Suzanne and Yuriy’s intimate and cosy winter nuptials in a Borders castle was the perfect blend of Scottish and Ukrainian, paying homage to the bride and groom’s respective roots

Suzanne Strain and Yuriy Melnychok

3rd December 2022

Venue | Neidpath Castle, Scottish Borders
Photography | Dearly Photography

“After moving back from New Zealand to London together, Yuriy and I were on a lockdown walk in Epping Forest when he proposed. It was a cold, wet and dreary March day, so I was completely unsuspecting that this ‘100th lockdown walk’ would be the day that Yuriy would decide to ask me to be his wife!

We got some funny looks from the local dog walkers as we sat on a picnic blanket in the rain on a bleak Sunday afternoon celebrating with champagne, croissants and a cheeseboard.

We waited for lockdown restrictions to lift before we started to plan anything. We booked our wedding in May 2022 and got married in December 2022. We knew we wanted to have a winter wedding and the original features, open fireplaces and cosy dining room at Neidpath Castle near Peebles won us over.

I am originally from Scotland, so I was swayed by the idea of being back home close to family and friends. We were able to hire the venue for the whole weekend so that our 50 guests could really make a weekend of it celebrating with us.

In hindsight, I probably wouldn’t recommend a dry-hire venue if you are short of time. We underestimated how many things we needed to consider, but on the other side of the coin, we could completely personalise our plans to our tastes.

We didn’t have a strict budget but hoped to keep it below £25k if possible. We were admittedly quite naïve and the cost of some things shocked us. In the end, including rings and family gifts, we were closer to £30k.

The organisation wasn’t too bad as we did it in such a short time period, there was no time to over think it. Yuriy and I split the tasks down the middle and trusted each other to get on with them. We set aside a couple of nights a month when we would sit down with a glass of wine and only talk about wedding planning to make sure we were on the same page.

Try to experience your day as a guest, not an organiser behind the scenes. We knew that as long as we had an open bar and good food and music, everyone would have a great night.

Of course, some things didn’t go to plan: we forgot to bring the guest book; we forgot the table plan; our cheese cake didn’t get delivered because of postal strikes; Yuriy nearly dropped the other wedding cake and he accidentally sent out the wrong generic template for our digital invites – but none of this mattered.

We ditched the best man and bridesmaids tradition. I had my best friend Matthew as my best man, and Yuriy had his sister Julia as his ‘best woman’. They were also our witnesses. I also had both my parents walk me down the aisle. I don’t like the idea of being ‘given away’; I wanted my mum to have the same privilege as my dad in her daughter’s wedding day.

Yuriy is Ukrainian so we incorporated lots of personal touches to pay homage to his roots. In our ceremony, we had whisky from the quaich to stand for Scotland and Yuriy made a handfasting ribbon in Ukrainian colours. Ukrainian weddings normally have several hours of food platters arriving, so we tried to incorporate this into the main meal.

Our caterers, the Culinarians, were amazing and included Ukrainian dishes in the menu. We had sharing platters to start, different meats and vegetable plates to share for the main, and three different desserts to sate my sweet tooth!

We had a lot of Ukrainian items gifted to us from his family that could not attend for obvious reasons. I also want to shout out to our ceremony singer Ben and our band Aurora who kindly allowed Yuriy’s family to use their instruments when they performed a couple of traditional wedding songs as a surprise. Even Yuriy’s 80-year-old granddad who had only been in the country for a few months and can’t speak any English, borrowed the lead singer’s guitar and microphone to belt out some family songs!

One of the highlights of the day was seeing Yuriy’s granddad ceilidh dance with my friends and family. It was so great to see him joining in even although he had no idea what he had signed up for! Yuriy says his standout memory was seeing me walk down the aisle. I’d kept him waiting for 15 minutes, so I think at that point he was starting to sweat a little!

Neidpath Castle is a difficult venue to shoot in as it doesn’t have a lot of natural light, especially in winter. We knew photographer David Early of Dearly Photography had done quite a few weddings there and we liked how natural-looking he managed to make the pictures. We didn’t want to spend a long time away from our guests having photos taken in poses that we didn’t feel comfortable in. David understood that from our first meeting, so we were back enjoying the day with family and friends in no time at all.”

Top tip: “If you’ve got a dry-hire venue, consider booking a wedding planner. We wish we had one to help coordinate all of the different suppliers that we had setting up. It would’ve meant that our families didn’t have to attend to.”

Venue and venue decor Neidpath Castle
Photography Dearly Photography
Registrar Liz Paxton, Scottish Borders Council
Bride’s dress Bijoux Bridal 
Bride’s shoes Charlotte Mills Bridal
Hair and makeup Laura Sutherland Hair and Makeup
Groomswear Edit Suits
Engagement and wedding rings Mr Harold and Son
Catering, linen, tableware and glassware The Culinarians
Cake Ruby and Pearl Cake Art
Cheese cake The Fine Cheese Co.
Flowers Allison’s Flowers
Favours Imported Ukrainian vodka. “We also donated to a charity in Ukraine for displaced children that is supported by Yuriy’s cousin in Lviv.”
Piper My Bagpiper
Drinks reception music Ben Monteith Music 
Reception music Aurora Wedding Band
Retro photobooth Blur Productions
Filmmaker Pretty Little Films (see below)

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