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.