Who Was St Valentine?

Typically, in history, the origin of some of our saints and festivals morph into one and St Valentine is no different – he is many people morphed into one. Here we take a look at the origins of who he might have been, and why they are associated with the most romantic day of the year…

They say that some lose their heads for love… Well, this is certainly true of St Valentine

The first St Valentine is a Christian saint who was doing his business around 3rd century Rome. Remember, Christians were persecuted by the Romans – chucked to the lions so in many places around the world (like in Egypt) their societies had to operate in secret because what they were doing could have them killed.

The first St Valentine was part of a secret underground Christian movement at the time of Claudius II (Claudius Gothicus – and not because he was the first to listen to Sisters Of Mercy and wear black) and he is associated with love because he married Christian couples in secrecy (he also helped fellow Christians who were being persecuted and thrown to the lions by Claudius but that bit isn’t relevant to today’s post…)

Claudius had him slammed in jail and while he was awaiting execution, he tried to convert Claudius from his pagan ways. Obviously Claudius was fuming – why would he want to convert to a more sedate Christianity? Paganism followed MANY gods and had many parties celebrating these many gods – not to mention the mystery gods… Or the sacrifices, or the days partying hard on wine and women – and men (this 3rd century St Valentine wasn’t up for partying hard, Andrew WK style, basically).

He was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate and you can visit his reliquary (pictured above) in the basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome. Apparently, his bones and a vial of blood ended up in Dublin’s Whitefriar Street Church. But before he died, he sent a message to the jailer’s daughter, who he had fallen in love with, that said, ‘From your Valentine’.

He is said to be executed on February 14th – a bit of a convenient date, considering a lot of important dates have been muddied with Pagan parties- remember, the Lupercalia is on the 15th… and when Christianity cleansed the world of the debauchery that was happening in the name of religion, a lot of Pagan celebrations just so happened to fall on the same date as this new religion…

Back in history, Valentine was a popular name. Like John or Chris… It was used a lot because Valentinus meant powerful and strong… And butch. But of the Valentines we know about (there are effing loads of ‘ordinary blokes’ with this name noted in history), it doesn’t seem to be a lucky name.

Aside from St Valentine of Rome, who you’ve just read was beheaded, there was another Valentine, the Bishop of Terni. Because this bloke lived around the same time and was also apparently beheaded by Claudius II, some believe this to be the same bloke. The Catholic church has a massive list of Saints and there are many named St Valentine, and there was even a Pope Valentine (he served only 40 days).

One Valentine who fared a bit better was St Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Dominican order Spaniard, who traveled to Vietnam and served as bishop. Then in true St Valentine tradition, he too had his head chopped off in 1861.

Real Life ” I Do”! Rachael’s Scrap Book Proposal

Continuing our proposal inspiration, we asked real-life bride to be Rachael how she popped the question to her intended, Neil… She had to get creative because lockdown scuppered the original plans, but we think this is beautiful! This is what she said…


I had already decided in December 2019 that I was going to propose to my partner. I knew he wanted to get married, as did I, but was being a bit slow about proposing. He’s not really a jewellery or big spontaneous gesture kind of person, so flash mobs, public proposals and engagement rings were out of the question.

We’ve always referred to each other as adventuring buddies both think Up! is romantic (the first bit) and I like crafts. So I decided to make him a scrap book to propose with. We have an in joke, and 15a means ‘I love you’. So clearly sections of the scrap book needed to be numbered up to 15b being ‘marry me’. I set about the book in January 2020, including lots of tickets, photos, napkins, cards, anything to spark a joyous memory.

But when to propose? On a nice weekend away was obvious. We had two suitable trips planned, the last weekend in February and then in May. We’ll, there was no way I was proposing on the only day in 4 years where women are traditionally allowed to (29th Feb), so May it was. Then covid, ill health, furlough and all sorts of things hit. Needless to say the trip in May did not happen. But I couldn’t wait for all this to be over as it dragged in into August with no end in sight. So, with the scrap book ready, I ordered a wonderful set of cheeses from our local cheesemonger, as it was something special. I tidied the dining room (we rarely eat in there, so it felt like being somewhere other than the house we hadn’t left in 4 months) and set it up to look like a Parisian restaurant (our last holiday was Paris) with Moulin Rouge on the lap top (a film we both adore and have amazing memories of the Secret Cinema version). We ate. We drank. I gave him the book and got very nervous! He beamed looking through all of the sections and memories and when he got to 15b, grinned at me, said yes, gave me a kiss, and ran off!

