After getting engaged in Arran, Mabel and James returned to the Island for their wedding. Read about their big day at Dougarie Boathouse

Mabel Barclay and James Balfour

17th June 2023

Venue | Dougarie Boathouse, Isle of Arran
Photography | Susie Olzen Photography

That old British music-hall song about liking to be beside the seaside still resonates with so many people, even a century after it was penned. Two of those who still reckon the sentiments are true are Mabel and James, who tied the knot in a venue in one of their favourite places – the Isle of Arran.

“We were looking for somewhere that represented our personalities and interests and that was in a location we loved and had a connection with,” explains Mabel. “We both really enjoy being outdoors, especially in the mountains and by the sea. We didn’t want a huge venue for our wedding and reception – we preferred to keep things small and personal.”

The pair got engaged on a beach in Arran and after considering venues in Edinburgh and St Andrews, they realised they wanted to share their love of the Scottish island with 63 of their friends and family at its amazing Dougarie Boathouse.

“We got in touch with Malin, the events coordinator, who showed us around on a stormy afternoon in late autumn. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit it again later in the same week for a pop-up restaurant run by Joel from No. 16 Glasgow (who also runs the bar). It showed us that even on the wettest and darkest of nights the Boathouse was beautifully cosy, spacious and comfortable,” the bride recalls.

“We loved being right beside the sea and really valued the flexibility of the space and the opportunity to design our wedding day the way we wanted.”

On the day, guests from Scotland, England, Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand hopped aboard the ferry to the island, where a full itinerary awaited. “We organised for the guests to arrive at noon for a 1pm ceremony. Then we had drinks, music, photos and games until dinner at 5pm. The ceilidh started at 8pm and we all left at midnight,” recalls the bride.

“Being by the water having our first drink together after the ceremony was amazing,” she adds. “We were lucky with the weather as it was so refreshing and the perfect way to decompress after exchanging vows. My favourite photos are from that part of the day. Then, in one of the breaks in the ceilidh, James and I sneaked off down to the beach to watch the sunset together.”

The couple made it official in a ceremony outside the Boathouse overlooking the beach – “We could hear the lapping of the waves and the cawing of the oyster catchers during our vows!” They were serenaded by music duo Sedona Park during the reception before having a sit-down dinner then a ceilidh under the fairylights.

Their package included venue hire, food, tables, chairs, glasses, crockery, a photographer and a piper. “We were quite minimalist as the Boathouse does all the talking thanks to its unique features and we have quite pared-back tastes in general,” Mabel explains.

“However, we did incorporate personal touches throughout the place – for instance, we used an old sea-map of the Firth of Clyde that James’s family had on an old boat to ‘map’ out our day – it fitted really well with the theme of being by the sea and in a boathouse!

“We couldn’t imagine a better place than being on our favourite island in a landscape we know and love.”

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