REAL WEDDING - a Natural Handfasting Wedding Ceremony in the Forest of Dean

2nd July 2018

If you’re not sure how a handfasting wedding ceremony works then I’ve got a perfect example for you this week.  Annette and Ravi chose to pledge their vows within a log circle in the Forest of Dean and invited 180 guests from round the world to share their special day in July 2015 embraced by the natural world. With flowers from Organic Blooms and photos by Esther, Annette and Ravi’s wedding is full of natural magic. Annette tells us more…

The Venue 

With Planned for Perfection wedding planners 

Our handfasting ceremony was held at a log circle in the Forest of Dean with a small lunch at Bracelands Adventure Centre afterwards.  We used to camp at the Bracelands Campsite, in our van called ‘Charlie’ and on one of our first holidays in 2012, when we were in the area we saw lots of fallow deer - that was a very special and magical moment.  On our search for a good place to have our ceremony we thought back to that magical Bracelands campsite area and when we went to have a look, we found the log circle which was only constructed in 2014 and we both thought “wow this is it!”

When we found Bracelands we both thought WOW, this is it!

The woods and nature were where we naturally wanted to get married

Our hand fasting was held in the log circle in the Forest of DeanThen our civil marriage ceremony (the legal bit) was held under a pretty gazebo at the Manor by the Lake followed by dinner and a ceildh.

Our civil ceremony was in the gazebo at the Manor by the Lake

The Atmosphere

The words that best describe the atmosphere we wanted are nature, natural, magical, wonder, excitement and unique.  

A magical setting of excitement and wonderEmbraced by nature and the natural environment

The Ceremony

We wanted to create a natural, united wedding ceremony.  It was held in the forest of Dean in a log circle that had been created by a organisation called Artscape and built by ex-convicts for a group that the forestry commission support called Mindscape.  The original idea of the circle was to give people with dementia an opportunity to reconnect with nature and this was the whole ethos behind our own wedding.

We wanted our guests to connect with the environment, so instead of a wedding ceremony inside a building, closed off from the very nature that brought us into existence, we chose to be married within the log circle surrounded by trees, family and friends.  It has a wonderfully magical feel as you walk down into the forest right into the circle.

It is magical as you walk though the forest into the circleWe chose to be married surrounded by trees, family and friendsJumping the broomstick, an ancient pagan rite of marriageThe circular fire pit where Ravi and I stood with our celebrant There are three parts to the circle, the circular fire pit in the middle where Ravi and I stood with the celebrant, then the circle created by the logs for our closest family and friends to sit, then the outer circle for the rest of the guests with an all-enclosing willow circle structure.  It’s a lovely feeling to get married with your guests in a circle, it makes it so much more intimate and everyone can witness and take part.  We chose to have a hand fasting in this magical place and it was beautiful when Ravi's parents, my mum and my uncle stood around us holding the elements to the four directions during the ceremony.

My mum holding 1 of the elements to the 4 directionsRavi’s dad holding 1 of the elements to the 4 directions

My uncle and Ravi’s mum holding 2 of the elements to the 4 directions

The Outfits

I wore a Sophia Tolli dress called Leigh in ivory and light gold.  It was absolutely beautiful and it was the perfect dress to embrace my inner goddess.  Ravi wore a traditional Indian brocade outfit in red which was absolutely stunning.

I wore a fishtail gown in the forest!My bouquet and wedding flowers were by Organic BloomsRavi wore a stunning traditional brocade Indian wedding outfit

The Food

We had an entirely vegan menu for the whole day.  The little lunch we had after the forest ceremony was Lebanese.  The food at the reception was all vegan, a special menu the chef at the Manor by the Lake created for us.

The Eco Elements

I have always imagined that I would get married outside. I never liked the idea of a church or any building where I could not feel the elements, or where the wind cannot hear my vows.  Ravi is of the same mind, we didn't go out of our way to make it an eco-wedding, it was a very organic process in organising it all. We both wanted a natural wedding, nothing superficial, nothing over the top and we wanted to get back to nature with our guests - the place that we are all so disconnected from nowadays.

We sourced our flowers from Organic Blooms, a great organisation which is a community co-operative that helps people with health issues connect back to nature through gardening.

My wedding bouquet of home grown British FlowersWedding flowers by Organic BloomsThe reception at the Manor by the LakeFlowers by Organic Blooms and vegan wedding cake

No animals were killed for our wedding and even the wedding cake was vegan, the decoration was amazing as well.

We had a local ceilidh band to get the dancing going - a great way of getting people together!

The ceilidh band got us all on the dance floor!Everyone got dancing to the ceilidh band!

Can you be Stylish AND Green?

Oh yes definitely, I wore a fishtail gown in the forest!  How can you not be stylish with nature, it provides us with everything, just a daisy in the hair can brighten up anyone's face.

Tips for Brides Planning to throw a Green Wedding …

Have your ceremony in a place that means something to you and your partner, somewhere special that’s just for you. Also don’t worry about the weather, have a backup plan of course but don’t let it ruin your day.  We had bright sunshine throughout our whole wedding, but only a few days before there was rain.  Having an outdoor ceremony is risky but if you take the risk, it’ll be worth it.

You can definitely be stylish AND greenHaving an outdoor ceremony is risky but worth it

Top Tips from the Groom

Ravi thinks it’s a good idea to have one or two days break before the wedding day arrives.  This is so you can fully relax before the big day and you have time to reflect.  It’s good to have the time to think about all the planning and organisation and how it has all come together.  Then forget it all along with the stress and worry and just relax, be excited and fully embrace the coming day of your marriage.  

Take time out for yourself for a couple of days before the wedding

Special Touches

One special moment that really touched my heart was Ravi organising a surprise element into the ceremony.  His cousin Isha got up and sang an acapella of the song ‘All of Me’ by John Legend. I was so surprised, I had no idea and it was a very beautiful and touching moment.  All the guests were in awe - there were some tears too !!  

A moment that touched my heart ...

Huge thanks to Annette and Ravi for letting me feature their naturally beautiful wedding - it is so touching. And thanks too, to Esther for sharing their stunning photos of the wedding.

Flowers: Organic Blooms

Photography: Weddings by Esther

Celebrant: River Jones

Annette’s Wedding Dress: Sophia Tolly

Venues: Forest of Dean and Manor by the Lake

Wedding Planner : Planned for Perfection

* What is a Handfasting? I hear you ask ...

A Hand fasting is believed to be an ancient Celtic marriage ritual that involves tying a cord or ribbons around your joined hands as a symbolic way of representing your union as a married couple. Could this be where the expression 'tying the knot' came from! The original idea was that it was a kind of engagement - at their hand fasting, the couple would be betrothed for a year and a day before they decided whether to get married or not. I should say though, that although that was the tradition, your hand fast will be lasting!

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