Warning: Contains mild spoilers for Outlander, episode 1, season 5.
TV loves a wedding, and after almost a year of a what-felt-like-forever Droughtlander, Starz’s hit series Outlander is back with a bang on February 16, and the entire Fraser family is celebrating Brianna and Roger’s nuptials in a big way at their newly built homestead on Fraser’s Ridge. Fear not, Outlander faithful—the first episode of season 5 delivers everything the fandom has been anticipating, complete with Jamie playing the touching role of father of the bride and Claire getting sentimental before watching her daughter walk down the aisle.
“The wedding is such a beautiful episode,” Caitriona Balfe, who plays the show’s lead Claire Randall Fraser, told Vogue on set outside of Glasgow while shooting season 5. “First of all, I think Claire goes through a very emotional process because, having left Brianna back in the 20th century, this is something she thought she’d never get to experience. She felt like she had sacrificed all of these moments to spend her time with Jamie. She loves Roger and thinks she and Brianna are a great match. Jamie [on the other hand] is still on the Roger-fence. But it’s a really special moment [for Claire] to see Brianna happy—especially after what happened to her last season—to see her and Roger reconcile and be ready to start this new life together.”
In the event you’re not one of the converted, or if you’re in need of a quick refresher, the epic Outlander saga, based on the book series by Diana Gabaldon, begins with combat nurse Claire visiting Inverness, Scotland, with her husband Frank Randall (Tobias Menzies, a.k.a. the new Prince Philip on The Crown), hoping to reignite their romance after a long separation courtesy of World War II. While in Scotland, Claire is transported back in time to 1743, where she meets James “Jamie” Fraser (Sam Heughan).
Upon first glance, this strapping Scottish man seems like nothing more than a lad with a kilt and a killer bod, but she quickly realizes he’s more than just a pretty face. Thanks to the tides of history, Claire is caught up in the Jacobite risings—the attempt by the Charles Edward Stuart (a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Charlie) to regain the British throne—and along the way falls truly, madly, deeply in love with Jamie, a match-up which, for Outlander’s many fans, constitutes the hottest couple on television.
Five seasons in, the Frasers have been to hell and back, but they’ve still got it. The list of atrocities they’ve endured runs long, and their multi-decade, Gone with the Wind-esque family saga has taken them from 18th-century Scotland to Paris to Jamaica, and now to 1770s North Carolina. It’s there where, at the end of season 4, Jamie and Claire have made a deal with the devil by accepting a land grant from redcoat leader Governor Tryon and settling Fraser’s Ridge in the back-country.
Their daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton), has joined them, having traveled back in time from the ’60s to warn them about their untimely deaths. Her significant other, historian Roger (Richard Rankin), follows after her, and is embroiled in the the doings of pirate Stephen Bonnet, the series’ latest supervillain—who, after terrorizing the Frasers, sexually assaulted Brianna. In a Shakespearean-level mixup, Jamie believes Roger was the one who had attacked Brianna, and sells him to the Mohawk; only after a major search-and-rescue operation is everyone able to return to Fraser’s Ridge and reunite with Brianna and her new baby (whose paternity is unclear). Just as it seems like the Carolina dust has finally settled, Governor Tryon orders Jamie to squelch the fervor of a group of liberty-seeking insurgents who call themselves the Regulators, and are led by his godfather, Murtagh Fitzgibbons.
Season 4, while packed with action and soap opera–esque twists, wasn’t exactly full of the tender Jamie-and-Claire moments that had originally enchanted so many viewers. Fans wanted more intimate J&C screen time—and also for this family to finally catch a break. Shortly after the finale, Heughan and Balfe were named producers, and they, along with executive producer Maril Davis, assured the Outlander clan in various interviews that there would be more of what they were hoping for in season 5.
Episode 1 delivers on that promise. On the big day, Claire helps Brianna into a cream wedding dress embroidered with orange blossoms, a subtle nod to the bohemian-ness of the ’60s and ’70s. “We make a point of showing that this is one of Jocasta’s dresses that has been reconfigured for the wedding,” Skelton notes. “It’s a hand-me-down, which is quite sweet. We tried to get a little bit of the ’60s and ’70s vibe in there, too. It’s not your conventional wedding dress. There’s the fichu [collar], which we often wear when we have a corset on in the past. And then later for the dancing and party time, that comes off, and it feels a little bit more free.”
Costume designer Trisha Biggar (who is new this season and oversees all of the handwork and sourcing for the fashion and jewelry on set) is the woman behind the wedding dress. “It’s a cotton and silk gauze over a very fine silk taffeta. I used a variety of different photos for inspiration,” she explains. “[The bride also wears] the family pearls—they’ve come from Scotland and been passed down. Unfortunately, we don’t have a 1960s wedding [this season], but it is great to have the two periods to explore and to see characters in both times and try and give them a similar feel, albeit a very different look.”
The series’ 1700s/1960s mashup is apparent on the wedding night, when Roger serenades Brianna with Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E.” As for those intimate moments fans have been craving, a montage of each couple’s bedroom antics that evening ensues. “The wedding was a very anticipated moment both in the books and for us,” Rankin observes. “Obviously, Sophie and I have been playing the relationship for a while, and Brianna and Roger have gone on quite a journey through time and through a lot of trials they’ve been separated. They’ve had a lot of drama and conflict. So to see them have this day [and night] is really nice—them finally coming together properly in that union is something I think the audience will really enjoy. It’s also a platform for their relationship and a catalyst for us now because they’re very, very together.”
It’s not unusual for movies and TV shows to end with a wedding as a way to neatly tie up a season. Outlander fans know all too well, though, that in this show a wedding is often just the beginning of the drama. Season 1’s episode “The Wedding” set the stage for Jamie and Claire’s entire relationship, while simultaneously defying typical portrayals of sex on TV and kicking off all of the action. Episode 1 of season 5 flashes back to that first wedding and continues in this tradition, showing raw, real intimacy, but also serving as a jumping-off point for everything that is to come—after the marriage is consummated, there’s a gathering right there on the Ridge that essentially sets the stage for the American Revolution.
This season, we see Jamie and Claire grow even more—they’re now grandparents, in-laws, and the leaders of Fraser’s Ridge. But we also get back to basics when it comes to their connection. “Jamie and Claire’s love story is what drew us to the story [in the first place],” Heughan says, standing, fully costumed, in the center of the show’s Wilmington set. “It’s the rock of everything else that goes around them. They have this extended family now, but always at the heart of it, Jamie and Claire are deeply in love. There’s finally no more wondering, When will they be together? They’ve aged gracefully together, and they still have a great love for each other, and I don’t think that’s ever going to end.” With this unforgettable occasion, Brianna and Roger MacKenzie further the family tree, but things come full circle for Mr. and Mrs. James Malcom Alexander MacKenzie Fraser too—and isn’t that what we’ve been waiting for?
Scroll through the slideshow below for Vogue’s exclusive Outlander wedding album.