Couple celebrate wedding on canal boat outside their church

A couple have become the first to use a canal boat part-owned by a Church of Scotland congregation for their wedding celebration.

Dawn and Len Purves welcomed guests on the "All Aboard", which is moored outside Polwarth Parish Church in Edinburgh, on Saturday to help them mark their big day.

Dawn Purves
Newlyweds at the Kirk on the Canal - Dawn and Len Purves

It was a momentous occasion for the couple, who are 69 and 68 respectively, because they were forced to cancel their wedding twice last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the silver lining of postponement was being able to hold their reception on the 60-foot long yellow, white and blue wide-beam canal boat because it is a project that has been close to their hearts for 10-years when the idea was first conceived.

Special day

Mrs Purves said: "It was wonderful to be the first married couple to use ‘All Aboard' for our wedding.

"It was such fun to be aboard such a beautiful boat, which is part of Polwarth's Union Canal-side church gardens project, that will enable the congregation and charity partner to do so much good in the community."

The couple, who have been married to other people before, are members of the church, known as the Kirk on the Canal.

Their ceremony was conducted inside the building by their minister, Rev Jack Holt, in accordance with social distancing guidelines and streamed online.

A total of 30 guests looked on as they said their vows and afterwards gathered in the church garden before some spent time on "All Aboard" and another canal boat moored beside it on the Union Canal.

Purves Polwarth
Cutting their cake inside "All Aboard"

There were 10 people aboard each vessel and they enjoyed boxed food prepared by a caterer, wedding cake and non-alcoholic drinks between 2pm and 5pm.

The other canal boat, Panacea, is owned by an Edinburgh charity called The Sorted Project which works with people living with addictions.

Mrs Purves, a retired primary school head teacher, revealed that she was living in Durham in north-east England when she met her husband online and they met in-person for the first time outside Jenners department store on Edinburgh's Princes Street in April, 2007.

She said: "Saturday was a very special day and was a small occasion for our family and church family which is what we wanted under the circumstances.

"We could have got married on the boat but having the ceremony in the sanctuary was our preference because we love the building."

Len and Dawn Purves
A 'Titanic' moment - Len and Dawn Purves

Mr Holt said he was delighted that Dawn and Len, a retired senior test developer for an insurance company, used "All Aboard" for their big day.

"Dawn has been a member of the planning group that brought the boat to Polwarth, and I know how much it means to her that we were successful in that enterprise," he said.

"So, it is fitting that she has had this early opportunity to use the boat as part of her celebrations."

True potential

Built by The New & Used Boat Company in Droitwich in Worcestershire, England, "All Aboard" was driven to Edinburgh on the back of a lorry and craned into the Union Canal at Wester Hailes in May and moored outside the church.

It has been custom designed inside with a galley kitchen, toilet, flexible social space and is wheelchair accessible.

Polwarth Parish Church jointly own it with People Know How, a local social innovation charity that seeks to empower individuals and organisations to realise their true potential.

Canal church
The Kirk on the Canal

The boat is intended to be used for spiritual and educational pursuits and, when conditions allow, will serve as a safe space to gather, socialise and improve wellbeing and community cohesion.

It could be used by other church denominations but is not for hire.

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