Welcome to Summer

Welcome to Summer

So it’s the unofficial start of summer tomorrow?

As I write, the wind is blowing wildly, the rain lashing down and the temperature is nothing to write home about. Plus ca change?

If you are planning an outdoor ceremony, it pays to be a gambler, especially in this country.

What do you do if you end up with weather like today’s? Obviously, you’ll need to have considered a Plan B.

Plan B

There may not be many options, if you’re celebrating a ceremony at the seaside, up a mountain or at Stonehenge (which is notoriously exposed), but there are a few things that can be done.

I’m doing a handfasting at Stonehenge this midsummer’s day. I am expecting extremes of climate, so I’ll be bringing a couple of golfing umbrellas and either or both of sunscreen or a hat. (I’ll leave my decision about pullovers and the like till the day!)

After the event

If you’re holding an outdoor ceremony at a “safer” location, such outside a barn, you may be able to arrange beforehand that there are umbrellas (or parasols) available. You also ought to consider arranging for jugs of water and paper cups to be at hand, in case the weather lives up to the billing of “summery”.

You may also have to think about supplying fold-up chairs, especially if you are expecting a number of older or disabled guests.


Another potential problem is access. How to guests find the venue, especially if it’s in deepest Nature? (Is parking going to be adequate? Do joining instructions include satnav instructions? What about toilets?) You’ll need to be really precise about meeting times and places. It might also be worth advising guests about wearing sensible clothes/shoes, not least if access may be, for example, through a boggy field or up a stony path.

If you’re having a reception afterwards, you’ll need to ensure that directions are clear. (You may also need to warn the venue that timings can’t be guaranteed.)


Another factor that you will have to think about – or your civil celebrant may be able to help you with – is the acoustics. If you’re outdoors, you may have to contend with aircraft, neighbours mowing their lawn, the crashing of breakers on the sea, or the like.

As people are going to want to hear every word being pronounced, you are going to think seriously about lay-out. Presumably, you won’t have a sound system up Ben Nevis, or wherever, so the celebrant will need to be able to project his voice loudly and clearly. Guests will also want to be able to hear any words/vows that you may be uttering.

Weighing it all up

It’s simpler and safer to hold an indoor ceremony. An outdoor one risks being memorable for the wrong reasons (“Do you remember X’s wedding, when we all got deluged/when the candles blew away/when we all got sunstroke?”).

However, if you’re prepared to take a risk or two (and consider what to do, if things don’t quite go to plan), an outdoor ceremony can be utterly special and fabulous.

What will you opt for?



Welcome to Summer

A Joyous Handfasting

People regularly ask me “what’s a handfasting?”

I think my favourite one was at Old Sarum in 2014, and describing the events may give a flavour of the ceremony and thus answer the question.

The Setting

The setting was spectacular. We were allocated a lovely rectangular grassy spot in the Castle ruins, overlooking, as well as a flooded plain, the ruins of the old cathedral.


Having an outdoor ceremony the last weekend of January on an exposed hilltop with the winter we’d been having might be said to be tempting providence. I had to drive through heavy rain for a couple of hours the evening before to get to Wiltshire, so I feared the worst. Then my arrival home after the ceremony coincided with thunder, lightning and hailstones! So what about the intervening spell?

The Weather

Miraculously, it was dry – in fact, the sun came out for quite a time – and unseasonably warm. I did eventually get cold, as I was up there early, to set up the space, and the wedding party arrived half an hour late, but to spend two hours, as I did, up there without ill effects from the weather was quite remarkable. I did have a close encounter with a hawk (wondering if it was a vulture, preparing to feast on my frozen body!).

Old Sarum hawk

The Ceremony

The ceremony was part-pagan, part-Jewish, which is original, if nothing else! The rituals included representatives of the four elements blessing the couple, the handfasting itself, the bride walking round the groom seven times and the breaking of a glass underfoot.

The handfasting

In a little more detail regarding the actual handfasting, we started by charging the circle. Then we summoned the elements of nature, with representatives of the four directions blessing the couple. We then called upon the God and Goddess, to connect the couple with the divinity within themselves. We next blessed the couple with divine qualities.

Taking symbolic (empty) cups and exchanging them, the couple repeated this Celtic handfasting vow together:

“You cannot possess me, for I belong to myself.

But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give.

You cannot command me, for I am a free person.

I pledge to you that it will be your eyes into which I smile every morning.

I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care.

I shall be a shield for your back, and you for mine.

I shall not slander you, nor you me.

I shall honour you above all others, and when we quarrel, we shall do so in private and tell no strangers our grievances.

This is my wedding vow to you.

This is the marriage of equals.”

Rather beautiful, wouldn’t you agree?

After the exchange of vows, we witnessed the handfasting(or binding of wrists)  itself, followed by drinking from (what was not an empty!) loving cup, before a concluding blessing.


I’m delighted to say that it was a very special ceremony for all concerned –  and I’m looking forward to my next one.