He returned with a little box with a ring and asked me the same question! He had been planning to propose on the May trip too! Of course I said yes! We then video called parents and announced on social media. I was so pleased that it managed to all feel magical despite being at home. It was a very ‘us’ proposal.”

I Love the way Rachael proposed to Neil – thanks so much to her for sharing this fabulous and inspiring proposal! It really sums up the story of their life together so far… They get married in October 2020 ❤

All pics by Rachael Eyre

Proposal Ideas Pt 2

If you are looking for a different way to pop the question on St Valentine’s Day, here are a few more ideas…


Well, it might sound a bit obvious, but it’s fun, right? And these days, asking for permission and finding a formal moment to “do it” all sounds a bit serious, doesn’t it? So why not have a bit of fun? A key that fits a locked box, which has a ring inside is a really cute way to propose… But if you want to make it even more special, why not put inside some of your favourite photos from your story so far – moments that have been magical. If you are like me, you may have kept tickets or “souvenirs” from things you did together… why not pop them inside the box as well! If you are poetic, why not include a poem, or some lyrics to your favourite song?


Are you crafty? Do you love folklore? Then why not hide the question inside a set of Russian nesting dolls? You can get some really cool ones around now, based on any theme, and I’m told that a certain UK hobby shop even does ones you can paint yourself – so you can make your own mini Matryoshkas based on yourselves!


Photo-books are really easy to create these days. Most of the major printing sites make them and you can caption each page yourself, so why not give your loved one your love story so far? Don’t be put off by the thought of it being a difficult thing to create as most sites have templates and you just click on the photo upload area and choose your pics. Don’t forget to pop the question in the book! and it is noce to leave a “to be continued…” page to make it clear that that isn’t the end of the story!

If photo uploads aren’t your thing, you could do a really low-key proposal, simply by putting the ring in a book and asking your intended to pass you the book. This is a nice idea as it’s quite relaxed and if you choose your moment correctly it will be unexpected and delightful!


These days, everyone seems to be doing things by video, so why not propose… but the key thing here is to make it special, and not some quick recorded message sent to their inbox without a thought, because you are scared to ask in person! This is not the alternative of being scared to ask in person! Some ideas for you include choosing your background – you want to make it look like you’ve put some special thoughts into it. you can make a physical background by decorating a wall or some curtains with love hearts, or even letters… Talking to camera works – make sure you look down the lens, though, so your loved one feels like you are talking directly to them, and ensure you are nicely lit – a light in front that illuminates your face is best, as back lit will cause shadows. If you want to make it humorous you could lip sync to a song and there are editing packages that are really easy to use now, so if you wanted to play different characters, wear different outfits, or incorporate clips from friends, then you can. How you choose to send it is up to you, but unless you are really confident of the answer, and sure your intended wont hit the roof because everyone has seen this first, it’s probably not the best idea to put it up publicly on social media or youtube. And choose your moment to send it! Make sure it hits their inbox at a special moment…

More proposal hints and tips coming tomorrow!

Will You?

Yes, we all know it’s a cliche and only to be expected on St Valentine’s Day – but so what? If you want to pop the question, then why not?

Any day is a good day for love! Here are a few ideas to make it a bit different…


We’ve all been on those treasure hunts, where clues lead to other clues and the winner gets, well? What? I don’t think I can remember winning any actual treasure… However, now is your chance to change all that, where the winner (or should I say, only contestant) gets to win your heart and a sparkler to put on their finger.

