Thursday, 21 July 2016


CONGRATULATIONS!
You've decided to get married - that's great and you'll be joining thousands of other happy couples who have enjoyed the marvellous experience of a Humanist wedding.
In June 2005, The Humanist Society of Scotland started to conduct legal wedding ceremonies and since then, interest has grown enormously.  I have conducted about 900 legal weddings since then and I can remember each and every one!
More and more people are finding out about Humanism's core beliefs - promoting a lifestyle whereby people take the responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment and thus aspire to the greater good of humanity as a whole.  Humanists are guided by reason, inspired by compassion and informed by experience.  So we don't feel the need to worship any gods or sing psalms.
With weddings, this means that we can prepare a superb, fully legal ceremony which is memorable and meaningful for couples without any references to gods, hymns and prayers.


2018
January is usually a welcome quiet month for a Wedding Celebrant, so this is Sarah and Vicki being married outside on the Isle of Skye in February.  Yes, outside - on Skye - in February!  It was a wee bit chilly, but it was dry and we found a sheltered spot on a beach down the road from Portree.  After the ceremony, we went back to their cottage for some fizz, but Vicki's fingers were so numb she had trouble opening the bottle!  See wee pic at the side......





Nothing to do with weddings really, but I just love my new kitten.  His name is Teddy and he came here on 20/10/17 aged 8 weeks.  He's a real adorable wee cutie and he loves to play, sleep, eat and play....  More pix on the right.      



2017
Suddenly it's January but it's a good time to get married in what is traditionally a quiet month.  Although the weather can be a bit rough, it's usually nice and snug in a warm hotel.  Kerry and Neil thought so as they sign the Marriage Schedule in the posh Inverlochy Castle Hotel near Fort William.  Neil comes from Barra so I had to say a few words of Gaelic in the ceremony - and Kerry managed some too, much to the delight of the guests!




February can be busy too!  The rain cleared as Dawn and Ryan led their guests to the front of the chapel at Glasgow University for a group photo.  I think group photos are great - but make sure you organise it before everyone gets a drink!   




And in March, Amy and Stephen had a similar idea and organised a group shot of their guests pre-fizz on the stairs of the Mansionhouse in Edinburgh Zoo.  By the way, the penguins were amazing and it looked like a wedding was in progress there too - see the wee pic on the right! 
 




Here's a novelty for a wedding!  In a wedding in April, the Groom Will's family were involved in the ice cream business so what better way to celebrate than with some ice cream!  They did up this old van and when it played a wee tune, all the guests ran over and got free cones!  And no - Bride Karen did not get ice cream on her dress!  I suppose you couldn't do this everywhere - but here at Dunglass Estate, it's fine as there's loads of room outside. 




Another novelty is to hire not just a piper, but a whole pipe band!  In May, Frances and Michael had fab weather - again at Dunglass Estate - and the band was in great form.  Every foot at the wedding was tapping, but all the wee birds had flown away!  There's pic of Frances and Michael on the right.




Confetti always adds a sort of celebratory vibe to a wedding, I always think!  And Claire and Richard seem to agree at their June wedding at Dunglass.  June can often be a sunny and settled month in Scotland, so a lot of weddings are outside.  I like an outdoor wedding......   



I've always said it's a bad idea to have animals at a wedding.  I've seen owls flying in with the wedding rings a few times - it's quite dramatic but a bit risky, especially if the bird spies a mouse and flies out the window with £2k of jewellery on its leg!  But Lauren and Sean insisted that their lovely bulldog, Alfie, was going to be the ring bearer at their July wedding.  And he was just great - calm, quiet and responsible - and he toddled down the aisle with the rings on his collar as if he'd done it all a hundred times before.  What a relief!    




More confetti!  It was a lovely warm summer's day for Cristiane and Thomas's wedding at the Wellwood Hotel in Pitlochry, but it looks like it's snowing!





And we had a lovely day in September for Fiona and Susie's outdoor wedding at Tyninghame, East Lothian.  Just look at the azure sea and sky!  And the Bass Rock - or Guano Island as some less kind folk call it.  More pix of the happy couple at the side....




Also in September, Kirsty and Angus were married in Applecross.  This is a lovely wee peninsula in the north west Highlands, and Kirsty is pictured with her mum and dad.  Her dad, Ruaraidh, is a famous and respected Gaelic broadcaster and journalist so we exchanged a few words in that ancient language.  Math ga rireabh!



This is Ellen and Kevin just after their marriage ceremony in Wedderburn Barn, near Duns in October.  Kevin had set up all the chairs outside, but on checking his phone, he realised it was going to pour with rain in 5 minutes!  So we swiftly brought them all back into the Barn and indeed, while we were dong so, it did start to pour!  Ellen, of course, didn't know much about the drama and concentrated instead on one of her younger guests!   



