A surprise wedding

A surprise wedding

In early December, celebrant Julie Watkins had a phone call asking if she would conduct a surprise wedding on Christmas Eve. Here was a groom with a dream! And Julie was about to do everything in her power to help him make his dream come true…

Wayne and Holly

Wayne met Holly at a festival she’d organised in the New Forest. She had hired him to provide the stage. And now, all this time later, the proposal was going to be a grand, theatrical gesture.

In the run-up to Christmas, the couple designed and built a sleigh. They planned to take the sleigh to the local hospital on Christmas Eve, so the kids in the children’s ward could look out of the windows and see Santa.

Wayne told Julie that the plan was to propose to Holly, in the sleigh, on the way home. He said that when she accepted, which he was sure she would, he was going to suggest they got married that night.

He would then take her home to get ready. He’d bought Holly two outfits for her to choose from. He’d got the rings and hand-carved a heart-shaped box to store them.

Julie said, ‘It was so romantic; I couldn’t turn it down. And so, the ceremony was booked for 8pm on Christmas Eve.’

Initially, Wayne had planned to hold the humanist wedding ceremony in their home but this wasn’t possible due to the restrictions on gatherings due to Covid. But, the couple have a storage yard and so, Wayne decided they would get married on a festival stage there. Perfect!

By mid-December, the script was written and the plans were all in place.

The best laid plans

On Saturday the 19th the Welsh Government announced the ‘firebreak’ (strict new lockdown measures).

Holly’s parents were due to arrive on Christmas Eve, but the new rules meant they could no longer travel.

‘At that point he thought everything was off. I felt so sorry for him. He’d worked so hard and it looked as though his plans had been scuppered,’ Julie said.

On the Sunday following the introduction of the firebreak, Wayne decided to tell Holly his plans. To his absolute delight she said, ‘Let’s do it anyway!’

Advice and support

The wedding would take place outdoors, close to where the couple lived – and the guests would be socially distanced. Julie was a new celebrant, recently trained and accredited by Humanists UK and she wanted to ensure that the updated plans would not breach any lockdown guidelines. She contacted her Regional Network Coordinator who sought advice from Humanists UK staff. The feedback was good. It was official – the wedding was on!

Julie’s first wedding

Christmas Eve arrived and, by eight o’clock, the weather was perfect. The evening was cold and crisp, with clear skies and hundreds of stars.

The stage looked magical, illuminated by candles and fairy lights.

As Holly made her way to the stage, a friend of Wayne’s played guitar.

Waiting for her were their son Freddie, Wayne’s mum, his best man.

Their only other guests were two neighbours. They had thoughtfully brought a picnic basket full of bottles of champagne and glasses.

The ceremony was  live streamed to Holly’s family. The whole thing went without a hitch.

Julie said, ‘It was such a special ceremony and I feel so privileged to have been a part of it.

‘I gave them a bottle of champagne as a gift and a card to say ‘thank you for being my first couple’.  When they realised it was the first wedding I’d conducted, they said that it made it all the more special. To my surprise, and despite my protestations, they gave me the heart-shaped box as a gift. Along with my memories of such a wonderful night, the box will stay with me forever.


Thank you to Wayne and Holly for sharing their story with us!

Featured celebrant

Julie Watkins is a wedding celebrant based in Tenby. You can contact her via email or by calling 07970949847.

Humanist wedding celebrant Julie Watkins

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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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