CAMPING | Camping With a Bunch Of Friends, a Unity Ceremony and a Surprise Proposal

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At the weekend my boyfriend of just 6 months popped the question whilst we were away camping at my favourite campsite in the UK. Read on to find out what happened…

One of my favourite places in the UK is Cae Du, a simple back to basics campsite nestled on the edge of a cliff overlooking Cardigan Bay, with stunning views and a relaxed vibe.

Our annual camping trip

Over the years a small group of friends have made an annual pilgrimage there for a few days of rest and relaxation. It started with just a handful of us and has grown to more than a dozen of us over the years.

We live all over the country and rarely get a chance to spend quality time together so it’s become a bit of a tradition for our immediate group of friends and occasionally, we’ll have other family or friends join us, and on this occasion my daughter and her boyfriend joined us for a long weekend under canvas.

Love at first sight is nonsense yes?

Last year I went on the camping trip alone but this year, I had company. In the new year I met a man and for both of us, it was love at first sight. No, don’t make puking noises, stay with me on this.

I’m in my forties now, I’ve been married and divorced, I’ve lived alone, I’ve lived with people, I have more than enough life experience and in particular relationship experience to draw on when it comes to matters of the heart, yet nothing had prepared me for him.

It’s pretty fair to say I’d become jaded and cynical about love and after months of awful dates, I had come to the firm conclusion that modern dating is terrible and that I was better off choosing to stay single.

Soon after I stopped looking and deleted all the ghastly dating apps I’d been using, he walked into my life, and from that day neither of us has had a single moment of doubt.

Oh right. HERE you finally are! About bloody time, cheers universe!

It’s always been difficult to put into words as how we’d both felt in past relationships was so different to what we have now. We find what we have tough to articulate, but our friends and my daughter who have spent the most time with us seem to see and ‘get’ the connection we have.

Mark and Shell Cae Du engagement 2019

As soon as we met, we felt like we knew each other, like we’d always been together. It wasn’t a gradual thing of getting more and more into someone and it was instantly much more than just lust.

For both of us, it was like “Oh right. HERE you finally are! About bloody time, cheers universe!” and that feeling of knowing each other hasn’t wavered. The similarities, the quirks, the humour, what makes us who we are; nothing has been a surprise and yet everything has been a delight.

Sea at Cae Du campsite Wales

Going on your gut instinct

The lack of doubt for me was the most surprising and alien thing, yet at the same time it feels reassuring. In every relationship I’ve ever had, there have always been doubts and niggles, particularly in the early days.

Just listen to what your instinct and your heart tells you and roll with it.

Worrying “am I doing the right thing?” “are we suited?” “God that habit is annoying, how am I going to put up with that?” “What if my family/friends don’t get on with him?” “Oh god, he really doesn’t get that does he?” all those very normal thoughts and questions that people mull over when they are trying to figure out if they are compatible or not were absent.

A dolphin spotted whilst we were away

How long does it take to work that out? How does anyone ever really know? The point is, no one ever really does, you just listen to what your instinct and your heart tells you and roll with it.

As an artsy but analytical person, going with my feelings isn’t something I’m used to doing, particularly when it comes to big decisions. I coldly rationalise everything and largely ignore my gut.

But for once In my life I decided to go with my instinct, with what feels right, rather than what feels logical.

I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and am proud of the fact I’m not afraid to do that. I can fall for people on a superficial level fast, but when it’s based on nothing but lust, after a few weeks I’m already bored.

Over the years I’ve become adept at understanding the vast difference between love and lust and was certain, I mean unequivocally certain, that true love was a load of old romantic nonsense.

To say that meeting each other challenged both of our perceptions of love would be an understatement and when we first mentioned a handfasting to each other, it instantly felt right. No legal component, just a simple pledge of love to each other that we wanted to make somewhere beautiful and meaningful.

Planning our Unity Ceremony on the beach

We make no apology for both being massive hippies. Neither of us have strong religious beliefs, but we are spiritual and have internalised many Buddhist and Pagan teachings. We meditate together, share the same love of the natural world and yes we even hug/talk to trees from time to time.

We thought that it would be nice to do something together and so we talked about a possible private handfasting type of thing. I’m lucky enough to have been present at handfastings when incorporated into a wedding, but wasn’t even sure handfasting ourselves could be a thing, so we came to regard it more as a Unity Ceremony and wholly expected it to be too mushy and sentimental an act for friends to want to be part of.