In November, Caroline and Michael were married in the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.  It's a fabulous venue in the New Town with a long and interesting history - and you don't have to be a physician to be married there!





No, this wasn't a beach wedding in December!  Chloe and Jonathan were married in a cottage near Loch Morar but then went down to the beach with their photographer afterwards.  It was kinda Baltic but there was a sense of beauty about it all.  That's the Isle of Eigg in the distance - a perfect backdrop to their pix!




And my last wedding of 2017 - Helen and Gavin were married at the end of December at the lovely Norton House Hotel.  They wanted a white wedding and they were very brave - especially Gavin with his kilt on - and went outside with one of their guests for some pix.  I'm not sure who looks the coldest, but Helen's wee furry shoulder scarf looks like a sound idea!   





ORGANISING YOUR WEDDING
So - the hard work starts here.  Under the following headings, you may find some help and advice about planning the celebrations.  Try to keep calm - there's a lot of organising to do!
But first, some advice:
1. Be organised!  Start your preparations early.  Make lists, keep notes, liaise with all concerned and keep on top of it all.
2. Keep in touch with your Celebrant!  S/he is a mine of information and is always willing to offer help and advice on the legal bits and on the creation of a good ceremony.
3. Yes, do keep calm - don’t leave things to the last minute!

CHOOSING A VENUE
Most couples like to set the date and choose a venue for their big day first of all.  Some like a ruin, like Aberdour Castle in Fife....


....or perhaps the slightly unusual, like the beautiful Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh....


....or a gorgeous remote hotel, like the Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll....


....or even a stately pile, like Scone Palace....

....or an upmarket hotel in the Scottish Borders - the Barony Castle Hotel near Peebles....

There are so many lovely venues out there to chose from - and they are all just fab!  But don't forget the Caves in Edinburgh's Old Town for a really atmospheric and historic venue....



CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC
So, once you've decided on your venue, you may then want to think about what kind of music to have.  Many couples have a piper to pipe their guests in to the venue and to pipe them out at the end of the ceremony - like Roddy the Piper at Edinburgh Castle, for example...

RODDY THE PIPER AT EDINBURGH CASTLE

        ....or how about a foot-stomping jazz band to entertain your guests after the ceremony?   
          Here's the West End Jazz Band at Linlithgow Palace....

THE WEST END JAZZ BAND AT LINLITHGOW PALACE
            ....perhaps something a bit more sedate like the Canongate String Quartet in  the Signet Library may be more to your taste?                
                                     
THE CANONGATE STRING QUARTET AT THE SIGNET LIBRARY

              Then there's Ailie on the Clarsach, looking very thoughtful at Craighouse....

AILIE ON THE CLARSACH AT CRAIGHOUSE

I think the music is a very personal choice and I think all the favourites are fine – Highland Cathedral, Pachelbel’s Canon, Entrance of the Queen of Sheba – but some couples choose more recent music.  At two or three weddings, the Proclaimers belted out "Let's Get Married" - very appropriate!



SO WHAT ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE CEREMONY?
You've got the venue and the music organised.  Another thing to think about is the content of the ceremony itself.

Typically, a Humanist marriage ceremony will last for about 20 minutes.  It starts by me asking all your guests to stand as the Bride enters with her Bridesmaids.

Once everyone is nice and relaxed and seated again, I welcome your guests, thank them all for coming and introduce myself.  A few words on why you've chosen to have a Humanist wedding ceremony may be appropriate, followed by some general observations on marriage - just to remind everyone why they're all there!

And then there's readings.  Most couples have one or two appropriate poems or readings - and again, I think the choice is a very personal one.  I do, however, have a favourite piece – “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns.  To me, it seems to underline the permanence of strong love and so is very appropriate at a wedding.  At one recent wedding consisting of Americans, English and Scottish guests, the Bridesmaid (who was very Scottish) read this beautifully.  At the end, I said that I’d hoped our American guests had understood it and there was a ripple of laughter.  Above the laughter was heard a very English voice, “Yes, but what about us English!”


And don't forget the symbolic gestures.  You will probably have one  - the exchange of wedding rings - but there are others like lighting candles, drinking from a quaich or mixing sand....yes, mixing sand.  But my favourite has to be hand fasting, or tying the knot.  There are various ways to do this ancient gesture with one or two ribbons or cords, but it's great as you can keep them to remind you of your special day.


THE LEGAL BITS
A wedding is a legal undertaking and so you must have the marriage vows as part of the ceremony.  The law requires that your two witnesses, but preferably all your guests as well, hear you accept each other as husband and wife.  Normally, couples repeat the necessary lines after me to minimise any chance of messing up!  But you could also have your own personal vows before or after the legal stuff where you could say something really special and personal to one another.
After the vows, or sometimes before, couples exchange wedding rings.  This is not a legal requirement, but it is symbolic of the life-time commitment you want to make to each other and most couples do it.  The wedding ring is a never ending circle of love and is usually made of gold which never fades or tarnishes.  
The law says that I then have to make a pronouncement that you are husband and wife so that everybody knows what stage we're at, and this is usually a jolly moment with lots of clapping and cheering!

