If you’re a bride and groom with a fondness for Nature, then it’s likely that a woodland wedding is most definitely something you’d consider.
In the UK, it’s surprising how many couples are still unaware that there are alternatives to a church wedding or one in a registry office or registered hotel. In much the same way as you might register a baby’s birth and then have a naming ceremony later, or register a loved one’s death and choose a special venue for the funeral ceremony, the same goes for a wedding. Do the legal ‘contract’ at the registry office, but have the wedding in the place of your dreams.
Why a woodland wedding?
A study in 2004 showed that people who walked in woodland had lowered blood pressure, heart rate and an improved immune system. Those who stopped to admire a woodland view for 20 minutes had a 13% reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. The Japanese call this forest bathing (shinrin-yoku). So, while your guests are witnessing you say ‘for as long as this love shall last’, you’re all being imbued with the positive energy of a woodland.
Have you ever noticed how differently you feel when you’re out in Nature compared to when you’ve been in the car for a while or in a shopping centre? All around us are molecules, invisible to the human eye, known as negative ions, which are tasteless, have no odour, and which we breathe in. By breathing in these ions, a biochemical reaction happens once they reach our bloodstream. In turn, serotonin is released which allows us relief from stress or depression, and lifts our energy.
Negative ions help to increase the flow of oxygen to our brain. When this happens, we feel lighter, alert and have more mental stamina.
Many people have become desensitised to the artificial nature of the life they live. If you’re someone who must have fresh air in a room, you’re sensitive to negative ions and often feel euphoric when in the heart of Nature.
Negative ions are felt most tangibly after a thunderstorm, near falling or flowing water, waves lapping on the seashore, in a woodland, Summer rain, snow fall, in sunshine, and when plants produce water evaporation.
You might think the word positive means ‘good’, but in the case of ions, the opposite is true. These ions range from germs, viruses, dust, bacteria, pollen, cooking odours, to toxic residues from furnishings and pets.
So not only is a woodland wedding a great choice ecologically and aesthetically, it’s great for your health.
A woodland wedding can be beautiful and simple, allowing you an elegant and natural backdrop to the essence of your relationship. The natural colours from the earth, such as greens, tans, browns and off white can be incorporated into your wedding designs. You can use moss or twigs as centre pieces. Why not create a wedding arch from wood or branches? With a woodland as your décor, you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful wedding setting.
Veronika Robinson has been officiating weddings since 1995. She trained at Unity Church in Auckland, New Zealand, and was authorised to conduct legal weddings under the New Thought Ministries umbrella. She has a deep love of the sacred, and derives great joy from creating, writing and officiating ceremonies for people. She specialises in handfastings, but is equally at home conducting more formal weddings, as well as namings, blessingways, vow renewals and funerals. Veronika officiates ceremonies throughout Cumbria, northern Lancashire and Southern Scotland, and is particularly fond of outdoor ceremonies. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant
Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.
The other day I watched a beautiful wedding ceremony. The bride was gorgeous. Naturally gorgeous. The venue was stunning. What struck me, though, was the sheer terror on her face. My heart clenched. I just wanted to ease that fear from every cell of her body.
There are countless reasons why a bride (or groom) might be nervous: fear of public speaking; the realisation of the huge commitment being undertaken; fear of vows before an almighty God, shyness…just to name a few.
As with anything in life that sets our nerves racing, they can be an indication of a warning, or that we’re about to embark on something that’s hugely important to us and that can feel like a life or death situation.
I knew someone once who was so nervous and stressed about her wedding day that by the time that amazing day came her whole face (not just her lip) was covered in cold sores. There’s no amount of make-up that can hide that.
Our body is constantly talking to us. Listen to what your nerves are telling you. Don’t fight the fear, but go within and listen. Listen carefully. A wedding is, to use a cliché, the most important day of our lives. Well, frankly, that’s enough to scare any person. But does it have to be like this? Is it possible we put too much into a wedding day, in terms of preparation, and then become burnt out? Have we exaggerated the wedding day out of all proportion compared to the many years of marriage which lie ahead?
