Matt tells us their story of what it took to get here ...
Despite living in a small town for 19 years, we had never met. Until I started working at an American Pool and Snooker bar, where Rachel worked. We laugh about it now, but we didn't hit it off right away. It was only a few months later that we got to know each other a little better.
I think of our engagement story like the fairytale of Goldilocks. Well, sort of. One-half would say it was a little long in coming and the other would say it was just right. When it did happen we'd grown up together. We'd gone to University. Travelled. Lived a bit. Got jobs and shared a house. The time was right.
We've been together for just short of 10 years. So, the dilemma for me was to still have an element of surprise when I finally got on one knee.
First came an aborted attempt in Iceland. The plan was to pop the question at the summit of a mountain that overlooks Reykjavik. The harsh winter grounded the helicopter flight 10 minutes before take off.
The second attempt was more successful. We were coming to the end of a week trip camping in Scotland. We'd travelled a loop. Taking in Loch Lomond, Nevis Range, Loch Ness, and Cairngorms National Park. A highlight of the trip was the unexpected stops. The moments where we'd take a left or right to somewhere we hadn't planned for. We stopped upon the Falls of Braur. It was perfect. Like a fairytale we walked through an enchanting forest. The falls flowing over rocks. Sun breaking through the tree canopy lighting a path of delicate moss.
Why did you choose Crear for your wedding?
We both love being by water. The sea. A waterfall. A Scottish lake. It's where we've made great memories. So, getting married on a beach is something we've dreamt about.
But, it was one of those 'wouldn't it be nice' dreams. Even after falling for Scotland's charms, we didn't think we'd get married there.
But, after getting engaged in Scotland we looked at venues local to us. After a few months, it was clear the right place wasn't found. We wanted personal and intimate. A quick broader search highlighted 'Wee Weddings'. The more Rach looked at Crear it was exactly what we wanted. A home from home. Breathtaking views. The option to get married on the beach. Perfect.
What were your expectations for your day?
We knew anything could happen. It was the end of March and the weather wasn't guaranteed. The jokes from family, friends and colleagues were frequent. Would it be snowing? Scotland gets a lot of rain doesn't it? How about those gale force winds?
We prepared for the worst and hoped for the best. It paid off. The journey up to Scotland was a wet one. None stop downpours. But, when we got to Crear the afternoon before the wedding we went for stroll along the beach it was windy but dry.
What we didn’t expect was to wake up the next morning with bright blue skies. Back home in the midlands it was snowing! We would have been happy either way. Snow or sunshine, nothing would spoil our day. Plus, we came well prepared for all weathers!
Did you have any issues prior to the big day, how did you overcome them?
We knew having an intimate wedding in Scotland wouldn’t be easy. Family and friends wanted to share the moment with us. We heard many thoughts from 'how romantic' to 'are you crazy what if it rains?'
When we announced our engagement we had lots of advice saying 'do what you want to do' this stuck in my mind. We knew we would remember this day for the rest of our lives. So, it had to be a place which had a special meaning to us and Scotland does. We decided on a a 'happily ever after party' when we returned from our mini-moon in Scotland. It was a great excuse for Rach to wear her dress again!
How would you describe the day, what made it special?
It was peaceful. That might seem a strange way to describe your wedding day. But, I think it's the best in our case. Relaxed and at our pace. Crear's setting and the weather couldn't have been better.
It was a controversial decision. But the fact there was just the six of us meant that we captured vivid memories of the day. Even those quieter moments we remember.
What advice would you give future couples?
Be strong and have the wedding you want. It's easy to say. Friends and family will say your wedding is all about what you want. But, if what you want is something different expect some challenges.
We had our moments where we wavered. Then we remembered. It is our day. It was a moment where we became stronger partners. Partners in crime some might say. But we haven't looked back since.
How has married life been so far?
We're still in honeymoon mode. We planned a Scottish wedding and mini-moon, a Staffordshire reception and a New Zealand honeymoon in 5 months. It took late nights and long weeks. So we're making the most of enjoying life right now.
We toured New Zealand north to south in 'Big Bertha', our camper. As well as being a stunningly beautiful country, it also has lots to do. Quad biking. Forest zip wires. Kayaking. Black water rafting. Glacier flights. Jet boating. Mountain luging. Scenic cruises. City tours. And that's just a snippet of what we did in adventurous three weeks.
