Exuding a magic that spills from spaces steeped in history, jewelry designer Lee Brennan and Alexandria Sinclair crossed continents to wed in a 15th Century castle tucked away in the Scottish countryside.
An opulent celebration inspired by the keep’s majestic character, Lee and Alexandria left bold aesthetics untouched, styling the space with subtle accents in rich, moody palettes. Guests moved down spiralled staircases and hidden passageways to reveal a reception encircled by ancient stone walls. Tables spilled with rustic foliage, as metallic touches gleamed beneath glowing candelabras. In true Scottish tradition, friends and family feasted in medieval-style, sipping whisky to the resonating sound of bagpipes…
Photography by Alli Oughtred.
Names / Alexandria & Lee
Wedding Date / September 26, 2017
Guest Numbers / 55
How We Met
We had known each other from our hometown. We had many brief encounters over the years and knew there was an underlying interest. After some time, fortune brought our paths together in a small mountain town in Canada. We were very much drawn to each other over these carefree months in the snow. It was such a romantic backdrop to fall in love.
Our Engagement Story
After 8 years together, we returned to the mountains in Canada where our relationship began. It was Christmas and covered in snow and charm. The nostalgia of our time here in the beginning, mixed with the profound beauty of the surroundings made this such a perfect moment. Lee proposed late on a clear cold night in the snow under the pine trees. It was a full circle moment in our winter wonderland.
Marriage to us Means
We believe marriage is the unification of strengths and weaknesses to create a balance where balance could not exist alone. It’s adapting to become one, while maintaining yourselves as individuals. It means always whole-heartedly supporting and inspiring one another.
Named one of Scotland’s finest and most lavish wedding venues, nestled in one of the most beautiful rural settings, the majestic Borthwick Castle provided the perfect setting for our magical wedding. Secret passageways, spiral staircases, arched doorways, and dungeons fill the dramatic twin towers of Borthwick Castle, a treasure in Scotland’s royal history that dates to 1430. The castle lies just 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh and has been lovingly and superbly refurbished, retaining every bit of its medieval grandeur and atmosphere, but now with the modern comforts of a sumptuous home away from home.
There are twelve uniquely designed bedchambers with lavish bathrooms, magnificent yet intimate dining and lounge areas, roaring fires and breathtaking views. Every room tells a story, some named after the historic figures who once roamed these very rooms, that being Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell! We hired the castle exclusively for 3 nights, to allow ourselves and guests to live and experience the Scottish history and way of life.
Upon entering the ancient gateway of Borthwick Castle, you enter a hidden world of luxury and majestic style, steeped in 600 years of dramatic Scottish history. It’s a venue that has won prestigious awards throughout Europe for a design that combines historic grandeur seamlessly with contemporary luxury, we simply couldn’t get married anywhere else!
On the day of the wedding the upper level of this historic keep there is a room called The Garrison, which was once used by the soldiers to keep watch over the hills for potential enemy. The room, like the castle is built from ancient solid stone with arched ceilings, which made the perfect romantic setting for the intimate ceremony. The stone created the most haunting acoustics for the background harpist playing and bagpiper who escorted me into the ceremony.
The reception was later held on the first level of the castle, The Great Hall, a grand and breathtaking architectural monument, designed with such sensibility and respect for the history of this humbling building. The luxurious yet rustic medieval feast we later consumed was had beside the roaring fire with an Address to the Haggis, heart breaking bagpipes, laughter and dancing.
Theme & Style
The aesthetic was based around the building, the spaces needed very little changing or manipulation, the location stole our hearts from the first moment we set foot on the property. The structure alone was so overwhelmingly inspiring that any attempt at changing the theme would diminish the tasteful ambience that already exists in every inch of this classically decorated space. The other inspiration was our shared love for the land and history of Scotland. This particular property has absorbed 600 years of history, this history enters the bloodstream of any guest that visits. You can breathe this castle in and it will change you forever.
Alli Oughtred was our photographer. We obviously loved the way she captures a moment and had admired her work online for quite sometime before the wedding. She is full of life and mischief, which we love as it was a joy to have her as part of the event. She knows how to walk the fine line between hidden professionalism and being an active member of the celebrations. The love she has for her art is ferocious. She was an unstoppable force, going above and beyond all of our expectations.
I had a clear vision of what I wanted but found it difficult to find. What I ended up choosing was something that surprised me. I wanted something quite traditional with a little edge. I envisioned all lace, full length with a small train and long sleeves. The dress I chose was actually an unconventional two-piece by Divine Atelier. Divine Atelier brings their own version of Bohemian minimalism together with a unique touch of romanticism. Using handcrafted techniques, the collections are made in Romania, in a workshop in the historical center of Brasov.
On the hanger it was absolutely stunning, the incredibly beautiful pictorial lace caught my eye. When I put it on I knew it was the one. It was a dress that expressed emotions, had simplicity while still allowing subtle delicate details shine, romantic yet seductive in an elegant way. I fell in love with it.
