A magical woodland elopement in Edinburgh

Alfie and Jess,

Above you are the stars, below you is the earth.

As time passes, remember …

Like the stars, your love should be a constant source of light

And like the earth your love should be a firm foundation from which to grow.

Raini Rowell Photography

When Alfie and Jess contacted me to plan their secret elopement ceremony in Roslin Glen, Jess said she would like to feel like an Elven princess emerging from the woods to meet her prince. And their romantic, calm, beautiful ceremony, between earth and sky and by trees and water, did feel magical.

Raini Rowell Photography

As the ceremony began, we took a moment to honour the ancient tradition of making promises close to an Oathing Stone. It is an ancient Celtic belief that vows made in the presence of water and stone are especially binding. Alfie and Jess held all four hands around their Oathing Stone, as they reflected on all that had brought them to be where they are today, and the life promises they would be making to one another. They then placed the stone on the earth close by.

Raini Rowell Photography

We shared stories from their eight years together; how their deep friendship became the foundation for their love. We spoke of how brilliantly they work together as a couple and how, even though Jess had been dropping hints for years, Alfie managed to surprise her by proposing with a beautiful fire opal ring on the day of her University graduation.

”Jess, you are the volcano and Alfie, the ocean. You complement each other brilliantly. Like volcanoes and the ocean you work together to create something new. You are part of each other and you have both changed each other for the better.”

Autumn leaves drifted down as we enjoyed the peaceful surroundings while listening to ‘Roslin and Adama’ by Bear McCreary from Battlestar Galactica – a show they will be watching for the tenth time to celebrate their ten years together. Jess and Alfie shared emotional vows and gifted each other a ring.

Then they made their Marriage vows with a traditional Handfasting. The yellow gold and sea blue ribbon representing Alfie and the forest green, burgundy and black ribbons represent Jess. The beautiful woven ribbon combining navy, chosen by Jess, and gold, chosen by Alfie, to symbolise the intertwining of their lives.

Raini Rowell Photography

It was my absolute honour to declare Alfie and Jess legally married in this peaceful place.

Raini Rowell Photography

Congratulations to you both, Jess and Alfie. Thank you for trusting me with your ceremony and for choosing to share these gorgeous details of your day with us all. Wishing you so much love and happiness for the future.

Raini Rowell Photography

Thank you to Raini Rowell for these stunning photographs.

A romantic wedding in the Scottish Borders

“You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Robert Fulghum

I absolutely loved being part of Amy and David’s gorgeous Autumn wedding. The whole day was infused with a lightness and joy that left me smiling for such a long time after.

Rachel and Tonie Photography

These two funny, thoughtful people invited family and friends from Ireland and Scotland to join them for the weekend. The cosy and welcoming Newhall Estate, surrounded by beautiful woods aflame with rich autumnal colours, was the perfect place for their gathering.

The light, airy Sun Room was decorated with the most beautiful flower arch by Barbara at Wild Flower Workshop in tones that perfectly matched Amy’s stunning dress. We celebrated Dave and Amy by sharing the entertaining and lovely story of how their two completely opposite personalities made for a few excellent first dates that resulted in them falling into love and life together. In their words, “it all just felt so, so right.”

Rachel and Tonie Photography

During the ceremony, I surprised them both by sharing some of the poignant and funny thoughts they had told me in secret and wished to share with each other – about their love for each other, their connection, and how despite Dave’s need for cleanliness, he’ll put up with any number of animals-in-need-of-tlc brought home by Amy, if it makes her happy.

Rachel and Tonie Photography

It was especially lovely to lead a shared ceremony for Amy and Dave as their families represented several different beliefs and faiths. Dave’s family, having only attended religious ceremonies in the past, told me afterwards that they were delighted with how personal, uplifting and intimate the whole ceremony was. It was an honour to lead an inclusive ceremony that fully respected everyone’s individual beliefs, values and wishes.

