Grace Loves Lace dress and leather jacket for St. Donat’s Castle humanist wedding photography


Stylish humanist wedding with a quaich whisky blending at St. Donat’s Castle

Leah + Malcolm

How many brides out there got not one but two wedding dresses? Leah had already one wedding dress made to order when she saw a gorgeous backless number by Grace Loves Lace that she fell in love with. She had to have it and after some debating she chose it over the one she had already had. Tough decision but so worth it! Paired with burgundy velvet Jimmy Choo stilettos the outfit was perfect for Leah! The weather that day was a bit temperamental so for our seaside photo session Leah put her leather jacket and trainers on and rocked the style again! I loved how this revamped outfit juxtaposed traditional kilt of Malcolm. Style on point!

The humanist wedding took place at St. Donat’s Castle in Wales – elegant historic wedding venue situated on a beautiful South Wales coastline. Leah and Malcolm chose to have a humanist celebrant to conduct the marriage ceremony and blended whisky in a quaich to symbolically connect the two families. Read more about this tradition below.

Some things did not go according to the plan (damaged cake, last minute change from outdoor to indoor ceremony due to rain!) but it did not stop Leah and Malcolm from having fun and enjoying the day!

Read more about the story of two wedding dresses, the lack of cake and gorgeous styling below the photos.

And first a few words by Leah and Malcolm as their St. Donat’s Castle wedding photographer team:

Joasis captured the day perfectly, all the special moments
and family group shots. Both Jo and Raf worked so hard to get great shots. 
Jo gave us lots of advice during our engagement shoot, which really
helped with the planning of the day. It was great to have a session with Jo
before the big day so we could get a feel for what it’d be like!


Our love story

We found each other online in August 2014. As soon as we met there was an instant connection. I
think we both felt that this was going to be different, and special. We dated
and it quickly got quite serious. Within a year we’d moved in together and then
about 6 months after that he proposed!

We got engaged on 18th February 2016. Malcolm had arranged
a wonderful weekend away for us in a gorgeous country spa hotel… He popped the
question in our room, as we were getting ready to go down for our meal. I was very glad he did it
in the privacy of our room, as I’m quite shy like that. 

St. Donat’s Castle as our wedding venue

As we wanted all our family
and friends to be there, we ruled out a wedding abroad. And at that point I
knew I wanted to get married in Wales. It’s where I’m from and means a lot to
me. I originally had it in my head that we would do it in a vineyard. We both
love wine and I wanted somewhere unique and special.

We arranged to see lots of venues across South Wales, so
we could see all the different options. When we came across St Donat’s Castle,
in the height of our Game of Thrones obsession, we just knew it was ‘the one’!
The venue is just stunning, inside and out. With the infamous wet welsh
weather, we had to think about how the day would be if it rained and we were
stuck indoors, and fortunately, St Donat’s Castle has lots of space indoors filled with character.
Bradenstock Hall where we ended up holding both the wedding ceremony and reception
is so beautiful. And the staff at St Donat’s were so lovely to us when we
turned up unannounced on our first visit, we knew it had to be there. We both
fell in love with it!

Copper, gold and black geometric paired with sentimental items for modern styling

I wanted the decor to be
unique, quirky, and modern. But also to be a reflection of us. Malcolm is an
actuary and loves all things maths. Using this as inspiration, I had the idea
of using geometric shapes for the decor. I designed invites using geometric
shapes printed on marble card, and the name cards were a mix of pentagons and
hexagons on marble card. 

We used copper, gold and black geometric shaped terrariums
and lanterns for the table decorations. Another idea I had to personalise the
decor was to use items we owned in our flat. Things like the wooden camel we
bought together in Marrakesh, the wooden wheelbarrows Malcolm’s grandpa had
made, books Malcolm’s mother (Moira Forsyth) had written, and an old Welsh miners’ lamp that my
parents gave us! We filled the terraria with cacti and succulents and also
had a few in plant pots. I incorporated a lot of copper into the decor. It was a good mix of old, sentimental items with contemporary
design. I loved it.

Dark tones flowers arrangements 

The bouquets, button
holes, greenery on the flower arch and two tall vases for the large windows were a mix of green foliage, burgundy and deep red flowers, thistles and
eucalyptus. It brought everything together perfectly. 