The other wee legal bit is signing the Marriage Schedule - commonly referred to as "signing the register".  This is a bit of paper, a legal document, that you get from the Registrar and it's a permanent record of your marriage.  See http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland 
 for further details on this important aspect of organising your wedding.

ENDING THE CEREMONY
A good ceremony ends on a high so that everyone feels in a party mood!  So after me wishing you all the best, I could ask everyone to stand and I present you to them as Mr and Mrs...........  This produces loud cheering and whistling, and is exactly what we want at the end of the ceremony as all your guests head off to start the party and pick up a glass of fizz! 

MY APPROACH TO WEDDINGS
After the initial contact by phone or email, I normally arrange to meet couples in their home or mine.  I explain about the legal aspects of weddings, and then we discuss the sort of ceremony they’d like with the help of recent examples.  If they like what they see and hear and want to proceed with me as their Celebrant, we would then sign an Agreement Form, they would pay a £75 deposit and join the Humanist Society.  The couple would then either prepare a rough draft of what sort of ceremony they’d like, or I’d prepare an outline for them to slot in their own preferences.  Over the following months, I’d offer help and advice and we’d keep in touch by emailing the draft ceremony back and forth, making wee changes as appropriate until we are all completely happy with it.  Then, during the week before the wedding, I’d visit them again just to go over it in detail to make sure it’s all going to go smoothly on the day.

But if you have any queries, questions, problems or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch - my contact details are at the top of this blog.



BREAKING AND GREAT NEWS!

Hooray! The Scottish Government has passed the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill by 105 votes to 18 on 4th February 2014.  The first same sex marriage will take place in the early hours of 31st December 2014.  I am delighted to be part of this great news, and to celebrate, the Humanist Society is offering to convert 105 civil partnerships to marriages for free!  So if you are couple I have conducted a ceremony for in the past, or if you are in a civil partnership, and you'd like a wee 'upgrade' - or if you'd like to book a marriage later in the year, do get in touch and we'll get the wheels in motion! 



SOME RECENT WEDDINGS
Being a wedding celebrant is just fab!  Meeting couples to help steer them through the most important day of their lives is the most satisfying and rewarding experience.  It’s a tremendous responsibility for the three of us, but when all our preparations culminate in a well-crafted, relaxed ceremony, the joy on everyone’s faces is a delight!

In February 2016, Juliet and Mathew were married in Winton House - a beautiful venue in a country setting near Pencaitland in East Lothian.  There's a pic of the happy couple on the right.  Here in the Drawing Room is an antique carpet.  It is, I believe over 150 years old and was made in India.  It is the largest single piece of carpet known, and I usually make an announcement along the lines of 'please do not slosh your red wine over the antique carpet!'  




Ahh, canapes - one of the best parts of the day!  The Murrayfield Hotel in Edinburgh provided fab canapes after Denise and John's wedding ceremony in March 2016.  And no - that's not my hand.  I'm taking the pic! 



I love a Highland wedding - especially one in a castle!  So I was delighted to conduct Beccy and Alan's wedding in Eilean Donan Castle in June 2016.  Eilean Donan Castle is about 10 miles before Kyle of Lochalsh and is reputedly the most photographed castle in Scotland!  So to continue that trend, there's a wee pic of it on the right - I bet you recognise it?  And don't Beccy and Alan look stunning in the Gun Room after their ceremony with a glass of fizz?  
    


July 2016 already, but despite its reputation as being one of the wettest months, we managed an outdoor wedding in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.  Tati and Matt (that's him on the right!) came from New Jersey and loved Scotland, whisky and the outdoors.  So they were my kinda guys!  The weather was good - the main thing it was dry so there were a few great pix - another on the right. 




Also in February 2015, Erica and Melvyn were married at Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh. Erica is a good friend of mine and I know she's into healthy eating.  With all that fruit on the wedding  cake, she thinks she can get one of her five-a-day just by eating a slice!




ere's Leah and Paul 'tying the knot' at the Braid Hills Hotel in March 2015.  Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic custom used in marriage ceremonies to bind two people together.  A form of it appeared in the film 'Braveheart'.  And it's becoming very popular in Humanist ceremonies these days too - well, Leah seems to be enjoying it anyway!
   



And in April 2015, Lori and Hiten were married in Kinross House.  Lori is very into history and loved that she could see Loch Leven Castle from the ceremony room - see wee pic at the side.  It's where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and some artefacts have been dug up - keys, for example.  So keys were naturally a theme at the wedding - but doesn't she look very historical herself!




