In my role as a wedding celebrant, one of the pieces of advice that I always give to a bride and groom is this: Everyone can help to make their day special (their florist, photographer, wedding planner, their celebrant, etc. )… but in the end it is up to them to have fun and a good time.
I joke with the couple that even if they were to stack it whilst walking down the aisle (shock! horror!) it could either result in a very awkward event where every one of their guests is embarrassed for them and the whole wedding ceremony is a flop or, alternatively, they pick themselves up immediately and continue down the aisle with a smile and a whooopsie.
When I recently got married, I thought that I would be brave and try something a bit different at my wedding. Given that I am a celebrant, it made sense to take a small risk and do something a bit wild. So, I asked a friend with a beautiful horse named “Falcon” if I could have a lesson or two and use her horse to come in ON THE HORSE to the ceremony.
The theme of our wedding suddenly became an enchanted one.
On the 18th of November, deep within a Karri woodland of what is known as Boranup Forest in the South West of Australia… I followed my beautiful bridesmaids on horseback down a winding path to the ceremony and surprised all of my guests with a mythical bridal entry. The material of my dress flowed from my shoulders, the sunshine dappled the forest floor making everything look beautiful, and the breeze through the trees and gasps from my 80 guests was simply unforgettable. Everything was perfect.
But then, what happened next shocked everyone. I was BUCKED OFF THE HORSE!
I landed flat on my bum and the horse scared everyone with dust flying up and the horse having to be controlled. Within that moment of feeling myself hit the ground, hard, my friends and family were horrified. It was not what the groom was expecting either. He was so worried. My parents ran to see if I was okay, and some of my friends were so upset that in that moment they had to turn away for the tears and shock in their eyes.
Here's how my celebrant, Hilary Van Eldik, described it:
Like Khaleesi she rode through the forest… her gossamer gown flowing and her arms adorned in gold. When suddenly, without warning, her giant steed gave an almighty buck, launching her into the sky and unceremoniously depositing her in a heap on the ground.
You could be forgiven for thinking this was the prelude to an episode of Game of Thrones but in fact, this was the how my beautiful friend, and co-wedding celebrant's ceremony actually began.
What could I do? I did the only thing that made sense. I catapulted myself back up off the ground with the help of my parents who dusted me off and wiped the dirt from my face. My heart was racing and my bum and my pride were sore.
I went straight to my friend (the horse handler) and the horse to tell them I was okay, and then I turned to the guests with my arms up in the air exclaiming, “whoohoo!” They let out massive cheering and clapped with relief.
My walk down the aisle with parents on either side of me was shaky, and when I saw my husband-to-be I immediately clung to him and kissed him. NOT at all the sophisticated and slow walk down the aisle a girl imagines on her wedding day, but one which I am so proud of reflecting back.
Despite the fact I was dirty and disheveled, I knew that the only way to continue was with a completely positive reaction. If not, everyone would have been so worried and the whole wedding would have disastrous. Thankfully, it ended up being what we intended: heartfelt, genuine, mythical, funny, memorable … simply perfect for us.
It's the things that don't go perfectly that are often remembered.
All too often people lose the bigger picture when they get married. There is simply no point in sweating the small stuff. The aim for the couple is to have a great time no matter what. Each and every friend and family member wants a couple to just have the day of their dreams. And someone like a celebrant cannot control the weather, nor other aspects of their day that may go a little differently to what was planned.
It is the things that do not go perfectly that are often remembered. For example, everyone remembers a wedding where the weather was horrendous but they remember more the great smiles and fun had by all despite it.
Celebrant: Hilary Van Eldik • Photographers: Ben Yew, Kelly Harwood, and Richard Stein
Comments on I got bucked off a horse at my own wedding!
