Fay & Richard: an Elemental Handfasting at Shottle Hall

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

“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 have a lot of love for.

They wanted to express a love forged through a lot of travelling and adventure, and to embody Fay’s unique, earth-centred spirituality. Also ensuring that that the guests (and Richard himself!) did not feel uncertain or alienated by ideas they had never come across.

Both had strong ideas of what they did and did not want to include which was a great place to start.

At the heart of it it all would be the Handfasting ceremony.

Tying the Knot

Fay took the time to braid all four cords (each of which symbolised a natural Element – Earth, Air, Fire and Water) by hand. They were filled with her intention, energy and love. The vibrant elemental colours were both symbolic and beautiful to look at.

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

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

F&R: We will.

Celebrant: May Fire bless you with its passions and creative force.
Will you love each other as Water brings life to us all?

F&R: We will.

Celebrant: 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 more part in the day than we expected!

© Sarah Carpenter Photography

An Elemental Experience

Shottle Hall is a beautiful estate just outside Derby, offering lucky clients partial or exclusive use of the buildings and grounds. This wedding took place in the Coach House Marquee, making the most of the stunning views and the outside ceremony space. I spent some time setting up an altar table and smudging the space with incense before the guests arrived.

As ceremony time approached the sky was grey but guests were determined and cheerful; with groomsmen on hand with umbrellas should they be needed. The Bride arrived with her ‘Maids, who each brought a an Elemental object with them down the aisle to place on the altar. With 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 arrived! A clap of thunder and flash of lightening were swiftly followed by wind and rain. There was a valiant effort to continue but it quickly became clear all of Fay and Richard’s beautiful words and intentions would be lost.

So we headed inside! Bride and Groom hustled into the Marquee along with their guests and this soggy Celebrant bringing the all important Handfasting cords and altar items with her.

It took a few minutes 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  gathered round to hold their loved ones steady as we began the ceremony anew.

Promises Made, Promises Kept

The ceremony was full of smiles, laughter, knowing looks and impromptu remarks; all the things that make Celebrant weddings unique and memorable. Vows were made, hands were bound and in the end the couple departed to the unexpected oompah of the Monty Python Theme.

As a Wild Celebrant I try to make your outdoor wedding ceremony dream a reality; but I can’t guarantee the weather will be fair. Although we were disappointed not to have the outdoor ceremony that was planned, the words and intentions Fay and Richard chose, ensured the energy of the outdoors was with them as they made their marriage vows. The location may change but the heart does not; as Fay and Richard proved.

It was a truly unforgettable day and there can be no doubt that the loving promises of this determined couple were 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?

Other Suppliers

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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