Rachel Gough and Ali Macfarlane had a dancing-filled wedding at the gorgeous Clifton College
It’s not often that people can say they met their fiance’s parents before their fiancé, but this was the case for Rachel when, in her role as event manager at Clifton College, she organised husband Ali’s sister’s wedding in December 2011. Ali came to Rachel’s rescue the day before the wedding when she knocked over the Christmas tree at the college and he helped her put the ornaments back on. Keen to get to know Rachel better, he sent over a bridesmaid during the wedding to find out if she was single, and then attempted to start chatting to her, although this didn’t quite go to plan. “Following a little Dutch courage, I approached her to start up a conversation,” says Ali. “I intended on asking her about the wine and to engage her in intellectual verse about such fine things, but I think what must have come out was some drivel about more free drink so she shot off to find some. I was left standing there wondering what had happened! Luckily, a few days later, following some settling up of bills and offering glowing feedback on the day, we exchanged numbers and arranged to go for coffee and our first date.”
A New Year’s Eve proposal in Brussels led to plans for an August wedding, and there was no doubt in the couple’s mind where they wanted to get married. Clifton College is usually only a reception venue, as a special licence is needed to be married in the College’s beautiful Chapel, which is only available if you’re an ex pupil or staff member. But luckily Rachel’s job allowed her and Ali to be able to take advantage of this stunning venue. “We didn’t want to miss a fantastic opportunity. The Chaplain is a close colleague of mine, and agreed to marry us before starting his new job, which meant a great deal to me,” explains Rachel.
With Rachel a world ranked Irish dancer, dancing was always going to play a big part in the day. There was a demonstration from Rachel and her fellow dancers in the evening, and bridesmaid Kate, who is Rachel’s dance teacher and close friend, planned a very special surprise. “She arranged for the younger dancers from the Irish Dance school to create a ‘guard of honour’ in their traditional dresses as we came out of the Chapel. I had no idea she had done this so it was a great shock, but absolutely brilliant!” And Rachel’s prowess at dancing was even reflected in her engagement ring. “The design of the ring was known as ‘dancing’, as the metal parts holding the stone have the appearance of elegant dancing legs, which I thought this suited her perfectly,” says Ali.
Being a regular organiser of weddings meant that Rachel had an excellent address book of contacts to draw on. The bridal party’s flowers were from Flowers by Thea, who Rachel has known for many years. “I knew straight away that I would use Thea. She was fantastic, and the flowers were perfect, complementing the room and the colour scheme perfectly.” Rachel’s dress came from Krystle Brides in Bath — and this magazine has to take a little credit for bringing these two together! “I had met Krystle during a West Weddings photos shoot at Clifton College a couple of years ago and loved the dresses she had brought that day, so I thought it was only right to go to her for my wedding dress. The service she and her team provided was outstanding; nothing was too much trouble and the shop is beautiful.”
The day was photographed by Anna from Luna Photography, who was also another find from a previous Clifton College wedding. “She made us feel at ease and captured some stunning images, which we are over the moon with,” explains Rachel. “Her photos tell a personal story of the day which is like having a video. Plus she got on well with all the family dogs that had gathered on the day!”
Initially Ali was worried that Rachel wouldn’t be able to switch off from work mode, but the excellent service from the staff and catering manager Warren meant that she was a bride first and foremost. Being a bride meant that she also discovered a valuable piece of advice to pass on to other couples. “One thing I did realise from getting married myself is that you don’t see any of the small details couples spend so much time fretting about, nor do the guests! There really is no need to get worked up about this before the big day — just sit back and what will be will be. If you have a good team at the venue, then you will be fine.”
When asked for their favourite part of the day, Ali and Rachel are in agreement. “Walking down the aisle seeing Ali at the end was a special moment for me,” states Rachel. “I think seeing Rachel arrive by my side in the chapel looking so beautiful wins it for me,” says Ali. He continues: “I also enjoyed taking a moment to step back during the evening just to try and take it all in, and watch all our family and friends have just as good a time as we were.”