If you’re scared of saying your vows in front of a crowd, remember this: your guests love and value you; that’s why they’re there. They just want to be part of your beautiful day. For them, it’s an honour to witness this rite of passage. I promise, they’ll not be giving you a score out of ten on how well you speak.
If you genuinely love your partner, and they love you, that love will carry you through the best of times and the worst of times. You can rely on it. Always be kind to each other. Everything else will fall into place.
Here are some tips for managing nerves:
 Breathe deeply. Get into the habit of stopping what you’re doing and allowing yourself to breathe in deeply for five to ten seconds. Hold for a few seconds, then release the nerves to an out-breath of several seconds. Do this at least ten times, but twenty or more will really help you to settle down.
 In the weeks leading up to your wedding, spend as much time as you can walking barefoot upon grass, sand or dirt. Do this for at least half an hour. Earthing is a wonderful way to realign yourself.
 Cut out stimulants for a while, such as coffee, chocolate, tea, sugar, and so on.
 Visualise your wedding day (and marriage) being calm, gentle, beautiful, loving and smooth. CREATE the day and life that you want for yourself. We get what we focus on.
 Hug a tree. No, I’m not joking. Scientific studies show that tree huggers are calmer people.
 Get into the habit of using magnesium transdermally (through the skin). It’s eight times more absorbent this way than through food or supplements, and you can’t overdose this way (or get runny poos!) Magnesium is like a master class in Zen for the cells of the body. It’s such a vital nutrient, and vital for over 300 biochemical processes in the body. Try the Better You magnesium flakes, and mix half flakes with half water, and spray liberally onto your skin at least twice a day. You could also try Floatation Therapy (Calico Health and Wellbeing, Plumpton, near Penrith, Cumbria, has the only float tank in the north of England). This is a restorative and calming way to ease your tensions.
 Invest in a good-quality vitamin B complex. It is vital for the nervous system.
 Imagine yourself with roots growing out of your feet deep down into the Earth. Feel yourself anchored securely in Mother Earth. Give thanks for that nourishment. Imagine a beautiful light flowing from the crown of your head and reaching to the stars.
“You are a child of the Universe. You have a right to be here.”
I wish you calm on your wedding day, and I trust the breeze will blow those pesky nerves away.
Veronika Robinson has been officiating weddings since 1995. She trained at Unity Church in Auckland, New Zealand, and was authorised to conduct legal weddings under the New Thought Ministries umbrella. She has a deep love of the sacred, and derives great joy from creating, writing and officiating ceremonies for people. She specialises in handfastings, but is equally at home conducting more formal weddings, as well as namings, blessingways, vow renewals and funerals. Veronika officiates ceremonies throughout Cumbria, northern Lancashire and Southern Scotland. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant
Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.
Have you ever been to a funeral and come away afterwards wondering who the heck the vicar was talking about? Perhaps you’ve been to one where the minister forgot to turn off his mobile phone and then answered it during the ceremony? Maybe you’ve been to a funeral and were left cold by the words which were spoken? Perhaps they were all about an unfamiliar God rather than about your loved one?
During my father’s funeral ceremony, the person officiating said his name wrong. My teeth clamped down upon my tongue: shut up, Veronika. She also failed to get the words off the page. It was just a script. Just another job. Clearly she had several funerals a day to officiate at the crematorium, and didn’t have time to become familiar with the person whose life she was talking about. (A skilled celebrant delivers the words with the right intonation, and is familiar with what s/he is delivering ~ and s/he cares deeply about the family she is supporting). Having said that, the rest of the ceremony truly reflected my dad and his life, and I thank my sister for doing such a beautiful job in ensuring that happened. Not so many people are blessed with having a service that accurately reflects the deceased.
Saying goodbye is, at worst, excruciatingly painful, and at best, a beautiful, releasing and hopefully cathartic experience. Finding someone you can trust to hold the space at a funeral or memorial is important. As a celebrant with twenty years of experience in creating ceremonies, and a specialist in ritual, I don’t use templates. Every ceremony is unique and based around the needs, desires and feelings of those involved.
