I spent the weekend in a field in one of the most beautiful places in the UK, surrounded by my friends for the best wedding I've ever been to.
Badgerfest was by far the best weekend of summer 2016 and the most fun I've had in a long time. As well as being the location of the barefoot wedding of my friends Carla and Chris, Badgerfest was also a festival in its own right.
Hundreds of friends and family members of the couple descended on the two day festival which was hosted in a large field behind the Monksland pub in Scurlage in The Gower, South Wales on the second weekend of September 2016.
The festival had something for everyone, from a lively main stage in the 'big top' with live music from local bands across the whole weekend, to the 'chocolate orange tent' which offered guests the chance to grab a drink from the pop-up bar and sit and chat around honky-tonk piano. There was also a 'tea and toast station' in the corner of the tent to give those who were flagging a vital boost of life as they recovered on Sunday morning.
Opposite the 'chocolate orange tent' was the 'acoustic tent' where guests could chill out to music in the evening and where kids could get their face painted in the day.
There was also a bouncy castle, a ball pit and the 'kidz zone' with tents the little ones could jump in and out of. There was a 'welfare tent' which the grownups could jump in and out of and crash out on a selection of cushions.
As an invite-only festival, the attendance numbers were relatively small compared to established festivals which meant that the portaloos didn't smell half as bad as they would at a normal festival, but if you felt like you need a pick-me-up after visiting the loos, right next door was the 'pimp palace' where you could freshen up and even get dressed up in an array of outfits.
"Strangest, funniest, most brilliant wedding ever! Congratulations."
What Is Badgerfest?
Badgerfest was the vision of Carla and Chris who wanted their wedding to be memorable and different and they should be so proud of the amazing event they put together.
I was lucky enough to be involved in the set up of the festival with a team of about 15 friends who had volunteered to help out. The day before the festival we all worked non-stop in the wind and the rain to get the site ready and it was so much fun and great to be a part of the build, even if I was aching a little the next day.
What impressed me the most and C&C's vision for Badgerfest was the attention to detail, they knew exactly how they wanted everything to look, from the stage decorations to the many hand-painted signs dotted around the site, nothing was improvised and everything came together under the guidance of Carla and Chris, who was especially hands-on.
"Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around."
No one who knows Carla and Chris will be surprised to hear that the wedding ceremony itself was very different but absolutely perfect. It took place on the Saturday afternoon at around 3pm in the 'big top' where the stage was draped in brightly coloured fabric and scattered with flowers.
The couple sat cross-legged on a hay bale which was draped in a psychedelic, multi-coloured rug. Carla and Chris were both barefooted of course and dressed in anything but traditional wedding wear. Chris wore patchwork shorts and a sparkling, sequined purple shirt. While Carla looked beautiful in a long white dress with a hint of pink and a waistcoat that matched Chris' shorts.
But when it came to dresses it was Carla's bridesmaids who stole the show. Her three bridesmaids were all male and wore beautiful pink dresses.
The ceremony was opened by Chris' brother, Alex who led the guests in a meditative chant of 'om', accompanied by Father Tim on his didgeridoo.
The chant was followed by a small choir singing lyrics from Kula Shaker, then the blessing performed by Father Tim, a priest unlike any other you'd see at a traditional/boring wedding. Although there was undertones of Christianity in the ceremony, Father Tim is a mystic. Wearing long white robes and with dreadlocked hair, his words came from the heart of those gathered in the tent and not from the bible, making it very relatable to many of the guests there. So many people afterwards said it was the nicest ceremony they'd ever attended.
As the ceremony drew to a close there was an emotional reading of a very meaningful Bob Marley quote from Carla's mum and after the guests came together to sign a hymn in Welsh.
The newlyweds then left the tent to the sound of applause and Kula Shaker's 1996 hit 'Govinda', stepping outside into the sunshine and a shower of fake snow.
Breaking from tradition, there was no sit down meal or speeches after the blessing. Instead people partied. Food was available across the weekend from a hog roast or an Indian street food van which was dishing out great curry.
"Govinda jaya jaya, gopala jaya jaya. Radha-ramanahari, govinda jaya jaya."
Finding enough bands to fill a two-day schedule in a remote corner of South Wales could be tricky, but as a member of a band himself, Chris' connection with the music scene in Bristol and Wales allowed him to pull in an eclectic mix of performers. The live music started at around 4pm each day and went on until late.
My musical highlight would have to be Crinkle Cuts who made sure the close of the first day of Badgerfest was a lively one, they performed to a packed tent and their set was really good fun! Chris' own band, Jimmy Ringus closed the festival on Sunday night.
The sound system was beefy, the lighting was awesome and the audio engineer Pete, spent the weekend dressed as Bungle from the 80s kids TV show Rainbow... why? Well, why not?
One comment I heard a lot over the weekend from fellow badgers was "we should do this again next year!"
It would be great if Badgerfest became an annual event but as Carla and Chris have been planning the details of this one for the best part of a year, an annual festival seems unlikely... but you never know, it was one of the most fun weekends of my life and I'm sure it will go on to become the most memorable wedding I've ever been to.
I'm sure it's not just me who feels this way, so perhaps one day there will be a reunion and all of us badger will come together in a field once again to celebrate.
Until then, I'll sign off in the same way as Chris did at the end of the weekend and say namaste.
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