Will you continue to laugh together every day, embracing life’s great adventure, creating a life that you love as much as you love each other, and a home filled with love and happiness?

We will!”

Dave and Amy exchanged wedding bands and made their Marriage Vows to one another with a traditional Handfasting. Their pastel-coloured Hansfasting ribbons had been embroidered with a quote from one of their favourite songs, “Home is wherever I’m with you.” It was my honour to declare them married to the joyful cheers of their family and friends.

Rachel and Tonie Photography

Dave and Amy shared a just-married toast with a sip of blended Irish and Scottish whisky in their wedding Quaich, symbolising the joining of their two families and two countries. The groomsmen did a fantastic job of handing out miniatures to everyone. Then we toasted Amy and Dave with jubilant shouts of “Slàinte Mhath” as they walked into their future together.

Sharing these glorious photos taken by the wonderfully talented Rachel and Tonie Photography, with kind permission from Dave and Amy, I am struck again by what a very great privilege it is to be a part of such meaningful, beautiful moments. And how, especially now as the shifting sands of the global pandemic feel ever more precarious, taking time to celebrate love and life feels even more important.

Congratulations, David and Amy! May you have many wonderful adventures in the years to come, and all the happiness … and animals … you could wish for. Thank you for trusting me with your ceremony, and thank you for sharing these beautiful details of your day.

Rachel and Tonie Photography

A secret elopement in Dumfries and Galloway

“We have a beautiful cosmos, you and me.”

Ivor Cutler

When I met with Anita and Matt, it was clear from our first conversation that their ceremony would be incredibly personal. In their words, their wish was: “a simple, beautiful ceremony that’s part of a lovely day where we can all relax and enjoy each other’s company.”

We are Elopers Photography

We met on the banks of the Solway Firth, at a sweet cottage where they often spend time together with their friendly labrador, Orla. Anita had decorated the cottage in stunning flowers and quotes from their favourite songs.

Before the ceremony, we all spent a mellow time chatting, enjoying delicious snacks and fizz, and toasting Matt and Anita’s exciting day.

We are Elopers Photography

Their secret ceremony took place beneath an apple tree arch in the cottage garden with sea and sky as witnesses. The sound of the waves gently crashing to the shore created a perfect cocoon for the sharing of their story.

We are Elopers Photography

Holding their wedding rings in the centre of their joined hands, bound by the beautiful Handfasting ribbons that they had made to symbolise their love and partnership, Matt and Anita declared their intention to share their future together.

“In binding your hands together, you are declaring your wish and intention to leave this place today with your lives bound together as one. After today, the two stories of your lives will come together and two sets of hopes and desires for the future are joined in commitment and intention.”

We are Elopers Photography

I tied the knot as they declared their shared promises. Then Matt and Anita exchanged emotional Marriage Vows then gifted each other a ring. The whole event was infused with a joyful intimacy and beautiful authenticity. It was my absolute pleasure and honour to declare these two kind-hearted people married.

Anita and Matt began their married life by sharing with these gorgeous lyrics from Mike Scott’s Open:

“Open to the world

Open to spirit

Open to the changing wind

Open to touch

Open to nature

Open to the world within

Open to change

Open to adventure

Open to the new

Open to love

Open to miracles

Open Beloved to You

Open to learn

Open to laughter

Open to being blessed

Open to joy

Open to service

Open to saying “Yes!”

Open to risk

Open to passion

To peace and silence too

Open to love

Open to beauty

Open Beloved to You”

Congratulations Anita and Matt. Wishing you both many wonderful adventures in the years to come with all the happiness, long walks, great talks, adventure and joy that you could wish for. Thank you for trusting me with your ceremony, and for sharing these beautiful details with us.

Thank you also to Sean Bell and Justyna Maria, talented partnership behind We Are Elopers, for so wonderfully capturing these gorgeous moments of Matt and Anita’s day.