Since we've been back from the Honeymoon we've not stopped. We've been to big music concerts, ran half marathons, changed jobs and fed Zebras.
Where are you favourite places to visit:
When it comes to Scotland we always return to Edinburgh. There's something about the city that calls to us. The architecture. The gardens and castle. The attractions and opportunities to explore on foot and discover something new. We feel at home. We usually stay in converted house (no hotel reception) that's a short walk away from the city. A real gem that's usually booked up! While in Edinburgh we'll usually try many of the bars and pubs across the new and old town. And we'll keep trying new places to eat – as there's plenty.
Outside of the cities, we like to experience the nature of Scotland. Yes, even the midges. In September last year we did a loop around central Scotland, camping each night in a pop-up tent. We kayaked, gorge walked and trekked our way through. Visiting Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Nevis Range, Loch Ness and the Cairngorms National Park. Making our way back to Staffordshire through Edinburgh for a night crawl. We'd taken detours along the way. There's so many falls, forests, and monuments. And we had to take in the Glenfinnan Viaduct (We're Harry Potter fans) even though we did by accident. The joy of an unplanned discovery is great. There's no prior expectation only surprise.
Favourite travel destinations
Iceland and New Zealand have left the strongest impressions outside of the UK. Although there are great destinations across the UK too. We've travelled across England, Wales, Scotland and visited Ireland. All have had their charms and we'd go back to them.
If you're looking for something different and closer to home, Iceland is worth a look. A few short hours and you're in the heart of Iceland, Reykjavik. Whatever you want to do during your stay, you can do it from here. It was white over when we arrived and it was something different to our experiences before. The people were friendly. The waterfalls, glaciers, and geothermal activity (take the golden circle tour) were incredible. In Iceland, we stayed in a great apartment which I think I prefer. Generally, there's more room and less of a feeling that it's a temporary home. There's something about walking through a hotel reception which is a little cold for me.
If you're looking for adventure further away. Want to share a life-affirming experience. And you're happy whether you're living luxury or camping in a field. I think travelling New Zealand in a camper is fantastic. Keep your itinerary loose. Don't be eating miles to chase dates. We experienced so many things that we'd never done before with a loose plan of what we wanted to do. The country is breathtaking. Some of my fondest memories are travelling down those long straight roads. Enjoy it, don't rush it. The roads outside of peak season are quiet. (We went in April) Cities are busy, but everything between is a dream. And there's so much to do. Quad biking. Waterfall treks. Forest zip wires. Beach days. Kayaking. Black water rafting. Glacier flights. Jet boating. Mountain luging. Scenic cruises. Geothermal parks. City tours. Kiwi spotting. Zoos. Hobbiton and WETA tours (for film fans).
We are meat eaters. So, the opportunity for a good steak is rarely turned down. Grillmarkadurinn in Iceland's capital Reykjavik springs to mind straight away. It's tucked in behind the main streets so you need to peek round a corner to see it. The atmosphere and food was impeccable. It was an experience to eat in there. Which, as we were in snow boots, thermals and snow jackets, was a little surreal. It was busy. Very busy. But we were accommodated without fuss. It's probably our best ever meal out ever.
Flame Bar and Grill in New Zealand was not far behind. It's on Queenstown's lakefront where you book jet boat trips. It was a spur of the moment decision. We were looking for a place to eat and a couple ventured out as we were looking at the menu. “Don't think about it just do it. Best steak in Queenstown,”they said. That was enough for us. We got in before the big crowds. Apparently, it can get very busy. The food, a couple of T-Bones, was the best meal of our trip to New Zealand.
If you're looking for adventure. Want to share a life-affirming experience. And you're happy whether you're living luxury or camping in a field. I think travelling New Zealand in a camper is fantastic. Keep your itinerary loose. Don't be eating miles to chase dates. We experienced so many things that we'd never done before with a loose plan of what we wanted to do. The country is breathtaking. Some of my fondest memories are travelling down those long straight roads. Enjoy it, don't rush it. The roads outside of peak season are quiet. (We went in April) Cities are busy, but everything between is a dream. And there's so much to do. Quad biking. Waterfall treks. Forest zip wires. Beach days. Kayaking. Black water rafting. Glacier flights. Jet boating. Mountain luging. Scenic cruises. Geothermal parks. City tours. Kiwi spotting. Zoos. Hobbiton and WETA tours (for film fans).