American couple wooed by Gala’s friendly approach

Ashley and Chris Combes wedding - american couple decided to elope and get married in Scotland. Galashiels registrar was only one who would marry them.
Ashley and Chris Combes wedding - american couple decided to elope and get married in Scotland. Galashiels registrar was only one who would marry them.

AN AMERICAN couple chose Galashiels to elope to because of the friendliness of the local registrar.

The loved-up couple from Virginia were keen to skip the hullabaloo of a big wedding at home so had emailed registrars throughout the UK.

But it was Galashiels’ Fiona Blair who came up trumps because she was the most helpful, promptly sending photographs and other information the couple might need.

Mrs Blair said: “It was really nice to hear that. It just goes to show the training and personal service we provide here works and it brought in money to the region, and that’s brilliant. It means I’m doing my job.

“They were lovely, absolutely lovely people. We got to know each other through emails and when I spoke to Ashley to take payment over the phone it was like talking to an old friend.

“They were so much in love and having so much fun.”

Vet practice manager Ashley Richards, 25, and her beau, human resources specialist Chris Cowan, 33, had planned to marry next September, but couldn’t wait.

Instead, they came over to Scotland on the Sunday (August 21), married on the Monday, fitting in a little sight-seeing before the ceremony when staff from Scottish Borders Council’s Galashiels contact centre acted as witnesses – and Lauder photographer Craig McBeth drove them to and from their marriage in his car. Then they left for England on the Tuesday.

Maplehurst Guest House owner Linda Chapman said: “We got emails from this couple. She said straight off they were eloping from America.

“I helped her after she said she was having problems finding a hairdresser open on a Monday. I didn’t know until after they got here why they had chosen Galashiels. We expected it was some family connection or something, but it was purely because Fiona Blair was so helpful. She was the only person who responded in a wonderful and helpful way out of all the enquiries Ashley made throughout the UK.”

The couple from Centreville married in the Scott Room of Old Gala House and had photographs taken there and at Scott’s View, near St Boswells.

“They were very, very happy as far as I am aware,” said Mrs Chapman. “They were laid back about it – their wedding was very low key, which they wanted.

“They didn’t tell their parents they were getting married until they were at the airport. The parents said ‘when and where and we’ll get tickets’, but her father realised his passport was out of date and she’d been a little relieved because they wanted to do it this way.

“Ashley looked really pretty. She wore a cream dress that came to mid-calf, a little bolero and her hair up. He was in smart trousers and a jacket, not a suit.”

The bride was having her hair done in Melrose on her wedding day, so the couple took the opportunity to look around the town in the morning.

Mrs Chapman admitted: “I was getting a bit panicky because it was 1pm and their marriage was at 2pm and they still weren’t back!

“They were definitely avoiding the circus element of a wedding. The main thing was to avoid all the fuss and bother. They felt it was about them and they had decided quite a long time ago this was the way they would like to do it. Everybody in their families knew they were going to get married – but they never set a date.”

The Chapmans dared to get a bottle of prosecco, chocolates and flowers for the couple to mark the occasion.

“Almost as soon as they came in they said they were going to change before they sat down and had prosecco,” said Mrs Chapman.

“Fiona was amazing and this led not only to Ashley and Chris spending time with us, using a local photographer, local hairdresser, local eateries, taxis and then leaving here with a sense of not only achieving their wedding, but also knowing that they were welcome.”