a highland vow renewal

When Sean and I began planning our trip to the Scottish Highlands to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary we didn’t have renewing our vows in mind. But, that’s what a romantic notion and a little late night internet searching will get you! We couldn’t be happier with the outcome and sweet memories. Finding Monika and All the Ceremonies of the North was truly a gift. I had looked at other officiant websites and they seemed quite lovely, but I knew Monika was the one after reading her philosophy. She is calm yet whimsical, philosophical but also witty. She took the time to get to know us. Monika’s service was thoughtful and joyful – it was just so us! It was like she had known Sean and me for years. Thank you, Monika, for making our day so special, memorable, and filled with love.
tammi & sean
tammi & sean
As soon as Tammi & Sean had gotten in touch to talk about the possibility of conducting a vow renewal ceremony on the day of their 25th wedding anniversary I thought to myself – I wished I did more of those! There is something very special when a couple makes the decision to re-commit, something that not many really expect you to do, that’s not a legal requirement, or even an established tradition. When couples decide on a vow renewal it’s usually fuelled by a deep desire to make a profound statement of love to each other, to not just ‘carry on’ but to revisit their original promises, to honour their history, their strengths & weaknesses. Renewing your promises to each other allows for a pause, a (re)think, a feeling into the space that is your marriage and an opportunity for mapping out the future. When you then enter into the sacred space of the ceremony, which can often be much more intimate than the original event, you truly meet your ‘other half’ before you continue your journey into the future. 
But let’s return to this couple and their desire to make new promises to each other, and affirm old ones during a much awaited tour of Scotland. Getting to know a couple remotely can often take time, but occasionally there can be an immediate connection and in their case it was definitely the latter for me. Our conversations had an instant flow, where me asking questions and them sharing their story seemed effortless.  It did not take us long to find common ground for ideas and options. Like many couples they were looking for simplicity, and for me simple always means delivering something that is pitch perfect. In simple ceremonies there is no place to hide, and there are not enough elements to risk that one might not be delivering. Simple ceremonies come with extra responsibilities and challenges, which I always cherish, especially with couples I relate to well.
One of our first challenges was to explore the options where to hold the ceremony. We enthusiastically considered all the possibilities – beaches and lochs, waterfalls and woodlands, castle ruins and stone walls. Their photographer was game too for going big and ambitious, and yet what we settled on in the end was the beautiful garden of The Albannach, the 200 year old Highland home and now B&B that would be their base for a few nights. It meant we had the fall back option of indoors should the weather be inclement, and it also reduced travel time and logistics to simply getting ready on the day in the comfort of their home from home and then walking through the door into a stunning colourful oasis outside. Sometimes opting for the simple option and letting go of tempting opportunities takes courage, but they knew the photoshoot that would follow could take them to all the wonderful places the area has to offer and they would get the best of both worlds. 
Working on a vow renewal always involves a trip down memory lane for Tammi & Sean, and it’s wonderful when they are happy to take the celebrant along for the journey. This couple generously shared information about themselves, but also their wedding 25 years ago, in the very different setting of a traditional church. Over many many emails and a video call I managed to really deep dive into their story and get a sense of what they were looking for. Their curiosity about the elements and rituals we could incorporate was a real pleasure for me and it was great when they settled on the oathing stone ritual to be at the heart of the ceremony. Their love for stones and rocks was a perfect match for a ceremony in a UNESCO Geopark and they were excited to take on the task of finding their very personal oathing stone on their travels and bringing it to the ceremony.
The day of the vow renewal, exactly 25 years after their wedding day, was bright and dry and with just enough of a breeze to keep the midges away. T looked stunning in her original but shortened wedding dress, with a bouquet of local flowers by Libby at Hands full of Flowers, including thistles, the flower of Scotland. The lush green and colourful garden of The Albannach was the perfect, intimate setting for two people celebrating where they had travelled together, and committing to where they were planning to go.
I always liken creating ceremonies to brewing or baking but this ceremony felt a lot like yet another craft – weaving! Because I had elements from their first ceremony it allowed me to combine old and new and build some bridges from back then to now, like reading a poem by George Eliot that was printed in the order of service 25 years ago.
The couple also wanted to honour the memory of loved ones they lost in their ceremony, so part of the tapestry was paying tribute to them and allowing for the sadness of missing them but equally cherishing the joy they had brought to their lives and the everlasting memories that would always stay with them. Holding space for such a mix of emotions is always a privilege and I am grateful they trusted me with this!
Speaking their new words of commitment to each other was of course the highlight of the ceremony, with their hands wrapped around the oathing stone they had found further North, a few days into their Highland adventure. Hearing a couple express their deep love and promises to each other many years into a marriage is very special, especially in such a small ceremony. It’s an affirmation not just for the relationship of the couple but for all couples who decide to make those promises for each other.
A lovely afternoon in the Highlands, very different from their wedding day 25 years ago, but hopefully as memorable! 
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