Fay & Richard: an Elemental Handfasting at Shottle Hall

“Once upon a time, in a far away place, our two heroes meet… all the way across the World in Australia…”

A bride and groom stand with their Celebrant Keli Tomlin. The Bride is smiling at Keli as she speaks. The groom is looking away into the distance, watching something unseen.
© Phillip Parnell


The first wedding I ever officiated was for my very best friend and her very best bloke. It was an honour to be asked to cut my Celebrant teeth with a couple I knew well and had a lot of love for.

They wanted to express their deep love for one another, forged through a lot of travelling and adventure and also to embody Fay’s unique, earth-centred spirituality, whilst ensuring that the other guests (and Richard himself!) did not feel uncomfortable or alienated.

A challenge? Perhaps, but they both had some strong ideas of what they did and did not want included, in both deed and in word, which made a great place to start.

Central to the wedding ceremony would be the Handfasting.



Using four cords, each of which symbolised a natural Element (Earth, Air, Fire and Water), their hands would be bound at the culmination of the ceremony; they were, quite literally, tying the knot!

Fay took the time to braid all four cords, by hand, before the big day, so they were filled with her intention, energy and love. The vibrant elemental colours were not only symbolic; they were beautiful to look at and truly embodied the vibrancy with which this couple loved and lived their lives.

Being symbolically joined by these primal energies of the World was very important to Fay and would provide the inspiration for their vows and promises too.

“Will you love each other as Fire warms the soul?

We will.

May Fire bless you with its passions and creative force.

Will you love each other as Water brings life to us all?

We will.

May Water bless you with the deep knowing that comes from two souls joined in perfect love.”


Little did we know that the Elements would play an even larger part in the day than expected!

© Sarah Carpenter Photography


Shottle Hall is a beautiful estate just outside Derby, offering exclusive use to its lucky clients. The wedding took place in the Coach House Marquee to make the most of the stunning views and the outside ceremony space. I had a lovely time erecting the altar table and setting the space with incense before the guests arrived.

As ceremony time approached, the sky was suspiciously grey, but guests were determined and cheerful and the groomsmen were ready with umbrellas should they be needed. The Bride arrived with her ‘Maids, who each brought a representation of an Element with them down the aisle, to be placed on the altar behind me. With the altar complete and the couple reunited, it was time to begin…

A bride and and groom stand beneath clear umbrellas on the first step of a wooden gazebo. Their Celebrant Keli Tomlin stands beside them officiating over their outdoor wedding ceremony
© Phillip Parnell Photography


Which is when the Elements decided to join the proceedings! A clap of thunder and flash of lightening were swiftly followed by heavy rain and wind. There was a valiant effort to continue but it quickly became clear that the Elements were taking centre stage and all of Fay and Richard’s beautiful words and intentions would be lost.

What else to do but head inside! Bride and Groom hustled into the Marquee along with their guests, and one soggy Celebrant bringing the all important Handfasting cords and altar items with her.

It took a few minutes to settle us all into our skins, to dry off and take some deep breaths and once again find the smiles and laughter buried beneath the disappointment. In true Fay and Richard fashion, the couple rallied marvellously and their guests followed suit, gathering round and holding their loved ones safe and steady as we began the ceremony anew.


This time all the words were heard and there was space for the smiles, the laughter, the knowing looks and impromptu remarks that make Celebrant-led weddings unique and emotional. Vows were made, hands were bound and in the end the couple departed to a quite corner, to the unexpected oompah of the Monty Python Theme.

A wedding Celebrant opens the door to making your outdoor wedding ceremony dream a reality; we can guarantee your ceremony will be as you dreamed we can’t guarantee that the weather will be. That doesn’t have to change the beauty or heart of your day though, as Fay and Richard proved.

It was truly an unforgettable day and there can be no doubt that the loving promises of this determined couple were truly blessed by the Elements, in all ways!

Here’s what Fay had to say afterwards…

Fay and Richard 2


Are you getting married in Derbyshire? Would you consider getting married outdoors? How much rain would be too much?

I’d love to hear and help you create a magical, elemental wedding day of your own!


Suppliers involved:

Photography: Phillip Parnell Photography 
Flowers: Campbells Flowers
Venue: the Coach House Marquee at Shottle Hall
Ceilidh Band: Reel Easy
Caricaturist: The Arty One

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