Real Wedding – Gemma & Christopher McCorkell – 31st December 2021

We had wedding & hogmany celebrations on 31st December 2021 with the wedding of this amazing couple. With Gemma being an ex-student of St Andrews University and attending many balls at Kinkell, she knew she had to come back for her wedding day! Gemma & Christopher’s blog gives an insight into their chilly winter wedding and any advice for couples thinking of having one!

How did you guys meet? 

We met in a small bar in Edinburgh one wintery day, after a few glasses of champagne. 

What first attracted you to Kinkell Byre? And what made you decide that it would be perfect for your special day?

I had always loved Kinkell Byre as a venue having enjoyed many university balls there and so it was always up there as a must to visit. After showing Christopher round, we both knew it was perfect for our special day and it was the only venue we ended up seeing. In particular, we were attracted to the flexibility of the blank canvas and the free corkage. It is also in an incredible location, overlooking St. Andrews and the views of the coast line are just magical, while also being in the countryside. The extra intricate detail in the lighting of the rustic barn really gives it it’s ‘wow’ factor and warmth, which is just perfect for an idyllic winter wedding. 

We also found everyone at Kinkell Byre so friendly and helpful; Claire, Sophie and Sandy to just name a few. They were always so approachable and quick to respond, giving expert advice. Claire really went out of her way to help with our set-up and was absolutely brilliant on the night ensuring it all ran smoothly. We really couldn’t thank you all enough.

Tell us a little bit about planning your wedding? What inspired you to pick all the things that you did and what was most important to you both? 

Our wedding fell during COVID19 so we ended up rescheduling our reception like many others and postponed our main celebration to Hogmanay. We decided to get married on our original date in St. Salvator’s Chapel in 2020, followed by a small reception. The most important thing to us was to have as many friends and family as possible and being near to St. Andrews offered a large variety of hotels for everyone to use. 

We had two things that were most important to us: firstly, the ceremony; we wanted to link in our actual wedding day, given that so few people were allowed to join us, so we renewed our vows with our minister, Reverend Neil Gardener, at the reception. This was very special to us both and having everyone in the Byre singing Christmas carols on New Year’s Eve was very poignant and festive. A fantastic way to start the night! The second most important part to us was the entertainment; knowing it was New Years Eve and that everyone was up for a post-lockdown party, we really wanted an excellent band that could play a combination of ceilidh music and popular songs, while keeping everyone on the dance floor. Callanish were absolutely superb and really made our night so special. We were also very keen on getting a magician for the drinks reception and Jody Greig really kept everyone on their toes with his range of tricks and he has the perfect personality for his job. This was a brilliant ice-breaker for our guests and had everyone laughing and interacting prior to the dinner. 

What did you both enjoy planning? 

I loved absolutely all of it. However, I’d probably say my favourite was all the flower arrangements with Cath from Blue Poppy. Flowers always remind me of my late Grandmother you see. Cath really goes above and beyond and it was fantastic to work with her on both of our occasions. She is so talented and the flowers were stunning, with the perfect colour palette. She really did create the most beautiful atmosphere and all our guests commented on it. 

Christopher really enjoyed planning our ceremony, choosing our favourite carols and appropriate readings. We really couldn’t have done this without the help and advice from Reverend Neil Gardener. He also enjoyed choosing the wines and arranging our fancy dress box!

Tell us about your day? 

As we were already married in November 2020 our day ended up being slightly different to what was originally planned. However, looking back, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

The day kicked off to a casual Usher’s lunch at Forgan’s in town, meanwhile the Bridal party enjoyed getting their hair and make up done in the hotel by Sophie Alexis makeup. Having a later start to the night facilitated a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of time to get ready and enjoy some champagne.

The celebration started with being piped in to our ceremony by our close friend, James Angus, who certainly did us proud. Our ceremony was just beautiful and Rev Neil Gardener really made it perfect with all his special touches and reiterating the importance of the vows of marriage. We renewed our vows, had a few readings and sang some Christmas Carols. Singing Christmas carols with all your friends and family in a twinkling rustic barn in the middle of winter was so appropriate for the season! A really special memory for us to always treasure. 

