Who says you need years to plan a wedding? Not Karen and Patrick, that’s for sure. They took less than a year to organise their dream Highland nuptials on the Isle of Lewis

Karen France & Patrick MacLeod

7th April 2022

Venues | Lews Castle and The Caladh Inn, Stornoway
Photography | Esther Chlad Photography

“Patrick and I met at church on the Isle of Lewis. We got together at the end of December 2019 and engaged in October 2021 while on a city break to Edinburgh. It was a beautiful day and he got down on one knee and proposed in front of the castle.

As Patrick is a teacher, the first decision we made was to marry during a school holiday. I’d always dreamt of marrying at Lews Castle in Stornoway. It was renovated a few years ago and was the first place we scoped out as a ceremony venue. We ended up booking it for a Thursday as it wasn’t available at a weekend within our desired timeframe. We didn’t set a budget, but we knew that we weren’t going to go crazy.

Our own minister, Rev. Hugh Ferrier, led our Christian ceremony in front of 80 guests in the castle’s dining room (we had 50 more along in the evening). It was lovely to have someone marry us who knew us. I walked along the hallway to the skirl of the bagpipes playing Highland Cathedral, then the piano and fiddle took over as I walked down the aisle to a piece specially composed by my friend Eleanor.

Patrick got a ring cushion made to match his Weathered MacLeod kilt from MacGregor and MacDuff. He tied the rings to it, so that Alexander, his son and best man, wouldn’t drop them. However, when it came to the ring exchange during the ceremony, Patrick couldn’t get the rings unknotted and off the cushion! Thankfully, one of the groomsmen got his sgian dubh out to cut the ribbon and save the day. Cue much laughter.

As an older bride (I’m in my 40s), I had some idea what I wanted from years of going to weddings. I never really thought I’d meet my dream man and have my dream wedding though! More than anything, I wanted the day to be as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.

I was keen to get family involved and include Scottish and American touches to represent both of us (Patrick is originally from the States). Patrick’s son Alexander played the bagpipes as part of the reception which was very special. 

We had wedding photos of our parents’ and old photos of ourselves as children on the card table. I had also had a piece of the tartan left over from Patrick’s kilt wrapped round my bouquet. I’ve since had the bouquet preserved in resin.

We wanted a wedding photographer who could make us all feel relaxed. We really liked Esther Chlad’s style; it helped that I have known her since she was a little girl. The posed shots are wonderful, but she took some lovely natural candid shots too which really captured the mood of the day.

We particularly love a stunning confetti photo as we emerged from the ceremony and a cute one of my niece falling asleep during the ceremony. I’m also a fan of the ones she took of me by the piano in Lews Castle as I am currently learning to play.

As we had just six months between engagement and big day, wedding dress shopping was tricky. Some shops were unhelpful when I told them my timeframe, but it is possible to get some beautiful dresses off the peg, or with a shorter production time. It does limit your choice, but in the end I was delighted with my Wed2B dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses from Angelique Lamont.

We also encountered a few issues on the legal side of things. Despite Patrick living in the UK for a number of years before meeting me, we were surprised that the Home Office had to approve our marriage and prove that it wasn’t a ‘sham’. If anyone is getting married to a non-UK citizen, I’d suggest they bear in mind they need longer to submit notice of their intention to marry form.

What advice would I give to other couples that are about to start planning their day? Enjoy every moment. People were surprised that we managed to pull it all together in six months, but if you focus on what is important you don’t necessarily need a long time to plan. Every little detail doesn’t need to be perfect to have the perfect day.”

Top tip: “Take up your photographer’s offer of a pre-wedding photoshoot. We weren’t keen on having one initially, but I now realise they give you and the photographer a chance to get to know each other. Esther had a knack for getting us to relax and she took fantastic shots, so I knew that the wedding photos would be good.”

Ceremony venue Lews Castle
Reception venue The Caladh Inn
Photography Esther Chlad Photography
Minister Rev. Hugh Ferrier
Bride’s dress Wed2B
Bridesmaids’ dresses Angelique Lamont
Hair Darrah Mackenzie
Makeup Karis Howden
Bride’s nails Perfectly Polished
Groomswear MacGregor and MacDuff
Mother of the bride outfit Mia Bella
Flowers Bespoke Blooms by Maybury
Cake Baked by aunt
Stationery Designed by bride’s brother
Reception music Seoras Chlad and his band (photographer Esther’s brother)

Share this article:

Previous article

This couple surprised guests by whisking them off to an island for their ceremony

Next article

Midweek party wedding in a Perthshire barn with cute proposal story and autumn decor