an intimate highland wedding with a gorgeous first look

Sarah and Simon were married on 3rd of September at Dalvey House in Forres. They were planning their wedding for around 18 months. Huge thanks to the lovely Hayley Fraser for sharing her images of the day with us. You can catch Hayley on her website, Facebook or Instagram.

“We live in Essex and this was a destination wedding for us. We had a long checklist of things we were looking for on a pretty small budget (we budgeted around £3000 for the venue and everyone’s accommodation)! We wanted room for us and our seven guests to stay for 5-7 nights, nice grounds for an outdoor wedding plus a good backup plan in case of inclement weather. Another must-have was somewhere scenic nearby for photos, preferably involving a pine forest! After having two venues fall through just before booking, we decided to have one last attempt at finding a venue in Scotland and Dalvey House got added to the short-list at the last minute. When I got there however it greatly exceeded our expectations, ticked all our boxes and to my amazement came in under budget. I’d definitely recommend it for a small wedding like ours.”

“I found finding a venue pretty stressful, but once we’d got all the big things booked I enjoyed working out all the little details and touches to make our vision come to life.”

“Simon was actually very involved in the planning process. He was the one who found our venue online and he had a big part in deciding the overall style of the wedding. He even picked out the location for our ceremony (an old dovecot which greatly pre-dates Dalvey House itself). Even some of the small additions like the paper butterflies were his idea, although I had to work out the logistics of how to incorporate them!”

“I had two wedding dresses, both from high street brands. My main wedding dress (worn for the ceremony) was a beaded lace bias-cut dress from Phase Eight, that I actually bought new-with-tags on eBay for about a fifth of its original retail price. I loved the timeless, vintage, shape combined with head to toe sparkle! However, it was very heavy and not all that practical for traipsing around outdoors, so I changed into a much lighter satin Monsoon dress after our ceremony (to which I added a crystal belt, also bought on eBay, and a feather shrug from Sasso Bride). I tried and sent back a few high street dresses before finding the one I ended up with, but for the most part it wasn’t a difficult job.”

“It’s hard to pick a single favourite part of the day. We had a ‘first look’ before the ceremony which is definitely one of my highlights and although we chose to do one in part for logistical reasons, I’m so glad we did it that way. It was lovely to get to see each other and have a chance to talk in relative privacy before the ceremony. Walking together after the ceremony through Culbin forest amongst the heather and light streaming through the trees was also pretty amazing, even the wonderful photos don’t do it justice.”

“To complement our nature-inspired decoration, we had lots of butterflies incorporated through different aspects of the decoration; in particular four - five hundred origami butterflies I made over the course of our engagement. Apart from generally liking butterflies, this was a subtle reference to our various trips to Romania (which was also our first holiday destination together). If you get lucky with timing and weather, at the base of the Bucegi mountains in summer you can see huge swarms of white butterflies that fill the air like confetti (I once took a video of Simon eating a croissant while surrounded by butterflies!).”

“We also had a great deal of other DIY elements. I drew all our guests wedding outfits and put them in frames on the table as favours. We had pressed ferns from our garden laid out on the table like a runner, complimented by pinecones in shades of silver and gold (these were repurposed Christmas decorations). I drew and made personalized door-hangers with Scottish animals on for each of the bedrooms. I made a bouquet charm from an ammonite pendant I’ve had for over 10 years (my ‘something old’ in more ways than one) and a charm of my Nan’s charm bracelet borrowed from my Mum (my ‘something borrowed’). We also had lots of family photos strung around trees close to the ceremony site.”

“Probably walking down the aisle together is my clearest memory. Our string duo Cheviot performed ‘Dirty Paws’ by Monsters and Men for us (after learning it specially for no extra charge!). It’s by no means a love song and admittedly seems an odd choice to walk down the aisle too, but it became ‘our song’ after having it on virtually a loop in the car during our first holiday! That was probably the moment I had to work hardest to hold back my emotion!”

“During my planning I came across a surprising number of other brides, on the fence with their wedding plans, who felt that by not having a ‘big’ traditional wedding with lots of guests they’d also have to give up other elements that they wanted like a nice dress or fancy venue etc. This is absolutely not the case if you don’t want it to be. If anything, having a tiny wedding gives you more opportunity to go all out on the things that are important to you, since you’re not having to multiply everything by a hundred or more. It also meant we could be a bit more selfish and spend more time having our couple’s photos for example.”


Venue: Dalvey House

Band: Cheviot Music (Violin Duo for ceremony)

Florist: Wild Gorse Studio

Caterer: Delicate Catering

Cakemaker: Marks and Spencer

Make Up/Hair: Hair was by Suzanne McMahon, I did my own makeup.

Bridal Outfit: Phase Eight / Monsoon

Grooms Outfit: Moss Bros

Photographer: Hayley Fraser Photography

Videographer: Apricot Tree Weddings

“Our caterer, Martin Krop from Delicate Catering Inverness put on the most wonderful evening meal for us; one of the best meals I’ve had in the UK and was brilliant value. Our photographers Hayley and Craig also went well beyond what would be expected in terms of just generally helping out and making the day run smoothly. Our violin duo also deserves credit; they are relatively new as a duo but put on a flawless performance especially considering they learnt a new piece of music for us.”