Follow our couple May and Stuarts journey as they prepare to say their "I Do's" in May 2022

May Hunter, wedding planner at Dunkeld House Hotel and executive head chef Stuart Michael got engaged in October and have set the date for 27th May 2022

March 2021 - Introduction, initial plans and bookings

Left: Stuart and May after he proposed on a trip to their favourite hotel in the Lake District; Right: A yummy creation from Lightly Whipped, who’ll be making May and Stuart’s wedding cake

Stuart and I met while working at Crieff Hydro and were friends for six years before becoming an item. By then we were both at Dunkeld House. We were together for two years before he proposed on 19th October 2020 – taking me completely by surprise!

Stuart and I are very similar so it wasn’t hard to agree on what we wanted for our day. Dunkeld House is the perfect place for us to get married. It’s where we got together and, as far as wedding venues go, it takes a bit of beating! We’ll have full control, which suits us – we’re both perfectionists. We have family all over the UK, so having somewhere for everyone to stay was important. We wanted a marquee to give us the freedom to make it really special, and the food is obviously very important – Dunkeld covers all of this.

Once we’d decided on the venue, which only took us a few days, the rest was plain sailing. We had all of our key suppliers booked within two weeks of getting engaged – Stuart and I both like to get things done and then not have to think about them. We don’t find it hard to make decisions and we don’t dwell on things. Our guest list is also complete.

May and Stuart both work at Dunkeld House Hotel – and they’ve decided to marry there too!

We’ve found the planning quite easy so far, but I know that’s due to my job. Having been at the hotel for two years now, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best wedding suppliers in the business. It’s really important to both of us to support local businesses, and to know the people behind them. We’ve confirmed our florist, Emma from Coach House Flowers – her work is superb and I am so excited to see what we can create. We’ve chosen our band too – Groove Culture. We actually changed our date from the Saturday to the Friday so we could have them. They’ll have everyone on the dancefloor all night long. 

Eilidh Sutherland is our photographer. That was another easy choice. I went to primary school with Eilidh and we just love her laid-back, natural images. We want gorgeous pictures but we don’t want our wedding day to become a photoshoot.

Abigail Tooth is our makeup artist. She has done so many of my friends’ weddings and is just brilliant – she always goes above and beyond! My hair will be done by my amazing best friend and bridesmaid, Kim (although I haven’t officially asked her), who owns the Coco Belle salon in Crieff.

Our cake is being made by Lisa from Lightly Whipped. Her style is perfect for us, and you’ll never find more delicious cake.

The final thing we’ve confirmed for now is our celebrant, the lovely Mary Docherty from Fuze Ceremonies. I saw her profile and said to Stuart, ‘I know she’s the one!’ We met her for a coffee and I was right – she was! We want a relaxed, personal and fun ceremony, definitely not one that just goes through the motions, and I know Mary will be able to create and deliver that for us.

We probably would’ve liked to get married this year but we felt 2022 gave us the best chance of being able to have the day we want. Regardless of what happens, we will get married on 27th May 2022.

We’ve not done much planning since October as we’d bought a house just before we got engaged, so we’ve been really busy renovating it.

Over the next few months we need to confirm our videographer, linen and dancefloor supplier. Stuart needs to ask his best man and ushers, and our page boy. I need to start thinking about booking our engagement shoot and making an appointment for my dress, and we need to get dresses for my eight beautiful bridesmaids. I would have loved to get all of my girls together but that just wasn’t possible; just before Christmas I asked them all in person at slightly different times with a lovely gift I put together for them. A big celebration is pending for the new house, the engagement and bridesmaids.

Once we finish our renovations in May this year, we’ll need to start making more decisions and final plans.

August 2021 - Dress shopping, engagement shoot and ceremony plans

May and Stuart’s engagement shoot at the start of the summer, captured by Eilidh Sutherland Photography

We’ve had a busy few months. Our house renovations are now complete and we have been back working full time since the hotel reopened at the end of April – it’s so nice to be almost back to normal.

Wedding planning has taken a little bit of a back seat, though we did manage to squeeze a few things in. On 27th May (a year to the big day!), I went dress shopping in Edinburgh with Mum, Granny and two of my bridesmaids, Kim and Lou.