Granted, during lockdown, this might be a bit more difficult as we’re not allowed to go anywhere, which means you will have to be a bit more creative when you lay down your clues around your house and/or garden… and also, choosing the time of day might make it feel more special – eg, doing it after the sun has gone down by candlelight… Your clues could be simple post it notes cut into the shape of a heart and each clue leads your intended to a different, but special location – perhaps one clue could lead to an unforgettable photograph, and the next lead to the kitchen, where there is a treat (like your last rollo?) or to their favourite dish or ingredient, the next to the wardrobe and to an item of clothing or shoes they were wearing when you first met? You get the idea, make your clues part of your story together and it will be a fun and memorable proposal.

If you want to wait until lockdown is over for your love adventure, then you can make an even bigger treasure hunt that leads to special places, such as the place where you first kissed, somewhere you have your first date, etc.

In both cases, just make sure you keep the treasure on your person as you really don’t want the ring falling into the wrong hands… and make the last clue one that leads to your heart, so you have the chance to propose! If you want to make that more fun, you could hide and they have to find you for the treasure!

and don’t forget, you don’t have to make it a paper trail! you can go low-tech and do it on text messages, or by sending part of a picture of where the next clue is, so they have to guess the whole picture. When they’ve found the place, why not attach the story to the item – eg, “These were the shoes you were wearing when we first met”? This shows you have thought about the details of your relationship and have taken notice!

More ideas coming tomorrow!

Why the heart?

As St Valentines Day approaches, I thought we would have a look at what is it, and why we use the symbol of a heart as the universal sign of love…

The heart symbol has absolutely no relation to the heart we have in our bodies, aside from the fact that people in historical times thought that the heart was at the centre of the body, and that it drove our feelings. The heart shape itself has its origins in foliage, fruit and seeds. In ancient Greece, they loved this massive fennel-type plant called silphium. It was the wonder ingredient of its time, the greeks and Romans loved it so much that they consumed it to extinction. Not only could it be used to flavour foods, it was also medicine and used for birth control and its seeds were heart-shaped. Others believe that the fig leaves used to cover the modesty of Adam and Eve were the origins of the heart shape (as are ivy leaves…). Later, in the 13th Century (Tom, that’s for you) a famous French manuscript, ‘Roman de la Poire’ shows a pair being handed to a lover in a title page illumination. Nothing whatsoever to do with a heart – but the shape is similar and the pear represents love and fertility in many different cultures.

It also has its origins in the naive anatomy drawings that started to come out in the middle ages. The artist would base their drawings on the written descriptions of Galen and Aristotle without actually basing it on the real thing!

Christmas With Someone Missing…

This year is going to be a hard Christmas for many of us who will be spending it in a different way. Many of us lost someone we love in 2020, it’s been a hard year and some are facing Christmas with a heavy heart. While the first Christmas without that person might be hard, I thought I’d share a few things we are thinking of doing ourselves, so that person still feels with us.

A bauble tribute

We will be making a special bauble that reminds us of our loved ones who are no longer with us, and be thinking of them as we put them on the tree. Baubles are easy these days to make. If you are lucky and don’t have cats who will smash your tree up (we do!) then you can buy a bauble making kit from anywhere (and certain online photo upload card sites will send you one ready made!). The bauble is usually glass, so be careful if it is likely to get smashed! But you can put into it a photo of your loved one, perhaps something that reminds you of them, some dried petals of their favourite flower or go festive and pop in some evergreens or herbs – rosemary is for remembrance.

Those more crafty among us could craft a looky-likey bauble out of felt, or you can go really simple and just buy or decorate a bauble in a colour that you think represents them.

When putting it on to the tree, have a special moment where you think of them. Perhaps this could be done when the tree has already been decorated, and if you have other family members there too, you could gather to have a moment to remember.

Lighting a candle

A really simple idea and one that is timeless. Simply lighting a candle for your loved one will help you feel the warmth of their love and presence. You could have a moment to think about them as you light the candle, and send them a message of love from the heart.

