Would you invite a llama to your wedding?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 16 January 2020
www.shanewebber.com © Shane Webber Photography
Llamas in bow-ties help make weddings at Edgworth's Wellbeing Farm extra special.
The breakdown of one marriage has contributed to scores of other couples having a memorable wedding day. When Celia Gaze's parents split up her mum was left with a bag of her dad's bow-ties, left over from his days as a concert pianist.
'Mum said "What am I going to do with all these?" and I joked that I'd put them on the llamas,' said Celia.
It may have started as a joke, but it has become a key part of the big day for couples tying the knot at Celia's Wellbeing Farm at Edgworth.
'When you reach an age where you've been to a lot of weddings, they start to merge in your memory. People are crying out for their wedding to be different and no-one ever forgets a llama in a bow-tie. They have the perfect long, straight necks for bow-ties and they do suit them.
'It made us stand out from the crowd as a wedding venue and it has become our trademark now. The bow-tie wearing llamas - and we also have donkeys in flat caps - mingle with guests and pose for pictures. Since the llamas started wearing bow-ties, our business has grown and bookings have gone up and up.'
The once run-down farm is now an award-winning wedding venue hosting more than 60 ceremonies a year.
And it's not only the farm that has been transformed - Celia has also turned her life around.
A decade ago she was a stressed programme manager in the NHS and felt anxious about going to work each day.
'I was walking to work with chest pains and felt that I was being judged and everything was against me,' she said. 'I started to wonder if this was how my life had to be. My stress had taken me from being a successful and driven woman with a good career, to someone who was completely overwhelmed.
'I started studying stress and stress management and part of the course was to design a perfect building. I decided to design a perfect business and that's what we have done with the Wellbeing Farm.'
Celia has now written a book about the dual transformation of her life and farm, 'Why Put A Bow-Tie on a Llama', which will come out this month.
'I wrote the book in the hope that it might help anyone else going through stressful times,' she added.
'When I was first stressed I didn't go to the doctor because I didn't want it on my medical records because I thought it might destroy my chances of getting another job.
'Things have moved on so much since then and people are much more open and willing to talk now which is obviously a good thing.
'I found my previous job stressful but there has been far more stress since I left there - I've faced bankruptcy and I've been through every conceivable stressful situation. But I feel I have more freedom now because this is mine, I don't have anyone breathing down my neck - self-inflicted stress is a very different thing.'
Why Put a Bow Tie on a Llama by Celia Gaze is out on January 10th, priced £12.99.