July 7th, 2014 | Rachel Parry
I’m all for making a wedding your own and that’s exactly what Keli and Pete did when they tied the knot (and their hands) at Windy Harbour Farm Hotel in the beautiful Peak District. The couple not only made their reception individual, but the ceremony itself too by having a secular service that reflected their journey to marriage as well as a handfasting with an elemental blessing.
The stunning outdoor setting gave way to carefree fun with the newlyweds and their guests enjoying garden games, afternoon tea and personalised beverages before burning up the dance floor in the evening.
One particular individual element that I adore about this wedding is that Pete had two best women! Breaking down yet another traditional wedding barrier, I think it’s fabulous that Pete asked those closest to him to fulfil the honourable role, regardless of their gender.
Keli said: We got engaged in the summer of 2011, the same summer we’d left our lives in London and gone travelling around England in a tent for three months. Pete and I had finally made it home, to my parents, where we would start to look for a new house and start building our new life up north.
We decided to take advantage of the last sunny day in September and go for a final walk in Castleton that included Mam Tor. Unfortunately our map reading skills were a little exhausted from the travelling all summer and we couldn’t seem to find the main path leading to the summit. So – fearful of never getting there – we turned off the beaten path and started up the side. Turns out we picked one of the steepest slopes to climb; we were exhausted and almost gave up halfway but Pete was persistent. When we got up there is was rather windy and rather crowded with people – which was not part of Pete’s plan – so we moved over the crest of the hill to sit out of the wind looking out over the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. After some lazy minutes Pete asked me to close my eyes, gave me a kiss and then produced the ring. I think my first response was “Are you sure?” And then lots of crying and laughing followed, and of course my answer, Yes!
Windy Harbour Farm Hotel was the first venue we visited and only because it was just up the road from our new home in Glossop, Derbyshire. However as soon as we walked in both of us were struck by how friendly and how right it felt. The size was perfect for the 50 to 80 guests we planned to invite and the garden area was beautifully kept, which was essential as we knew we wanted an outdoor ceremony with our mixture of pagan and secular traditions. Our country fair theme would need to include things like hay bales and garden games so we were lucky to find owners who were not only happy for us to do all this, but also happy to source things like the hay bales for us.
We both wanted a ceremony that was unique and individual to us, more so than a church or civil ceremony can be. Added to that, I’m a Pagan and was determined to get married outside, surrounded by the natural world. We found Kate Gee, a Humanist celebrant who was happy to incorporate elements of Pagan ritual into a secular service that reflected our lives and the journey that had led us to the moment of marriage. We still exchanged rings and used vows similar to those in the Common Book of Prayer. We also had a handfasting with an elemental blessing, undertaken by one of our maids of honour. Everyone commented on how poignant and moving the ceremony was and we couldn’t have been happier with the way we were able to seal our marriage.
As soon as we picked the date in May we knew we’d have a May Day themed wedding. We both love the May Day holiday and spent many years travelling to Hastings and various other places to celebrate it. So we knew we wanted lots of ribbons, greenery, games and folk music; as you would find at a May Day festival. We didn’t have a particular colour theme but we did end up using dark ivy green as the main contrasting colour. We also used a simple bright blue, yellow and red combination to accent it all – these mostly popped up as ribbons.
I wore ‘Fadella’ by Cymbeline which I found at The White Room in Sheffield. It was nothing like the dress I’d imagined myself wearing to be wed but it was the one dress that made me feel like a bride. Being light and not too bulky it made perfect sense for the venue and the outdoors, informal nature of the whole day. In the end the lace matched Pete’s country suit perfectly and the small train meant it was great to dance in.
Pete wanted something that was quite ‘countryside’ and immediately thought of a tweed jacket which he ended up getting from Next. He wore it with a grey waistcoat and brown trousers from Debenhams. His tie was also from Next. The two fathers wore the same jacket and tie as Pete but created their own combos so they didn’t all look the same.
Although untraditional Pete had best women – Zoe and Lyvia, two of our closest friends from university. The two of them and Pete were a very close trio throughout our time there and they both coached him through a lot of good times, bad times and rather mad times. They wore navy blue dresses from Next with matching taupe shoes.
I knew from the start that I didn’t want lots of bridesmaids as choosing from all my friends and family would mean all the female guests would have ended up in the wedding party. Instead I asked two of my closest friends to be maids of honour on the agreement they would be available to help out with all the wedding planning and stop me from succumbing to the dreaded Bridezilla too often in the run up to the wedding. Their dresses proved very difficult to find, especially as they both live quite far away and work a lot and we had to take into account the two best men, who were also wearing dresses. In the end we found two light summer dresses in Dorothy Perkins and they were the perfect complement to my lace dress and the best womens’ navy blue dresses.
Having good photos was vital to our day and we were keen to find a photographer who would fit in with the whole event and not feel like an outsider. We wanted mostly informal shots and pictures that took in the beautiful landscapes around us. Jon Rouston provided all that and more, giving us relaxed shots of our guests enjoying themselves as well as glimpses of the day we never would have seen otherwise. He also created some gorgeous portraits of us using a variety of local landscapes.
