This couple threw out the rulebook for their intimate ceremony in a lush Japanese garden in Dollar

Nichola Whitelaw & Craig McQueen

25th June 2022

Venues | Japanese Garden at Cowden and Inn at Dollar, Clackmannanshire
Photography | Lee Fletcher Photography

a bride and groom hold hands and walk on a walkway by a loch

“Craig and I met at university in Stirling. We were together for 12 years before we got engaged on holiday on the Isle of Canna at Easter weekend 2019.

We had always wanted a small wedding and had seriously considered eloping abroad sometime in 2020. When Covid ruled out travel, we decided a wedding at home was the way to go. We kept our guest numbers deliberately small (30 all day, 10 more at night) in case we had to do it all under some form of coronavirus restrictions.

Trying to find and book a venue as we emerged from lockdown was tricky. Most of our early planning was done through emails, Zoom or phone calls.

We budgeted around £7,500, but spent closer to £8,500. If you are on a tighter budget, think outside the box. We found the Japanese Garden at Cowden, Dollar, by chance after looking at more traditional wedding venues with gardens that would have cost three or four times as much.

We had our hearts set on an outdoor wedding. From the moment we arrived, we could see the spectacular gardens were perfect. We booked it on the spot. I still can’t believe we only paid what we did. We had the reassuring option to move the ceremony indoors if we needed to.

Our guests had to stand during the ceremony and would not have felt comfortable with a service that went on for a long time. Neither of us are religious, so we chose to have a simple, but personal civil ceremony led by local registrar Gillian McLean.

We didn’t include many of the ‘traditional’ things expected at a wedding. Craig didn’t have a best man; we didn’t have a top table (we sat together); we didn’t have a first dance or dancing of any kind. Our reception was simply a tasty meal, then a ‘night in the pub with our pals’.

The Inn at Dollar was close to the ceremony venue and fitted with the relaxed feel of the day. I found it hard to let go of some things given my work background in organising events, so I had to find people I could trust to do a good job – and I found the team at the Inn most helpful.

There was a wildflower theme running through the styling of our wedding. My veil from Amberspice Bridal Boutique featured loads of colourful embroidered flowers which worked wonderfully with the garden setting, as did my sister’s vintage Laura Ashley floral bridesmaid dress.

Our dried flowers from Hidden Botantics Weddings featured lots of colour, which gave us a wide palette to play with. We also incorporated board games in our DIY decor for the meal (we have a huge collection at home).

I was adamant I wasn’t spending a huge amount on a wedding dress. I ordered 10 dresses online over the course of a couple of months and picked my one from the comfort of my spare room without letting anyone else see it. I have no regrets about buying my dress that way.

Having ethically sourced and produced wedding rings was important to us. Linda Byers from Byers & Co. in Perth designed and made our bands using sustainable materials. Linda was fantastic to work with and did an incredible job.

Our photographer Lee Fletcher was not only outstanding at capturing the wedding, he was a genuinely lovely person. Within a few minutes of meeting him on Zoom, we knew he was the man for us. We did a pre-wedding shoot with him and it all felt very natural. We didn’t feel like we were posing for the camera at all. All the photos he took are stunning.

We were overwhelmed by all the love and good wishes we experienced when getting married. We’ve had a lot of lovely feedback from our guests too as our day was just that little bit different from a typical wedding. It felt like ‘us’.”

Ceremony venue The Japanese Garden at Cowden
Reception venue The Inn at Dollar
Photography Lee Fletcher Photography
Registrar Gillian McLean, Clackmannanshire Registration Office
Bride’s dress Monsoon
Bride’s veil Amberspice Bridal Boutique on Etsy
Bridesmaid’s dress Vintage wildflower-print Laura Ashley dress found on eBay
Bride’s hair Mandarin Hair Salon (pre-wedding); Sharon Porter Hairdressing (on-day)
Bride’s makeup Did her own
Bride’s nails AR Nails
Groomswear Walker Slater
Flowers Hidden Botantics Weddings
Cake Made by a family friend
Wedding invitations Papier
Wedding rings Byers & Co.
Ceremony music Guitarist Declan Hegarty 
Favours DIY favour boxes filled with chocolate and dove pins from Marie Curie

a bridal dress hangs on a wardrobe; a groom puts his waistcoat ona closeup of a groom's buttonhole, featuring yellow and orange flowersa bouquet of multicoloured flowersthe father of the bride sees his daughter for the first timea hug between the father of the bride and his daughtera bridesmaid walks down the aisle, with the bride and the father of the bride behind herthe bride laughing at the top of the aisle, holding her dad's handthe guests and the groom are seen waiting for the bride. The groom stands on a wooden platform that juts out into a lochthe groom turns to see his bride walking down the aislethe bride and groom at the top of the aisle with their celebrantthe celebrant delivers the ceremonythe bride, groom and celebrant laughtwo shots showing a handfasting ceremony. The first image shows a bridesmaid helping tie the knot, and in the second image the celebrant is shownthe bride and groom exchange ringsthe bride and groom embrace; the bride and groom kisstwo images showing the bride and groom holding hands and smiling at the top of the aisle, shortly after their first kissthe bride and groom hold their hands up and smile at the top of the aisle after getting marriedthe bride and groom pose under a tall tree; the bride and groom pose on a bridge over the locha man plays a guitar outdoorsthe bride smiles and wavesthe bride and groom pose with all their guests in the middle of the groundsthe groom poses with two groomsmenthe bride and groom walk through the groundsthe bride and groom sit on a bench and look at each otherthe bride and groom walking through the gardensthe bride and groom pose by the water; the bride poses, holding her bouquetthe bride and groom embrace in the middle of a tree-lined patha close up of a toy llama wearing a mini veil and pearl necklace and headbanda table plan made out of scrabble tilestwo closeups of the cake on displaythe bride and groom cutting the cakethe bride and groom raise their glasses in a toast

Tags:
Amberspice Bridal Boutique, AR Nails, Byres & Co., Guitarist Declan Hegarty, Hidden Botanics Weddings, Lee Fletcher Photography, Mandarin Hair Salon, Marie Curie, Monsoon, Papier, Sharon Porter Hairdressing, The Inn at Dollar, The Japanese Garden at Cowden, Walker Slater

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