With a slight alteration, I customized the bell sleeves to be fitted. I styled it with an off-white satin sash around the waistline to make it appear as a dress for the ceremony, which I later removed to expose the two-piece design for the reception, a little more fun and relaxed! The top of the neckline was laced with a single strand of off-white pearls, which also added a nice feminine touch.
I wore an Anna Campbell Zara Finger Tip with blusher veil, which I think added another traditional aspect to complete the wedding look.
I wanted a traditional style, but again something with a little edge. I chose to go with ‘Portia Bordeaux Suede Stiletto Heel’ with cutout details by Innovare Made In Italy, as I thought this would complement the look and tie in with the colors in my hand bouquet. The lace on my dress was also quite see-through, which allowed the red to show a little.
Our rings are by Rosa Maria Jewellery, in Beirut Lebanon. My engagement ring is a silver band with raw black diamonds around the band and a grey diamond in the middle. My wedding band is silver with a band of raw white diamonds. Lee’s ring is a silver band with a raw black diamond in the middle. He later got a wedding band tattooed.
Jewelry & Accessories
I wanted to be quite minimal and let my dress be the focus. I had simple drop pearl earrings to match the pearl neckline on my top and I wore a silver bracelet, a gift from a friend. I also wore my late Scottish Grandmother’s wedding bands.
Lee wore a tailored 3-piece suit created by our good friends at Lost & Found Ria Dunn. They are based in Tuscany, Italy, and Ria the designer has such a gifted eye and a sensibility of style that Lee loves; luxurious with a slightly rugged, masculine edge. His boots were also designed and handmade in Tuscany by Lost & Found Ria Dunn. The brief was Bond mixed with Whyett Erp. The fabric was custom designed for this particular suit. Lee’s antique medieval silver shield cufflinks were a gift from me, which I found back home in Australia.
Hair & Makeup
I wore my hair out, with a natural wave. I had a side braid decorated with a few white waxed flowers, to tie in with my bouquet. I wanted to have a slight medieval feel, but in a subtle way. My makeup was quite natural. Brown tones for the eyes, but my lipstick was matching my shoes and bouquet!
We sent e-save the dates. Our wedding invitation and menus were made from pinstripe tea-stained paper with matching envelopes. We handmade all of the invitations and menus as we wanted a personal touch. We finished them off with burnt edges and the Flower of Scotland tartan ribbon with our customized Wax Seal. We wanted them to feel old and in the theme of an ancient scroll. We had Lee’s father, Lew Brennan who is an artist, design a wedding insignia that featured our initials amongst a wild thistle flower, this we used across all of our invitations, menus, favors, website and stationery.
We wanted something that tied in with the Scottish Wedding theme and destination. Lee loves his whisky, so for the men, we had a distillery bottle our own personalized 12-year-old whisky favors with our wedding insignia on the label, decorated with a fresh wild thistle.
I love fragrances and natural body products, so for the women, handmade natural soap: Midnight Rose with Bamboo Charcoal & essential oils of Geranium & Patchouli. Wrapped in natural paper with our wedding insignia, decorated with a fresh wild thistle.
Flowers & Bouquets
I was inspired by the venue and the soul of the Scottish history. I combined wild, native, rustic, British garden & Australian bush together. I had a large bouquet that was textural including, Australian native flowers and foliage such as Geralton Wax, Grevillea, Banksia, Protea, blue thistle, flowers in cream and white with a contrasting touch of burgundy. Tied with a rich burgundy satin ribbon. I also had the white waxflowers individually wired for my hair.
The reception and sweet tables where decorated with a runner of rustic greenery, Eucalyptus cinerea, Myrica branches, white and blue wild thistles, dried lavender and wheat.
Our friend William Lacalmonte is incredible. We met William in Paris while he was creating a fashion documentary. He is a silent assassin, gentle and quiet with a brooding underlying instinct to capture every moment that you would wish to capture. His ability to disappear while still being present for every important moment is remarkable. His long, slow cinematic shots are carefully curated and so very moving and emotional. What he was able to capture alone in the span of only one day was unbelievable.
I invited my mother, mother-in-law to be and best friends to join me in the Gate House, a private bridal suite. We had a Scottish Champagne breakfast delivered to the room. Lee prepared a music playlist for me to get ready to. It was very calm and relaxing.
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Ceremony Décor & Reception Décor
Lots of candles and candelabras to create height mixed with rustic foliage, antique pieces and large flower centerpieces. We used a lot of wood, gold plates and goblets in keeping with a medieval banquet style.
Wedding Planner & Wedding Stylist
I have organized many events and coordinated weddings before, so I knew I could plan my own wedding. For some, organizing a wedding abroad can be difficult, I surprisingly found it quite easy. I think you just have to be disciplined and organized yourself. I did the majority of organizing by email and we had two visits to Scotland before the event. One trip to scout the venue, the other for taste testing and to meet some of the vendors. One of the reasons we chose the venue we did was because they provided an onsite coordinator for the day of the wedding and a professional team of staff, which made the wedding day run smoothly. It was absolutely perfect.
