Martin and Bruce drew inspiration from family, friends and their heritage to throw a good old knees-up, as Martin describes. Photos by Hemma Mason Photography
I was performing at the Edinburgh Festival and had no intention of meeting anyone as it’s full on with shows, promotion and everything in between. One night a few of us went out to a pub called Habanana and on a packed dance floor was Bruce. It was literally a case of ‘You dancing? You asking? I’m asking! Then I’m dancing!’
It’s cheesy to say, but I think it was the right time for both of us and I knew after a few hours – he’s the one, done! The cider might have helped, too.
Four months after we met, Bruce moved down from Edinburgh to Maidenhead, and into our first home. It was a natural progression to tie the knot. On New Year’s Eve 2012, we invited a few friends over for dinner and drinks and before they arrived we had a little moment to ourselves and got engaged.
When we started planning, we looked at both Scotland and Maidenhead and after much consideration decided to get married locally to make organising everything easier.
We wanted to stay away from any major theme. We were the first gay couple to marry in Maidenhead, so had congratulation letters from the mayor and Theresa May, whose home constituency is here – keeping our day about marriage was really important. I guess our theme was our heritage: the West Country and Scotland coming together.
First and foremost for us was about all our loved ones coming together and celebrating. We wanted our guests to be as comfortable as possible and decided that having sole use of a venue where people wouldn’t have to worry about travel on the day was key.
We booked Fredrick’s Hotel and Spa for exclusive use, taking all the rooms from Friday through to Sunday morning. We wanted guests to feel at ease knowing that everyone in attendance was there for our wedding celebrations only.
We had arranged entertainment on the Friday evening, karaoke in the bar – the best way to break the ice and get everyone involved. The wedding was on Saturday and we had a big communal leaving breakfast on the Sunday morning. Most of our guests arrived and checked in early Friday afternoon so they could make a full weekend of it. The hotel had a wonderful vibe due to this and it gave everyone time and a chance to catch up and relax before the wedding on Saturday.
We had a wonderful harpist playing in the hotel an hour before the ceremony, and we had two friends playing piano and singing us down the aisle. They also sang during the signing of the register and once we were declared ‘married’ a piper started playing in the gardens. Being in the business of entertainment meant that we could ask friends to do this and make it more personal. We had a Scottish poem read and a friend of ours made a wonderful speech about how far we have come to be able to do what we did that day. Everything else was very traditional.
I went for a classic black suit, white shirt and Bruce was in full kilt. I had a purple tie and Bruce a purple cravat. We both had a white rose, a thistle and lavender in our pins.
We had our dads walk our maids of honour down the aisle, followed by my sister and Bruce’s brother walking with the best man and best woman. We then followed, accompanied by our mums. Never did we think we’d see the day that this would happen. They probably didn’t either, but they could not have been prouder. When watching the video back we couldn’t believe how emotional people were when we walked down the aisle. It was very special.
We wanted to keep flowers and decorations to a minimum. We decided our guests would rather we spent our budget on free champagne and barrels of West Country cider on tap than endless flower vases and bows on chairs. Let’s face it, we’re talking about people that like to drink!
The one thing we both decided from the start was that we didn’t want a sit down meal. Once we said ‘I do’ we wanted to kick off the celebration. Because of this, we got married late in the day at 4pm, so the traditional wedding breakfast and evening could all roll into one.
This also meant our guests could enjoy the spa and hotel during the day. Once the ceremony ended we all piled out into the gardens for champagne and a BBQ. This then rolled into the evening, a hog roast, speeches and DJ. The fact that everyone got rather drunk on the Friday night meant that hangovers could be dealt with before more drinking commenced on the Saturday afternoon!
Because we wanted to keep things celebratory and didn’t want a big fancy cake, we invited guests to bring something to add to the dessert table based on the Scottish/West Country, whisky/cider theme. We made our favourite dessert on the day our wedding cake. It was amazing to see how competitive people were and the dessert table was like something from The Great British Bake Off!
For favours, we laid out gift bags of flower bulbs. We named them ‘Bruce’s Scottish Haggis’ and ‘Martin’s Carrot Cruncher’. The idea was for our guests to plant them when they got home and watch love grow just like ours. It was totally corny but so funny to receive photos from our family and friends of the flowers as they grew during the year – much more fun than a few sugared almonds wrapped in a bow.
A lot of our guests said it was the best wedding they had been to, because the stuffy, formal side of a wedding day had been taken out. They felt special that we had the hotel to ourselves and that we put a lot of thought into making it different and fun for everyone.
People make an effort for a wedding and I think it’s the only time you will ever get all your family and friends together. It was an overwhelming feeling, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that we really celebrated that fact. Everyone told us the day would fly by and they were so right! Before we knew it, it was 3am and we were still in the garden passing around bottles of whisky and munching on what was left of the dessert table.
Even though we had an official photographer, we used a phone app called Wedpics. It’s basically the modern day version of disposable cameras on tables. Guests downloaded the app for free and uploaded all their pictures of the day, and we could then access them all. We now have a very full and entertaining memory of the day from all sides – nothing too staged, just a true reflection of an amazing weekend.
Hearing the registrar say, ‘You are now husband and husband,’ then having everyone cheer and the piper starting to play as we led our congregation out into the garden was a moment we will never forget and never stop smiling about.