Setting an extra place

Personally, this is not for me, as it’s a reminder that there is an empty seat that used to be occupied, but I do know a few people who set that extra place at the dinner table and get a great deal of comfort from that. But acknowledging your loved one is a nice thing to do, as you are not trying to ‘carry on as normal’. We usually have a little toast to those who are no longer with us, and may have a smile that my mother in law would be saying the meat is “tough” or “dry”! And this year, we will be keeping up the tradition of playing a really bad game after – it’s usually Trivial Pursuit, and [husband] Stu’s dad always took ages to answer, so we will be thinking of him as we play it!


If you have a special place where you go to remember your loved one, you may want to lay a tribute. It doesn’t just have to be flowers; you can be imaginative in your tribute (as long as it is biodegradable!), a seasonal wreath with some symbolic plants in is a lovely touch – perhaps there was a certain flower they liked? Or maybe you might plant a tree or plant?

A remembrance toast

My father in law used to make us snowballs every Christmas eve until he got unwell with dementia – and then we made them for him! but this year we will be upholding the snowball tradition and making them in his honour, and having a special ‘cheers’ to him. IS there a special cocktail or drink that reminds you of your loved one? Perhaps you could toast in their honour.

Making a remembrance collection

Finally, you could make a collection of things that remind you of them, for example, a bottle of their favourite Christmas tipple, a photo of them, and some personal items, such as a brooch or watch.

If you have any special things that you will be doing to remember your loved ones this Christmas that aren’t above, then do let me know!

Deck the Vows with Bells And Holly, tra-la-la-lala!

While 2020 has pretty much been cancelled when it comes to weddings (and if this has happened to you, I am truly sorry) 2021 is just around the corner. If you have had to re-book your ceremony, and were unable to hold it over the summer, then fear not! As Christmas can offer the most magical wedding, with a little sprinkle of imagination (and Yuletide glitter). Here are a few ideas for you…

A Marry Lwyd!

Here’s an idea that merges one of the best and oldest Welsh seasonal traditions with your ceremony (and possibly one of my favourites, since I am part of a Mari Lwyd troupe!) The Mari Lwyd is a Welsh custom to bring good luck upon a household – so why not twist this for a wedding. Traditionally, around this time, the Mari Lwyd, her ostler and an accompanying band of people, including musicians, knock on doors and enter into a singing battle to be invited in. The occupants have to sing a reply, stating why they will not let this creature into the place, and the creature sings again. This goes on until the household invite her in and there is dancing, singing and the Mari and crew are invited to enjoy some food and drink.

So why not incorporate this into your ceremony! There are a lot of troupes across Wales now reviving this tradition. Your ceremony could involve the couple entering into the ‘word battle’ with the Mari, before the Mari comes in to witness the exchange of vows, and then everyone joins in with the songs and enjoying the food!

A torch-lit wassail ceremony

Again, why not combine an old tradition with your ceremony and have a wassail blessing! In days gone by, a wassail was performed to bring good luck to the coming year – but you could have one to bring luck upon your union. And you could do this as an early evening ceremony, too! You can do this inside – think how cosy your ceremony would be with a roaring fire, candles, festive decorations and evergreens – or even outside, weather permitting, with your venue or garden space festooned in evergreens and swags of twinkling fair lights, everyone wrapped up warm (ask your guests to bring cosy blankets with them), with some flaming torches to light your way. After you exchange your vows, the wassail bowl (which for modern hygiene sake, can be a big saucepan of warming hot cider or mulled wine, which everyone ladles a cup full from) is passed around and everyone says a wassail to bless the wedding.

An Evergreen Ceremony!

This pic is part of the Mari Lwyd crew, but can just demonstrate how cool an evergreen, folkloric ceremony can be! You can even have a green man (in this case, the legend that is Bob) entertain you with his zither! Decorating your venue with evergreens such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, pines, plus swags of ragged ribbons in festive colours can really add a festive flavour. you can even incorporate some old customs such as jumping the broom and pouring of the wine into your ceremony

I’ve got plenty of festive ideas – which also work for renewal of vows and naming ceremonies, so if you need a bit of inspiration for your big day, get in touch!

An Alternative Wedding!

