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A Tipi Wedding in The Back Garden: A Relaxed Sussex Summer Family Wedding at Home

Tina and Brian met me for a coffee in Guildford and that was when they told me their story. Having been together for years and raising their families together, they were finally having a wedding that really suited them and focussed on the important things in their life - family, friends, and having a truly relaxed good time.

Everyone got ready in the cottage, with girls in the top room up the higgledy-piggledy stairs (they must have practiced in their heels, I'm sure!) and the place was absolutely alive with the buzz of garden lights being strung up, flowers being arranged, tables being laid and final touches made "just so." One of my favourite moments from the morning though, was giggling with Tina's mum, who was not best pleased that Tina didn't want confetti, and so she made use of the vast number of blooms and the freedom of being at home, and simply collected freshly fallen petals in a hanky, because there was no way she wasn't going to throw them!

They had the most beautiful humanist ceremony in their back garden - they'd shown me photos of their garden beforehand and told me all their plans but even still I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of it all. It never fails to astound me how a space can be transformed, even when it was beautiful to begin with.

The ceremony itself was emotional and tender. It brought stories of love, and loss, and changing times, but ultimately of togetherness. There was barely a dry eye in the house. I think there really was something so special about Tina and Brian being married at home. It is a place full of memories and love, and a place where you feel safe, and enjoy welcoming people in. What better way to bring people together that to have memories of your wedding woven into it too?

So, following the ceremony, drinks were served with plenty of delicious canapés and there were plenty of garden games to be enjoyed, all accompanied by the beautiful music on the harp by Izzy Harries. This interlude meant there was plenty of time for some relaxed family photos, and the tipi tents were transformed from ceremony backdrop ready for the delicious wedding breakfast, all catered by Kelmsley Catering and amazingly cooked on site, in the garden behind a bamboo screen - oh the smell was amazing. The decking where Tina and Brian had said their vows was swiftly transformed into a bar ready for the evening reception, and soon enough everyone was seated for food and speeches. Tina and Brian had their tables adorned with rustic wooden slices displaying glass vases of stunning delicate seasonal cottage flowers in pink and purples and blues. Each wedding favour was a charity pin for a selection of charities close to Tina and Brian's hearts.  There were vines and fairy lights climbing the beams of the tents which were all joined together to create a magical space, and the ceiling was full of pastel coloured paper lanterns, floating like a candy cloud above you.

The speeches were pretty hilarious, and made a great rowdy and lively start to the evening reception which brought with it the arrival of more friends, ready to party the night away. Tina and Brian have a bit of a reputation in the village for their partying and I suspect are usually the last ones standing! The band was amazing, and as the sun began to settle down, Tina, Brian and I crept out for 10 minutes of couple photos, out on the green behind the house. Tina had expressed when I first met her how much she disliked being in photos so I felt very honoured that she felt comfortable enough and trusted me enough to be so willing to have a few minutes of quiet time away from the party for this.

On rejoining the party there were visits from their dogs (who were staying just next door, another bonus of getting married at home!) and some enthusiastic bat and ball challenges, followed by ever more enthusiastic moves on the dance floor! I also feel the need to do a shout out to Southdowns Shepherds Huts for their shepherds hut portaloos - never have I known such luxury!! I just want to say a really big thank you to Tina and Brian for having me along, for really welcoming me into their home (and inviting me to stay to party with them!) and for being absolutely bloody fantastic.

An added note to say: Tina and Brian were married last summer, before anyone suspected the onslaught of Covid-19, but I think there is a lot of inspiration to take from them and their wedding. So many couples will be now facing a change in plans, potentially a register office for legality purposes and then potentially a separate celebration for their wedding and there may be restrictions in venues or a battle for dates for some time to come. If you hadn't previously considered a celebrant, now is your opportunity! A celebrant can offer a truly personal ceremony for you, be that as traditional or untraditional as you like, there's a celebrant out there for everyone, and they really do make it feel so special. And why not have your celebration at home, or even at another outdoors location? Tina and Brian have shown us it can be done, and it doesn't have to be compromising. Given that it is safer to be outside currently than inside with groups of people, we would expect to see outdoors weddings opening up first, or maybe being allowed a greater number of guests. As a wedding industry we had also been expecting to hear of proposed changes to the law regarding wedding licensing this year enabling people to be legally married outside anywhere, and at home. I would expect that to be delayed a while given the global pandemic, but it does inspire hope in me that everyone will be able to have affordable and personal weddings in the not to distant future, and maybe even at home like Tina and Brian.

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