A wing, a ring and a prayer
Published on 22 November, 2016
A Church of Scotland minister was sworn to secrecy by a bridegroom, when he officiated at a traditional wedding ceremony with an unusual twist.
Karl Wilkinson surprised his bride, Emma-Jane, by having their wedding rings delivered by a trained barn owl.
Rev Adam Hood, who leads St Andrews Wallace Green Church of Scotland in Berwick-upon-Tweed, said he enjoyed the surprise and would do it again.
“The owls had a deep symbolic meaning for the couple, so I was very pleased to take part in what was a very happy occasion,” he said.
“The service was completely traditional until it came time for the exchange of rings."
Mr Wilkinson took a few steps off to the side and put on a white glove that he got from the best man. Then he held out his arm and the bird flew down from the back of the aisle.
“You worry about something so different and out of your control but it all went perfectly and it was all great fun," said Mr Hood.
“The wedding itself was a very happy and positive occasion, people enjoyed themselves.
"The bridegroom’s mother gave a lovely reading. The singing was very good, it was just a very good occasion.”
Special and meaningful
Owls have become a popular feature at weddings in recent years, perhaps because of the popularity of the Harry Potter series. JK Rowling’s schoolboy wizard has his own owl and in the series owls deliver messages.
But for Mr Wilkinson, 43, and Mrs Wilkinson, 33, who both work at Tesco and have been partners for the last decade, the barn owls have a far deeper meaning.
The bride said the special delivery made the day:
“We lost Karl’s father to cancer last year when we were planning the wedding," she said.
"He was a fantastic artist and he loved to draw owls.
"The first picture he gave me was of an owl so it had a very special meaning for us.
“We felt like he was there with us and it turned what could have felt like an upsetting absence into a very special and meaningful time.
Mr Wilkinson's mother Anne Purvey, his sister Sarah Short and her husband Paul Short helped plan the tribute to Jan Purvey, the stepfather who raised him.
But Mrs Wilkinson and the couple’s two children, Abby, 9 and Ethan, 4, were among those who could hardly believe their eyes when the wedding rings came via owl post.
“It was a fantastic surprise,” she said.
“I saw Abby’s reaction and she was fascinated and a bit shocked. Karl is quite good at surprises.”
Mrs Wilkinson said she and her husband have a strong faith and wanted to make their marriage vows before God.
“I was brought up within the Church of Scotland," she said.
"My grandfather was the church caretaker and he sang in the choir. My mother and father were married in St Andrew’s and I was christened there.
"So when we had our children we wanted them to have that connection.
“Abby was christened in St Andrews when she was five months old and Ethan had a blessing on his first birthday.
"I have a lot of special memories about St Andrews and I wouldn’t have felt properly married if it was not in the church.”
Mr Hood, who spent 13 years at the Queens Foundation Theological College in Birmingham before returning to parish ministry, said: “It’s always super to take part in a wedding and it was very happy.
"I am pretty flexible and I’m willing to go along with most ideas so long as the integrity of the service isn’t affected.”
Rev Adam Hood.
The couple got married on November 5.