Alexandra wedding dress by Grace Loves Lace and kilt by MacGregor and Macduff

I didn’t know what style I
wanted to wear. I started looking online and on Pinterest and loved
the vintage style of Jenny Packham dresses. All I knew was that I didn’t want
anything too structured. I wanted to look amazing, but also feel like me and be
comfortable. I had a dress made for me by a tailor in Wales, but then I saw Grace Loves Lace Alexandra dress online and fell in love with it! It looked perfect in every way.
Lacy, unstructured, high neckline, backless…I loved this style! The front split of the dress was perfect to to
show off my gorgeous burgundy velvet Jimmy Choo’s. I had to have it. But
convincing Malcolm I needed a second dress wasn’t going to be easy. He
eventually came around and I was able to say yes to the dress! 

As Malcolm is Scottish it was always going to be a kilt for the big
day! Luckily his family clan tartan, the Anderson, is a nice bright blue
tartan with reds and yellows. I helped him choose a modern version of that from MacGregor and Macduff,
which he had lots of compliments about on the day.

My bridesmaids wore navy multi way dresses by Debenhams that were perfect for them and matched nicely with burgundy and tartan.

Bagpipes, acoustic guitar, band and ceilidh for the evening

We hired a bagpiper to welcome our guests to the venue and he
played me in as I walked down the aisle. I walked down the aisle to Calon Lan ,
a welsh hymn that I love.       

An old friend, Chris Summerill, sang a few songs for us during the canapés and
drinks. And later on he played with his band, at the end of the night. He’s
such a brilliant musician and entertainer! We were both really impressed and
absolutely loved his performance.

Welsh ceilidh band played for an
hour at the beginning of the evening entertainment! It got most people up on
the dancefloor. Even though most of us were completely confused by it all and
causing all sorts of mayhem! It was lots of fun. And it got the evening off to
a really good start. For our first dance we chose Neil Young, Heart of Gold.

Humanist wedding with quaich – whisky blending

It felt natural to choose a humanist wedding ceremony we are not religious and we wanted to it to be a warm and personal event. We found Richard Paterson – humanist celebrant on the UK humanist website.  And when we met him in Wales we really liked how warm and friendly he was. He had plenty of experience doing weddings and understood what we wanted from the ceremony. He helped us with our vows and told our story in a very lovely way. We feel honoured that our wedding was his last as a humanist celebrant.

My sister read my favourite E.E.Cummings poem, I carry your heart with
me. Its such a beautiful poem, and I adore it. Malcolm’s sister read out a more
light hearted poem from a Harold and Kumar movie! It’s maths related, and we
both find those films ridiculous but funny. It’s The square root of three by
David Feinberg. Malcolm’s mum read out Shakespeare’s sonnet 116. As
it’s one of her favourites. It was very special for us that they could be
involved in the ceremony and it made us both very proud.

To end the ceremony, and to celebrate the bond of the marriage, we
blended a Welsh whisky with a Scottish whisky in a quaich and each took a sip.
A quaich is a traditional Scottish silver cup with two handles on each side.
It’s known as a love cup. 

When things do not go exactly like planned…

Lots and lots of things didn’t quite go to plan on the day.

We wanted an outdoor
ceremony and it rained about 15 minutes before we were due to get married.
Total chaos ensued to bring everything indoors. Our flower arch was literally
dragged indoors (leaving the floral arrangement in a bit of a mess!). Our cake
didn’t make it to the venue because it fell over en route. It was a
hexagonal shaped cake with a geometric cake topper. It
had one large chocolate tier on the bottom and two vanilla tiers on top. 

And our DIY photo
booth and photo guest book didn’t work out either, due to a faulty camera! But
regardless of all that, we had an amazing day with lots of happy memories. It
makes you realise what’s important and you really don’t care about it on the

Word of advice…

The most important things you need to worry
about are the food & drink, and the entertainmentThe rest of the details are nice to have, but on
the day you really don’t care about it. Flowers, the cake, the decor, and all
the small details are great but not essential.


The suppliers board:

Photography: Joasis Photography

Venue: St. Donat’s Castle, Llantwit Major, Wales

Wedding dress: Grace Loves Lace ”Alexandra”

Shoes: Jimmy Choo ”Lucy”


Hair: Ceri Holland

Make up: by Leah

Florist: St. Brides Flowers

Groom and groomsmen kilts: MacGregor and Macduff


Bride’s ring Baroque Bespoke Jewellers

Grooms ring Rennie & Co

Catering: Town and Country 

Band: Chris Summerill Band

Ceilidh band – Backroom band/ Dave Hamilton

Invitations/stationery: Leah


For more wedding inspiration, jump to see this Queen’s House wedding and check recent engagement shoot that still comes complimentary with full day packages. Do not forget to check my best of 2017 round up too!


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Hey, you’ve come this far, may as well drop me a line. If you’ve got a date in mind, do get in touch swiftly. I only book in around 25 weddings a year and the popular dates (May - October) go FAST. So the sooner we get you booked in, the better! 

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