When you think of a destination wedding, a sandy beach and an epic sunset usually spring to mind. You know – somewhere hot. But actually, if you live halfway across in the world in San Diego, where could be better for a destination choice than a magnificent castle wedding in bonny Scotland?
Today’s feature couple, Ellen and Ryan, thought just that, enticing 62 guests across the pond to Edinburgh to laird it up at the beautiful Dalhousie Castle. There they laid on Highland Games and fireworks, live entertainment, and surprised guests with a rather unusual ring bearer.
We just love Ellen’s beautiful Watters gown, perfect for swishing around the dancefloor as she desired; and my word, that’s some serious #girlsquad she has – do we count nine beautiful bridesmaids!?!
With images by JPR Shah Photography.
ellen says: We are from San Diego, USA, and we had our first date at Balboa Park, a collective of many different museums, galleries, restaurants and gardens. My favourite place in Balboa Park is the Botanical Garden, so Ryan knew he wanted to propose there. He is known for his off-the-wall ‘what if’ jokes. So, as we strolled through the Botanical Garden, Ryan noted that the building was 100-years-old. He asked me, “What if this building collapsed on us?” Following my eye roll, he then asked, “Or, what if I said I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life?”
Ryan proposed with a family heirloom diamond. His mom had a ring with three diamonds that was passed down to her. Ryan received one of the diamonds from the ring and designed a ring to match our relationship. Ryan knew I would want friends and family to share in the joy of the engagement. So, after the obvious kissing and reply of “absolutely yes!”, he took me to the rooftop of a building where our friends and family were waiting to congratulate us.
We got married on 22nd June 2017. I’m a teacher and, in order to have a destination wedding, we knew we’d need to get married over summer. So, we picked the earliest summer date that allowed us and our guests to get overseas. We knew that, if we were going to get married abroad, we wanted to do so in a place that was different from anywhere we could get married in the USA. Ryan presented me with the idea of getting married in a castle and we found a castle that could house all of the guests overnight, that was close to an airport and that we loved! Dalhousie Castle fit all the bills and we would absolutely recommend it! The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly, and the food and venue were amazing. Our friends and family left our wedding saying it was the best wedding they had ever attended. Our venue was perfect!
We didn’t have a theme, other than ‘Scottish Castle’, which for us was pretty unique. We had a company come and do the Highland Games with our guests, which helped acclimatise everybody to Scottish culture.
We chose purple and grey colour scheme, simply because we really like these colours.
We travelled to Edinburgh a few days before the wedding and stayed at the castle the night before everybody arrived. We hired a bus company, Ladywell Travel, to transport our guests from Edinburgh to the castle.
When it came to the attire, we wanted to wear clothing that would be easy to dance in and comfortable. I chose Watters’ Georgia dress and Ryan wore an Armani suit. The bridesmaids wore dresses from Anthropologie’s line BHLDN and the groomsmen wore Calvin Klein suits.
For the ceremony, we had a Jewish wedding structure called a chuppah. Ryan built the structure out of 78 copper pieces in San Diego and transported the pieces in a bag on the airplane. He and the groomsmen assembled it on the day of the wedding.
For my bouquet, I carried white calla lilies with a purple ribbon wrapped around them and a charm with my dad’s picture on it. Spiral Flowers beautifully decorated our chuppah, provided my flowers, the groom’s and the groomsmen’s buttonholes, and the mother-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-groom’s corsages.
We wanted to honour both of our fathers in our wedding, so we had a table dedicated to them, asking all our guests to do a ‘silent toast’ to our fathers at some point in the night. We also wanted our fathers ghosted into a family photo – something that our photographer is helping us with. Also, in honour of our fathers, we made donations to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and the American Heart Association in lieu of favours.
Our photographer John, of JPR Shah Photography, was great! He photographed our Highland Games the day before and he was there for 12 hours the day of our wedding. He was great to work with the entire time. He was professional, friendly and responsive from overseas. We really lucked out with him!
For the cake, we had a beautiful three-tiered creation from Licks Cakes. One tier was carrot, one was chocolate and one was red velvet. We also had some vegan cupcakes from Licks.
Dalhousie Castle provided us with tasty dinner options for the welcome dinner the night before and the wedding breakfast itself. For the wedding breakfast, guests chose between lamb, fish and a vegetarian dish. We also had an open bar, for our guests travelled quite the distance to celebrate with us!
For the music, we used DJ James Henderson for the wedding dancing and he was great. For the wedding ceremony and cocktail hour, we used Yasmin Worrall, an amazing local singer and acoustic guitar player. She even professionally recorded her amazing voice for us. For the Highland Games the day before, we used Reel Time, who were also amazing.
As extra entertainment, we had fireworks the night of our wedding, provided by 21CC.
The best part of our wedding was seeing all of our guests arrive at the castle. It’s very humbling to have 62 guests leave everything behind and travel halfway around the world to share in your special day.
For our honeymoon, we are going to South Africa and Zambia this coming summer. We plan to go shark cage diving and go on safari.
My top tip for other Brides Up North is – give yourself time to plan. We had a two-and-a-half-year engagement and we still felt rushed with some decisions. We would also highly recommend a destination wedding.