We went to Kavelle Couture, and the whole experience from start to finish was first class. I only tried on a total of five dresses, and the one chosen was the fourth of these. It was actually Granny who picked it, which means the world. I loved it the instant I tried it on, but it’s so different from everything I thought I wanted. So I tried one more dress, but it just confirmed that number four was the one.

Left: May and Stuart’s engagement shoot down on the family farm – it’s the bride to be’s dad in the tractor (Photo: Eilidh Sutherland Photography); Right: May out with the girls in Edinburgh on a quest for the dress

I always know what I want and I am very impulsive, but on this occasion I resisted buying the dress there and then. I went home and thought about it and chatted with all my bridesmaids. I made an appointment to go back on the Monday, this time with my bridesmaid Alana, and said yes to the dress! I’d highly recommend Kavelle. As well as having lots of different sizes of dresses and a wide array of styles, the staff are so attentive and really care about what they’re doing – they just know what suits you and what doesn’t. Having someone tell you everything looks amazing isn’t helpful because, let’s face it, not everything does look amazing on you!

Shopping for a wedding dress is a surreal experience. Even if you are not the emotional type (I’m not at all), be prepared for tears. Take your nearest and dearest with you, as they’ll be honest. Go with your gut – when you know, you know. And if you need time to think, take it.

Stuart and I have done our engagement shoot with our photographer, Eilidh Sutherland. We picked a sunny evening at the end of May so the lighting was amazing. And so was the setting: my family’s farm – Dad even got roped in!

May purchased her wedding dress at Kavelle Couture in Edinburgh

I’m not a picture person (I never remember to take snaps on a night out), but I would 100% recommend doing an engagement shoot: it’s nice to get to know your photographer (although we already know Eilidh and Lloyd really well), and to work out what you’re comfortable with and not. We really enjoyed doing it, and the pictures are incredible! The pair of us laughed the whole time, so there are no serious pictures – which pretty much sums us up. The photos also helped us see there are some things we don’t want to do on the day.

At Dunkeld House Hotel, where Stuart and I both work, we’ve created a new ceremony space to replace our Garden Room, which is now a restaurant. This has been the main focus over the last few weeks at work and I love what we’ve been able to create. This is where we’ll tie the knot, which has made it so much more real! We don’t want to marry outside as it can bring too many last-minute changes. We just like to make a plan and stick with it, which is another top tip for keeping wedding-planning simple.

What’s next for our plans? Stuart has finally officially asked his best man, usher and page boy, so we need to organise the boys’ outfits and the dresses for the bridesmaids. I have also been having a think about stationery and invites.

October 2021 - Bridesmaid dresses, hen plans and future appointments

(Left) May and Stuart take a wander with photographer Eilidh Sutherland on their engagement photoshoot; (Right) Pretty Lavish is one of the bridesmaids’ options May is considering. Odelle maxi dress, £85

With wedding season in full swing, I have been busy at work in my role as wedding planner at Dunkeld House Hotel (Stuart’s the same – he’s the chef at the venue), so not much has been done with organising our own day over the summer. But we are now less than eight months away from our May date and time is passing fast, so we’re beginning to get very excited.

My bridesmaids are absolutely desperate to get their dresses and start planning the hen party, so that’s most definitely next on the cards. I have eight bridesmaids and I really don’t fancy trailing round the shops looking for outfits for all of them. Thankfully, we know our colour and style so everyone’s now on the lookout. I am going to order a bunch of dresses for the girls to try on round at mine – we’ll have a night of wine, cocktails and antipasti and hopefully they’ll ‘say yes to the dress’! I just thought it would be an easier and more fun way to do it.

May and Stuart’s florist Coach House Flowers has been an endless source of ideas for the couple

As for the hen party, the girls are determined to plan everything as a surprise for me. As someone who organises weddings and events for a living (and who is a little bit of a control freak), I’m finding it rather difficult to let go of the reins. It’s not that I don’t trust them, it’s just that I’m so used to doing everything myself. So maybe on the dress-finding night they’ll manage to persuade me to let go and leave it to them. We’re hoping to make it abroad and then have something at home closer to the wedding. There have been a few amazing ideas thrown into the mix already, so watch this space!

