Flower Arch - Blessing at Brook Farm Cuffley
Flower Arch - Blessing at Brook Farm Cuffley

Paramedics, handfasting & Hawaii!

I’m never really sure where to start when describing a wedding but for this wedding there really was a standout feature. The Flower Arch. Wow! It really was the most beautiful thing and such a perfect back drop for a blessing.  

Even though it was mid-August, we saw quite a bit of rain in the couple of days before the big day but come Saturday, everything fell into place and the sun came out to play. One of Grace and Ashley’s big wishes was that they would be able to walk down the tree lined aisle and have their blessing conducted by the lake. This dream came true. 

Grace and Ashely had opted for a humanist ceremony and had asked the lovely Janette Smith to conduct their blessing. I’m not sure if you know what a humanist ceremony involves? If I’m honest, I didn’t. It is basically a non-religious ceremony that is created especially for you. 

Janette has now conducted a couple of blessings here at Brook Farm and she really does bring something special to the celebration. You can have elements from a traditional ceremony as well as lots of personal touches which really make it special to you, your family and friends. You can therefore design something that everyone will be happy with, no matter what their beliefs are. Fill it with music, readings, stories, reflections, remembering those who can’t be there and make it your own. 

During the ceremony you can conduct a meaningful symbolic act and Grace and Ashely chose handfasting. This is an ancient tradition in which the hands of the bride and groom are bound together with a ribbon.  You can get others involved in this so parents, grandparents, aunties, friends or whoever is closest to you can come and help you guys quite literally tie the knot!

Another symbolic act Janette described to me was Mixing Sand and this is one which works particularly well when there are children involved. The bride, groom and little ones all bring a different colour of sand to mix into a beautiful glass jar to create one combined sand that can be sealed and cherished forever.  This represents the coming together of all those involved.  The Sands are unchanged and retain their separate identities, yet they have become inseparable.

The couple’s story is also one of my fave parts of the humanist ceremonies as, let’s be honest, this is what it is all about! So what did we learn about Grace and Ashley? They met at Herts Uni in 2011 where they were both doing a Paramedic course. How did they get engaged? They had a holiday booked to Hawaii and Ashley thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take their relationship to the next level… As they planned what they would be doing on their trip, the visit to Pearl Harbour gave Ashley a light bulb moment. Out he went to buy a gorgeous pearl ring which he deftly packed away inside a sock to take away. Luck was on his side and Grace steered well clear of his socks enabling Ashely to smuggle it out ready to pop the big question. Off they went to visit Pearl Harbour and when the time was right Ashley dropped down on one knee to propose!

Shortly afterwards Grace and Ashley started their wedding planning from a beach in Hawaii. (I think I’ve just worked out why one of their friends was playing a ukulele, originally from Hawaii, in their ceremony!) They decided they wanted a country setting where they could really create their own unique wedding and that is exactly what they did. A blue and white big top took centre stage and was surrounded by straw bale seating, a photo cut out board, picnic benches, jars with flowers, a vintage ice cream van and a pretty impressive bit of DIY from the Groom in the form of a bar made from pallets. 

Their guests were able to delight in seeing their food cooked before their eyes in an enormous paella dish. First they feasted on the smell and vibrant colours and then they feasted on the actual paella. Cooking the food before your guests sets a relaxed tone and is almost like providing a form of entertainment as your guests won’t hesitate in going over and checking it out.

Grace and Ashely surprised their guests with a little entertainment of their own and then there was guitar music played during the evening. Quite an eclectic range of music from current chart hits, Oasis and even the Baywatch theme tune which surprisingly had everyone singing along! A relaxed and fun wedding that ended with a ‘farewell’ walkway – showering the bride and groom with love and best wishes for their next chapter as Mr & Mrs.

Photos courtesy of Bethany Harbord Photography