Ellen & Joe’s Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

Sometimes known as ‘the fragrance tree’, the cedar of Lebanon is a symbol of endurance, eternal life and immortality. This one at Broxmouth Park has stood for more than 500 years, but while it embodies all the most important qualities of love & marriage, it also represents a more personal symbol for Ellen & Joe.

Lebanon was where their relationship blossomed; where it was tested by distance & time, strengthened by exploring new cultures, making memories together, and growing to understanding each other more & more.

Ellen told me that they met because they had both decided to pursue something that gave them happiness. 

They were in the same year at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, though they never really crossed paths until after graduating. 

Ellen bumped into Joe & his Best Man Sam down Chapeltown Road, just outside the school as they were moving out of their student flats and they met for drinks the following day. Joe told me that on their first date he was so broke, he had to borrow money from Sam to buy Ellen a drink!

At the time, Joe was dancing off scaffoldings & halfpipes at the dance company Motionhouse, & Ellen was about to go to  Israel to study, so it was unspoken between them that this was all just simply enjoying each other’s company, but Ellen admits that she had a wee tear at Preston train station when they went their separate ways.

For 6 months they didn’t speak, until Ellen received a text. Then Joe got a postcard from Tel Aviv, and when Ellen finally came home it wasn’t long before they were right where they’d left off. They enjoyed 1 month of adventures together before, by another tree in a park in London, Joe answered the phone and Ellen said, “I got the job in Lebanon”. 

Ellen thought this was make-or-break, but Joe broke away twice from touring sooty dance performances down UK mines to visit her. They spent Christmas & New Year together in the snowy mountains at Faraya, and experienced Lebanese culture together. 

Even after Ellen returned from Lebanon, their time together was fleeting; Joe toured Europe with best man Sam & groomsman Tom, while Ellen went off to study again, this time in India.

Finally, their paths aligned & Joe proposed at Snowdon Watkin Path waterfalls in front of many of the family here today. They moved from The Toon to York, where Covid brought Joe a career change carrying a baton instead of his ballet shoes, & they plan to spend the rest of their lives as one big adventure, supporting each other, challenging each other, & cherishing their time together.

Joe and Ellen really embraced the idea of making their guests a part of their wedding.

Yes, the weather was Baltic, but that doesn’t bother us Northerners! As Ellen said when she sent me these photos, “What stands out the most to us is the connection to the elements, the winds the trees the ocean; it was all so grounding & made all nerves or superficial worries fly away & let us be truly present.”

“It also felt very typical, because every photo shoot we’ve ever done as dancers was shot in the freezing British weather, so we were no strangers to ignoring bitter winds for pics!

After I’d told this much of their story, Auntie Jackie gave us a blessing, and Joe’s dad said some words of his own.

Then Joe and Ellen spoke their own secret vows to one another.

Keeping your vows a secret until the day is what I call ‘a high risk strategy’ but it’s a wonderful way to raise the emotional temperature of the day – for you, as much as for your guests.

As Joe and Ellen kissed, Danni Pete and Timmy gave us a rendition of ‘If I ain’t got you’, by Alicia Keys.

I loved the serendipity that they were using SubZero amps…

Even the hardiest Northerners need a bit of warming up sometimes, so we headed off down to the house to thaw out our hands so we could sign the marriage schedule.

But not before various members of both families bound Ellen & Joe together in an impromptu handfasting ceremony!

Ellen and Joe chose the right photographer; Karo Regenweibchen, who says, “I’m from Germany but now I live in Scotland. Yes, I love going for long hikes in the rain. I don’t mind the wind and I really enjoy the rough sea. But I also like it when it’s calm and you can hear the birds. I like it when the sun puts a smile on peoples faces. My favourite light is when the setting sun is peeking out of the clouds after a long day of rain. You will see this kind of light in a lot of my images.”

As Ellen said, “Having our family & friends there was truly the key to it all. We are blessed with this & what a great excuse to bring them altogether & to remind us all of the importance of those you hold close.”

“I particularly was very nervous of everyone’s eyes on me during the ceremony. I had anticipated that it would be the rest of the day that I would look forward to. But actually, the ceremony was indeed my favourite part! We want to thank you for being such a brilliant celebrant & for giving us the perfect ceremony we will cherish forever!

“What was lovely was that you felt like no stranger when I met you at the aisle, so another thank you for all your hard work!”

I take the compliment, Ellen, but as they say, “if you find a job you love, you’ll never work again” and that’s what being a celebrant means to me. You allowed me to help you and Joe express your love for one another, and that is the best reward in the world!

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