heart felt so full after the trip. I just want to thank them again for all their hard work, and I hope I can treat them to a good party at the wedding.

What’s next?

Now the hen is over, we’re going to really dig into all the bits of the wedding that are left to plan. We have booked our new venue, Verdant Works, so as soon I finish setting up the webpage I’m creating for our guests, I’ll send out the save-the-dates that I designed. I’m aiming to book our ceilidh band this week, and my bridesmaids are also ordering their dresses, now they have decided exactly which ones they want. My own dress is slightly too long – I need to get it altered so I don’t trip up as I walk down the aisle.

Rude Cookies are known for their attention-grabbing bakes, and their bold retro looks have won over Ellen and Callum

We have ordered our cake too, which we are so excited about! We thought since it’s a cake that will be cut up and eaten on the night anyway, why not go a bit crazy? I personally love the retro-style cakes that are popping up in my inspo boards recently, and I knew Rude Cookies in Glasgow create this sort of style. We filled in a form, as they do fully vegan cakes as well, with the flavours we wanted and paid our deposit, along with sending some inspiration pics from cakes they’ve made before. I think it will be a fun talking point on the day!

In terms of the actual getting married part of the day, we have sorted our wedding registration forms with the council, and we are now deciding on a humanist celebrant to do our ceremony. There are lots of lovely people available on our date and we’ve narrowed it down to a choice of three, so stay tuned for our next update by which point we’ll have decided who to go for.

We also need to write our vows to each other, which we’re planning on reading during the ceremony. And we need to find out if our best man and maids of honour are brave enough to give a speech on the day!

What’s next?

Our next steps are to find a piper to play me into the venue; I’m hoping to use a pupil from our former high school as it has a fantastic pipe band. I also need to organise my flowers and where these are being placed, and buy all of my smaller decorations and DIY bits and pieces – the fun part! On top of that, we have to finish putting together a Spotify playlist of tunes for throughout the day, transitioning into dance music for the evening.

February 2023 - Venue, invites, hairdressing, cake and celebrant

After a restful Christmas and New Year back at home, we were right back into wedding planning mode and trying to organise the last of our plans as the big day is now fast approaching.

Over the holidays, we paid another visit to our venue, Verdant Works in Dundee, while a wedding showcase was on so we could see how things would be set up on the day – how the aisle would look and the tables all dressed for dinner. It was gorgeous! We realised we wouldn’t need to add much decor ourselves as the beautiful and historical features of the room do most of the talking. We’ll just add a few bits of detail here and there. We will have access to the space the day before to set up (which wasn’t going to be possible at our original venue).

Left: Ellen and Callum; Right: Ellen is a graphic designer so she whipped up her own digital invites – and we love them!

March 2023 - Final touches, accessories, ceremony and alterations


I can’t quite believe it’s March, and I’m writing the last update before we get married! The final countdown is on now with just two weeks to go, and we’re pulling together our last little bits and pieces. Callum’s stag do was last weekend, and like me he had it in Amsterdam (what a copycat!). Thankfully, he survived it, with no face tattoos or bike accidents. It sounds like he had a great few days with his grooms­men, checking out the pubs, taking a hungover trip to the zoo, and doing some spontaneous street karaoke… I didn’t ask much more than that!

We have pretty much everything sorted at this stage; it’s just small things and final payments that are left to do. We have paid our ceilidh band, who will set up and start around 7pm and play for two hours. They have offered to ‘call’ the dances as well to keep everyone right. It’s pretty handy as I know most people are a bit rusty on their Strip the Willow moves!

The bridesmaid dresses and shoes arrived, and the girls have had their alterations done already. I’m very glad they’re all happy; it was so important to me that they liked what they’d be wearing. We’ve made a plan on makeup, jewellery and hair inspo, and will meet in the morning to get ready together.

Even though I have family and a place to stay in Dundee, I thought it would be nice to have a night in a hotel to set myself up for the big day, so I’ve booked a room the Apex Hotel by the waterfront in Dundee, which is close to our venue. Some of my bridesmaids are staying the night before too – I’m sharing a room with Minta, my maid of honour. I called the hotel to double check the rooms have lots of natural light and full-length mirrors for us to do our prep.

Left: Ellen has booked Apex Dundee for the nights around the wedding; Right: Paul Browett, aka The Scottish Celebrant, will be leading the ceremony

Callum and I have filled out all our forms and questionnaires for our humanist celebrant Paul Browett (aka The Scottish Celebrant). We wanted to give him a good idea of us and our relationship so he can craft a ceremony around us. We had to try to summarise the last eleven years for him and think of the key moments of our relationship. There was a lot to write! It was actually really nice to reflect on all that time together, though, as we found ourselves discussing lots of lovely memories and reminding each other of a few he or I had forgotten about. We are meeting Paul next week either in person or over Zoom, and in the meantime we’re writing our vows and speeches to each other.

I’m pleased to report that I won’t be tripping over my hem any more: my dress has been altered by the amazing Barbra of Finnieston Alterations. She has been incredible and has done a great job. My outfit is fully sorted, apart from a jacket. Despite my hopes, it’s looking like it’s still going to be pretty chilly.

What’s next?

Our last few tasks to sort are some wee decorations and bits like petal confetti and small favours, and I have a few designs that I need to print off for the day, such as a large welcome sign we are mounting on one of my grandad’s easels (he’s a professional oil painter), buffet food labels and table signs. I’m in the process of getting my flowers sorted out this week but we are keeping things extremely minimal, as they’re not that important to either of us.

We are going to go to Dundee in the next week or so to meet with our venue and suppliers and just make sure everyone is happy, and then it will be go time! I have booked the week before the wedding off work so I’ll have time to get my hair and nails done, pick up our flowers and cake, decorate the venue the night before and then, hopefully, Callum and I will both actually have a fun time on the day!

Fingers crossed it all goes as well as it can. We’ve been told that something’s bound to go wrong, but to brush it off and just enjoy it. As long as we get married to each other, in a room filled with our favourite people, that’s all we can ask for.

Share this article:

Previous article

Planning Diaries: Updates from wedding planner bride May

Next article

Planning Diaries: Our bride-to-be Hazel documents her journey to the altar