So you have met the love of your life, and you both have a love for rock, metal, goth, punk – any and all of the above… Excellent! It sounds like you’ve met the person of your dreams (which certainly solves the problem of someone you share you life with telling you to ‘get that rubbish off’ when you play your favourite album at full blast!). and now you want to get married, but the trouble is, you want a ceremony that reflects who you are – that says what you want to say to one another and where you can actually walk down the isle to Rammstein if you really want to!

That’s why choosing a celebrant to officiate your marriage will be an excellent choice (even if i do say so myself!) A celebrant will work with you to create a ceremony that not just reflects your love, but also your life. If you want a ceremony that is more like a gig, then why not (I’ll tell you what – I’d love to go to this sort of gig!)? As celebrants we can create meaningful vows (and i don’t just mean, “I promise to love your black metal collection – even those Watain records”) and it will be memorable forever!

I’ll tell you a bit about myself. Aside from being a history/folklore buff (I really do love all those weird history things, you know!) I have been on the music scene for many years – if I told you how many years, you would guess my age. And yes, I am old. Old enough to be part of the first wave of the riot gggrl movement. I’ve written for music magazines including rocksound and Terrorizer – and currently Metal Head. I’ve interviewed everyone from members of Black Sabbath, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Ministry – and yes, even Watain and other bands on the black metal circuit. I even had a pretty metal wedding party myself, when me and Stu came back from the ceremony in Sri Lanka, we had a party in Craig Y Nos in Wales, and all our friends who were in bands, artists, and alternatives, joined us. Our first dance was to dueling banjos (that song from Deliverance). And we felt great, because it was something that represented us! Even the flowers and table decs reflected who we were, with skulls, roses, ivy and black stuff (I made them myself, I was quite chuffed!)

What I’m trying to say is that I would like to give you couples out there the same, authentic, experience that we had. It was definitely a night to remember – for all the right reasons! Coming from the same scene as you, I understand where you are coming from (and may even know a little bit about the bands you like!). We can even talk to some gig venues, if you really must turn your ceremony into a gig – because with a celebrant officiating, you don’t need to be in a licensed venue, as your legal papers would already have been signed.

A Clean Sweep And Weddings

No, the venue wasn’t behind on preparations, and the chimney sweep was caught in the act of, er, sweeping… In days gone by, having a chimney sweep at your wedding – and the first to kiss the bride – was good luck!

The tradition is over 200 years old, and may seem a bit random today, but, like a lot of great old customs, inviting a sweep to a wedding for luck is being revived.

The tradition starts in the reign of King George II, when a chimney sweep saved his life by stopping his runaway horse and carriage. The King was so grateful that he issued a Royal Decree that chimney sweeps should be treated with great respect (at a time when thry were considered one of the lowest of the low) and were lucky! Well, they were certainly lucky for him! After this time, every one who wanted to bring luck to a situation – like a new house and definitely a new life as a couple, would invite a chimney sweep to bless the occasion. They had never been so in demand! Some people even considered touching a sweep good luck!

Apparently, May 1 is a particularly lucky day – as it’s national chimney sweep day!

Incidently, did you know that sweeps wore top hats to help them feel good about their status? Some started their vocation as young boys, climbing up inside the chimney breast, and to make them feel taller in a world of grown ups, they were given top hats and tails. The hat was a status symbol throughout their working life – no matter how battered it got…

Anyway, you can hire a sweep for your wedding and there are plenty around who offer this service – just make sure they don’t get soit on the dress!

Wedding Venue Inspiration: Halloween

Did you know that with a celebrant officiating your wedding ceremony, you can have your nuptuals where ever you like? Which can lead to all kinds of inspirational ideas, not just for the setting, but also the time!

And as it is almost my favourite time of the year, what better than having a Hallowe’en wedding? Seriously, how gorgeous will a ceremony be, with all the colours of the season, and you could even choose to say your vows at twilight under the twinkling warmth of some lanterns? Perhaps your guests will also be holding flaming torches as you declare your love for one another… Or light their torches as a symbol of your love and warmth?

I really can’t imagine anything more beautiful!