Christine and Nij went on their first date on 4 March 2001 and have been together ever since. Twenty-two years later, to the day, they tied the knot in a joyful, personal humanist ceremony. So why did they choose to get married? And what secret were they keeping from their friends and family until their wedding day?
A wedding weekend
There were no spectators at Christine and Nij’s wedding weekend in the Yorkshire Dales, only participants. Everyone got involved in one way or another.
Christine explains, “Everyone arrived at the hostel on Friday, and decorated it with bunting and fairy lights. We self-catered and we didn’t spend any money on flowers – everyone brought a bunch each. It was a community task – everyone who was invited helped to make the wedding.
“We invited people who had been there for the whole 22 years or had been very significant for us at certain points. These were the people who had supported us through the challenges.”
A personal ceremony
The collective, community ethos of their wedding chimes with Christine and Nij’s shared humanist values. “For me, humanism is about how people can make positive, good decisions without religious input,” continues Christine. “An individual can do less by themselves, but collectively we can do more.”
“If we were to have any kind of wedding, it was always going to be a humanist one,” agrees Nij. “I didn’t want anything religious. The other choice would have been a register office wedding, which felt too functional.”
Choosing a humanist wedding enabled Nij and Christine to create a truly personal ceremony that celebrated the two decades they’d already spent together and looked forward to a shared future.
Getting married after a long relationship
Christine explains why they made the decision to get married at this point in their lives: “It wasn’t just that we’d clocked up the years, it was a celebration of our intention to go forward. We’d had a difficult few years. We had some challenging things to deal with – and we’d survived! There were times where we hadn’t thought we would.
“A wedding was the only celebration fitting enough to mark that level of challenge. There was lots of honesty in the ceremony – we wanted to show that love and commitment aren’t easy things. We were celebrating the ability to traverse those challenges together.”
Planning a secret wedding
Their humanist celebrant, Ewan, a long-standing friend of Christine’s, met with them several times to develop the script for the wedding ceremony. But the couple – who love surprises! – chose not to see the full script in advance.
“It was definitely the right decision,” says Christine. “Ewan was so good at listening to our stories – 22 years of information, emotion and history! Hearing it on the day was like unwrapping a gift. It was so good to be able to listen to our story and to see people’s responses to it. They were laughing one moment and crying the next.”
However, this wasn’t the only surprise in this wedding ceremony. Christine and Nij were keeping a big secret from virtually all their guests. A year before, on 4 March 2022, they had got legally married, with just two witnesses. They hadn’t told anyone else apart from Ewan.
The wedding guests, including their family and closest friends, only found out that Nij and Christine were already married when this was revealed during their humanist wedding!
A humanist wedding ceremony after legal marriage
“We knew we had to have a register office wedding for it to be legally recognised,” says Christine. “The 12 months between the legal ceremony and the wedding were the loveliest of 12 months, because they were just ours. We were in our own lovely little sparkly bubble.
“We chose to have our humanist ceremony after our legal one so that we could include all the thoughts, feelings and symbolic elements that we wanted.”
Crocheted cords, recycled rings and a whirlwind of a weekend
Handfasting, where cords are knotted around the couple’s hands while words are spoken, was one of the symbolic elements which formed a central part of Nij and Christine’s ceremony.
“Handfasting was my choice,” says Nij. “I like it because it’s a very old tradition. The symbolism is direct and easy to understand. And afterwards you can keep the knot – you can get it out of the box in years to come. It felt very natural to me, when some wedding traditions can feel quite contrived.”
“Our daughter and son-in-law tied the knots with cords that I had crocheted myself,” adds Christine. “I felt that when the tied cords were removed and we exchanged rings, that the rings were a wearable representation of the knot.”
The rings themselves also tell a story, rich with meaning.
“We had the rings made from recycled metal,” explains Nij. “I had a silver ring that Christine had bought me, and a few years ago my dad passed away and I had a gold ring of his with a diamond in it. Christine had a ring that I had bought her and jewellery from her nan. We piled it all together. The outside of my wedding ring is silver from Christine’s ring, and the inside is gold from my dad’s. The diamond from my dad’s ring is in her wedding ring.”
Christine continues, “These are heirlooms or things we’d bought in years past. They represented important people who couldn’t be there in person. They are a link with our families and our past.”
From the countryside setting to the big reveal, from the ancient symbols to the community feel, this was a wedding worth waiting over two decades for, which expressed the personalities of the couple and celebrated every aspect of their life together.
Celebrant Ewan, sums it up like this: “From start to finish, it was an incredible whirlwind of excitement and love and joy. And when friends and family gathered for the ceremony itself, you could see how delighted everyone was on their behalf. It was definitely one of the ones I’ll always remember!”
Thank you to Christine and Nij for so generously sharing their story and to their photographer Ryan Learoyd of ShutterGoClick for the brilliant pictures which sum up the day so beautifully.
Christine and Nij’s celebrant Ewan Main is based in York and he leads ceremonies that are full of joy and completely tailored to you. You can find out more here.
The wonderful bride Christine is also a Humanist Ceremonies celebrant, she is based in Leeds and has years of experience delivering inclusive and meaningful ceremonies. Find out more about Christine here.