When we stepped out of the car to breathe in our first gulps of fresh air the sun was shining and the calling of seagulls overhead was, for the moment, the sole sound to be heard. Finally, after a long journey consisting of two planes, one train, two cars, and very little sleep, we had arrived in the seaside town of Portpatrick. With only an hour to spare before our presence was required to kick off a week of wedding festivities, we eagerly headed up the steps to settle into our home for the next few days.
What greeted us inside the Old Church Portpatrick was nothing short of awesome. Simon, one of the owners and the handyman behind this ancient church's redesign greeted us with a warm handshake and a friendly grin. He led our group of seven travel-weary Americans (with our jaws on the floor) through his masterpiece, pointing out luxurious details and thoughtful amenities as we discovered the Old Church in full. We ogled at the high ceilings, beautiful arched beams, plush bedrooms, and plentiful space for play. Soon Simon departed, leaving us to unwind and catch a quick snooze before the celebrations began.
An hour later, refreshed and dressed to impress, we headed up the road for our first glimpse of the expansive Dunskey Estate. As we rounded the bend to take in an open lawn, rolling fields, and the great stone castle before us, I couldn't help but feel as if I was in a dream.
The surrealness continued with heartfelt hellos, hugs, and happy drinks with old friends. Seeing faces that we hadn't laid eyes upon for over three years brought back memories consisting of dense fog on evergreen trees, hiking uphill for a good cup of coffee, and hosting huge dinner parties together in San Francisco. I had nearly forgotten just how beautiful, generous, and debaucherous this crew has always been - but from those first few hugs through to the last kisses of departure, we would feel that love and camaraderie a hundred times over. That evening we laid our heads to sleep with our hearts feeling impossibly full, smiling to ourselves as we dreamt of the week ahead.
Each evening we rejoiced in the rekindling of friendships and in the sweet scent of the Scottish countryside made even more magical by glowing dusks that lingered well past 9pm. Each morning we awoke to gentle sunlight and sea breezes streaming through our bedroom window, ready for more reveling and reminiscing. The days were perfect, full of good food, good people, smiles, and slowness. The groom and groom effortlessly led their guests in rounds of drinks, lighthearted games, and activities which encouraged us to connect with each other while exploring all the Dunskey Estate had to offer. With a hedge maze, magnificent gardens, two lochs, hikes galore, and miles of coastline to discover, it felt as if the good times would roll along forever.
The morning of the wedding arrived slowly as the others before it, then the main event arrived, bringing a tingling sense of anticipation. In the height of the afternoon, with the sun shining down and the wind whispering through the endless greenery, a group of 80 wedding-goers donned roaring 20's inspired ensembles and came together, knowing that this was going to be a party to remember. The smiling and well-dressed crowd was ushered out onto a sweeping lawn dotted with daisies where we assembled ourselves in no particular order on a collection of modest wooden chairs and benches. As the music began to play, we tore our eyes from the elegant altar of flowers to find a sparkling wedding party descending the castle steps towards us. Best men and women found their places on either side of the grooms, with loved ones of all genders standing in support of their respective half of this special union.
The ceremony that followed was anything but ordinary. A moving speech on the right of two men to marry and love each other was followed by vows peppered with Game of Thrones references, mixed up rings (thanks to the adorable ring bearers), a joke or two, and Star Wars' end credits to play our boys back down the aisle after all was said and done. Cheers went up as tears streamed down our cheeks and everyone's faces were shining, hearts overflowing with joy. We gleefully followed the grooms back towards the castle for the clinking of glasses, bubbles of champagne, and epic toasts.
As the afternoon shadows grew long and the festivities wore on, we found ourselves inundated with laughter, compliments, and pure bliss. This day was about love, but the evening ahead would clearly be all about the celebration of it. A Scottish band led us gaily through a series of dances that had us whirling, twirling, and laughing uproariously before a mass order of pizza arrived to be quickly devoured by ravenous wedding-goers in search of a second wind.
Finally, as the sun sank down over the horizon and night took hold, the party exploded into a new pace. The DJ equipment came out and we descended into the Dunskey dungeons to dance the night away. By now, many of us had changed out of our formal garb into something more comfortable and sparkly, the better for dancing in. A mixture of half-unbuttoned tuxedos and riotously colorful costumes mingled amongst the nighttime dew and the sweat of happy dancers. Together we got down on the dance floor with nothing but smoke breaks and bonding conversations to distract. From midnight to sunup, we basked in the glow of Thom & Michael's love, and savored the sweetness of friendship. Only when the Scottish sun began to rise did we retire to our beds, stuffed full of pizza and happiness.
Where the day after a late night dance party is usually a slog, the day after the wedding broke clear and as full of possibility as the one before. Awakening well after noon at the Old Church in Portpatrick, we set off towards the edge of town, taking a trail full of brambles and grasses along the coast to meet the crew coming down from the castle. A short hike and several stunning views later, we arrived at a rocky beach which beckoned to us with the sound of laughter and the smell of barbecue. Surrounded by calm, turquoise waters, craggy rocks to climb, and good friends galore, it was the perfect end-scene to a week full of joy. As the tide drew out and the sun sank below the cliffs one last time, we soaked in the last few hours we would have together as witnesses to the unconventional, yet love-filled wedding activities of the past week.
Eventually we parted ways, saying our goodbyes with tight, lingering hugs and promises to see each other again soon. I don't think any one of us will forget the beautiful week we spent together, blissfully rejoicing in the lush Scottish seaside and celebrating the love that Thom and Michael have brought into each others' lives as well as our own.