We had some really lovely special touches on the day. Pete had worked with the venue owner to organise a local real ale being put on the bar; he went with a brew from Howard Town Brewery based in Glossop and they even renamed it for us for the day as Beltane Betrothal – all a surprise from Pete to me. I had organised garden games as a surprise for Pete. These included hopscotch, hoopla and a Morris dancing costume – complete with bells and sticks – that quite a few of the guests enjoyed using. We had hay bales instead of seats for the ceremony itself which added to our country fete feel.
We wanted our flowers to be seasonal and UK grown as much as possible. We also wanted them to look relaxed and handpicked – something that looked fresh from a meadow. Tracey at Campbell’s Flowers immediately understood what we wanted and was able to suggest a variety of flower types, as well as a bouquet style I had never even considered. Along with that, buttonholes for the men and best women and wrist corsages for the maids of honour, I also ordered a flower crown, after deciding that a veil – although very bride-like – was not for me. Pete asked Tracey to incorporate material from a spare tie identical to his into all the buttonholes so that the best women matched his outfit a little.
For welcome drinks we offered Pimms, bottled beer, orange juice and an elderflower champagne that had been specially made for us by friends who brew wine.
All the food was provided in house. We had and afternoon tea instead of a three-course wedding breakfast which included sandwiches, cakes, cold additions like pasta and quiche and chips (because the chips at Windy Harbour are infamous) and tea and coffee for everyone. We provided a glass of prosecco for the toast. It seemed sensible to have a lighter meal for the day guests as we married late on and the evening meal would not be too far away. Later we had a hot buffet that included roasted meats, pasta, salads, onion bahjis and of course more chips! This was followed by a selection of homemade (by the venue) desserts and the wedding cake.
The names of all our tables were places we love to walk in the Peak District around our home and the table plan was an OS map of the area directing people to the appropriate place. A lot of the day was inspired by Glossop which has become a big part of our lives since we moved here about a year before the wedding.
Aware that favours are often something that get left behind by guests, and can therefore be a waste of money, we decided to donate the money to the RSPB. By sending £1 per person we received a pin badge for each guest representing some of our favourite local birds.
I would most definitely recommend all our suppliers including the venue. Windy Harbour is a beautiful little place with a real ‘at home’ feel to it. The staff are very capable and will do everything to accommodate your needs. Above all the surroundings are beautiful, with the Peaks all about and the small garden out back is a perfect location for a ceremony and/or photos.
The ceremony was truly beautiful and a favourite part of the day. Being back with Pete after a day away was a lovely thing, I remember sitting and giggling together as the ceremony started in a kind of ‘I can’t believe it’s happening’ way! It was nice to take some time to listen to our story and remember why we were there and why we were doing it all. Then afterwards, during the welcome drinks I was chatting to friends and my drink had just run out, I turned to get another and there was Pete, stepping towards me with two full glasses in hand. It was so seamless, so perfect and my heart swelled because I saw how well my husband knew and loved me.
And the dancing! The band we hired for the evening reception The Shiznitz, were phenomenal and kept everyone dancing all night. I’d been so worried that no one would dance so it was a great moment to see everyone up and laughing and having a great time – and then diving into the thick of it with Pete. There was even an impromptu Maypole dance thanks to one rather brave (and possibly tipsy) guest, who took the position of the pole itself.
For our honeymoon we went to the Lake District for 11 days and travelled to various places during that time. The first three nights were spent in a luxurious attic room at the Langdale Hotel and Spa, where we were treated to various spa treatments, lovely walks and lots of lounging. We then moved on to The Storrs Gatehouse B&B in Bowness-on-Windermere where we stayed for the remaining nights. We visited so many places in The Lakes – Hill Top, Castlerigg Stone Circle – and did so many amazing things – horse riding, a brewery tour, steam-gondola ride – and even walked to the top of England’s highest mountain Scafell Pike. The best part about it all was that Pete had arranged the whole thing without me knowing anything. He only told me at dinner each night what we’d be doing the next day.
Since the wedding, I have begun to train and work as a celebrant myself. We had a wonderful experience with Kate – the celebrant who married us – and it made me realise I’d love to provide similar opportunities to other couples, the chance to have a wedding ceremony that is as unique and tailored to you as the rest of the day.
My top tip to other brides and grooms to be is – do it your way! Although there is always room for compromise, figure out early on the things you aren’t willing to compromise on and stick to it. Your family and friends love you and will love whatever day you have because it is your wedding day. Also, there is nothing wrong with enjoying your wedding planning or getting a little bit carried away; you’re hopefully only going to do it once! I loved every moment of it and gave myself the freedom to plan every detail to the fullest. And be happy! You’re getting married and I promise it will be the best day of your life.
Congratulations Keli & Pete!
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Regular guest blogger Rachel joined the Brides Up North editorial team as features writer in May 2014. Senior Reporter at The Sheffield Star (a serious journalist then!) Rachel draws on her background as features, bridal & lifestyle editor for previous regional titles and time spent working for Yorkshire’s most successful PR agencies. Yet to tie the knot herself, Rachel's own wedding looks set to be very, very pretty...