Stunning floral displays by Mountain Daisy Flower Farm.

We are Elopers Photography

A beautiful chapel wedding in East Lothian

I don’t know how you are so familiar to me—or why it feels less like I am getting to know you and more as though I am remembering who you are. How every smile, every whisper brings me closer to the impossible conclusion that I have known you before, I have loved you before—in another time, a different place, some other existence.

Lan Leav
Justyna Maria Photography

Angela and Neil’s romantic ceremony in the stunning Dunglass chapel was long-awaited and absolutely gorgeous. After all the shifting plans due to the global situation, it felt even more poignant for their family and friends to gather together to celebrate their love.

Angie had done an incredible job of decorating the chapel with handmade flowers and candles. The sun shone and the wind whistled through. The chapel felt peaceful and filled with love as they each shared a gorgous reading with each other before exchanging vows and rings.

Justyna Maria Photography

There were happy tears and cheers as they were declared married. It was a wonderful day and my absolute pleasure to declare these two lovely people married after their very long wait.

Justyna Maria Photography

Huge congratulations to you both, Neil and Angela. I’m so delighted for you and wish you all the love and happiness for your future together. Thank you for sharing these lovely details of your day.

Thank you to Justyna Maria Photography for the sweet photos.

A joyful East Lothian wedding: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is …”

You fell in love by chance, but you’re here today because you’re making a choice. You both are choosing each other. You’ve chosen to be with someone who enhances you, who makes you think, makes you smile, and who makes you stop and think “if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

Kurt Vonnegut

I couldn’t be happier for Kim and Lewie, two fun-loving, thoughtful people who I’ve spent the past two years getting to know, as we planned their ceremony through the constantly changing landscape of pandemic restrictions and rescheduled weddings.

Zoe Alexandra Photography

They say it’s lucky for rain to fall on your wedding day and the heavens opened for Lewie and Kim’s ceremony. The rain added to the atmosphere as their nearest and dearest gathered in the gorgeous polytunnel at Colstoun House.

Zoe Alexandra Photography

In a light, poignant ceremony, Kim and Lewie shared some incredibly moving personal thoughts with each other that they had written especially for the day.

I revealed the funny and lovely story as to how these two excellent people eventually met and got together, to the delighted shouts of ‘finally!’ from their close friends.

Zoe Alexandra Photography

Lewie and Kim exchanged rings and beautiful Marriage Vows before sharing a first kiss, to the applause of their family and friends.

Zoe Alexandra Photography

Kim surprised Lewie with a specially distilled whisky for their first married toast in the Quaich; a potent Laphroaig that was filled on the day that they first met and married together with sherry casks from their birth years.

Zoe Alexandra Photography

The sun shone and everyone went wild with the confetti, just in time for the post-ceremony celebrations and for Lewie to break out the Ian Curtis dance moves. It was glorious!

Zoe Alexandra Photography

Thank you so much, Kim and Lewie, for inviting me to be part of your wonderful day. It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you both and I absolutely loved being your celebrant. Congratulations!

Thanks to Zoe Alexandra Photography for the stunning photos and to Kim and Lewie for sharing these beautiful details of their day.

A summer wedding in Perthshire: “As merry as the rowan on the lea”

The marriage o’ a loving pair should be

As blythe a blossom in the aspen’s hair,

As merry as the rowan on the lea.

It merks the sert o’ halvin’ life’s lang tchave,

Fin twa lie doon tae taste life’s sweets thegither,

Sae let the bells ring, the whisky poor,

Let a’ gueed wishes bless this pair foriver.

An adapted extract: Wedding Blessing by Sheena Blackhall

Michelle and John’s glorious summer wedding at Guardswell Farm in Perthshire couldn’t have been more perfect. These two thoughtful, easy-going people have been together since they were both teenagers. Their ceremony was light and joyful with many beautiful personal touches.