Next followed our drinks reception with champagne and canapes.  This was when Jody Greig showed off his magic tricks, with our guests in tears of laughter while others left astonished how he managed to do it! We also had a crazy golf hole set up as a tribute to St. Andrews. As we had most of our official photographs done last year this was the perfect opportunity to get many pictures of our guests and Duke Photography really did us proud capturing all our special moments. 

Then it was onto the dinner where we had the speeches. My father started by introducing the highlights video of our actual wedding because so many of the guests were not allowed to attend the original day due to Covid restrictions and so it was lovely to make them feel part of the day and share our memories. Christopher’s speech was also so thoughtful and beautifully put together and certainly deserves a special mention. For our food, we decided to do a sharing platter followed by a hog roast BBQ and beef selection buffet by Gourlay to have it in keeping with ‘Hogmanay’. 

Then the night was blown away by Callenish. They were truly fantastic and played all our favourite songs and we really could not recommend them enough.  They were everything we had dreamt of for a wedding band and more. Keeping everyone on the dance floor until the bells. They really helped make it the best day we could ever have wanted. We also had a fancy dress box on the dance floors and some of the memories of our guests dancing with hilarious outfits on are just magic!!! 

We then went outside for the midnight bells. This was a truly special moment that was unique to a Hogmanay wedding at Kinkell Byre. We went outside to the firepit with sparklers and toasted marshmallows, and toasted in the New Year with a glass of Bollinger, while watching the fireworks light up from the Fairmont. The firework displays then rippled like a domino’s effect all the way along the Angus coast line which was absolutely spectacular as they just kept on coming. It was just incredible. Our final farewell was getting the coach back to St. Andrews with our guests while the piper played his last tunes of the night with everyone buzzing on adrenaline. It certainly wasn’t a quiet trip home for the poor driver. 

What made it so special? 

Having been in lockdown for the last two years, and having been re-deployed to work in intensive care during the pandemic, it was just so amazing to finally have our special day and to celebrate with all our loved ones. Seeing all our friends and family having such a great time, was magical and made all the challenges of COVID seem a distant memory.

What was your favourite part of the day?

There were just so many highlights and favourite moments over the night that it is so hard to focus on any one part. I just absolutely loved all the flowers and the colours Cath picked were just beautiful. Christopher loved all the dancing. Having not been on a dance floor for two years, and missing out on our first dance because of the COVID rules, meant everyone was keen to let their hair down. 

As a wedding venue, Kinkell Byre is everything you could wish for and more. The staff really to the time to ensure everything was perfect for you and couldn’t have been more helpful.  Stephen’s lights were also outstanding and really just help to make the Byre so unique.

What advice do you have for other couples planning their wedding? 

My top tips would be; 

  1. Always get your caterer to leave back a plate of canapes so you don’t miss out. 
  2. Take time to out to spend quality time alone together during the day. 
  3. Consider the timing of sunsets if a winter wedding to allow time for photographs in daylight. 
  4. Keep your photography time slick so it also facilities time with your guests.
  5. Good entertainment is key to a good night 😊 
  6. Focus on planning what really matters to you both, the rest will fall into place. 
  7. There is definitely something special about a Christmas time wedding. I would highly recommend this. 

How is married life treating you? 

Married life is treating us well. We have made the big move from London to Northern Ireland to spend more time in greener pastures and focus on a better quality of life. We are currently packing for the second part of our Honeymoon (again, COVID enforced) to Kenya to see the Big 5, fingers crossed! Can’t wait 😊.

Supplier Shout Out

Photographer – Duke Photography 

Catering –  Gourlay Catering 

Band – Callanish

Piper – James Angus

Florist & Decor- Blue Poppy Florist

Lighting & Technical Co-ordination- Stephen Leslie Lighting (i-Light)

Magician – Jody Greig 

Makeup- Sophie Alexis Make-up 

Cake- Susan Christie