In keeping with the historical medieval theme, we went with a tall single chocolate sponge semi-naked cake, with chocolate drip edges, decorated with wild berries, thistles, rosemary and gooseberries. It was delicious! We had a sweets and cheese grazing table as well. There was a mix of traditional Scottish treats including Edinburgh Rock, Tablet, Snow Balls and Fudge with take away paper lolly bags.
We also had a five-tiered cake of Scottish cheese; brie, blue cheese, smoked applewood, mull cheddar and goats cheese served with dried fruits, nuts and figs, homemade oatcakes and kitchen chutney!
We had the live sounds of the Piper to walk down the aisle, he collected me from The Gate House bridal suite outside of the castle. The guests waited at the top of the castle in The Garrison room listening to the tunes of Highland Cathedral. For the signing we had the harpist play RY –X Howling, after the ceremony we exited to the Piper playing the traditional and iconic Mhari’s Wedding song. For the first dance, we had Tennessee Whisky.
Food & Beverages
We kept the menu Scottish Seasonal for our guests to have the full experience. Post ceremony we had a champagne and canapé hour that included Scottish salmon and lamb.
For the reception, we had a sit-down shared dinner. Rustic autumnal vegetables with hearty meats from local farmers and producers made it a proper medieval feast. Between courses we had our Piper perform a surprise Address to The Haggis, which allowed our guests to witness the tradition, Robert Burns poetry and experience the flavor of Haggis with a shot of whisky, of course!
We arranged coaches from Edinburgh City to bring our guests on a journey through the countryside to a secret castle destination located in the Midlothian Area, just 30 mins from the city.
We chose somewhere close to Scotland for the honeymoon, Portugal. A fantastic country with lots going on, we can’t wait to return again. We started with a few nights in Lisbon, then headed off into the country to stay on a winery and then spent the last few days by the seaside. All the boutique hotels we stayed at were divine. The food, drink, design and the local people where the highlights.
We asked for no gifts, having our guests fly half way around the world to attend our wedding in Scotland was the best gift we could ask for.
We chose to have a Humanist ceremony. A Caledonian Humanist association wedding gives you the freedom to put your personal stamp on one of the biggest days of our life. In keeping with the Humanist ethos, a Humanist wedding is not a religious ceremony and is ideal for couples who are not themselves of a particular faith. Tim Maguire was our celebrant, he came highly recommended to us. We wrote our entire ceremony ourselves with his guidance. We received amazing feedback about our ceremony words and his deliverance, in particular him and his relaxed presence and ability to hold the guest’s attention in a professional and charismatic way.
We wrote our own vows and said them for the first time to each other at the ceremony. Our mothers and my brother also gave beautiful readings.
Any Other Special Details
We included a Love Cup ceremony and used a special crystal goblet that had been passed down on my English side of my family. My grandparents had used it at their wedding, as did my parents at their wedding, so it was special to include it in our ceremony too.
Sources of Inspiration
The venue itself was where all the inspiration came from. We wanted to capture all of the medieval grandeur and historic Scottish atmosphere. Our desire was just to share our love for Scotland while making our guests feel as luxurious and special as possible. We wanted this time to deeply affect each guest with a profound mixture of emotions.
A Memorable Moment
There are so many. But I’ll share two. It was 5am, saying goodbye to Lee in the dark. I watched him walk towards the castle, with the moonshine making the castle a silhouette, and the sun just rising on the horizon, he walked away with his suit over his shoulder turning to wave to me, it was the last time I would see him before he would become my husband.
My father’s speech. My father lost his voice on my wedding day, so my mum had to read his speech out. He chose a song to play to me; “When my little girl is smiling, There’s nothing more I can say, I see those big bright eyes, And then I realize, That girl is gonna get her way” by The Drifters. My heart melted.
For Lee, it was the morning of the wedding when he left our room. It was still dark, and a thick mist consumed the castle. “I sat in a beautiful velvet chair in a nook of the State Room in the castle to write my speech. For three hours I sat while an old charismatic butler topped up my tea. Looking out the window as the sun rose over the vivid green Scottish countryside still heavy with mist. After the months of chaos leading up to the wedding, it was the first moment to take in what was about to happen. For those few hours, it was my castle. Another moment that I need to mention was as I stood waiting at the end of the aisle the distant sound of bagpipes started from outside the castle, I knew Alex was being piped in, over 5-10 minutes they got closer and louder and she was led up the cavernous stone stairwell. The power of those bagpipes in that space took the breath out of my lungs like the vacuum of space, it was heavily emotional I think for all involved.”
If I could give other Brides-To-Be one Piece of Advice
Be as present as you can on the day.
Photography / Alli Oughtred
Videography / William Lacalmonte
Bride’s Dress / Divine Atelier
Groom’s Formal Wear / Lost & Found Ria Dunn
Wedding Rings / Rosa Maria Jewellery
Hair and Makeup / Laura Sutherland
Florist & Styling / Snap Dragon
Catering / Hickory Food
Cake / Too Good To Eat
Wedding Venue / Borthwick Castle
Celebrant / Tim Maguire
Transport / ABC Minicoach Hire