Jen Owens Images

In the stunning steading overlooking the Perthshire hills, we heard the romantic story of how Michelle and John fell for each other across the cash register at Marks & Spencer’s where they were both working summer jobs. Having both grown up in Aberdeen and sharing many mutual friends, it was surprising that John and Michelle hadn’t met before they did. They bonded over their emo hair cuts and a mutual love of travel, and in Michelle’s words, “as soon as we met, there was instant chemistry.”

Jen Owens Images

Their ceremony was a celebration of their twelve years together and involved many of their close friends and family. Including great friends, Felix, who gave a fabulous and heartfelt speech at the ceremony, and Stephen who gave an entrancing recital of Wedding Blessing by Aberdonian Doric poet, Sheena Blackhall.

John and Michelle shared some secret thoughts with each other about their love and connection. We all enjoyed a moment of peaceful reflection before they exchanged vows and rings. And, it was my great pleasure to declare John and Michelle legally married.

Jen Owens Images

They sealed their commitment with a just-married G & T toast in their beautiful hand-crafted quaich, featuring an Airedale engraving to honour the long line of Airedales that have been a much-loved part of Michelle’s family.

Jen Owens Images

Then Michelle and John made their way into the glorious sunshine to the happy cheers of their family and friends.

Jen Owens Images

The whole event was utterly heartwarming and it was an absolute honour to be a part of John and Michelle’s sun-blessed day.

Congratulations to you both, Michelle and John! Wishing you so much love and happiness for your future together. Thank you so much for sharing these sweet details of your wedding. And thank you to Jen Owens for the stunning photos.

A gorgeous hilltop wedding in the Scottish Borders: “Like the river, love always wins …”

When Aliya and Ori were planning their beautiful family ceremony on a hill in Hawick, where Aliya spent many happy times as a child, the forecast was for thunderstorms and heavy rain. Ori’s family assured us that all would be well; his mother had predicted clear skies and she was always right about the weather. Besides, they had brought the sun with them from Israel.

Sanne Gault Photography

And so it was, that on a surprisingly calm and sunny day in July we all made our way up the hill wearing sandals and carrying picnic baskets to their chosen spot. Aliya and Ori both come from big, loving kitchen families – they love to spend time cooking together – and the whole day was infused with an intimacy and joy made even more poignant by the personal elements woven into the ceremony.

We began with a gorgeous Handfasting. Each of the twelve people present placed a colourful ribbon onto Ori and Aliya’s joined hands; the ribbons each representing something important that they wished to bring to mind and weave into their shared commitment for the future.

Sanne Gault Photography

The first four ribbons represent the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, which Ori and Aliya believe are present in all of nature and in all of us, and whose energy determine and shape so much of our lives. The next four represent Joy, Partnership, Communication and Trust – values and qualities which they hold particularly dear. The ninth ribbon represents their past; their ancestors and their own personal histories, everything which has brought them to this place and this moment. The tenth ribbon stands for Aliya and Ori’s friends and family, and the important role each person plays in their lives.The eleventh ribbon represents the unknown; the mystery and hidden secrets of life. And the final ribbon stands simply for love.

We spoke about love and connection, and trusting your heart to guide you in seeking what is right. Aliya wanted to acknowledge her relationship with the Amazon and her connection with the forest and the river. Like the river, love is completely unpredictable and mysterious. And like the river, love always wins.

Ori’s brother and Aliya’s sister gave heartfelt readings and we shared stories of the many wonderful adventures Ori and Aliya have enjoyed on their travels through Ecuador, the Sinai, the Mediterranean and the Amazon. And, of course, their greatest adventure of all … raising their sweet little one, Amaya.

I shared some secret thoughts that Aliya and Ori had shared with me when I asked about their love and connection. They exchanged emotional, personal vows after which Aliya’s sister played some soulful flute music for us as we each took a moment to contemplate the commitment Aliya and Ori were about to make, and send a well-wishing thought, prayer or blessing their way.

