Fiona and Ben were introduced to me by the lovely Becky Cook who manages Patrick’s Barn in Crawley, where the couple were having their wedding. Patrick’s Barn is a gorgeous 16th century barn – the stuff of wedding dreams – and it also happens to have an enormous 800 year old oak tree in the grounds. Fiona and Ben had seen the tree and had (understandably) set their hearts on getting married beneath it. They knew that registrars couldn’t do that so were looking for a celebrant to conduct the ceremony instead. Also, these guys are most definitely NOT a one-size-fits-all couple, so they were looking for something unique for their big day.
The planning process
When I first met Ben and Fiona, at Southwater Country Park, I have to admit to being somewhat intimidated by just how seriously cool they are – Fiona is a film producer and Ben works in fashion and they are both uber stylish. Fortunately, they are as friendly and creative as they are cool, so I relaxed quickly and we got on like a house on fire (what a weird expression that is – I must Google where on earth it comes from…). It transpired very quickly that the pair are both mad about shoes – particularly trainers. Fionas dad had always said you could tell a lot about a person just by one look at their shoes, and this was something that they both agreed on. I hid my shabby converse under the table at this point…!
When the pair had met (well re-met actually, but that’s another story) and gone on their first date, talk had soon turned to their mutual love of trainers and Ben had asked Fi which her favourites were. When she said the Nike Air Max One – also Ben’s favourite – their fate was sealed.
When it came to their wedding then, it was natural that trainers should be involved somehow, and so each of the tables at their reception was named after a different style of trainer, with the Air Max One being the top table of course. But trainers are just one shared interest for these two. They’re also mad about motorbikes and snowboarding, fashion, art and music.
It was important to get their sheer lust for life into the ceremony to reflect just how hands on at life they both are, but without it feeling like a list of things they are into.
The Big Day Dawns
On the day, I drove up to Crawley through torrential rain, biting my lip the whole way that the weather would clear. When I got to Patrick’s Barn, the rain hadn’t hit, although the sky was looking very ominous. Poor Ben had to make the call about whether or not they set up under the tree or decamped to the barn. He decided to risk it, and we held our collective breath when the thunder started rumbling…
That day, it turned out that there was a steam rally close by and the roads had been blocked up by slow moving steam engines, making lots of the guests – and Fiona – a few minutes late. Although delaying the ceremony for 20 minutes so that everyone could arrive didn’t do much for Ben’s nerves, it was perfect in terms of the weather – the black clouds parted and the sun shone on proceedings. Hooray!
Again, this is an advantage of using a celebrant – I only ever do one wedding a day, so I don’t have to be rushing to or from another ceremony. So if we need to wait for Aunty Mabel or for the rain to stop, its all possible (as far as I’m concerned anyway – your caterers might not be so happy!), whereas a registrar would have to be zooming off to the next wedding.
All the (similarly cool, with outfits and tattoos to die for) guests gathered, and Fi and Ben’s friend Nick started to play his guitar and sing for Fiona’s entrance with her dad. The pair had asked their friend Nicky to read, and she delivered an extract from Louis de Bernieres Captain Correllis Mandolin with real feeling. It was a particularly appropriate reading, as there is reference to trees and roots and blossom, which was perfect when standing under an enormous oak tree, marrying a beautiful couple.
As there were a lot of people present, we started a ring blessing, sending the rings on their way round Ben and Fiona’s friends whilst I spoke about their love story – trainers and all – and they were back to us by the time it came to making their vows.
Their making vows to one another under the sheer majesty of an enormously tall oak, with its roots at their feet, seemed even more special – a sense that we were being held in that moment by something so much bigger than ourselves. It felt really sacred, in a non-religious way. Under that tree is a magical place indeed. And then it was time for Mr and Mrs Phillips to mark their union with a kiss and for everyone to celebrate with fizz and party late into the night (seriously stylishly, of course…)
What they said:
“Claire was an absolute delight to work with. She made our wedding so personal, fun and beautiful – we had friends and family commenting for weeks how much they loved the ceremony.
From the start she was engaging and we loved meeting up with her in person over coffee, taking the time to get to know each other and understand what we all felt would work for us as a couple. We had lots of fun doing this. Our wedding was completely tailored to us, fun, relaxed and full of smiles (and a couple of tears!)”