Small Highland dog-friendly family wedding that ended with an incredible sunset

Lauren Walker & Jason Gourlay

7th November 2020

Photography | Story of Love Photography
Venue | Loch Insh, Aviemore

bride and groom basking in golden sunshine on the shore of Loch Insh in near Aviemore

“Jason and I got engaged on 5th January 2019 at the Eiffel Tower and started planning our wedding not long after we got back from Paris.

I’ve visited Aviemore on holiday frequently since I was a child. It was also the first place we went together on a family holiday with Jason’s son, Jaxon, so it holds a special place in our hearts.

Loch Insh isn’t a wedding venue as such, but an outdoor centre with chalets and a restaurant. It’s always been one of our favourite places to stay when in the area, so it was a no-brainer that we used it as our base for our wedding plans.

Our dream was of a relaxed, outdoor humanist ceremony on the beach looking over the loch with around 120 guests joining us. (We initially thought about having a small wedding, but reality hit home when we started writing our guest list!)

We set the date for 9th May 2020, but then the coronavirus pandemic threw a spanner in the works, forcing us to postpone to 7th November 2020. When autumn rolled around, we realised that the small wedding we first considered was exactly what we were going to end up with.

We were limited to 20 people in total, but – as we were marrying outside – some close friends turned up to surprise us. They stood back and watched our perfect little ceremony. It was special to have them there, even at a distance.

In November in the Highlands, the weather can go either way, but we completely lucked out: it was beautiful and we had the most incredible sunset ever.

Story of Love Photography, AKA Natalie, has captured many of my friends’ and clients’ weddings. I’m a hairdresser, so have seen first-hand how she puts everyone at ease and makes being photographed fun and natural. The pictures she took, especially of the sunset, blew us away.

Being in the business, I did my own hair on the wedding morning and – as fortune would have it – my sister Jenna recently set up as a makeup artist, so she did my makeup.

I got my Calla Blanche dress and my sister’s bridesmaid dress from Sophia Grace Couture in Haddington. It was the first dress I spotted in the only wedding dress shop we went to.

I bought fancy shoes from Monsoon to go with it, but ended up wearing a pair of white cowboy boots instead; they were much more me.

We couldn’t find a dress that suited all three of my younger bridesmaids; I also wanted them to match nicely with my sister’s dress. I sketched a design out myself and the amazing Dorota, who owns a little shop called Happy Stitched in Penicuik, made them for me. They turned out even better than I could have imagined!

The catering Loch Insh provided was the best food we have ever eaten at a wedding and – luckily for us – Aviemore was at Level 1 when we got married, which allowed us to have drinks outside til 10pm. I couldn’t praise the staff at the resort enough for making our day special and such a lovely experience.

For our ‘first dance’, we lit a bonfire on the beach, connected Jason’s phone to a portable speaker and shuffled in the sand to L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole. It was magical and finished the day on a high.

We made a weekend of it thereafter along with most of our guests. We all stayed in the lovely chalets at Loch Insh and enjoyed relaxing in the hot tubs and soaking up the views.

Jason and I considered having another celebration one the pandemic has eased, but the day was so perfect that we don’t feel the need to do anything else. We also have bigger things in the pipeline: we are expecting baby Gourlay this September!”

Top tip: “Don’t stress if your wedding ends up being not exactly what you had planned – it might just turn out even better than you could ever have imagined.”

Bride’s dress and sister’s bridesmaid dress Sophia Grace Couture
Younger bridesmaids’ dresses Happy Stitched
Groomswear Bowdens Kilts
Cake made by family friend
Flowers The Flower Box
Favours Melting Heart tablet and miniature whiskies
Rings ROX
Hair Lauren Walker Hairdressing
Makeup Jenna Walker Makeup Artistry

left image is a black and white picture of a dog with a wedding ring on its nose and right image is a bride getting her makeup donebride doing her makeup standing in the window of a lodge in the Highlands of Scotlandgroom wearing a kilt walking along the shore of a loch in Scotland in the sunshinebride and young bridesmaids walking along a road with dog wearing a green leaf dog collartwo dogs wearing green leaf wreath around necks standing next to a bride and young bridesmaidsLoch Insh with the word love blurred out in the foregroundwedding ceremony being conducted by a celebrant on the shore of Loch Inshwedding ceremony on the shores of Loch Inshtwo wedding guests with three dogs and back of bride blurred out in foregroundtwo wedding guests with three dogs and back of bride blurred out in foregroundblue flowers bridal bouquet sitting on a tablegroom helping bride fix skirt when about to sit down at a table at a wedding outsideblack and white image of wedding guests and bride and groom at Loch Insh with dog walking in foregroundtwo young bridesmaids wearing white denim jackets and lilac tulle dresses watching a dog and ducksbride and groom basking in the sunshine at Loch Insh with blurred out dog in foregroundgroom kissing smiling bride on shoulder with Loch Insh in backgroundbride walking along the shore of Loch Insh with bridesmaids and young bridesmaid carrying her dress trainblack and white image of bride and four bridesmaids laughing and looking at one anotherwaist-down image of bride and groom walking along a stony beach with bride wearing white bootssunset silhouetted image of bride and groom dancing on the shore of Loch Inshsilhouette image of men wearing kilts standing on a pier at Loch Inshbride wearing white personalised denim jacket hugging dog and same bride cutting wedding cakeblack and white image of bride and groom laughing as young male weddng guest bites into a wedding cake in front of them