Here comes the wee bride
Of the 1,045 weddings that have taken place at Balgonie Castle in Fife since August 1989, none could quite have been of the order of that of Terri McIntyre and Michael Sneddon at 10am on October 13 this year.
These two six-year-olds are, in fact, P2 pupils at Collydean Primary in nearby Glenrothes and the full-scale, Highland-style "wedding" was a rare example of the Curriculum for Excellence.
"We have been doing a project on families and friends, looking at celebrations. As part of this we were reading the Katie Morag books by Mairi Hedderwick, currently Katie Morag and the Wedding, and the pupils in the class suggested that the best way to find out about planning, organising and having a wedding was actually to have one," says P2 teacher Larissa Morrison.
"The wedding itself is CfE in action, with all the curricular areas working together towards a final outcome and we see it as a positive example of our school's child-centred approach to learning."
Mrs Morrison had herself been married at Balgonie. So when the pupils suggested a castle was necessary for a Katie Morag-inspired ceremony, she showed them her wedding photos and the class checked out the venue on its website before writing to the Laird with their suggestion.
Balgonie says he was only too keen to offer his castle's 14th-century chapel for the occasion, adding: "Things like this never happened when I was at school."
The school chaplain, the Rev John MacSporran ("Aye, I know my name sounds like it could have come from a Katie Morag book too") readily agreed to officiate.
As we await the arrival of the wedding party, he says: "I thought the idea was good, because nowadays a lot of emphasis is put on the wedding ceremony, rather than the marriage. I like to support the school in all its activities, whether or not they have a religious context - only I don't think the pupils will be taking on board my theological concepts."
Maybe - or maybe not. As the chaplain underlines to the gathered assembly that in real life wedding vows are promises for life, he is interrupted by one enthusiastic boy who shouts "Forever!"
Enthusiasm, in fact, marks the day. As the volunteer organist (a parent who also baked the wedding cake) plays "Here Comes the Bride", the children spontaneously sing the words. When the Rev MacSporran asks: "Who is giving the bride away?", although "father of the bride" Aiden French is standing by, the candle-lit chapel echoes to shouts from all around of "Me!", "Me!", Me!"
"The actual wedding is the rich task at the end of four weeks in which the whole curriculum has been tied in, and the children's enthusiasm and excitement stems from this," says Vanessa Law, who team-teaches the P2 class alongside Mrs Morrison.
"They interviewed family members about their weddings. They made the invitations and sent them out. They made the floral decorations, helped decorate the community centre for the wedding reception and planned the schedule for the whole day.
"This task has involved relevance, choice, enjoyment and challenge, all principles of CfE, and the pupils saw the end goal and that excited them and they learnt more by doing it `for real'," says Miss Law.
The wedding involved not only the wider school community, with school receptionist Jackie Brand playing the pipes at the castle and P6 pupils waiting at table for the reception; it involved parents and the local community, too.
One parent, a professional caterer, organised the buffet. Another ran the disco. The principals had their Highland dress on free hire from a local company, and even the bus which took the pupils to and from the castle was a free hire.
"We drew tremendous support from parents, local companies and community organisations, which is all to the benefit of our school," says Miss Law.
"The children will now write thank-you cards to everyone and will take ownership of a `wedding flyer' in our next newsletter, describing the day to parents.
"Because the chapel was so small, we couldn't invite parents, but we are videoing the whole day and - our enterprise link - we will be selling the DVDs to parents to help fund next summer's school trip," she says.
Mrs Morrison agrees: "The curriculum areas are not seen by the children in isolation. They see it all working together."
Wedding protocol was also decided by the pupils. The "bride" and "groom" decided not to seal the "marriage" with a kiss, but with a hug. (In fact, hugs were compulsory all round.)
But not everything went to plan. The bride had an upset tummy the night before (a case of pre-marital nerves?) and the groom lost a tooth on the day, though it was safely tucked into his sporran to await the tooth fairy that night.
What did go entirely to plan was the cheeky-chappy best man's speech, given by class member Josh Fraser. Indeed, it was something of a tour de force for one so young.
"I asked Michael what he was hoping for from his marriage. He said `Love, companionship and maybe one day a family'. I asked Terri what she was hoping for and she said `A toaster'."
One can only echo Balgonie's words: things like this never happened when I was at school.