I can’t remember whose bright idea it was to get married in Scotland. Let alone where the plan for getting hitched on a little Scottish island came from. It could have been mine, then again it could have just’ve easily been Pernilla’s (my then bride to be). It was definitely one of us, unless of course it was someone else. It was me that made the proposal though. We both agree on that one. Although even something as simple as a pre-planned wedding proposition didn’t quite work out as it should’ve.
It was August 2006 and we were away in Dublin. It rained. A lot. We drank. A lot. When in Rome et cetera. The weekend following our stay in the winner of that year’s ‘wettest city in Europe’ award, we’d booked a break on Ven, a tiny island (can you see a theme emerging?) situated halfway between Denmark and Sweden. Now Ven, like most of Sweden once you get outside of its cities, runs on Fifties time. It’s an old fashioned sort of place. Its big open spaces are broken up by small clusters of rich-people houses and normal-people holiday rentals. The roads are practically devoid of cars, teeming instead with yellow bicycles carrying happy Swede’s to various picnic destinations. The perfect place for a traditional down-on-one-knee style proposal, I figured. My big idea was as simple as finding an old tree that would still be standing long after we weren’t, and doing the aforementioned. Couldn’t fail, I figured.
So anyway back in Dublin, we’re in bed, and being a little the worse for wear due to the day’s drinking, are caught up in a ‘you don’t love me any more’ mini-argument. Out of nowhere I blurted some words that when strung together formed a marriage proposal. No huge romantic gesture, no flowers or rings or knees, no holding hands or looking longingly into eyes, just two people easing their way towards the oncoming hangover. Bad moods and bad weather, not the best of bedfellows. If I’d been sober, less tired, in a different city, not trying to placate Pernilla, who knows, perhaps I wouldn’t have done it like that. But that’s life, and that’s how it happened. Still at least we stopped arguing.
That’s when the real headaches started though. It’ll come as no shock to anyone, but getting married involves a hell of a lot of preparation. There is so much to organise, so many decisions to make, so many things to deal with. It’s difficult to know where to begin. But begin you must, so we decided to start by drawing up a list of who to invite and try and figure everything else out from there. Our list was huge. Even after we’d whittled it down, it was still far bigger than felt comfortable. The biggest problem we could see was how to justify spending so much money on a wedding? We’re both minimum-wage monkeys, and wouldn’t dream of leaning on our parents to splash out for anything, let alone going down the bank loan route. So what do you do? Do you cut corners before you’ve already started? And if so, which corners? Smaller wedding cake? Worse catering? Less free booze? Rubbish DJ? Less guests? Cheaper wedding outfits? So like I said, total headache situation.
The thing is a wedding day is supposed to be the couple’s big day. “It’s all about you,” people will tell you. “It’s your big day,” is another phrase that gets thrown about. At the same time family members that you’ve never heard of get in touch, telling you how much they’re looking forward to their place at the table. If you’re not careful things can very quickly start to tumble out of control, as you find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to balance pleasing your wedding guests and yourselves at the same time. Which is impossible. Or at least that’s how it felt for us.
The thing is we were after something a bit different. Not quite jumping-out-of-an-aeroplane-and-screaming-our-wedding-vows-at-each-other-as-we-hurtled-towards-the-earth-at-breakneck-speed different. Just imagine how bad those wedding pictures would’ve looked. But not really the tried and tested local church hall with a wedding DJ, flashing lights and 80s music type scenario either.
So after looking around Malmö for a suitable venue for a few months, it started to dawn on us why most people got married in the traditional way in the traditional places. All of the odd venues we found came with their own unique set of problems, and when you’ve already got a huge list of problems that you’re desperately trying to cross your way through, the last thing you want to do is start adding to that list. Something had to give.
Which is how we ended up thinking it would be easier to tie the knot seven hundred miles from where we lived. On top of that we decided not to invite any friends or family and throw a big party for them when we returned from our honeymoon instead. Strangely, the only person we ended up asking to our wedding was a total stranger, Aidan Moffat (Google him if you don’t know the name). He was kind enough to reply with a ‘no can do, I’m busy that weekend’ email, which was expected, but still sweet. We figured that since he’d once sat in a record-shop window for a day as part of their window display (in exchange for a crate of booze), it was worth a shot.
So anyway, Scotland it was. Pernilla is Swedish and I’m English, the half way point between those two places is Scotland. Which is a nice and easy explanation for people when they ask why we decided to take the plunge in the land of kilts. That’s not the real reason though. The truth of the matter is we’d fallen for the place on our first visit. We loved the weather-beaten cities guarded by mountains, the coastline that seemingly never ends, the high drama of the countryside with its waterfalls feeding into huge lochs, the bruised Scottish skies and of course the people and their amazing accents. Even now if ever we hear a Scot utter the words, ‘shoe’, ‘murder’ or ‘dirty’ we can’t help but smile at each other. Scotland is like a magnet for us and so any excuse to travel across the North Sea to say hello is always taken. Although that said we’ve still never set foot inside a Glaswegian pub despite having been there on three separate occasions.
For some reason most of the arrangements were left to me. Which is weird since I’m only really good at two things, buying records and watching films. If you ever need either of those doing then I’m your man, anything beyond that though and you’re taking a chance. Still, we knew one hundred percent that we weren’t going to get hitched in a big church, Pernilla decked out like a giant cake and me in a suit that you could eat your dinner off of. We wanted the actual wedding ceremony to be a small, non-religious affair that would be over and done with as quickly as possible.
We settled pretty quickly on the Isle of Arran for three reasons. It was a small Scottish island, it had a registry office and it was easily accessible to us, which was important since neither of us drive. Tick, tick and tick. Perfect. Next came the hurdle of actually making everything happen. This was 2007, pre-Facebook, we were still in the MySpace age, and despite Sweden being well up to snuff on all things broadband, Scotland’s little coastal islands most definitely weren’t. They were still very much operating on the old tried and tested ‘give us a call on the telephone’ method. So there were a lot of phone calls, and lots of paperwork to sort out.
But sort it all out we did. We booked the island’s only wedding photographer, ordered flowers and sorted out various hotels and B&Bs. I even remembered to check if we could choose the music to be played during our ceremony (we could). After everything was in place all that was left for us to do was practise our wedding vows and be nervous.