Sanne Gault Photography

Then Aliya and Ori exchanged rings and Marriage Vows and it was my absolute pleasure to declare them married to the loving cheers of their family.

Sanne Gault Photography

Aliya shared some Israeli sweets – Ori’s favourite – as a surprise for everyone. Then we celebrated their beautiful little one, Amaya. We heard that Amaya means ‘night rain’ in Japanese, which is apt as it rained all night when Amaya was born. And how her middle name means ‘snowdrop’ in Welsh which is also apt as snowdrops were in bloom when Aliya and Ori found out they were expecting Amaya.

Sanne Gault Photography

Aliya and Ori spoke some thoughtful, wise words to Amaya to wish her well in her journey as she grows. And it was my honour to declare Amaya’s full name and welcome her to the world in the presence of those who love her.

Sanne Gault Photography

To honour Ori’s Jewish heritage and in lieu of the smashing of glass for luck, Aliya and Ori had gathered some shells from Scottish and Israeli beaches. They enjoyed crushing the shells under their flip flops as they walked through the pathway of shells and into their future together.

Sanne Gault Photography

After the ceremony, Aliya’s brother-in-law told me this was the most loving, beautiful ceremony he had ever experienced. I couldn’t agree more … everything about Ori and Aliya’s day was gorgeous and unique to them. And a big thank you to Ori’s mum for holding back the weather!

Wishing you all a thousand blessings in your lives together, Aliya, Ori and Amaya. Thank you so much for sharing these details of your day with us all. It is so helpful for others to read these kinds of personal details when planning their own ceremonies. Thank you!

Photos by the wonderful Sanne at Sanne Gault Photography.

Reflections from an Edinburgh Celebrant: “Love is Love For Life”

I’m delighted to have just contributed to sponsoring the next LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings Guide. The work that this community-led, community-funded, community-accountable and community-focussed organisation does is so incredibly important.

Last month, I was invited to be celebrant for an awesome couple who were choosing to exchange their Marriage Vows on top of a munro. It was a magical, love-filled, epic day but also symbolic of the long and challenging life journey the two brides had experienced in order to be true to themselves and find each other. Their story, like so many others, shines a light on the urgent need for a more open-hearted and inclusive attitude towards love and gender, sexuality and Marriage.

When we came to sign the Marriage Schedule for the couple – on the car bonnet in the drizzle after our gorgeous hike – I was ashamed to see that the official document produced by the local Registry Office stated ‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ as the two partners getting married (something that I had not seen on other Marriage Schedules where it usually lists ‘Partner 1’ and ‘Partner 2’). Needless to say I scribbled out ‘Groom’ and wrote ‘BRIDE’ in strong, capital letters.

This absolutely shouldn’t happen.

Everything about our role as individuals working in the wedding sector should be inclusive. Language should reflect the dedicated and heartfelt commitment that so many businesses and individuals are making towards equality in the wedding sector.

Love is Love For Life. And we want to celebrate that.

It can be challenging getting it right. Knowing how to ensure that all our forms and websites, words and actions are signalling equality and not simply adding to the discrimination so many feel when planning their wedding.

That’s where the Eqaulity Weddings LGBTQ+ guide comes in.

If you haven’t already, I would urge you to request a copy here. If you believe that all people have a right to love and be treated equally then do consider supporting their next guide here.

Read it, use it to guide and inform your practice, then shout about the importance of this guide and LGBTQ+ Equality Weddings on your SoMe accounts so others do the same.

Let’s all be a part of something important and essential and beautiful to effect meaningful change. Love is All.

A uniquely personal Wedding at Edinburgh Zoo: “I want to be your personal penguin …”

“I like you a lot. 

You’re funny and kind. 

So let me explain 

What I have in mind. 

I want to be your personal penguin. 

I want to walk right by your side. 

I want to be your personal penguin. 

I want to travel with you far and wide.”

