This couple flew in from Australia to discover their original wedding venue had fallen through just a month before their big day. Thankfully their luck improved once they managed to find another location!

Toni Graham & Kevin Barrett

23rd April 2022

Venue | Gilmerton House, East Lothian
Photography | Graeme McInnes Photography

“Kevin and I were together eight years before he proposed on 12th December 2020. It took me completely by surprise! We were having a picnic at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, overlooking Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. He then treated us to dinner and an overnight stay at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel.

We enjoyed the engagement over Christmas, then set about planning everything in January 2021. We were living in Sydney at the time, but I knew I wanted to return to my Scottish roots to marry.

As Australia and the UK were in lockdown, we couldn’t travel back to visit venues or meet suppliers. We did everything by video call and relied on family and friends for suggestions and help.

One of my friends is a wedding videographer (Armelle Films), so she gave us a lot of good recommendations, including photographer Graeme McInnes. We met him on Zoom and hit it off straight away. He was amazing on the day and his relaxed approach made us feel comfortable. The resulting photos are stunning.

We really wanted to make a weekend of it and have guests stay with us on site. That was the main consideration when it came to finding a location. We booked a venue that met our criteria, but it was under construction and unfortunately we were mislead about it being completed in time.

We flew in from Sydney four weeks before our wedding and finally visited the place. It was clear at that point that it would not be ready and we were forced to rearrange!

We were fortunate to find Gilmerton House in North Berwick available at short notice. Luckily, it wasn’t too far from our original venue, so none of our guests had to change their accommodation or flights.

The staff at Gilmerton were exceptional and took such good care of us. They helped us set up a new caterer (the outstanding Edinburgh Catering Company) and our marquee. They have such good relationships with their suppliers that they were able to pull a few strings. We owe them a lot.

We met our celebrant Niki Smith on Zoom and, within a matter of minutes, we knew we had to have her conduct our ceremony. She was exceptionally supportive during the whole planning process. The ceremony was always the part of the day that I was most looking forward to because of her involvement.

The sun came out from behind the clouds as I walked down the aisle with my Dad. We had a beautiful pink tree as the backdrop for our ceremony. Kevin says it was like something out of a movie.

Amy Hawthorn sung Breathe by Faith Hill as I walked down the aisle. She was so good, guests thought she was a recording!

Many of our 120 guests still rave about our ceremony. Niki blew us away with her ability to have people laughing their heads off one minute and crying the next. We asked two of our great aunts to add words of wisdom and my Aunty chose a poem previously recommended to her by my grandmother.

We also included a ‘first kiss, last kiss’. This is when the celebrant calls up the mums to kiss their offspring before they kiss their newlywed husband or wife, as they were the first to do so when they were born. It was really special.

Good food and good music were high priorities for us, but so was paying homage to our combined Scottish, Irish and Australian heritages. We had tartan for our handfasting, haggis on the menu and had a unique Aussie seating plan hand-drawn by Ella Bruty Illustrations.

I couldn’t resist booking a troupe of Irish dancers. I was the only one who knew about them, so they were a surprise for everyone. They were so much fun and our guests loved them.

The smoke bombs we had in some of our photos were green, white and yellow to represent the Irish flag (another Irish touch). Everyone was getting burnt from the ash, so the photos are hilarious as well as beautiful.

We performed a choreographed first dance. It was my idea and I thought I’d love it, but on the night I was quite embarrassed, whereas Kevin absolutely owned the dancefloor! All of our guests were so into it though, and cheered us on the whole way through.

Our original budget was $50k AUD (£30k), but I think it was closer to $70k AUD (£40k) by the end, due to our venue change and lots of last-minute things that we hadn’t accounted for.”

Top tip: “Invest in a wedding planner, especially if you’re organising everything from overseas. We ended up using Events by Anna H on the day (the venue didn’t have a co-ordinator) and she was amazing. She made the day run smoothly and helped with lots of things I hadn’t even thought about. In hindsight, I should have booked her from the outset.”

Venue Gilmerton House, East Lothian
Photography Graeme McInnes PhotographyCelebrant Niki Smith
On-the-day co-ordinator Events by Anna H
Bride’s dress Brides of Beecroft 
Bridesmaids’ dresses ASOS
Makeup and nails Eren Saygilier
Bridesmaids’ and mother of bride makeup Emma Motion
Hair Bridal Hair by Georgia Peters
Groomswear Rembrandt 
Catering The Edinburgh Catering Company 
Cake Liggy’s Cake Company
Flowers Occasions of Eyemouth 
Seating plan Ella Bruty Illustrations
Favours Homemade sloe gin
Ceremony music Amy Hawthorn
Drinks reception music The Folk Soul Bros
Reception music The Stereo Beats 
Irish dancers Siamsoir Irish Dancers 
Saxophonist Marshali Scott Saxophonist
Wedding film Inspire Videos 
Marquee Queensberry Events

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