It’s always lovely to get an email from a couple the day after their wedding, so I was delighted when William & Gwen sent me this message.
Tim, we can’t thank you enough for all that you have done for us both in the lead up to our wedding day – through advice and support – and in conducting the ceremony yesterday. You were just great and so praised by all of the guests! It was so very special and we couldn’t have dreamed a more wonderful day.
What made it so special was the thought and imagination Gwen & William brought to their ceremony. I loved how they chose to start it: not with a welcome from me, but with a poem called ‘Wedding Day’ by Rowena Edlin-White which was read by Emma, one of Gwen’s bridesmaids.
‘Now comes the knitting, the tying, entwining into one.
The mysterious involvement of two, whole, separate people into something altogether strange and changing, new and lovely.
Nothing can be, or will ever be, the same again. Not merged into each other irrevocably, but rather, from now on we go the same way, in the same direction.
Agreeing not to leave each other lonely, discouraged, or behind, I will do my best to keep my promises to treasure you and keep you warm.
We will make our wide bed beneath a bright and ragged quilt of all the yesterdays that make us who we are, and the strengths and frailties we each bring to this marriage. We will be rich indeed.’
It was a bright, brisk late winter’s day, but packed into the cosy byre at Inchyra, nobody felt cold!
I began by introducing the wedding party, one of whom, Declan, read us another great poem by Neil Gaiman, ‘All I know about love’. He wrote it just a couple of years ago for the wedding of his friends Sxip and Coco and he was kind enough to share it with the world via his journal.
This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing.
This is everything I’ve learned about marriage: nothing.
Only that the world out there is complicated,
and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain,
and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes,
is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze,
and not to be alone.
It’s not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it’s what they mean.
Somebody’s got your back.
Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn’t want to rescue you
or send for the army to rescue them.
It’s not two broken halves becoming one.
It’s the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home
because home is wherever you are both together.
So this is everything I have to tell you about love and marriage: nothing,
like a book without pages or a forest without trees.
Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them.
Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials.
Because nobody else’s love, nobody else’s marriage, is like yours,
and it’s a road you can only learn by walking it,
a dance you cannot be taught,
a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing.
And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand,
not knowing for certain if someone else is even there.
And your hands will meet,
and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again.
And that’s all I know about love.
Like so many couples these days, Gwen and William met online and it was Gwen who suggested their first date: a late-night walk in Kelvindale Park. Looking back, she she realises she must have been a little naïve; suggesting an evening stroll around a cold, dark park with a guy she had never met before. William’s excitement at a cheap date overshadowed the insanity of her suggestion: he wasn’t sure if she was super romantic or just had no real regard for her safety, but it went well and ended in a coffee shop, where they sipped something hot & talked about the things that really matter.
Their relationship wasn’t plain sailing: as they said, they see the world very differently and in their ceremony they were open and honest about the difficulties they’d overcome to be together which was powerful and very moving.
The climax of the ceremony came when William and Gwen spoke the vows they’d kept secret until the day.
When they sent me these great photos by Martyna and David of Wonderful & Strange, they also sent me these thoughtful words.
We are so thankful for the help you gave us in writing our own ceremony. I don’t think either of us quite realised what we were embarking on to begin with and the work that would be involved, but we are so glad we took this route as it made it so very personal in the end and I know our guests were moved by the ceremony and vows.
We found your book of great help, especially for the initial homework stages. I’m not sure we would have known where to start without it!
We also found the example ceremonies and collection of readings of great great help – the former for providing a structure and helping us to decipher what we did and didn’t like so much. We really enjoyed going through the readings/poems together.
I’m told there were many tears on the day. I’m quite amazed that I kept it together – well, just. One of my dads cousins is a registrar in the south of England and she said she has never been to a ceremony like it.
A good review from a registrar is always a thing of joy to me, but above all, the reason I love being a celebrant is because I get to help couples express their love for one another in a way that reminds ALL their guests of the importance of love in their lives. That’s what Gwen and William’s ceremony did, and I’m so glad they asked me to be a part of it.
Big thanks as ever to Martyna and David of Wonderful & Strange for these great shots – as you can see from this happy snap I took on the day, they’re a joy to work with too!