I understand the gut-wrenching pull of grief, and although every person’s experience is different, I do believe when you’ve walked the road of losing someone close to you that you have a better sense of another’s pain. The average UK funeral costs about £3700, but bear in mind that this is a ‘basic’ funeral plan and most of the costs come from the funeral director. Cremations are almost £700, and burials around £1600. Extras include flowers, reception and a headstone. So you’re looking at more like £6000 to say goodbye. Does this mean the funeral will be beautiful and personal? No, not at all. The only guarantee is that the funeral director will be earning money. To be clear: I recognise that many people feel indebted to funeral directors for carrying them through the funeral, but I would say this: choose carefully. Think about what is REALLY important to you.
In a similar way to a wedding day, there is much that can be spent on things which might ‘look good’ to the untrained eye, but the heart knows better.
In our hour of greatest pain, we’re called on to make all sorts of decisions which generally bear a heavy burden. Please, make it a priority to look into the issues of death and funerals before you ever come face to face with them. Make informed decision well ahead of time. There is no rehearsal for a funeral day. There’s only one chance to say goodbye publicly. I can, hand on heart, say that the most beautiful, moving, and life-honouring funeral does not need to cost you thousands of pounds. In fact, did you know you don’t even need a funeral director? You can choose a burial at a local natural woodland ceremony, or on your own land or in your garden. You can keep the body at home (in a cool room), and take care of your loved one yourself. Why not keep a vigil in their bedroom, and surround them with family photos?
There is absolutely NO NEED for a coffin, unless you desire one. If so, consider an eco-friendly one made from cardboard, bamboo, hemp, felt, etc. My choice would be a shroud: some simple eco-friendly cloth. Create a ceremony which is truly about who they were, what they did when they walked upon this earth, who they loved, and what gifts they leave behind. Choose a location that is meaningful to you or your loved one. This can be indoors or outdoors.
Invite mourners to bring a plate of food to share at the reception. It is MORE than okay to ask this, and I promise you most people will be more than willingly to support you in this way. After all, these are people in your community who care for you or your loved one. Let them be active participants. As with any ceremony, always come back to your heart: what does my love for this person mean? What symbols or rituals will best help to express that? What music did s/he love? What were her/his hobbies? What will we miss most about him/her? Bit by bit there’s a new wave of awareness spreading which allows people to create funerals & memorials which honour the deceased in a meaningful way. After centuries of the funeral industry being deeply controlling of people’s experiences, there’s a light shining into the cracks showing us that there’s another way. As a celebrant, I create ceremonies rich with symbolism that is meaningful to those I am working for. It is an honour to be a celebrant. I see my role as creating a sacred space which allows the bereaved permission to grieve in a way which is healthy and for which they will look back on with gratitude.
Veronika Robinson was trained as a celebrant in 1995 in New Zealand at Unity Church, and was registered with New Thought Ministries. She is a member of the Association of Independent Celebrants, and a supporter of the Natural Death Centre. Veronika is available to officiate funerals within 100 miles of Penrith, Cumbria. She has a particular affinity for home burials, woodland burials, and ceremonies from the heart. As an independent celebrant she is free to officiate any time of day or night, and in the venue of your choice. She does not charge for the funerals of children. http://www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant/funerals-memorials.shtml
This morning, after an early-morning swim session, I enjoyed a leisurely chat with a friend over coffee. We were talking about investments, and I mentioned that I’d have a piece of land over a car or home any day. A lump of earth gives you freedom to grow and be self-sustaining.
By far, though, my greatest investment in this life is that of what I have put into raising two daughters with my husband (the younger child is 18 tomorrow!). I feel a sense of achievement, and relief, that we’ve managed to raise two daughters to adulthood.
Soon our baby will leave the nest and head off to university like her sister before her, and left in the family nest will be my husband and I (and cat!)… And do you want to know the truth? I’m so excited about the years ahead for us as a couple. Almost 21 years together, and despite the comfort and contentment that comes with a long-term harmonious relationship, there is still, for me, a level of newness about who we are. My tummy still gets butterflies when he walks into the room and smiles at me. I’m in awe of his ability to make me laugh regardless of the time of day or situation. When I walk down the street and see a man who catches my eye…it takes me a second to realise: that’s my husband! I love that feeling.