When I mentioned our plans to our closest friends a couple of days before the trip though the response bowled us over. We had a dear friend offer to make the cord for us, my daughter offered to do a reading and conduct the short ceremony, whilst another close friend did the actual hand binding (and made some beautiful wooden keepsakes for us), whilst others bought us beautiful gifts and blessed us with their presence on the day.

The perfect day

We awoke on Sunday to blazing sunshine and blue skies, though we were still unsure at this point who’d choose to join us on the beach. We made it clear that since people had shown an interest that we’d be delighted to have them there, but at the same time we didn’t want anyone to feel any pressure to join us.

We made our way down to the pebble beach around lunch time on Sunday followed by a procession of our friends and there on the beach, with Mazzy Star “Fade Into You” playing in the background, we said a few words, pledging our commitment to each other whilst one of our friends bound our hands together with the beautiful handmade woven cord and a stunning handmade wooden heart with beautiful words burnt into it.

My daughter who did a little reading for us, and Jen wrapping the cord around our hands
The gorgeous rainbow weaved handfasting cord made by my friend Nicky and the beautifully worded wooden heart made by friend Jen

It was very chilled and couldn’t have been more lovely. We were, and still remain incredibly touched that anyone wanted to be a part of it and feel truly blessed.

Our Unity Ceremony at Cae Du July 2019
We were delighted that some of our friends wanted to share it with us

Afterwards we walked back to the campsite and opened a few bottles of chilled Prosecco to share around, before getting on with the rest of the afternoon which involved a lot of sitting in the sunshine, a nap, taking photos of dolphins and crafting.

Really, where else could a camping blogger get engaged, but at her favourite campsite?

The surprise sunset proposal

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon I let Mark know I was going to walk to the cliff edge to watch the sun set, he said he’d join me. I walked down and sat staring out to sea, he joined me and the sun disappeared leaving a bright streak of glowing orange behind it.

The proposal, which amazingly, my daughter managed to capture on camera

We stood up to leave, but he took my hands and turned me to face him and got down on one knee. He pulled a beautiful handmade hammered silver amethyst ring from his pocket and proposed to me.

Immediately, I said yes.

The day was like a happy dream, and the totally unexpected proposal only made it feel more dreamlike.

He’d confided in my daughter at the start of the camping trip, so she was in on it, and was poised ready to take photos of the moment he asked me. We floated back towards our little enclave of tents to whoops and cheers and congratulations, and I spent the next 15 minutes crying happy tears. Really, where else could a camping blogger get engaged, but at her favourite campsite?

Sunset at Cae Du July 2019
Sunset at Cae Du, my favourite campisit in the UK

Despite being in my forties, when anything significant happens in my life good or bad, my first instinct is still to call my mum. One of the things I usually love about this particular campsite is the fact that there is no phone signal, but not being able to share the news for 24 hours until we got home was tough. Mark had even planned to call my dad before he proposed but found his plans scuppered by the location.

When you know, you know

Soon after we got engaged, it was suggested to us that 6 months was too fast. This had genuinely not occurred to either of us, it felt like the right time and had we decided to wait it would have only been to reassure other people, not us.

We should spend more of our time living life to the full, being happy and much less time worrying.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve got older though, it’s that our time here is short and we should spend more of that time living life to the full, being happy and far less time worrying.

We are planning a long engagement, primarily as we don’t want our lives to be taken over with wedding plans yet, plus the bind of saving for it too means we’ll definitely take our time before we take that final step.

Who knows, in a years time, I may be writing a post lamenting the fact I chose to follow my heart. Conversely, in 10 years time we may still be blissfully happy together. Either way, we’ve been true to ourselves and have done what feels right at a time that feels right for us.

Life is far too short not to trust your instincts, listen to your heart and take a leap of faith every now and again ❤

cae du campsite in Wales

To everyone, especially my daughter who so unexpectedly contributed to making it such a wonderful, memorable day, and indeed camping trip, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Although the wedding is a long while away yet, I’ll be blogging all about our wedding plans on my new wedding blog The Bohemian Bride which is now up and running.

Shell Robshaw-Bryan
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