When they discovered their favourite Fife spot had just one summer wedding date left for 2023, Jennifer and Andrew booked it on the spot – giving them just seven months to sort everything out

Jennifer Carroll and Andrew Stark

22nd July 2023

Venues | The Ship Inn and Elie Beach, Fife
Photography | Matthew Smith Photography

“Andrew and I were together for nine years before he popped the question on a holiday to the East Neuk in December 2022. Andrew suggested a walk on Elie beach with our cockapoo, Phyllis.

Little did I know he’d arranged for a local piper, Audrey aka East Neuk Piper, to play. I thought the piper was just a local practicing. It wasn’t until Andrew stopped and got on one knee that I realised what was going on! It couldn’t have been any more perfect.

The East Neuk of Fife is our happy place. Although the majority of our 44 guests (us included) are not based in Scotland, we wanted to share with others just how special the area is.

We saw a wedding take place on Elie beach a year prior, and I was so moved by it, it brought me to tears! We wanted to replicate that, so chose to host our wedding at The Ship Inn, with the ceremony outside on the beach.

The day after the engagement, we popped over to The Ship Inn for a mulled wine and mince pie and enquired. They said ‘we have one date available in summer 2023’. We thought, ‘why not?’ and booked the date there and then!

What followed was seven months of intense saving and wedding planning. We budgeted £18,000.

We began to get a bit stressed almost immediately! How were we possibly going to decorate our venue, set up the ceremony on the beach, and make it all look like a wedding? We are obsessed with being thrifty and always try to do everything off our own backs. We began looking for second-hand wedding decor and furniture online, but the magnitude of ‘stuff’ required, and the complexity of storing it and travelling with it from England was overwhelming.

We then found the wonderful Louise Barclay from Fife-based Sol et Luna online. She organised and designed every aspect of the decor for us. We wanted a boho, beachy vibe, blended with a Scottish coastal atmosphere, and she nailed it. We are unbelievably grateful to her for that.

Another key reason for choosing The Ship Inn was the food. It is all locally sourced and brilliantly prepared. Our wedding meal had the ‘fine-dining’ factor to it, but the relaxed pub-service vibe that we wanted.

We had haggis and Orkney scallops to start; béarnaise chicken with truffle and parmesan fries, and grilled lemon sole and seafood with pomme puree for main; and chocolate and hazelnut praline cremeux and cranachan for dessert.

The night before the wedding was a laugh. We hired a beautiful three-storey coastal house for us and close family to stay in the week ahead of the wedding, so the night before, there were 18 of us doing last-minute planning, playing games, eating… and all very excited about the following day!

We had a civil ceremony led by Fife registrar, Heather Cruickshank. It was relaxed, humorous and personal. We included a handfasting using Andrew’s family tartan that was my favourite part of the ceremony.

Andrew says his most memorable moment from that part of the day was hearing the crowd of punters at The Ship Inn cheer as I arrived, and then finally seeing me walk down the beach towards him in my dress.

As the rest of the venue was open to the public, we found many moments to mingle with the locals. They felt a part of the day and made us feel like royalty – all the locals and holidaymakers were practically celebrating with us!

We aren’t the biggest fans of posed photographs. We were keen to capture the natural flow and experiences of the day and Matthew Smith Photography did exactly that. We gave little guidance to him other than to say, ‘just capture all the moments we wouldn’t see throughout the day’.

He left us to it and went ahead to capture pure, core memories for us: a young cousin playing in the sand; an authentic smile; a warm embrace… His images weren’t all about us – which is exactly what we wanted. Some of the shots he captured, we had no clue they had even happened! Looking back at his work was like viewing the day through many different lenses.

Slightly selfishly, after the ceremony, we trooped the wedding party 15-minutes’ walk away to Lady’s Tower, an old ruin on a cliff. It was an epic location for photos. It was a bit windy, and one guest fell over(!), but the photos were great. Worth it, right?

We decided to do a joint speech discussing our funny quirks, which went down a storm with guests. As we were running late, they were all pushed back until after dinner. My dad did a heartwarming speech and the best man, Iain (Andrew’s brother), was hilarious.

Our beloved pooch Phyllis joined us for the whole day. She was passed around the guests and provided plenty of entertainment for all involved – especially when she was digging holes in the sand on the beach with the kids later on in the day!

There were two key things that absolutely everyone recommended we do at our wedding. Firstly, make sure you have a few moments during your big day just for the two of you. Secondly, at key points throughout the day, pause, look around at what you’ve planned, and allow some time for it to sink in.”

Top tip: “Turn your wedding into a mini holiday for all! Instead of focusing 100% of our energy into planning just the wedding day, we had a week of fun meals and activities planned with our family and friends: alpaca-trekking, land yachting, whisky tasting, a golf tour… Although if you opt for this sort of approach, lean on others to help organise activities and dinners.”

Venue and catering The Ship Inn
Photography Matthew Smith Photography
Registrar Heather Cruickshank, Cupar Registry Office
Wedding film Kev Meenan Films (see below)
Bride’s dress Made with Love Bridal, accessorised with Etsy headband, Kate Spade earrings and Tiffany & Co. necklace
Bridesmaid dresses ASOS
Makeup Bride did her own
Hair and nails JC Nail & Hair Room Anstruther
Groomswear Hired from Kirk Wynd Highland House
Engagement ring Diamonds Factory
Wedding rings Finery & Co.
Venue decor Sol et Luna (no longer taking new wedding bookings)
Cake Made by, and gifted from, the bride’s sister-in-law
Dried flower bouquet and buttonholes Etsy
Favours Tablet
Piper Audrey Clarke, East Neuk Piper, who also did the engagement!
Reception music Spotify playlist

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