An elegant wedding with Zambian details at Glenbervie House, Larbert
John and Naomi accepted early on they wouldn’t have a “normal” wedding because of covid and their planning included many lists and contingency plans.
However, they were just “very excited” to start their new lives together and didn’t want to postpone their big day any longer than was necessary.
“There were a lot of things that were outwith our control, and we just had to accept it,” says Naomi.
Despite having to finalise many elements of their wedding in the last fortnight they had an amazing day.
Read on to see how they pulled it off, with beautiful photos by Luke Bennett Photography.
John and Naomi said “I do” just over two years after they first got together but it took him almost three months to pluck up the courage to first talk to her!
They first met at the Central Baptist Church in Dundee when they both moved to the city for work.
“Our first proper conversation was randomly about daffodils, then we began to talk more frequently,” remembers Naomi.
It still took five months for him to ask her out but months later he totally caught Naomi off guard when he proposed on one of the first times they had seen each other after the separation of the first lockdown.
“John proposed to me on Dumyat Hill in Stirling,” she remembers.
“It was our first hill walk [after lockdown] and we found a quiet spot that overlooked Stirling to have lunch.
“It was a breathtaking view. He rummaged in his backpack for what seemed a lifelime but he pulled out a ring box, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.” Aww!
Planning their wedding combined Naomi’s love of an excel spreadsheet and her organisational skills.
They quickly determined what their priorities were and made a list of anything wedding-related and divided it into “essential,” “maybe” and “don’t want” columns.
A venue with outdoor space was non-negotiable but although they would have liked to marry in a church it wasn’t essential.
Before they got as far as choosing their venue though they had to work out the guest list which was of course complicated by the pandemic.
Their original wedding date was in March 2021 but by January they knew they would have to postpone until May.
“We made our immediate family, minister and bridal party aware of our new date as we were expecting they might be the only ones who would be able to attend,” remembers Naomi.
The couple had drawn up four versions of guest list to cover different numbers of guests they could be allowed to have and from there they could choose their venue and set the budget.
In the end they actually managed about 70% if the original guest list but sadly some of Naomi’s family were unable to travel from Zambia so they streamed their ceremony to include anyone unable to attend.
Naomi hadn’t been keen on a hotel venue and John wanted plenty of outdoor space so Glenbervie House was the perfect setting for their wedding.
“We loved that we could have our ceremony and reception in the one place and there were lovely grounds for us all to enjoy,” she says.
They admit to making up their colour scheme as they went along and opted for a combination of blush pink, bottle green and a hint of gold.
It was also very important to include elements of the bride’s Zambian culture so Special Days Cakes made their stunning African cake.
And as a touching surprise one of Naomi’s bridesmaids Ivy gave her a beautiful dress made from traditional African chitenge fabric that she had specially tailored in Zambia. John had a matching suit to wear.
“It was such a thoughtful gift that ended up unexpectedly becoming our reception attire,” smiles the bride.
The couple took a DIY approach to a lot of their wedding, helped out by their talented family and friends.
“It was very important to us that there were special touches on the day,” says Naomi.
“My dad kindly built the wooden arch that formed the backdrop for our ceremony and the head table.
“One of my bridesmaids Rebeka helped me to decorate it the morning of the wedding and our seating plan was beautifully handwritten by another one of my bridesmaids Abigail.
“I did my own hair – brave I know – and spent a fair bit of time putting the wedding favour succulents together.
“The bridal party and I rallied together to do our hair and make-up with some help from family members too.
“It was a real team effort!”
Choosing her wedding outfit was something of a gamble for Naomi that luckily paid off.
She knew she wanted a fitted dress that was simple but classy and fell in love with Stella York designs.
She bravely bought her wedding dress online from a fellow bride who had to cancel her wedding due to the pandemic.
“I bought it for 40% of its original cost and it was brand-new with labels still attached,” she says.
“It needed to be taken down a size but it was love at first sight.
“A few months later, I did go to a bridal shop to try on other styles but none of them seemed to do the trick so it turned out my gamble paid off.”
Naomi’s ring was also a bit of a risk as she had to buy it online from Chisholm Hunter as none of the shops were open in lockdown.
Luckily what she thought would fit was perfect.
John’s ring on the other hand was a family heirloom.
“It was passed down from his grandfather who passed away several years ago,” says Naomi.
“It was the same ring his grandfather got married with in 1951. It need to be resized and after a quick polish it looked beautiful.”
John also kept his loved ones at the forefront of his wedding look by proudly wearing his family tartan.
The day before the wedding John went clay pigeon shooting with his groomsmen while Naomi spent time with her family.
Then the morning of the big day flew in with final preparations.
Naomi admits to feeling a lot more nervous than she had expected as she walked down the aisle to Zambian songs Ichitemwiko (which means love) and Father’s Child by Zambian artist Abel Chungu Musaka.
“One of my highlights is when I first caught a glimpse of John as my parents walked me down the aisle,” she says.
“He scrubbed up well and it all felt surreal.
“There was a big of a technical issue prior to me entering the ceremony room which lasted a few minutes so poor John thought I had done a runner!
“The highlight of our day for him was seeing me walking down the aisle towards him.”
The couple’s Christian faith is a very important aspect of their lives so they had a religious ceremony presided over by their Pastor, Stuart from Dundee, where they met.
“It felt quite humbling, making such important vows to each other but it was a wonderful experience,” says Naomi.
Following the ceremony they had a drinks reception with refreshing fruity mocktails and canapes before an amazing four-course meal.
The speeches were among the many highlights of their day.
“My dad’s speech went down a treat,” smiles Naomi. “He had me in floods of tears.
“He was very tight-lipped about it before the wedding!
“You could tell that John, Joe and my dad put a lot of thought into their fantastic speeches, they evoked so many different emotions.”
Although dancing and live music weren’t allowed at the time of their wedding, the couple entertained their guests in the evening with coffee and cake.
“It felt very relaxed which is what we wanted,” says the bride.
“This was the first social engagement all of us had been to for a while and the first time we had seen some relatives and friends for almost two years.
“It was so lovely to watch everyone chatting away and enjoying each other’s company.”
Looking back, despite the stress of the ever-changing restrictions, John and Naomi loved organising their wedding.
“I loved that we could put our own stamp on things from choosing a photographer whose shooting style we admired to having our African themed wedding cake,” she says.
“It was special to be able to share this exciting journey with our nearest and dearest.”
And the couple are settling into married life nicely.
“It has been a wonderful adventure living as a married couple so far and we are very grateful to have a wonderful community of family and friends to support us in this new season,” says Naomi.
“We are learning new things about ourselves and each other every day which is exciting.”