A castle wedding in Northern Ireland: Lauren and Chris’s humanist ceremony with handfasting, hiking poles and history

A castle wedding in Northern Ireland: Lauren and Chris’s humanist ceremony with handfasting, hiking poles and history

Lauren and Chris’s wedding at a castle in Northern Ireland was a beautiful, emotional affair. Lauren tells us how a humanist wedding helped her and her husband Chris stay true to themselves and each other.

Lauren's face is tilted up towards Chris with a look of pure joy and love.

When Lauren and Chris told their friends and family that they were planning an outdoor wedding in November, it raised some eyebrows.

‘Everyone thought we were crazy, getting married outside, in November!’ remembers Lauren. ‘They asked: “Are you serious? Are you sure?” They thought we’d freeze or that it would rain. My response was “Well, if it rains, then we’ll get wet!”’

Both the setting and the date – 19 November 2021 – had a deep meaning for the couple.

‘We chose that day because it was the second anniversary of our first date,’ says Lauren. ‘Although we were both brought up Catholic, we’re not religious, so having a wedding in a chapel didn’t feel right for us. Chris and I spent a lot of time outdoors together, we love being outside. That’s what drew us to this venue.’

A wild coastal wedding at a castle

The wedding party seen from a distance, with the ruined castle above them on the cliff

They didn’t choose just any outdoor wedding venue. Lauren and Chris had their wedding at Dunseverick Castle in Northern Ireland – an ancient ruin on a narrow peninsula by the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by stunning views. And, as humanist marriages have legal recognition in Northern Ireland, there was no need to meet with the registrar beforehand.

‘The castle belongs to the National Trust. There had never been a wedding there before. But once we had seen it, my heart was set on it. I didn’t care what we had to do to make it happen. I work as a photographer, so it was very important to me what the photos of the wedding day would look like. Photos have such a powerful way of taking you back.

The bride makes her way down a grassy hill, no path, her veil blowing in the wind

‘We asked permission, but they were not familiar with the idea that humanist weddings can take place anywhere. We had to educate and persuade them.’

‘The logistics were tricky,’ she admits. ‘It was really steep, we were a bit worried about our parents having to trek up the hill, so we provided hiking poles for anyone who needed extra help. But, on the day, we had perfect weather.’

‘The wedding vows were like a pact between the two of us’

Their commitment to holding the wedding ceremony on their anniversary also made it difficult to find an available celebrant. But as soon as Lauren and Chris met humanist celebrant Trevor Molloy, everything fell into place.

The bride and groom together in a wild location, grasses all around, with their celebrant Trevor leading the ceremony

‘Trevor came to our home to talk with us. By the end of the meeting, it felt like he was one of our uncles. He really paid attention to our story and who we were. We loved how fluid and flexible our wedding could be. Having a humanist wedding gave us the permission to be ourselves.’

In preparing his script for the wedding, Trevor spoke to Lauren and Chris separately about each other. ‘That was totally his idea,’ says Lauren. ‘I think it helped us say what we really felt, and there was no pressure to say the “right thing”.’

A moment from the ceremony, the bride grinning at the celebrant as she holds her groom's hand. The wedding guests behind wrapped up warm with the sea and cliffs behind them.

Their celebrant also supported the couple’s decision to exchange written vows, which they each read silently during the ceremony, rather than speaking them out loud.

‘We wanted to make sure, even though we were sharing the day with our families, that we stayed true to each other as a couple. The vows were like a pact between the two of us. We were ready for questions afterwards about what we had said, but there were none, everyone respected what we had chosen to do.’

Tying the knot – literally!

‘Every part of the ceremony had to have a meaning. I have two children from a previous marriage, so the ceremony was not just about Chris and me, but the four of us joining together into a family, which is why we chose to include a handfasting.

A family hand fasting, all hands in the middle on top of one another Lauren's little girl loops a pink ribbon around the bride and groom's hands

‘For the handfasting, we all chose different coloured ribbons. Each child chose their own colour – Colin had yellow, his favourite colour, and Arrell, my daughter, loves pink. It was not only important for the children to be part of the ceremony, but also to be there as individuals, expressing their own personalities and preferences.

‘We all joined hands, and the ribbons were laid over the top, then we physically tied them into a knot. That’s where the saying ‘tied the knot’ comes from!’

Trust yourselves

Bride and groom together, locked in an embrace. They stand in front of a wild coastline with the sea crashing on the rocks behind them.

‘For anyone planning a humanist wedding, my advice would be simply to stay true to who you are as a couple. Trust yourselves and your gut feelings.

‘When we look back on the day, everything happened exactly the way it was supposed to. We didn’t spend a huge amount, and we were true to who we were. The people who really mattered to us were there.

‘Everything about the day should give you the same feeling that you got when you decided to marry your partner. If you’re not in love with any of your choices, don’t go for them.’

Our heartfelt thanks to Lauren and Chris for sharing their unique story and to Julie Proctor from Treasure and Heart Photography for the stunning images.

Featured Celebrant

Trevor Molloy is a full time humanist celebrant based in Northern Ireland who conducts ceremonies full of fun, laughter, joy and happiness. You can get in touch with Trevor via his website or look him up on Instagram.

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'My humanist ceremony was the most special day of my life. All my family were blown away. Both my parents said that they'd never been to a wedding that was more personal or heartfelt.'
Madeleine, 34

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