Sandra Boynton
Siobhan Stewart Photography

When E and O first met at Regent’s Park in London, E was standing holding a beer in one hand and her phone in the other as a rounders ball slowly rolled towards her shoes – which were falling apart. O remembers thinking this was quite funny, as everyone else was at least pretending to pay attention to the game while drinking.

As it happens, E’s obliviousness to the match was fine as their team went on to win all the games, then heading to the pub to celebrate. E & O shared some chips and bonded over a love of pop music, the environment and travel. They quickly realised they had met someone incredibly important.

Siobhan Stewart Photography

This summer, in a room overlooking the Pentland hills within the lively surroundings of Edinburgh Zoo, E & O affirmed their commitment to be together forever.

To declare these two funny, kind-hearted and, by their own admission, quirky people married was a complete joy. Their ceremony was a wonderful and eclectic mix of personal touches.

Siobhan Stewart Photography

They shared some loving words with each other before exchanging rings. Then made their Marriage Vows to one another with a traditional Handfasting. To honour their shared love of Glastonbury and as a symbol of all the fun and adventure still to come in their lives together, their handfasting cords were made up of their music festival wristbands. The mother-of-the-groom tied the cords and it was my great honour to declare these two wonderful people wife and husband.

Siobhan Stewart Photography

O & E chose to start their married life together with a toast to each other – a shot of tequila with lime and salt – in their wedding quaich.

As you both hold onto this cup, reflect on how your love for each other makes you stronger. Your marriage is a bond forged between the two of you to weather a lifetime, supporting each of you, both individually and together, as you sail through the sometimes stormy and often glorious seas of life.

Siobhan Stewart Photography

The whole event was such heartwarming fun and I’m over the moon that these two fabulous people could finally get married after such a very long wait, and so many postponements. Congratulations, O & E! Thank you for trusting me with your ceremony and for sharing these lovely details of your day.

Siobhan Stewart Photography

Thank you to Siobhan Stewart for the beautiful photographs.

Thanks to the team at Edinburgh Zoo for being so warm and welcoming.

Gorgeous flowers by Stems.

Lovely also to meet John, The Pickled Piper, for the first time.

A funny, sweet East Lothian Wedding: “It’s about knowing you’ve found the love of your life …”

“Marriage is about being trusting, giving and willing to change. It’s about working together, and being stronger together. It’s about knowing you have security and that you have found the love of your life.”

Lara and Charlie
Lockstock Sporting

What a treat this summer has been! After such a very long time waiting for restrictions to ease and ceremonies to restart, the past three months have been such wild and gorgeous fun. I’ve absolutely loved travelling all over Scotland to lead a beautiful diversity of ceremonies in grand hotels and on beaches, up mountains and by rivers, in woodlands and private gardens.

Last week, it was an extra special honour to be able to declare Lara and Charlie married at the lovely Maitlandfield House Hotel right next to where I live in East Lothian.

Lockstock Sporting

When I met with Charlie and Lara to plan their ceremony, they told me they’d like an unfussy, short, meaningful ceremony with a light, joyful vibe that reflected in their words, “their goofy sense of humour.” They wanted the ceremony to be the start of a fun, relaxed day with their closest friends and family.

Lockstock Sporting

Leading Lara and Charlie’s sweet, intimate, funny ceremony was an absolute pleasure, and while they didn’t bring their eight chickens, Kelly the hamster and Spike the cat to the ceremony, it was great that their much-loved and very important dog, Troy, could be there.

Lockstock Sporting

Happy one week married, Charlie and Lara! Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your day. It was a lot of fun planning your ceremony with you and I am so glad it was all you wished it to be. Wishing you so much love and happiness, and many wonderful adventures, for your future together.

Lockstock Photo

Thanks to Murray at LockStock Sporting for these beautiful photos.

Super to meet Stacey and all the team at Maitlandfield House Hotel. Thanks for all your excellent organisation and warm welcome.