By the time Lewis and Imanina – who first met at school – decided to get married, they had been together for over ten years. Their shared love of nature meant that a simple, outdoor wedding was always going to be their first choice. But, when the stress of organising the ceremony threatened to overshadow the joy of the celebration, they made a radical decision.
‘We were quite young when we got together, 14 or 15,’ says Imanina, looking back. ‘Lewis proposed on our 10th anniversary, but we were in no real rush to get married. We were happy as we were.’
‘I always imagined being married to Imanina, but it’s the relationship that’s most important, not whether or not we were officially married,’ agrees Lewis.
‘We moved around a lot for university and work, but eventually things started to get more stable. We had a dog – Tiffin, a German Shepherd – we’d been living together for a couple of years, and getting married just felt like the right next step. We just went with the flow. That’s what we tend to do.’
‘We got engaged on Mam Tor in Derbyshire. When we first started planning the wedding, we imagined it would be a small outdoor ceremony with our families.’ says Imanina.
‘But the planning got so stressful. We started to wonder why we were doing it,’ continues Lewis. ‘Imanina joked to me, “why don’t we just elope?” As soon as she said it, it felt right. The idea became a plan, then everything happened so quickly. From the start of planning to our wedding day was just three months.’
The only guests they wanted were their two best friends and, of course, their dog Tiffin. But, even for such a small group, they still needed to find someone to conduct the ceremony.
That’s when they started looking for a humanist celebrant for their elopement.
‘As soon as we spoke to Meg, we realised she was right for us,’ continues Lewis. ‘It was her energy. She’s relentlessly positive – she just loves love. Once we had found her for our elopement, everything felt right.
‘Her ideas were fantastic, but we always had the final say. We didn’t have to stick to a certain format. It was amazing, so right for us. A humanist ceremony offered us so much flexibility.
‘What really stood out for me was the time our celebrant spent getting to know us and we spent getting to know her. It was ace, the way she asked the same questions separately to each of us. She understood us as a couple and as individuals.
‘She first met us, and Tiffin, at the place – Curbar Edge in the Peak District – where we wanted to have the ceremony. We would have been happy for a two hour hike before the ceremony, but we had to think about our two best friends, who don’t share our love of the outdoors. We didn’t want it to be a bad day for them! It needed to be somewhere quiet, easy to get to, with some options if it rained. But it didn’t rain, it stayed fine for us!
‘It was a really relaxed day, no stress,’ says Imanina. ‘We had a few ideas for the exact spot – depending on the weather and how busy it was. On the day before we settled on the area we wanted, off the path and sheltered from view.’
While the couple set the tone and chose the spot, their celebrant’s creativity helped make the ceremony personal and special.
‘On the walk, she asked us all to collect sticks and stones. Tiffin picked up a stick and brought that. We used them to make a circle on the ground which we stood inside when we said our vows,’ says Lewis.
‘Tiffin sat and watched,’ adds Imanina. ‘During the vows, Meg included a point for Tiffin to give a paw in approval. She did it straight away.’
Lewis continues: ‘The time capsule was Meg’s idea too. We included photos from the day, twigs and stones from the circle, and a copy of the vows. Initially, we thought we’d open it after ten years, but perhaps we should open it every year and add to it on each anniversary.’
There were so many significant moments in the day but, for both Lewis and Imanina, one stands out:
‘It was before the ceremony officially finished. Meg asked us to step forward to the edge, and remember the view, and she stepped back herself. It was just the two of us. It all went quiet.
‘It was the first thing we did together as a married couple, standing together, enjoying the beautiful view we had chosen.’
Our thanks to Lewis and Imanina for sharing their story, to Meg their celebrant and to photographer Becky Payne for sharing these wonderful images.
If you’ve been inspired by Lewis and Imanina’s story, then head over to our map to find a celebrant for your elopement!
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