In the past few weeks I’ve attended two wedding fayres to exhibit my business as an independent celebrant. The marriage industry is HUGE, and if I’m honest, makes me more than a bit uncomfortable. Just a couple of days ago I was chatting to a bloke who’d been to a wedding which cost £45 000. Yes, you read that right. I could buy my daughters a tiny cottage with that sort of money… What I can’t understand is why anyone would spend that amount of money for ‘one day’. But more importantly, if that level of cash is spent on the wedding, what are the couple missing out on?
I first officiated a wedding ceremony back in 1995 (when I had my first daughter growing in my belly). What I can say without any doubt is that the most ‘beautiful and heartfelt’ weddings are those which have next-to-no budget. Why? Because when we pare back the extraneous expenses and extravaganza we come back to what is most important: the celebration of love.
Marriage is a lifetime investment which requires a daily input of intimacy, authenticity, honesty, respect, kindness, friendship, love and gratitude. These values NEVER cost money. Is it possible that when couples spend big money on their wedding day that the essence of their relationship gets lost beneath the dazzling array of unnecessary expenses? I hope not, but I suspect in many cases that the answer is yes. I would always recommend that a couple start with their ceremony and words first, then build up to the other wedding elements after that. If you start with what is most important and meaningful, then everything else will fall into place.
In speaking to many couples who are planning their wedding day, it would seem that the majority have given no thought to the actual ceremony but are focussed on the reception party afterwards. As one young man said to me: all I care about is that there’s enough beer for me and my mates.
My goal as a wedding celebrant is to create a ceremony that will be the best investment a couple can make to honour their love as they begin married life. I would even go so far as to say that they could turn up without the dress, cars, hair & make-up…with a small posy of flowers in her hand, and love in their hearts, and have the most beautiful wedding ever. Why? Because the sacred word medicine of a personalised, heart-felt ceremony is the same energy that they would take into marriage. That the honesty, intimacy, gratitude and love shared between them, with their friends and family as witnesses, is the blueprint for a lifetime of happiness.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment based on shared values. Our wedding day is a threshold we cross. We don’t linger there in our designer dress and high-heeled shoes (or flat ballet pumps, in my case ~ comfort all the way!)…we keep moving. And like a piece of earth, we plant seeds. We grow. We nourish each other. We harvest.
Our marriage is only ever as wonderful, vibrant, alive, invigorating, comforting, joyous, heart-filled, connected and intimate as the investment we put into it every single day. In many ways, it’s like a plant and both people need to water it. A marriage can never thrive if only one person is investing.
What do you believe is the greatest value you can invest in a marriage?
Veronika Robinson is an independent celebrant officiating throughout Cumbria, Lancashire and southern Scotland. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant She met her husband 21 years ago. It was love at first sight. She invited him over for dinner, and he never went home again. They recently celebrated their marriage with a renewal of vows.
Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.
I wonder how often a bride and groom ask themselves: why am I getting married?
Yes, the obvious answer is because you love each other and want to make a formal commitment to your relationship. So, why then, do so few couples give much thought to the actual ceremony and its content when getting married? Thousands of pounds (or dollars) are typically spent on weddings: the dress, hair & make-up, tuxedos, bridesmaids’ dresses and shoes, flowers, cake, venue, catering, music & entertainment, invitations, rings, photographer or videographer… Actually, the list can be endless.
Last Sunday I was at a wedding fayre to promote my business as an independent celebrant in Cumbria: Ceremonies from the Heart.
During the afternoon, the local marriage registrar came up to me and said “I just wanted to come and meet the competition.” If she’d said it jokingly or with humour, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog today. I was quick to point out that I was not competition of any description. But, even if I was, surely the world is big enough for everyone’s dreams and talents?