So… did you actually get back on the horse afterwards? 😀
I rode on horseback to my ceremony too, though not so dramatically – I could barely get the horse to trot and then she just stopped dead when she got near the guests (probably because they looked weird and scary to her 🙂 ). But I had my husband’s ring in a pouch that also contained a lot of horse treats, so when it was time to exchange rings everyone loved it when he had mine all ready and I shamefacedly had to spend ages digging around like a bizarre lucky dip to find his ring. It gave everyone a good laugh and livened up an otherwise-mundane action, even if I felt very self-conscious at the time. So hooray for random things going “wrong”!
It’s so true that if something doesn’t go to plan just go with it and smile. Remember that everyone there is someone you or your partner know and love (unless for some reason you’ve had to invite loads of strangers – I know it can happen!) and you are among friends. I’m sure most people would be fine with any individual guest seeing something go wrong, so why should it be different just because there are lots of individual guests all seeing it? They’re still the same people, and still your friends.
Wow what an amazing wedding and the photos capture the day just perfectly. Beautiful
I was relieved to get to the end of this post and find out that everything went ok and you were able to laugh it off… but as a rider who has been actively competing for 20 years, I absolutely have to point out how dangerous this situation was. PLEASE, anybody who is considering incorporating horses into their ceremony, PLEASE fully consider all the risks (especially if you don’t have years of experience and many lessons under your belt)!
Horses are flight animals. They can be unpredictable and may jump, spook, or bolt at objects or movements that seem completely innocuous to humans. Combined with an unexperienced rider who may easily be come unbalanced AND a complete lack of head protection, this is a recipe for disaster! Equestrians have one of the highest rates of head injury of any athletes (including football players!). Even Olympians like Courtney King Dye (who competes in dressage, a discipline generally considered extremely low risk in the horse world) have had life-changing head injuries, just from her mount unexpectedly tripping!
I have personally known countless riders who have had concussions (WITH helmets), one who was airlifted to the hospital. I also know three people who have broken their necks in riding accidents, one while under direct supervision of a professional trainer. Not to mention all the other broken bones (including my own fibula and tibia which had to be surgically pinned and plated back together, thanks to a friend’s bucking horse).
So now I will step off my soap box, but this is such a heated issue for many riders, it is alarming to see such a dangerous situation treated so casually. Some riders may disagree, and some people may scuff at helmets (“Psh, I’ve been riding my whole life and never had an accident!”), but the statistics don’t lie (see links below). Please, everyone, BE SAFE!!
I have to second this. When I rode to my ceremony I wore a hat (much more common in England than America anyway from what I understand), on a horse I know well, where I know how she is likely to react to certain situations and what might set her off, and how to react to her bucking, bolting, shying etc even though I knew it was highly unlikely she would do any of that. The worst we expected her to do was stop dead at some point and refuse to go on, which in fact is what happened. We had also done a “dummy run” a few days previously so she wasn’t in a completely unknown place, and we took note of her mood on the day.
Horses aren’t nice little props to add a bit of whimsy or romanticism. They are their own person and all different, and some are better suited to something like this than others. Some love the attention of lots of people, some will hate it and be flighty even if they are generally calm. If there are a lot of flies bothering them even that can affect their mood or make them buck or kick. There’s also the issue of what to do with the horse before and after their part in the ceremony, and ensuring they’re provided with water and shade (especially on a hot day).
Side note: In the photo the OP is riding side-saddle. That’s going to make it more difficult to balance than riding astride (and yes, you can definitely ride astride in a dress or skirt, you might just show a bit more leg than in mediaeval times!), especially if you’re not used to it. Plus the saddle doesn’t look like a side-saddle (though I could be wrong as I’m unfamiliar with both Western saddles and side-saddles) which must have made it a bit uncomfortable and even harder to balance. It’s even possible that made the horse unbalanced and the bucking was a rebalancing attempt. So there’s definitely no shame in falling off! And I hope it doesn’t put people off horses 😀
Falling off of your horse can be very frustrating, but it is good for self-confidence boosting! Riding in on a horse for a wedding ceremony can be an elegant entrance. We encourage you to pursue riding lessons, it is a great work out and a whole lot of fun; building a relationship with a horse is priceless.
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