Bespoke humanist handfasting ceremony in castle setting with a delicious twist
A few months ago I had the absolute pleasure of welcoming Chris and Greg all the way from the USA for their humanist handfasting, where they tied the knot…but didn’t get married!
Instead of a ceremony to become husband and wife, Chris and Greg wanted a ceremony to confirm their commitment to one another. They chose an incredible elopement-style handfasting in a stunning castle setting, and it was so perfectly personal that I wanted to share it with you today. If you ask me, it’s wall-to-wall inspiration: for drop-dead-gorgeous wedding outfits, an epic wedding location, and, most importantly, creating a meaningful ceremony that matters to YOU.
A humanist handfasting ceremony
Handfasting is a Celtic tradition that could mark a betrothal for a year, or could be a lifelong commitment. Chris loved the idea of this tradition, and asked Greg if he would like to "lightly tie the knot". And, dear readers, he said yes!
For Chris and Greg, their humanist handfasting ceremony was a way of honouring their union, whilst simultaneously recognising that love changes as people change (and that every relationship is unique, just as the individuals who comprise it are unique too). Just before they tied the knot – literally – I asked them to “Do this with the understanding that the love you share is dynamic and fluid, and what we celebrate is this happy moment in time and your joint intentions to create a life together.”
This was the first time Chris and Greg had heard the wording: in fact, their whole ceremony script was a surprise for them on the day! We got to know each other through their responses to a planning date night I sent as well as a Zoom meeting (which took place super early in the morning for them, across the Atlantic), then I crafted the script to capture what they wanted to say.
The night before the ceremony we enjoyed dinner together, which was so lovely. On this night, I also asked them to write each other letters, which they exchanged just before we started the ceremony. Standing back to back to read them, it was a private, intimate moment for no-one but them, and a beautifully poignant way to start their humanist handfasting ceremony.
Alternative to vows
As the emphasis for Chris and Greg’s humanist handfasting was a celebration of doing things their way, they opted not to have vows in the traditional sense. Instead, as an alternative to vows, they made pledges to each other. I then followed with a reading as I tied their hands 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.
But I wish to join my life with yours
To stand by your side and sleep in your arms
To be joy to your heart and food to your soul
To work as partners and live as family
While we grow old together.
I pledge to love, honour, and respect you
To hold you to my heart
But not bind you to my will.
This is my pledge to you. This is the commitment of equals."
Castle handfasting setting
Chris is unapologetically romantic at heart, and she adored the idea of having a humanist handfasting at a castle. She and Greg chose Peel Castle on the Isle of Man as the setting for their wild elopement-style ceremony.
As they both have a mutual love for motorcycles, they’d planned their trip to the UK all the way from the East Coast of the USA to visit the Isle of Man TT races. They took the opportunity to make their adventure even more adventurous with their elopement-style humanist handfasting ceremony – only Chris' mum (and me!) had any prior knowledge of what they had planned to do!
This spirit of adventure is close to both of their hearts; Greg is a pilot – for fun! – whilst Chris runs Babes Bikes Beards, a biking community that welcomes women riders. The only downside to their castle setting was that their dog, Sherlock, couldn’t make the trip with them – sob!
Peel Castle is a stunning 11th century castle with breathtaking views across the Irish sea. The open air setting was magical, like something out of a fairytale (especially when combined with Chris’ incredible Anthropologie dress!), and they made full use of it with their wonderful photographer Amore.
After their humanist handfasting, they had ‘cake by the ocean’ – a yummy carrot cake from M&S – and luxuriated in the castle setting. With Amore they explored the castle ruins, the rolling greenery, and the stunning beach, which all made for some truly unforgettable portraits.
Planning your own meaningful ceremony
Chris and Greg’s humanist handfasting ceremony is a perfect example of why I love my job so bloomin’ much: because every single element can be tweaked to mean something to you. Don’t want to say any vows? Chuck them away! Don’t want anyone else to be present other than you two? Then get rid! Don’t even want to get technically, officially married? Into the sea it goes!
If you’re looking for a celebrant who’ll work with you on creating a personalised ceremony to mark something special, then I’d love to hear from you – you can get in touch here. Let’s design your ideal ceremony, your way, with no compromise, and no ‘making do’: because you deserve only the best!
Amore du Plessis is the genius human behind these photos. Thanks Amore!