Atholl Palace Hotel
The biggest decision with regards to getting married* was picking the venue. I guess some people pick the date first and plan around that, but we chose to find the perfect venue and then select a date from their availability lest we find ourselves choosing between our perfect date and our perfect place. I imagine picking a date first is logistically easier if you're looking to get married a year or two out, but we weren't interested in a long engagement or paying to renew my current visa just to switch to and pay for FLR(M) a bit down the line. We spent a couple of weeks sorting through venues online - and ruled out a lot because their wedding information boiled down to "we do weddings! ask us how!" without any concrete details - and making appointments to visit our forerunners. APH was actually the first place we decided to see, after finding their advert in a wedding mag (scottish weddings? I don't remember), the only one outwith about 15 miles on Inverness, and the last one we visited. They were having a winter special on lodging, breakfast and dinner so we booked a mid-week get-away and went on with our search. Most places we visited were fine and would no doubt have resulted in an equally lovely wedding (and no doubt have done for many others) but we had a few favourites which were almost perfect.
When we got to APH we knew, we absolutely knew, it was the place for us. We love the town of Pitlochry (though previously we'd loved it from the train, this being our first trip there); we loved the hotel, and the grounds, and the proximity to so many low-key things to do. The food was wonderful, the staff competent and friendly, and I almost couldn't pry Chris out of the jacuzzi.
Fast-forward to the wedding prep - Gillian, the hotel's wedding coordinator, was very organized. She took detailed notes on our time-line for the day, who each of our vendors would be, everything. She was only in the hotel the morning of our wedding, leaving shortly after the ceremony, but everything ran smoothly. I didn't catch the name of the gentleman who MC'd our reception but he, and his staff, had everything in hand an under control. He also ran the restaurant outwith the weddings and service was markedly better when he was around (other times it was hard to find the staff or get someone to actually bring you a pot of tea or coffee, and when they did it was often the wrong hot beverage. The mice will play). But for our wedding everything was under control.
The food is wonderful, though a bit heavy (lots of cream, not a lot of salad options) if you'll be eating it for several days straight. We'd eaten there before, on several occasions leading up to the wedding, including the menu tasting, and know that the food is delicious, but on that particular day we weren't in a position to appreciate it. I didn't eat a single thing, all day, that tasted good. It was all just weird textures and muted flavour. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of the food - everyone else seemed fine - just an odd observation.
My bridesmaids and I did our make-up through the hotel's spa with mani/pedis the day before and make-up the morning of and everyone we interacted with in the spa was lovely and friendly. Chris got a facial and manicure on Friday and still talks about it in reverent tones. The staff all snuck upstairs to see us walk into the ceremony room, the finished products of their hard work.
Unfortunately it rained the whole day, from when I got up around 6am till we went to bed around midnight so we didn't get to take advantage of the lovely grounds for our photos but the pictures taken inside the hotel and from under the awning out front are still lovely - when you get married in Scotland you have to consider the backdrop for your photos if it rains and APH was brilliant on that score as well.
The only real problem** was the lodges on the grounds which are maintained by the hotel but not own or run by them - this is to say that they clean them between guests and check people in and out but otherwise have nothing to do with them. Trevor, the guy who owns them, was slow to respond to emails and curt when he did. He had no interest in being accommodating - my guests rented 4 of his units, two for a week each and two for the weekend, and none of the other units appeared to be occupied - but he refused to let my parents book a lodge from Wednesday-Tuesday, insisting on a Sunday-Saturday hire. They eventually talked him into letting them book it from Monday-Sunday (when they didn't arrive until Wednesday) so they wouldn't have to be out of the lodge by 11 and not able to check into the hotel until 2 on the day of my wedding, but he was ungracious about it. Then he let the Gatehouse lodge, the one my parents had originally inquired after, to my bridesmaids for the same Wednesday-Tuesday that he'd refused my parents. Needless to say, we were not impressed, and I'd strongly recommend against hiring a holiday cottage from him.
* the actual decision to get married was easy-peasy
** they did accidentally leave the hotel music playing during the start of our ceremony, so we almost got married to La Bumba (I think? Does anyone remember what the song actually was?), but it was soft while it was playing and turned off quickly enough when they realized