Our lovely planning diaries couple – who are making it official after more than two decades together – are counting down to their big day in May…

Just one month to go! Julie-Anne McKee, who works for CalMac Ferries, is set to marry pub manager Sean Stewart at The Gathering at Woodhead Farm on 25th May 2024

Jules and Sean are getting ready to tie the knot in May

Introducing the couple

Hello! I’m Julie-Anne, Jules for short, and my hubby-to-be is Sean Stewart. We met when we were 19 when we were both working at our local bingo hall. Fast forward 20-plus years, add our 16-year-old daughter Rachel into the mix, and here we are, on our way to being married at last!

We finally got engaged on 27th July 2021. We’d travelled down to London for the weekend for a family wedding and had booked a tour of the studios where the Harry Potter films were made (my fave). As Rachel and I posed for a photograph at Platform 93⁄4, Sean got down on one knee. The rest of the tour was a write-off as I couldn’t take in anything or see anything for the tears!

Keep reading for Jules and Sean's full wedding planning journey to date...

Left: Jules and Sean with daughter Rachel; right: The moment after the big surprise!

March 2024: Wedding dress, invitations, and photographer

Oh my goodness, how is it spring already? It will be May before we know it. 

First up, some big news: I am pleased to announce that I finally purchased a wedding dress! I went to WED2B, found one I loved 
on the rail, and took it home the same day. I am very lucky that my sister owns a wedding dress alterations business, so this was the 
best option for me. I knew that once I had a gown I loved, my sister could work her magic on it and do whatever needed to be done. I must say that although the WED2B assistant was lovely and there was nothing wrong with the shop, I didn’t quite get the whole dress ‘experience’. I think nowadays with all the TV programmes, like Say Yes to the Dress, there is so much hype and pressure. And if I being honest with you, because it wasn’t at all like you see on TV, I felt a little disheartened. After thinking about it, though, I realised that while my experience wasn’t glitz and glamour, it was lovely just as it was and I didn’t actually need all the faff.

Our invitations went out, and RSVPs have been coming in thick and fast. We customised our invites with a designer called Carmen Creative. I met her for a relaxed and warm consultation, where she showed me a wide range of options to suit all budgets. In the end we ordered some beautiful floral designs to match my flowers and the colour theme of the wedding. Not only is Carmen’s work simply gorgeous, it’s eco-friendly as the products are recyclable.

We’ve also had a FaceTime consultation with our photographer, Meghan Bewick, to discuss what we’d like from her on the big day. As you probably already know if you’ve been following my diary, I am very laid-back and don’t want much fuss around me on the day. I have been a guest at many weddings where the bride and groom didn’t even get a chance to relax and enjoy the meal as they were rushed outside for a sunset shot. These pictures are always beautiful, but it’s just not us. So we have asked our photographer for a lot of candid pictures. I love shots of guests that have been captured without them noticing as you really get a feel of the person in that moment. I cannot wait to see how these turn out.

Our wedding venue had another open day so we popped in to say hello as Kin, our band, were playing. It really was just an excuse for us to visit as we are in love with the place and the people who run it.

a band of four people holding an accordion, violins and a guitar

Jules and Sean have booked band Kin for their wedding

There’s a load more of stuff we’ve ticked off the list, including booking transport for guests and accommodation for the two of us 
on the night of the wedding.

What’s Next?

Sean’s stag do and my hen party are both in April. His is in Amsterdam, but I can’t wait for mine. We are staying at Bonnyside House near Falkirk for the weekend. I’m slightly nervous about what awaits but also so excited! 

August 2023 - Booking the venue, suppliers and a kilt

By the time we marry we’ll have been engaged for just under three years. As far as planning for the wedding is concerned, we realise time is ticking on, so we have arranged a few things already, including the big one – booking the venue.

We got this sorted last year. It actually turned out to be harder than we thought it would be, and took us a while to settle on one we loved. Maybe that’s because we were looking for something different, rather than your traditional wedding venue. After lengthy internet searches and a few unsuccessful visits to wedding fairs, we fell upon a little hidden treasure – The Gathering at Woodhead Farm in Chryston, Glasgow. As soon as we went to see it in person, we knew it was the one for us. The owner, Jo, is relaxed, informal and full of passion – exactly the kind of person we hoped for to help us plan our wedding. The venue is not too far from where we live in Greenock, and is quirky, Scottish and magical. Exactly us! We will tie the knot there on 25th May next year. 

The Gathering is a traditional Scottish barn wedding experience near Glasgow

Not long after booking The Gathering, Sean and I went along to a wedding fair at the venue – and I’m so glad we did. We met so many suppliers we liked. We ended up booking our celebrant (Gordon Bond), our reception band (Kin) and our caterers (First Class Catering) all there and then! All of them were exactly what we were looking for. During that same visit to the venue, I also asked my three sisters, my daughter and my cousin if they’d be my bridesmaids. That was a lot of things ticked off in the one day! 

What else have I planned? I have booked my hair and makeup. I actually enquired far too far in advance for this, but I knew who I wanted and didn’t want to miss out! Sean has chosen kilts – the Spirit of Loch Ness tartan from Kilts 4 U. It’s a lovely light green, so the next step for us is to get a colour scheme to tie in with this. Once that’s decided, the bridesmaid dresses will follow.

