When I performed my first elopement ceremony recently, a number of people were curious. Did this take place in secret? Were there elements that you wouldn’t have expected in a “normal” ceremony?
The circumstances were as follows: Anita and Bruce (not real names!) simply did not want razzamatazz. They definitely dreaded being the centre of attention. They got married officially in the States, where they live, but booked a photographer and myself to conduct what was to be the “real” wedding in London (where nobody else could follow them!).
They wanted a part-religious (spiritual rather than conventional) ceremony, so a celebrant made sense.
We all dressed up (I was a little more conventional!), as the photo shows.
Unusually for London, the weather played along, and it was a beautiful day. Also, the venue was very atmospheric: the lovely ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East, near Tower Bridge.
The service had been agreed over the months and consisted of the following:
After a short introduction, I read a poem called “Why marriage?”, which seemed appropriate!
I then gave an address about the significance of marriage (not too heavy, though!) before moving on to the Exchange of Vows. Anita and Bruce chose to recite traditional vows, but also wrote their own. After agreeing the basics, they had composed their vows independently, and this was the first time either of them had heard what the other had prepared.
It was predictably moving and very beautiful.
Anita had written more of an essay (!), but what was clear – if it hadn’t already been – was that they were deeply in love and were absolutely serious about their relationship.
We then heard a poem “The Meaning” by Kellie Spehn before moving on to a Handfasting, preceded by an explanation of the ritual. The couple were bound together for a minute or so in an infinity knot.
Then it was time for the ring exchange before we concluded with the Blessings of Divine Qualities and the pronouncement allowing a kiss! (This was certainly the longest I have witnessed!
A round of applause from some (distant) onlookers followed, and we were done!
After a week in London, our couple returned to the States, to commemorate the event with a couple of (small!) receptions.
Their testimonial was heart-warming (“magnificent!”) and made me proud to have been part of such a joyous but significant occasion.