I did wonder: is that really how the majority of registrars in England see independent celebrants? I’m baffled as to why. We’re not competition on any level. If someone is planning to become married they either need to have a church wedding or go to the registrar for it to be considered ‘legal’. A celebrant is not a ‘necessity’ to getting married. Some may even think it’s a waste of time and money.
Here is why I feel an independent celebrant is the most important investment you can make in your wedding day. It comes back to the question I asked earlier: why are you getting married?
Last year my husband and I renewed our vows in honour of our twenty years together. Although I wrote the ceremony myself, when choosing the celebrant I was clear about three things: I wanted someone with a lovely speaking voice; someone who was comfortable speaking in front of people; and most importantly of all (for me), I wanted someone who believed in love and was a living example of a positive and happy marriage. Talk about narrow down the choices! However, on an energetic level, this felt vital to the celebration.
As we planned our day, the heart of the celebration at all times rested on the actual ceremony: the words and their meaning, the readings our friends would share, the songs which would be sung, the rituals to be included, and the witnessing of our vows by friends and family. There’s no question that the celebration afterwards was wonderful, but what we took away was that small window of time when we shared our love with those people who are closest to us.
On our wedding day, we were blessed to have our ceremony officiated by the lady who trained me to be a celebrant a year earlier.
Long Meg Druids’ Circle
Having an independent celebrant allows you to create the ceremony of your dreams: one which represents your relationship, your love and your hopes. A church wedding, while it can be beautiful, is based on a script focussed on religion rather than the couple’s love. Why can’t it include both? Celebrant-led ceremonies can be infused with your love for the divine and your love for a human.
A blustery day: Green Bay, Auckland, New Zealand.
A registrar’s service is not religious, but at the same time it allows no room for those who would like to include what is meaningful to them, whether that is religious, spiritual, holistic, humorous or other.
When I work with clients, I listen to their stories and create a ceremony based on what is important to them individually and as a couple. There is complete freedom in terms of the length of the ceremony, the location, the readings, the music, the vows, the rituals and symbols, and of course, the script I write forms the foundation of their ceremony.
THIS is what
friends and family
who witness your ceremony
In their hearts, what they’ll take away from a wedding day is how they felt when they were included in what can be a truly beautiful, personal and intimate ceremony. I believe a wedding day is, first and foremost, about the couple, but it’s also an opportunity for everyone involved to have their heart opened a little more. Hearts are opened when we can resonate with the beauty and meaning we feel within the carefully chosen words.
On a personal level, one of my core values in life is: beauty. When I look around this world, I choose to see beauty.
On a professional level, as a celebrant, my goal is to infuse beauty into each ceremony I write. This is my gift. This is my passion. That I have loved a man so deeply and profoundly for more than twenty years means that I understand what it is to enter into a lifelong commitment, and what it takes to walk that path. And I hope, as your wedding dress goes back onto the coat hanger after your wedding day, and those gorgeous flowers eventually wither away, that the ceremony of love that was created from my heart, to honour the two hearts of the couple I’ve married, lives on and on and on.
Veronika Robinson has been a marriage celebrant since 1995. She was trained through Unity Church, Auckland, New Zealand, and was registered to perform legal ceremonies in New Zealand with New Thought Ministries. She is available throughout Cumbria to create, write and officiate weddings, handfastings, same-sex unions, vow renewals, funerals & memorials, blessingways, namings and other rites of passage. She is a registered member of the Association of Independent Celebrants, and a preferred supplier on Easy Weddings. www.veronikarobinson.com/celebrant
Veronika Sophia Robinson is the author of many non-fiction books and novels.
As an astrologer, I find the study of this subject comes into its own when experienced in real life rather than just absorbed from a text book.
One of the things I dislike about astrology is actually down to what I call the ‘negativity’ of many practitioners who warn their clients of tough times to come. YES, life has tough times, no doubt. There can’t be a person walking this Earth who hasn’t had several times in their life which weren’t testing in some way. I also believe that we create our own reality, so if we ‘expect’ shit to come flying our way then that is what we’ll see. If, however, like looking at the weather forecast, we can understand the cycles of our lives we then have a better way of moving through life.