Not much needs to be done at the moment, but in the next few months we’ll need to start on the finer details. We have a meeting in November with our florist, Emma of Coach House Flowers, to make decor plans – very exciting! Emma does many of Dunkeld House Hotel’s weddings, and seeing her work all year has been so inspiring. We also have our guestlist organised, meaning we’ll soon have to think about our invites so they’re ready to go out early next year.

December 2021 - Dresses, invites, stationery and flowers

I cannot believe we’re now on the six-month countdown to our big day – where has the time gone?! I am super-excited and glad to be finally at the stage where we can work through our to do list and finalise everything.

I’ve ordered the bridesmaid dresses, and we’re just waiting for them to arrive now. It’s such a thrill – the girls can hardly contain their excitement. I’m over the moon with what we chose in the end and have planned a night for the girls to try them all on. If you’ve still to shop for bridesmaid dresses, here are my top tips: let the girls be involved, don’t be a control freak and have plenty of options as not everything works for everyone.

Left: Stuart has opted for tartan trews just like these ones from McCalls; Right: May’s dress choice will remain under wraps until the big day, but we’re pretty taken with this Alcyone lace dress by Pronovias at Kavelle Couture

Stuart has started to have a think about his wedding outfit and we’ve found someone who will make tartan trews for him and his groomsmen – they are going to look incredibly smart.

Our invites and stationery are a work in progress, and I have something super-special planned. I cannot wait for everyone to see them.

And the biggest news of all: my dress is here! I’m going to Kavelle Couture to try it on in the next couple of weeks with my mum, granny and a couple of the bridesmaids. I am so looking forward to putting on my own actual dress! I’m going to wait until after Christmas before starting the alterations process.

May has a meeting booked with Coach House Flowers to chat bouquets and decor. Might these displays inspire her and Stuart’s choices?

 have a meeting booked with Emma at Coach House Flowers, our florist, to chat all things flower and decor-related. I (we) have a vision and know she’ll bring it to life. This is the bit of the whole wedding I am most excited about (apart from marrying Stuart, of course!).

What’s next? 

We’re going to sort out dates for the stag and hen dos. Next year is going to be a busy one!

February 2022 - Hen do, celebrant, makeup, rings and honeymoon plans

From left: May and Stuart’s invites will be similar to this one from Bloominvitationsuk on Etsy; We wonder if May will go for all-out sparkle from ROX? Double-row diamond wedding band, £2,095; May and Stuart themselves

I’ve managed to tick a few things off after having some down-time, and now I cannot believe the wedding is just four months away – I’m not sure how that happened, but we’re so excited!

The invitations are designed and are ready to print. We should get them in the next few weeks and they’ll be posted out in early February, hopefully with all the RSVPs back by the start of April.

Plans for the hen party are in full swing (so I’m told!). The girls have been busy cooking something up for some time now. We knew we had to start making plans at the beginning of December, and since going abroad is a wee bit complicated at the moment, I made the decision that the UK is simpler. So I’m having a ‘surprise’ hen with all my bridesmaids in April and then something closer to home just before the wedding – everyone will be included for that and I cannot wait for it. It has been so long since we all celebrated together.

May (far left) herself was a bridesmaid at her friend Emily’s wedding at Balbirnie House (Photo: Crieff Photography)

In a previous column I mentioned that I had some anxieties about the bridesmaid dresses. In the end, though, the girls picked them very easily and they are thrilled with them – which, given that there are eight bridesmaids, is pretty good going, I think. I love the dresses and the girls are going to look incredible. I’m keeping the whole thing under wraps.

Stuart and I had our meeting with our florist, Coach House Flowers. Wow – I can’t wait for the wedding day! I love flowers, I love Emma’s work and I just know everything is going to look incredible. We’ve gone all out but kept things seasonal, in style with the venue and surrounds, with a touch of “us”.

We have also met with our celebrant Mary Docherty at Fuze Ceremonies to begin writing our ceremony. She is just the most lovely person and I know she really gets us. Mary is now busy writing the first draft, so we’re really looking forward to having a read of it. Once we do that, I think it’ll make things seem very, very real!

