Joelle Zaghbour and Fraser Dempster
3rd June 2023
“Fraser and I were ‘frenemies’ in secondary school turned to lovers at university. On our two-year anniversary, we were in New York and had booked an early morning photoshoot in SoHo (my favourite area in downtown NYC) to commemorate our month there. Unbeknown to me, Fraser arranged for it to be an engagement shoot, so when the photographer gave him a signal, he popped the question at a gorgeous spot. I was blown away!
Later that day, I proposed right back! I’d secretly brought a vintage gold and ruby ring that I bought previously, so on the promenade of Brooklyn Heights with the Manhattan skyline in the background, I knelt down on one knee, and asked Fraser if he would marry me.
We initially wanted to host a castle wedding with a budget of around £10k. We had hoped that was a decent figure to work with and would offer us a lot of options. However, the first three venues we visited, the spend was looking like £15k plus. In the end, we spent under £5,000 on a wedding for 60 guests.
I thought to cut down costs, we could hire a castle on Airbnb. We reserved a date and paid a deposit. Slowly, as costs began to multiply, I realised that the type of wedding I was dreaming of can’t be made ‘low-cost’, given that it is a full weekend event in a gorgeous venue. There were a lot of hidden costs I hadn’t factored into my rationale. Thankfully, the castle team were kind enough to refund our deposit and we set out looking for alternatives…
At that point, we were left with two options: delay the wedding a year and take more time to plan – or make it work at our budget. We didn’t want to throw a wedding that put us in debt or compromised our honeymoon plans.
Authenticity then became our driving force. I dropped the whole façade of making my wedding look lavish and grandiose. I realised that whatever our wedding came to be, people would enjoy it because we were marrying one another.
Four weeks til the wedding and with multiple date changes under our belt, we decided it was time to have people save a date if we wanted them to show up. The wedding plans came together so late it was really just two weeks before the actual wedding that all the venues were confirmed!
We organised for our ceremony to take place at St Aloysius Church in Glasgow, a place that is dear to me. I remember in my hardest times stumbling upon it and praying within its walls. We had a reception (comprising of a lunch buffet and afternoon party) next door at the Garnethill Multicultural Centre hall, followed by a final dinner for immediate family at our hotel for the night, the Marine Troon.
We received the highest praise for how well the ceremony was curated. I asked three of my family and friends to deliver wedding bidding prayers as their own speeches, knowing that there was no other organised opportunity for speeches (a bit of a rule break!). My mum was one of the final speeches and her moving words brought everybody to tears.
At the hall, we laid on a lunchtime wedding picnic buffet. Fraser and I brought in all of our comfort foods and tasty guilty pleasures. We served up macarons, shawarma and baklava, the latter imported by my dad.
Choosing Kate Godfrey as our photographer was the best wedding decision we made. I discovered her on Facebook with just a week to go to the wedding. She had one photo in particular that made me think if Fraser and I got just that one shot, then we would be happy.
Kate is one of the reasons I had faith in the wedding coming together in the end. Her amazing photography aside, she hyped me up from day one; stepped in when things went wrong and even kept me hydrated throughout the day.
The dinner at the Marine Hotel Troon was a perfect finish to the day. We had our own private space overlooking the beach. We wined and dined and had a chance to reflect on life and marriage with our immediate family. We even squeezed in an outfit change and photo session on the beach with Kate as the sun went down.
Our wedding day looked nothing like I had in my head when I began planning. I expected to have a full order of events, an overnight stay for family and an evening party. I had hoped to enter my castle wedding on a horse, serve signature cocktails, and have activities lined up for guests to engage in.
What we ended up with was a day that was utterly unique and homemade. We were surrounded by friends and family that we truly adored and they left feeling very loved, entertained and most importantly, well-fed.”
Top tip: “Be comfortable in your budget. No matter how strict you are about it, it will slightly deviate from your initial planning. To evaluate a decision, ask yourself if 10 years down the line if you’d remember the detail.”
Ceremony venue St Aloysius’ Church
Reception venue Garnethill Multicultural Centre
Family meal venue Marine Troon
Photography Kate Godfrey Photo
Bride’s dress Sale sample from Anne Priscilla Bridal
Bride’s hair Curlach and Lavish West (on the day)
Bridesmaid and flower girl dresses Quiz Clothing, TK Maxx and ASOS, all on sale or with discount codes
Flowers DIY flowers using blooms from M&S
Catering Lazord Syrian Street Food; supplemented by Costco and Tesco
Ceremony music Bernadette Donoghue
Drinks reception music A “well-curated” playlist on Spotify
Filmmaker Emile Mbunzama