Wedding venues are currently taking bookings for dates two years in advance: that’s a whole 24 months to plan, organise and fund the dream day.

How about pulling the whole thing together in 41 days; and as for the traditional wedding handbook, that was ripped up immediately as this couple decided that their wedding would be a reflection of what was important to them. This is the story of Aly and Rachel’s wedding day.

Real weddings: Alistair (Aly) Young and Rachel Hyslop, Towncroft Farm, Houston, Renfrewshire

Where did you meet?

Aly: “We first met at Hillhead Book Club, which is a bar in Glasgow, in January 2014 and I thought Rachel was way out of my league.”

Rachel: “He looked like a farmer, with the jeans and market boots on, but he had good chat and we got on really well.”

The next date was something of a test for Aly as Rachel had lived in Germany and had some experience with strong beers. She proceeded to drink him under the table, which she remembers fondly. He barely remembers it at all.

Tell us about the proposal

It wasn’t a traditional down on one knee proposal. The couple went on holiday to Canada in 2017, their second trip to the Rocky Mountains. That was 3 1/2 years into their relationship, and they had a ‘serious chat’ and they knew they were on the same page.

What happened next

Aly: “Life happened next. Through various work commitments and family health issues, our priorities were elsewhere. Rachel manages an outreach project for Glasgow Caledonian University and I have the farm to run alongside other jobs. Time just passed by.

“At Houston Show last year at start of June, I was hosting the talent show, so Rachel had to collect the trophy for our cattle from the local minister. I found it really amusing as Rachel is vegetarian yet collected the trophy for best beef animal.”

They both discussed how nice the minister was, and by the end of the week, they decided to look at their schedules and give him a call. A lot of the year was ruled out through work, harvest, calving etc, and the minister was going on holiday so it either had to be July or the end of August. They emailed the Rev. Gary Noonan to see if it was possible to get married on the farm in July.

Rachel and Alistair have attended their fair share of weddings. Rachel is a wedding photographer in her spare time and Aly is in a band, WhosTown, that regularly plays weddings, so they knew what they did and didn’t want for their day. Essentially, they wanted to spend as much time as possible enjoying themselves and they stuck by that ethos throughout the planning.

Rachel: “We wanted everyone to be well fed and watered and our day to be relaxed without the formalities of a traditional wedding; this allowed us to maximise the time having fun with family and friends.”

The legalities

What they had to be sure of, is whether they could register the marriage schedules in time. You had to give the council at least 28 days’ notice. They gave 29. They booked the minister for July 20th and they told no one else.

Why have it on the farm?

Rachel was first to suggest the farm, she loves the space and wanted to get married somewhere meaningful for them. It meant a lot of work to get the place ship shape in time. There’s an ancient wooded area on the farm with a magical clearing and they thought it would be perfect to get married there.

Why the secrecy?

Aly: “We didn’t want a big wedding, but I know a lot of people. Particularly in the farming world, there’s a real sense of community. And the thought of having some friends there but not others was something I found really difficult.”

Rachel: “We were constrained by the size of the cart shed, realistically we could only fit in around 65 people at the maximum, so we just had to draw a line somewhere.”

They decided that they would go for close family and a handful of friends, they invited 68, and 65 were available. They did think about having a surprise wedding and inviting people along to a party, but they were worried that people might not come so they didn’t want to take the risk.

Now at the 30th June, they decided it was time to tell the families. They visited their parents first and asked whether they were free on July 20th, and their answer was: “Why?”. The reactions, as you can imagine, were something along the lines of silence, then delighted panic.

With 21 days to go, everyone got put to work. Family and friends were amazing and everyone pitched in to help.


They used little in the way of official suppliers, but they did contact the Rollin Pig, a local catering company, which provided a terrific hog roast, with lots of options for vegetarians and gluten free etc. Then there was a BBQ later on at night. The food was perfect, and it saved everyone having to sit down for an official meal.

The shed it was held in hadn’t been painted for about 70 years. Rachel’s sister Sara, is an interior designer, so she was fundamental in visualising and transforming the cart shed into a wedding venue. They sourced potato boxes for the bar (but only after assuring the potato farmer that they weren’t going into competition as a potato grower), and hay bales for seating.

Trying to buy wee bales of hay from local farmers was difficult as farmers kept asking why they wanted them. They felt they were having to make up excuses to keep the wedding a secret.

Rachel’s mum, Heather, had been doing flowers and making cakes for family weddings for years. They thought rather naively, that by having a quick wedding, it wouldn’t be as stressful. In reality, they compressed all that stress into 41 days.

Rachel: “My mum is a wonderful baker and we did ask her to make her signature Fererro Rocher cake. What I didn’t realise was that she made another five cakes as she thought it wouldn’t be enough to feed 65 people.

“To be fair, mum’s partner David did time it vanishing within three minutes of being cut. I had already sorted some flowers through Mud Urban Flowers but my mum created tenfold the displays and added to those we bought, including my bouquet that morning.

“The flowers transformed the rustic, industrial space. From creating fresh garlands to bedecking the rafters, it looked terrific. Then with my sister working to actualise our farm wedding, including instructing my brother Ross to graffiti and paint murals around the farm, it started to take shape.

