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Oath Stones and a Handfasting at Rudding Park

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

When Covid-19 put paid to Laura and Matt's big wedding in the summer of 2020, they had a rethink. They realised that they'd been automatically railroaded into planning a huge wedding with up to 100 guests, and that actually, with a small and select few guests, not only could they take the pressure off themselves, it would be a lot more relaxed - and much more "them".

Their replanned wedding day at Rudding Park in Harrogate started at 12pm with the legal ceremony - a basic 10 minute ceremony with just parents in a room in the hotel - just to get the paperwork done on the day. Laura had had her hair and make up done in the morning, but had chosen to save her wedding dress for the main ceremony (humanist ceremony) outdoors, which would be attended by all their bridesmaids, groom party, family and friends. After the legal ceremony, Laura went to get into her wedding dress and Matt went off to get ready with his groomsmen. Then they met again at 2pm for their humanist ceremony in the most beautiful outdoor area in the grounds of Rudding Park Hotel. I'd lent them my professional, outdoor PA system for the ceremony and had downloaded their playlist so we had no issues with signal, power or sound.

When I first met Laura and Matt at the pub for their planning meeting, they said they wanted a simple ceremony. But by the time we left each other, they'd decided that not only did they want to include their love story, they wanted to write each other a secret love letter to read out on the day, say their vows to each other holding an oath stone, and top the ceremony off with a handfasting - a tying of the knot! It was BRILLIANT! But that's my account. Check out the photos and then read what Laura wrote about their big day:

Music: Laura (Gregory Porter and Just Like Heaven (The Cure)

Readings: Touched By An Angel (Maya Angelou)

Symbolic Acts: Pebble Warming, Oath Stone Ceremony, Vows and Ring Exchange, Handfasting Ceremony (tying of the knot) and Guest Vows.

Photography by kind permission of MattSim Photography

How did having an intimate wedding feel on the day?

It felt amazing. I remember feeling really nervous in the morning but as soon as I saw everyone I instantly relaxed. We were surrounded by our very closest family and friends and everyone was there to really support us and I could definitely feel the love as we stood making our vows.

Did having a smaller wedding allow you to raise the budget a little on the things that were important to you – like the venue, live musician, styling, catering – or did it allow you to stick to a more sensible budget?

It definitely allowed us to stick to a more sensible budget but without feeling like we had missed out on anything. We were able to have an open bar all night which was important to us as people had travelled to come and be part of our wedding. We were also able to have a magician as entertainment who was brilliant!

Why did you choose a humanist wedding and how did your guests/parents react to the ceremony?

We chose a humanist ceremony because the civil ceremony seemed very sterile and impersonal. We were really keen to have a quite informal yet personal ceremony and this definitely was that! Everybody absolutely loved it - our families especially liked that everyone was mentioned and felt part of the ceremony. So many guests afterwards said how much they had enjoyed the ceremony and would love to have something similar themselves.

If you were to do it all over again, would you do anything differently?

Absolutely not! We had the best day. Everything was so easy and ran so smoothly. All I remember from the day is feeling so happy!

If you were to give anyone a piece of advice about having a small wedding, what would it be?

Do it! It was perfect. So relaxing. We had chance to talk to every one of our guests without feeling like we had to rush around everyone.

Would you recommend a humanist wedding to couples planning their wedding, and if so, why?

Absolutely! It’s so personal. You can make your ceremony really your own to suit your own quirks and personality. Everyone on the day felt involved because we talked about a lot of them in the ceremony and that felt really special.

What did you do after the ceremony?

After the ceremony we had drinks and canapés followed by speeches then the wedding breakfast. We had a magician during the drinks and between courses who was amazing and provided some brilliant photo opportunities. After the breakfast we did a pub quiz which was great fun!

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