Stars of our billboard campaign in Northern Ireland, Danny and Andy had plans for a Winter Wonderland humanist wedding, but the weather had other ideas. Danny McKeown tells us all about their big day.
We booked the wedding in March 2017, giving us just under two years for planning – and that was the best thing really as we could do one of two things a month allowing us to plan things nice and steadily across the time and also it allowed us to be more creative as our thoughts were not rushed – plenty of time for inspiration to make itself known to us.
We knew we wanted to get married in The Lake District; that was a certainty and although it wasn’t part of our search criteria, the fact that Broadoaks Country House Hotel was very openly gay-inclusive in its advertising was very appealing, but driving down the driveway for the first time on our viewing, we knew it was the place we wanted and we had not even walked through the door.
We originally planned our vision of the perfect Winter Wonderland humanist wedding – not ‘snowed in’, but just lakeside with snow on the mountains in the distance, and a lovely clear blue sky.
But, the reality was something totally different – we had blazing sunshine in February, so much so that everyone was in shirts and T-shirts rather than warm jackets and scarves. So, the whole theme became literally the polar opposite of expectations but that made it into a much more special day. Our personal vows and all the unique tailoring of our humanist ceremony stayed the same.
Our humanist wedding ceremony
We had been to a friend’s wedding for whom, Val Turner, accredited Humanist Ceremonies celebrant conducted our humanist ceremony – and we loved the way it was conducted and how the focus was about us as a couple and our love for one another. Plus with us being non-religious in our daily lives, this was clearly the path we wanted to go along.
At Richard and Rob’s wedding, we didn’t get to speak much to Val much, and at that time, we had not proposed to one another so we were not really thinking about such intricate plans, but when we met her to discuss our wedding ceremony, her bubbly and warm personality made us both feel so settled and relaxed. Val made us laugh and we chatted about everything from our jobs, our hobbies and family and it just felt so natural and friendly. Val truly is a wonderful ‘people person’.
We should mention that we felt so connected to Val that we invited her to be with us for the family dinner, the night before the wedding and to join us for the wedding breakfast too. It just felt right and Val was welcomed in like a family member. It was perfect.
We had some help from Val for our vows, which we then used for inspiration to write our own that suited us.
Our readings had to be by our great friend Mark who has such a wonderful vocabulary and is great at speaking in public. He didn’t let us down. He chose some wonderful words for the ceremony. We also had our dads, Richie and John stand up and read ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ by William Wordsworth. When Val heard our plan for this, she incorporated that into her speech at the wedding, telling everyone how Wordsworth’s inspiration had been very close to our wedding venue when he saw the daffodil fields near Ullswater in the next valley.
My mum, Lynne and Andy’s mum, Shirley led us down the aisle. That was incredibly special for us to include them in such a personal way, walking down to effectively give us away. It was very emotional.
Having a humanist ceremony opened up so many options for us – we didn’t have to worry about premises being licensed for weddings (which it was in the end) but it meant our location was open to us and not subject to the wedding licensing requirements.
The legal bit
We always viewed the register office part as the formal, legal part and knew that we just wanted to do the basic service there to meet the legal requirement. Our registrar was very understanding and was keen to know our plans for the wedding which made it feel less ‘in and out’.
Our wedding rings were custom-designed; we wanted something in titanium for durability but also it kept the cost down. We knew that rings can end up being hundreds if not thousands of pounds but the ring is just a symbol of the wedding so what you wear on your finger is up to you. We went with something more affordable but which was special to us. We had the inner part of the ring engraved with the date we met and the exact geographical coordinates of the place we first met. So the ring, regardless of the material it was made of, became something totally personal.
We had the whole weekend at our venue with close family and friends staying the night before, meaning we could make the whole thing very family-orientated. With the majority of our guests arriving on the Saturday morning, we revealed our big secret – our arrival ‘chariot’ was a brilliant orange tractor, driven by Andy’s father, John.
The tractor has significant family significance, in that it was the very tractor that John sold many years ago to pay for his wedding to Andy’s mum, Shirley and to help them start their life together before any of their sons were born. The tractor was reacquired for John’s 60th thanks to some careful planning between the brothers. A project of restoration was needed as the tractor had been kept in poor condition in the decades since it was last in Henshall hands. In all her glory, Allis, the tractor, was our mode of transportation to the front door of our venue down the driveway, basking in sunlight. It could not have been better.
Our theme was blue and yellow with the daffodil being a big part of the day. With the time of year, daffs are normally everywhere, so we made them a massive part of our day by having our table centres as old boots with daffodils pointing out of them. And, everyone’s favour on the table which also acted as their place name was a small narcissus bulb in a pot, which they could hopefully then take home and plant in their garden to flower again in years to come.
We used The Courtyard Dairy to provide our Cheese Cake – concentric circles of cheese from larger to smaller. We also had some homemade chutney from two of our guests who came for the weekend. This was more about our desire to include everyone and knowing people with such talent, it was a given that we had to ask them to help with such an important part of the day. The chutney went down very well and the cheese cake once it had been cut up, definitely did not last long. There certainly were not any goodie bags to hand out at the end to everyone!
David Ashton was recommended to us by some friends near where we lived. We bonded right away with David after meeting him for an initial outline planning meeting. His style of photography, being more natural than posed, was exactly what we were looking for.
Advice for other couples thinking of a humanist wedding
Humanist weddings are becoming more and more popular for people, mainly because they’re so much more personal and the focus on religion isn’t so important for many people nowadays. We had a lucky break with finding our humanist celebrant, Val, as we had already seen her in action, so that was a bit of a head start for us. But, I have seen many humanists over the years at both weddings and funerals, and the feeling I got was always the same, in that their approach being so totally focused about the persons in question, their lives, their family and their love. I would say always try and see if a friend has a recommendation to make, but you’re also in good hands with any of the trained and accredited celebrants offered by Humanist Ceremonies.
Many thanks to Danny and Andy for sharing their story with us. If you would like your humanist wedding to be featured on our blog, please email us.
Val Turner conducts humanist weddings, vow renewals, civil partnerships in West Yorkshire.