Mum has her outfit sorted, which was super-easy. She just likes to keep things simple. Next on the list will be Granny, who’s a little more fussy and has a very clear image of what she wants… wish me luck! Our search will start at Marian’s of Perth, who do dresses, jackets and shoes for special occasions.

I now also have Victoria Fleeting (@makeupbyvictoriafleeting on Instagram) joining Claire Park to do makeup for me and the whole bridal party, which is really exciting. She did my friend Emily’s wedding in September.

I have also started to have a wee think about the photographs we want from the day. Neither of us are picture people, and as much as we want all aspects of our day to be captured we don’t want to stand for hours getting our photos taken – we’d rather enjoy the time with our family and friends and be present.

May and Stuart are hoping to fly to Palma for a few days after the wedding (Photo: Shutterstock)

We’re also finalising plans for our initial honeymoon. Straight after the wedding we’re heading off to Palma for some chill time in our favourite place. Then it’ll be back to work and right into wedding season. Once November comes around, when work is quieter and the weather here is rubbish, we plan to go a bit further afield.

Our wedding rings have arrived. It’s killing me having mine and not being able to wear it yet! My engagement ring is beautiful and I didn’t want my wedding ring to take anything away from it. We found it at ROX in Edinburgh, which is where my engagement ring is from.

What’s next?

It’s getting to the stage now where we need to start really finalising things. Once the invites are out, I can start making final plans at the hotel. In February the boys need to go for their fittings to sort their outfits – they’ll be going to The Kilt Company in Perth, which has shops all over Scotland. I also have a first fitting for my dress and I have my shoes. I’m so excited!

April 2022 - Hen do, final touches and advice

May’s great-aunt and granny got fabulous outfits at Catherines of Partick. Bell-sleeved dress by Fely Campo, £649

This is my final planning diary! The wedding will be here before we know it and Stuart and I can hardly contain our excitement.

For me, being organised is always key. This is what has allowed me to enjoy every step. It means I have the time and head space to enjoy the run-up to the wedding and everything that comes with it – so please bear this in mind, future brides.

Everything is sorted, the ceremony is written and RSVPs are coming in thick and fast. Only the very last-minute things are left to do. I collect my dress in April and Stuart’s outfit will be ready around then too. We have a couple of things to sort out gift-wise and we then we’ll confirm the table plan – and there you have it: we have ourselves a wedding!

I had a lovely afternoon at Catherines of Partick in Glasgow where my granny and great-aunt got their outfits. I cannot recommend this boutique or its staff enough – they made us feel so at ease and the whole experience was a joy.

The plans for my hen do have finally been revealed: I’m off to Edinburgh for two days of girlie fun over the Easter weekend with my bridesmaids. Then, a couple of weeks before the wedding, we have booked another treat to enjoy: a boozy brunch at Crieff Hydro for all the girls, the mums and Granny. As for the stag, we’ll have to wait and see – Stuart’s plans are still firmly under wraps.

The bridesmaids have been plotting it for a while now and the news is out: the hen do is set for Edinburgh (Photo: Shutterstock)

Having planned hundreds of weddings for so many lovely people over the years, I have to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed planning my own big day. It’s such a massive step we’re taking – I think it only really sank in that it was our wedding I was planning a few weeks ago.

The best piece of advice I could give someone in the initial stages of planning is this: write a list of what you need in terms of suppliers, do your research and always use vendors who have been recommended to you. Work out a budget and stick to it as much as you possibly can. (Stuart will laugh at this as I failed at the first hurdle with my dress!) Make a plan and, again, stick to it. Don’t over-think things and don’t be swayed too much by outside influences.

Bride and groom know their venue well!

I have an Excel spreadsheet called ‘Wedding Bible’ and it has everything on it: budget, to-do list, menus, table plan. It’s the easiest way as everything is in the same place.

Remember it’s one day of your life but it’s one of the most special. Relax, enjoy the run-up and then soak up every last minute. Don’t sweat the small stuff because what really matters at the end of it all is getting married to the one you love, and celebrating with your closest family and friends.

Now all that’s left to do is get married! Watch this space as it’ll be featured in Tie the Knot Scotland later this year…

May and Stuart said "I Do" on 27th May 2022 at Dunkeld House Hotel, read more about their wedding here

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