Suzanne and Neil’s story – a wedding with all the family involved

Suzanne and Neil’s story – a wedding with all the family involved

Suzanne and Neil had both been married before and had six adult children between them. Their humanist celebrant, Zoe, helped the couple craft a meaningful, personalised wedding ceremony that included the whole family.

When Neil and Suzanne started planning their wedding, there were two things that were non-negotiable: the kind of venue they were looking for and the full inclusion of all their children in the ceremony.

‘There were some things we definitely knew we had to be in there,’ explains Suzanne. ‘Most important was involving our children – Neil has four children, I have two. They had to feel part of the whole experience.

‘The ceremony was so important for us. For lots of people, it’s all about the party, but for us, the ceremony came first.’

Neil continues: ‘And we didn’t want it to be in a church or a registered building, it had to be somewhere that we had a connection with.’

‘We wanted our six children to be front and centre in the ceremony’

‘We’re in a privileged position – we’ve blended two families and all six children get on really well,’ says Suzanne. ‘We’ve always brought them into our relationship. They’ve been part of our journey and they’ve never been excluded. The eldest is 29 – it was his birthday on our wedding day, Neil’s twins are 27, his daughter and my son are both 26 and my youngest is 21.

Neil and Suzanne's children in the front row watching as their parents marry

‘As soon as we started talking to our celebrant, she understood how important our children were to us and instantly came up with good ideas for including them.

‘We decided early on that we didn’t want to have a wedding party – Neil didn’t have a best man, I didn’t have bridesmaids – but we wanted all six of them to be front and centre throughout the wedding.

‘The children had some questions, but weren’t sure how to go about asking them. So Zoe came to dinner with us all one Sunday. She didn’t tell them the script in detail, but she went through the different aspects and explained how they would be involved.

‘They already knew how important they were to us, but they came away feeling that the ceremony would really recognise their place in the journey.

‘Handfasting was one of the most precious symbols of the wedding’

‘At the start of the ceremony, Neil’s children were with their dad, making sure guests found a seat and felt welcome.

‘My boys walked me in – my youngest really wanted that. The children were recognised on the invites and included in the vows too when Neil and I made promises to look after each other’s children.’

A handfasting was a central part of the ceremony. Handfasting is a symbolic act, with ancient origins, where the couple’s hands are bound together with ribbon or cord, to represent their commitment to each other. It’s visually powerful and usually accompanied by words, poetry or music. At Neil and Suzanne’s wedding, all their children got involved too.

‘We asked each of them to choose their own ribbon,’ says Suzanne. ‘They worked out what order to come up in and they decided it would be oldest to youngest.  The words spoken and the six ribbons tied together showed that the six children had given us their blessing, well wishes and good thoughts for our marriage.

‘It was one of the most precious symbols that we took from our wedding.’

‘Getting married in a circle helped our guests to feel part of the ceremony’

As well as including their children, the other non-negotiable aspect of the day was finding a venue that reflected Neil and Suzanne’s personalities, and where they would feel comfortable welcoming their guests. The answer was very close to home.

Neil explains, ‘We looked at loads of venues, posh pubs and hotels, but none of them gelled with us. However, there’s a pub next door to where I work as a mechanic, it’s called the Three Pigeons. When we first got together, Suzanne would come and wait for me in the pub after work. Even when we moved in together, we’d still go out there.

‘We knew from early on that we wanted the ceremony to be in a circle, with us in the middle. We wanted to be able to see everyone. We wanted our guests to feel very much part of the ceremony, not stuck at the back and unable to see.’

Suzanne adds, ‘A circle is never ending, we wanted to capture that meaning in the ceremony too. We were very open about our emotions and our commitment. We wanted people to feel that openness and to be included.

‘These two are in it to win it’

‘Because it’s the second time around for us, we wanted to express how committed we are to each other, our relationship, and our children. We wanted all our guests to come away thinking, ‘these two are in it to win it, they really love each other’.

‘Neither of us wanted to replicate our first weddings,’ explains Neil. ‘We wanted something that suited us both and this really did. This was perfect. It will stay with us for the rest of our lives.’

Thank you to Neil and Suzanne for so generously sharing their story and to their photographer Eleth of Mae Photography for the wonderful pictures which sum up the day so beautifully.

Neil and Suzanne’s celebrant Zoe Murray is based in Essex and she leads ceremonies that are bright, full of laughter, joy and love. You can find her on instagram under Zoe The Celebrant or find out more here.

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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.'
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