“The whole family was involved: Aly’s mum and dad, Sandy and Andrea, whitewashed the whole farm, then were running all over picking up things for us and helping us out.”

They used cable drums for tables, which were hard to come by. Aly continues: “I phoned Fraser Miller at Alter Landscapes. The next morning, his dad phoned me back at 6.30am to say he had a load of cable drums and he was dropping them off. I couldn’t believe it.”

What touched them both was that even before they mentioned to anyone that they were getting married, when they asked for any kind of help, without hesitation the help came.

A phone call to the Montgomery family at Ardardan Estate in Cardross, to invite them to the wedding, brought an offer of a ready-made trailer that would transport guests across the field to the wooded area where they were to be married. It was all falling into place.

Bridal wear

It doesn’t surprise to hear that Rachel was not going to follow tradition with viewings and fittings to find a dress. With so much else to do, she simply found a Temperley dress from a High Street store, and had it altered to fit.


Rachel did toy with the idea of taking her own wedding photographs which thankfully, she says, she was talked out of. Her friend Dorothee Weber, who had helped on previous wedding shoots, agreed to use Rachel’s camera for the day and she caught fantastic images that showcased the agricultural backdrop, without hogging the couple for hours away from their guests.


They didn’t have rings until the week before, they spent an afternoon in Glasgow and Aly found what he wanted with Glasgow jeweller Smith, St Enoch Square. Rachel couldn’t find one that she liked, but spoke to a jeweller who agreed to design and make one for her. Kirsty Stronach, of Atelier 32, in Glasgow’s west end, accomplished this with a personalised touch, and all within a few days of the wedding.

The week before the wedding they both hit the wall at the same time, overcome with the enormity of the task. With families going above and beyond, it was obvious that it was a lot for everyone to deal with on such a short scale, and the couple felt they had put undue stress on those closest to them. Although they didn’t want family to take on so much, the efforts undoubtedly made the day all the more special.

On the day

Just looking at the photographs you can see how relaxed and happy everyone looks, it all went without a hitch. The plan was to ferry the guests across the field to the wooded spot, for the ceremony, in the trailer. And Aly thought that maybe he could arrange something a little more special for his bride, so he called in a favour.

The surprise was, that he had organised with his friends John and Shona Mitchell, at Undercraig Farm, in Langbank, to have their Clydesdale horse and cart arrive on the morning and take Rachel and Aly across the field together. Aly and Rachel were the only two left on the farm when everyone headed over to the field, and they agreed to meet in the shed at 2pm to start their journey into married life together.

Rachel says: “Alistair whistled and I heard the clip clop of the hooves. I thought then I need to breathe every minute in all day and enjoy this. People’s reactions seeing the horse was incredible, it was so emotional.”

Aly: “The romance of it all was beautiful, and also this farm has been in my family for a long time, going across the field in the horse and cart I felt so in touch with my roots. They even brought us one of the horse’s shoes as a wedding gift.”

Rachel continues: “I don’t think I was prepared for how overwhelmed I was to see everyone together, this lovely bunch of people from both our lives. Aly’s oldest friend, Graeme, from Australia, had made a supreme effort to get there”.

Aly says: “I didn’t expect that he would be able to make it at such short notice to be my best man. Graeme even wrote a speech on the way over. Rachel’s oldest friend Jill made a speech and, of course, Rachel and I made speeches.”

At the last minute, not surprisingly, Aly had decided that he ought to have a gift for Graeme for all the work he had put in, so he contacted McRostie leather, a local leather company who made a supreme effort to make a bespoke, initialled, sporran for him.

On the morning of the wedding, Aly and Graeme decided they needed an altar, they were in the field chain sawing logs and Graeme mentioned that this reminded him of an opening scene from an episode of Casualty, where the groom does something horrific to himself just before getting married. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and Rachel’s groom arrived in one piece.

But it demonstrates the attitude that they have. If they need something, then they will either make it, or someone they know will be able to help them with it. It’s a reminder that a supportive family and friends network is a blessing.

Their good friends, The Close family, own Nethermill luxury lodges at Langbank, and they offered them the chance to spend a couple of nights there, enjoying the peace and the hot tub to bring them back down to earth. They then managed to take a week on the Isle of Lewis at Eagle Bay Cottage, at the end of July, which they say was absolutely paradise.

On the day the weather was perfect, the best day of the summer. And they didn’t stop smiling all day, the party rocked on ’til the wee small hours of the morning, as the sun set on this personal celebration for the two of them. Their overwhelming feeling is that they are so lucky to have friends and family that pulled out all the stops to make their day perfect, and going by the photographs it certainly looked perfect.

And it’s a reminder that a wedding is about two people committing to one another. It doesn’t have to be a process that takes years to organise: sometimes all you need is right there in front of you.


Food: The Rollinpig caterers.

Flowers: Calluna Heath Designs

and Mud Urban Flowers

Rings: Smiths, Glasgow

Atelier 32, Glasgow

Transport: friends John and Shona Mitchell, at Undercraig Farm, in Langbank (Jamie the Clydesdale).

Photographs: Dorothee Weber

Gifts: McRostie Leather, Howwood

Accommodation: Nethermill Luxury lodges, Langbank

Honeymoon: Eagle Bay Cottage, Isle of Lewis.