Let’s look at it this way: My county of Cumbria has recently experienced a huge amount of flooding. When the police say “don’t travel unless it’s an emergency” there’s a good reason for it. Flood water is dirty, you can’t always judge how deep it is and what may be in it, and you are risking your life by driving or walking through it. Common sense would say to stay out of those waters, but you know, there are always people who think they can take their car through rising waters and not be affected.
If the forecast was for a 32 degree Celsius day, there’s only one place you’d find me: soaking up every drop of sunshine in my garden. It wouldn’t make sense to go out sunbathing today: there’s no sunshine and it’s about two degrees outside. Now, I could go outside and get fresh air, and take a long walk through the woods, but I certainly wouldn’t be going out in a bikini. More likely it’d be thermal underwear and gloves and thick woolly socks.
Astrology helps us to understand the weather of our lives, and what our soul is calling us to explore.
Many astrologers get twitchy when they see aspects in a chart or by transit of squares and oppositions, but for me they mean ‘action’. Time to move, time to do something, or a time to evaluate priorities and seek balance. Trines and sextiles are lovely, but they don’t give us the gumption to make effective change (unless we are conscious). It is when we resist change, growth and transformation that our deepest pain is tampered with, and we find ourselves recoiling. There is so much freedom which comes from owning our wounds and learning from them. I look back at different times of my life and think “If only I had chosen to react differently” or “what was I thinking?”. Time (Saturn) is an amazing teacher, if we let it be.
As astrologers, do we do our clients any good by prophesising misery? I don’t believe so. Now, I’m the first person who would let a client know if there was a ‘heavy’ transit coming up, but I always do so with the suggestion of how to best move through it, and how to do so consciously. And therein lies the secret to using astrology practically in your life.
Riding the storm
For example, I’m currently experiencing what most astrologers would call one of the most profound transits (Saturn just crossed over my ascendant) …a time of heavy responsibility, loneliness, and well, frankly, most of the stuff you’d read about this transit is pretty much doom and gloom.
Knowing this transit was coming up made me really look inside. My goal is always to grow consciously, and question myself, my life, my beliefs and so on. I also love the energy of the planet Saturn (it rules my zodiac sign of Capricorn), so I wasn’t going to be intimidated by other people’s experiences of this transit.
I trusted that, as Saturn brings us rewards for how we’ve worked in the past (some call it karma), all would be well in my world. Saturn, as an archetype, is also about time, aging, the wise crone, later life, construction, rewards, discipline, boundaries and so on. I had already amped up my exercise routine with 8am one-hour swim sessions plus aquafit classes, a dynamic control & stretch class, and gym. To be clear, I am NOT someone who is into exercise and am definitely not a gym bunny! My dedication to this exercise routine is an example of Saturnian discipline. We live in a culture which teaches us discipline is external (coming via parents, teachers, government or church guidance/control). True discipline is always internal.
The ascendant marks the doorway (threshold) to the first house of the natal chart which governs, amongst other things, our identity, the face we show to the world, our sense of self, the physical body. So, I knew: Saturn would be having a conversation with me about ‘who I was’. The day before Saturn fully conjuncted my ascendant (also affirming that my birth time is, indeed, correct), I received amazing, life-changing news that does indeed change how I now see myself (and how others will see me). (watch this space for more info)
Saturn will retrograde and come back to this place in my chart in late Summer/early Autumn, a time when my younger daughter leaves home for university. Again, Saturn will be asking who I am now that my daughters are adults weaving their way in the world.
Interestingly, as Saturn walks through the threshold (doorway) of my chart, I am completing my novel, Behind Closed Doors, for publication. (My ascendant is Sagittarius, a sign associated with publishing.)
Of course, there are always several transits going on at any one time. Understanding their themes, their archetypes, their voices, their language, and how they can inspire us to live more fully, to be alive, to be conscious, and to let go of all the crap in our lives, is liberating in many ways.
I believe, as humans, we are adaptable and able to create soul-satisfying lives…but this only happens when we step out of victim mode and become conscious creators. Understanding our transits and making the best use of them is a great way to get into the habit of living from the heart.