What’s next?

I still have to find myself a dress, but I haven’t started looking yet. To be honest, I’ve been putting it off. Most brides-to-be are excited about the whole idea of shopping for a gown, and it is one of the first things they think about. But me… I am a little terrified. Why is it so scary? I have an idea of what I think I would like, but we’ll see how it goes…

October 2023: Revisiting the venue, catering and flowers

With just eight months to go, the countdown has well and truly started for our wedding, and there is still plenty I need to crack on with. Since you last heard from me, I revisited my venue in a panic, as I’d realised there were so many little details I hadn’t thought about and needed to fix. Has anyone else done this with a million thoughts racing through their brain? After getting lost on the way there and having a near-death experience with a crazy driver on the slipway of the M8, my nerves were totally shot by the time I arrived at The Gathering in Chryston. Thankfully, Jo, the lovely owner, just has a fantastic down-to-earth manner, which made all my anxieties disappear.

Jules snapped this photo of her venue during the visit, isn’t it beautiful?

There have been some changes to the place since my last visit, and I was so delighted with the way it was looking. Because the venue is on a farm, the toilets are outside the main reception hall. This was the only negative I had about it – so you can imagine my joy when I saw they’re in the process of adding another toilet area in the main entrance area! One of the accommodation pods has also been turned into a ‘glam room’ and the other into a children’s play area. We have some little ones attending the wedding, so the swing set in the glamping pod area was a big win for us. Every time I visit, it seems to get better and better – so much so that it brings tears to my eyes (and to Sean’s!)

Left: The youngsters at the wedding will be able to play outdoors now! Right: Jules has briefed florist Hey Bud on her vision for the big day

I also had a chat with First Choice Catering to narrow down our menu options. Quite a few of our guests have specific dietary requirements, so we wanted to pick something to suit everyone.

I also booked my flowers, which I’m delighted about. I found a small local business in my hometown of Greenock called Hey Bud whose flowers are absolutely stunning. They’re quirky and beautiful and I cannot wait to see how my vision turns out.

What’s next?

We’re meeting up with Gordon Bond, our celebrant, next month. Gordon likes to chat to his couples in advance to get the story of how they met and about their lives together. That should be a laugh – we have plenty to fill him in on since we’ve been together for over 20 years! Gordon also gets our paperwork in order for us, so things are starting to feel very real!

I have to confess I still have no dress – and, yes, I’m still terrified to go and look for one. My sisters have been on at me to get something booked, so who knows: maybe in my next Planning Diary I’ll have said yes to the dress…

February 2024: Celebrant and ceremony planning

I can’t believe how quickly time goes by! I feel we only booked the wedding yesterday, and here we are on the countdown to May. Since you last heard from me, I met up with the lovely Gordon Bond from Independent Humanist Ceremonies who will be conducting our humanist ceremony. Sean and I caught up with him over coffee and spent a couple of hours him telling our story. It was such a lovely experience to share that with him, and we are so looking forward to receiving our draft run-through via email. We took our time and discussed what and who we would love to mention and how we would like our wedding to flow. We have chosen to drink from the quaich as part of the ceremony, symbolising two families coming together. We now just need to decide what exactly to put in it… we might need to taste a few things to make up our minds!

Left: Sean is set to look dapper in this get up from Kilts 4 U! Right: We are sure Jules and her hens will have an incredible time away…

I was a bit naive and actually didn’t know about all the paperwork that is required to make a marriage legal. I am slightly nervous about all that, as the deadlines and timescales are very strict. I didn’t know you had to hand in the paperwork in person and just assumed an email would suffice in this day and age. However, I am sure it will all work out and come together. It’s just another thing to add to the ‘to do’ list!

As of writing this, there is still no dress yet. I decided to wait until after New Year and then look. I am very lucky that my little sister is a seamstress and has her own business, so I know I can purchase a dress that you can take home on the day, and if any alterations are required, my sister can take care of them. 

I do have an idea of what I’m looking for in a dress, although every person I have spoken to has said that they ended up buying something different to what they expected. So, I am happy to try on anything. I am very laid-back and willing to take the guidance of my family and the sales people. I have chosen my veil and shoes, however. I have looked at jewellery on Etsy too.

I have purchased and returned many bridesmaid dresses. It has been harder than I thought it would be to get right, as my bridesmaids vary in age and all have different personalities. I think we have narrowed down the colour at least! Sean has chosen the Spirit of Loch Ness tartan from Kilts 4 U, which is so stunning. I had always thought of a sage-green bridesmaid dress, but with the kilt being sage it was just all too much and blended in together. So we have switched to a purple for the girls.

What’s Next?

The hen! I am booked to go to Bonnyside House in Bonnybridge with my close friends and family during the April holidays. We have actually been there before and loved it so much, so it was just the perfect place for my hen. The house has three outdoor hot tubs, a swimming pool, a barbecue hut, a sauna and loads of outdoor space. The house itself has eight bedrooms and we have also hired the two cottages attached, giving us five more bedrooms. It is bound to be loads of fun and I am bursting with excitement as I have no idea what is planned.

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