Sarah Tolmie, Holistic Celebrant and Marriage Mentor.
There is nothing more authentically expressive or life and love affirming than living into your beliefs and creating consciously in every aspect of your life. To really do this however requires a capacity for solution and invention governed by having a deep knowing of your core beliefs and values.
This is what makes Kate and Pat one truly extraordinary couple. What they did when planning and preparing for their ‘wedding and marriage’ needs to be seen as a most fantastic demonstration of a new imagining of an age old rite of passage, and new hope for unions in the future looking for meaningful traditions for celebration and ceremony.
Not only did Kate and Pat create an amazing off-the-grid, sustainable, waste-free, up-cycled and naturally gorgeous bush celebration, they totally transformed and evolved the thinking about traditional marriage, into a new and bespoke relationship co-creation – a non-marriage – but definitely a lifelong commitment together in Sacred Union.
What does that mean? Well I need to take you back to when I first met Kate and Pat when they contacted me to officiate at their ‘wedding’.
Kate and Pat found me through the Less Stuff – More Meaning wedding directory – a conscious and ethical group of wedding professionals – from which they sourced much inspiration and support to create their environmentally friendly, sustainable and ethical event.
From the get go, Pat and Kate were keen to explore their relationship and do the emotional preparation for their ceremony and commitment. In addition to being a holistic celebrant, I also provide relationship coaching and marriage mentoring – so we were a great fit – and we combined the work of ceremony and marriage preparation in a holistic and intentional way.
Kate is a doctor and Pat is an environmental scientist and they live with the values of community, conservation, wellbeing and service. They live this in their work, in their hobbies and activities and also their loving.
Being both new residents in Newcastle, the impulse to make connections and grow friendship circles began things with a cheeky ‘swipe right’, but to be safe and sure Kate took her housemate and bestie Mat out to accompany her on her first meet up with Pat for drinks at a funky Newcastle bar.
Pat and Kate discovered they were both interested in travelling and volunteering in Kenya and the second “date” was meant to be a business meeting to improve water quality in a remote village. But this soon turned into a real date “date”! And things continue as they began, having just completed 6 months of combining travelling and working with the World Health Organisation.
Kate and Pat wanted to commit in lifelong union and they were clear they wanted to spend their lives together and invest in each other, and love each other only and create a life together, however, they did not want to “marry”, just because that was the standard traditional way to express this. In fact, Kate and Pat did not want to be “legally married” because it didn’t have meaning for them.
Rather, they set about defining and articulating their relationship and creating a ‘commitment ceremony’ with deep meaning and personal resonance and using symbol and intention to design something that expressed exactly who they were and wanted to be as a couple.
As Pat says, “A bit of research into the history of engagements and weddings provided some startling truths to Kate and I. There is a lot of inequality during the traditional wedding day which dates back centuries and has very little place in the 21st century. We could not perpetuate this cycle of often mindless repetition of the past.
“There was no way we would follow tradition for traditions sake and it made total sense to re-model the day into something which we both would enjoy. We initially didn’t want to do anything and maybe just go to a park somewhere to read vows together but once we started thinking about what we wanted – rather than just cutting out things from a traditional wedding that we didn’t want – it grew in a very mindful creation to celebrate us and who we are and what we wanted to create as our relationship”.
Their special day was held on Kate’s brother’s property on the border of the NSW Central Coast/Hunter Regions, in a paddock with bellbirds, cows, kookaburras and wallabies. Guests were welcome to camp or stay nearby and everything needed to be brought in – including power, loos, marquees and caterers.
As Kate says, “We both really wanted to have a celebration but were really aware of the potential waste that comes with weddings. We knew that we would have a lot of people flying and driving to the event and so wanted to make the rest of the wedding really eco-friendly. It was also so much fun to be able to create all the decorations and come up with ways to reduce waste. Organising the bus to minimise travel distances was also a logistical nightmare. We tried to coordinate carpooling but using a bus was the next best option.
“Finding all the decorations and things we needed off gumtree was a bit tricky but it also made it easier in some ways because we could only decorate with what we found second hand which reduced stress from decision making. Trying to get the caterers to also be conscious of waste was difficult but the paella guys did a great job and we had zero waste from them’, said Kate.
Despite the challenge, overall it was a rewarding process and the best thing was how it brought everyone together, bringing them along and supporting the cause, and allowing Kate and Pat to focus on what they loved and valued.
“It wasn’t as tough as we thought as people supported the cause and did their best to support our values. We had fun creating the decorations and we could look around at our ceremony spot and see our creations making the place look beautiful which was really fulfilling. Making the dress was also very satisfying.”
When it came to their wedding aesthetic and plans, there was definitely a conscious abandonment of traditions for traditions sake.
The tradition of wearing white was consciously avoided and Kate found great joy upcycling her mums wedding dress into her own modern boho creation.
Kate didn’t walk down the aisle with a ‘giving away’ (this independent woman doesn’t need to be passed on by father to groom like she is property) but was there to greet her guests arriving and enjoying the pre-ceremony gathering and build up.
But being honest, Kate also admitted that walking down the aisle with everyone looking at her was one of her worst nightmares, and also to a bit of FOMO. Why miss out on enjoying her guests arriving and hanging out before the ceremony!? It didn’t make sense.
Other traditions eschewed included not carrying a bouquet – both for the sustainable concerns related to the cut-flower industry but also, that tradition stems from carrying flowers or scented herbs to cover the smell of diseases. It didn’t seem necessary.
”It was also really great to hear guests getting into the eco movement – a lot mentioned they tried to reduce waste and recycle and most of our gifts (even though we said no gifts) were either donations to charities that mean something to us or second hand presents. It was very satisfying knowing we were spreading the movement.
“Having the most special day of our lives which aligned with our values was unreal. It really reflected our beliefs as a couple and many of the guests have mentioned how meaningful the occasion was”, said Kate.
These were inspired from the relationship preparations sessions and this also helped Kate and Pat to write their own vows together.
The ceremony included blessings from both families acknowledging their Irish and English roots, as well as recognising Country, with an acknowledgement of Land and a blessing for the natural environment that held us so beautifully in ceremony.
At the very end of the ceremony we affirmed the role of community and the web of love and connection their union had created for everyone present, symbolised by creating a Circle of Love around Kate and Pat. All their guests were instructed to surround and encircle them, reaching out to the person next to them and in front of them, connecting everyone back into the centre of the circle, to Kate and Pat.
Kate and Pat’s day of Union and Love was a profound re-imaging and re-invention of what a marriage and a wedding truly means. They co-created something beautiful, bespoke and ultimately, incredibly profound by simply knowing who they are, who they wanted to be as a couple and then set about making choices and creating into those values.
The goal of ceremony and celebration – and marriage – is a transformative endeavour that changes a couple, irrevocably uniting them, and it also evolves the fabric of community and family around them. All those who love them are asked to see them anew in committed and sacred union and are enrolled to support and affirm the relationship and couple. It is this energy of community as witness and participant, – and indeed beneficiaries too – of their love and union which is the transformative and collective act that truly ‘marries’ a couple.
On a beautiful day in the bush, with the sun shining after rain, with the birds singing and wallabies grazing, with minimal impact and maximum mindfulness and care, Kate and Pat truly were married – heart, mind, body and soul.
Images by Sandra Henri Photography
Live music by Georgie James (highly recommended!)