Sheila & Jason's Medieval handfasting under the trees wedding

By on Sep 26th
J&S Wedding

Photos by Kari Bellamy

The offbeat bride: Sheila, Executive Assistant

Her offbeat partner: Jason, Operations Standards Manager

Date and location of wedding: Ceremony in a clearing in The New Forest, UK and the reception at The High Corner Inn, New Forest, UK — July 23, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding was a trip into the past… about 500 years! With my pagan beliefs in mind, Jason suggested we have a traditional pagan handfasting. Because of his love of nature, it seemed only right to hold the ceremony under the green leaves and blue sky. The outfits were all handmade for us by a London theatrical company, Costume Company. We requested that all our guests dress up, and everyone made a huge effort hiring outfits and costumes to complete the theme. We had lords, ladies, knights, monks, scribes, jesters, and wenches at our wedding. We even had a forest elf.

The Fairy Tale

For the room, we hired a specialist Medieval company to decorate it for us, and we had suits of armour, shields, and tankards for our mead. The flowers were arranged by a relative who flew in from South Africa for three days specially to do the flowers. Jason and I made all invitations (calligraphy on handmade paper, complete with a wax seal), wedding favours (a velvet money bag full of chocolate coins), the dragon and castle cake, and wine labels.

J&S Wedding

J&S Wedding

We also had a number of guests join us for the first dance: a maypole dance!

J&S Wedding

Our forest elf sang a Gaelic song a capella and my Maid of Honour played us an Irish Jig on her violin. A couple of our friends in bands provided the music all night long. The food was pork and chicken roasts on platters. Our guests ripped off chunks of meat and ate with their hands a la old castle feasts. As can be expected, mead (honey wine) was consumed in abundance.

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was held in a clearing in the New Forest. We loved being surrounded by trees with no view of the modern world anywhere. Our Priest and Priestess started by using our guests to cast a circle for the ceremony. Once the circle was cast, we were brought into the circle and the ceremony began.

J&S Wedding

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A short reading was followed by the exchange of the rings. Jason took his ring from a chalice I was holding followed by a mouthful of blessed mead, then I placed the ring on his finger. My ring was presented to me on the cross hilt of Jason's sword whilst he knelt in front of me. I took the ring, then the sword, and accepted his fealty by touching each shoulder with the blade. I drank of the mead and Jason, still kneeling, put the ring on my finger.

J&S Wedding

Following this, the blessed mead was taken round the circle for all of our guests to share in the blessing. Then it was time for the handfasting. Using my DIY ribbon cords, the Priest and Priestess tied our hands together and presented us to the circle. Lastly, we had to jump over a broom stick three times whilst tied together to signify working together to overcome problems.

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Our biggest challenge: Most brides have their dresses ready well before the wedding. This was not the case for me. Using a theatrical costume company has its pros and cons. I only received the completed dress the day before the wedding, and this was the most stressful part for me. However, the low cost and beautiful outfits far outweighed the delay.

J&S Wedding

My favorite moment: The most meaningful moment was when we were tied together by the Priest and Priestess with a ribbon. We were supposed to remain tied together for the entire evening. We couldn't last that long but we did manage an hour.

I also loved our maypole dance. A couple of our friends played flute and acoustic guitar for us and everyone who took part really enjoyed the dance.

J&S Wedding

J&S Wedding

My funniest moment: Watching my dad dance! My dad is quite conservative, and I was pleasantly surprised (and I laughed my head off) to see him dancing to our final band, an American Southern rock band doing covers of modern rock songs. He was doing his own kind of jig.

J&S Wedding

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The only issue we had the entire evening was running an hour late. Nobody minded since we were all having such a good time.

J&S Wedding

My advice for offbeat brides: We found that doing everything ourselves and including family and friends in everything made the day extra special for us because we will always look at certain aspects and remember the person that helped with it. For example, our musical friends who provided all the entertainment, our relatives who flew out and provided all the flowers, Jason's work colleague who assisted with the cake, close friends who assisted with the favours, and family who helped sort out and erect the Maypole. Without these friends and family, the day would not have been the same.

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Secondly, just relax. Yes, it is a big day in your life, but this shouldn't detract from the experience. Things will go wrong, but do not worry about it, it will all work out in the end. Just enjoy the day and revel in the glow of your wedding day.

J&S Wedding

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