Right then!  In May 2015, Sara and Ally were married in the Rowantree in Edinburgh's Cowgate.  Instead of the Best Man traditionally looking after the wedding rings, this lovely couple entrusted their cool wee Snauser to have this onerous responsibility.  His name is Kurt and you can see, he's taking his duties very seriously - he's just spotted an enormous Alsation down the road and his body language suggests that the bigger dog dare not think about messing with him!  But Ally is just checking to see if the rings are safe on his collar.....    







In June 2015, Hillary and Tim were married by Loch Coruisk in the lovely Isle of Skye.  An American couple from Montana, they just wanted a really special Scottish venue - and it doesn't come more special than the shadow of the Cuillin Hills.  We all took the wee ferry over from Elgol, walked for 10 minutes and found the perfect spot on a bit of flat ground by the loch.  The weather was kind - dry and warm(ish) - and no midges!  It was a bit cooler on the ferry back - see the we pic on the right - but there was some celebratory whisky involved which has the amazing effect of keeping the cold out!     







I wonder if anyone will recognise this guy?  No prizes, but he's pretty well known in rugby circles........it's the one and only - Andy Irvine!  He was a guest at Jayne and Gregor's wedding in November at Inchyra Byre in Perthshire.  It's a lovely renovation of an old steading (that's the Byre, not Andy!) and it's becoming more popular as a venue.    








Into December and just the sort of weather for an outdoor wedding at a remote Scottish castle!  This is Brittany and Matty being very bold and holding their marriage ceremony outside instead of inside the nice, warm Forter Castle.  There's a wee pic of the castle on the right - it's near Glenshee where there was snow on the ground, but nothing would deter our intrepid couple.  They even had these wee gloves for all the guests which heat up your hands - I wish they'd had similar socks!  

  



This is Gillian and Fergus braving the chilly temperatures and confetti after their wedding ceremony at Melville Castle in December 2013.  They had three readings, one of which was written especially by Gillian's sister.  I always think it's nice if a guest can write a few words - it makes the ceremony really personal and gives the bride and groom a really memorable ceremony.



  
Here's Gail and Andrew signing the Marriage Schedule at Balbirnie House in Fife in November 2013.   It was quite a large wedding with over 100 guests, and they had a hand fasting as part of the ceremony.  This is a lovely symbolic gesture where I bound their arms together with two ribbons to 'tie the knot'.  Gail and Andrew said they would frame the ribbons as a permanent reminder of their love for each other.  You can see the ribbons lying on the table - and don't you like the autumn colours which were the theme for the wedding?  




Tammy and Bob were also married in November 2013.  This is the Caves in Edinburgh - a really romantic and atmospheric venue for a wedding.  All the guys (including me!) were asked to grow beards for the wedding, and instead of walking sedately back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds jived and twisted to a Chuck Berry number as they made their way up to the bar.  Excellent! 





SOME MEMORABLE WEDDINGS
But some ceremonies do stick in the mind more than others - and here's some that I'm unlikely ever to forget....

Like one of the Ben Nevis hikes.  This one was particularly wet as Bride Anna, Groom Tim and myself approached the summit.




Tim broke his wee toe 3 or 4 days before the wedding, but he managed to get up and down pretty well - hence the poles!  The wedding was in August, but it was cold at the top with the windchill making it -5C.  So signing the marriage schedule was not the easiest task! 




Then there were the belly dancers in Orocco Pier.  The newlyweds had hired them to entertain their guests after the ceremony - 



- well, the old boy sitting watching seems to be appreciating the mother and daughter team anyway!

Inchcolm Island is a very popular venue for weddings.  




After a 40 minute sail from South Queensferry, it's just a short walk to the abbey - there's still a roof on most of it - and after the ceremony, the drinks can be outside on the grass with great views across to Edinburgh and Fife.


And here's Gabriela and William being married in Dalhousie Castle.  It's a stunning venue just outside Edinburgh with beautiful grounds.


And Andrew the piper certainly made it a wedding to remember for the American couple! 


But no matter where the wedding is - be it a mountain, a castle, a stately home, a posh hotel, a beach, a back garden - I always ensure it's a dignified occasion with the appropriate balance of humour and formalities.  It would be a wedding that you and your guests will remember for a long time!




ORGANISING YOUR WEDDING
So - the hard work starts here.  Under the following headings, you may find some help and advice about planning the celebrations.  Try to keep calm - there's a lot of organising to do!
But first, some advice:
1. Be organised!  Start your preparations early.  Make lists, keep notes, liaise with all concerned and keep on top of it all.
2. Keep in touch with your Celebrant!  S/he is a mine of information and is always willing to offer help and advice on the legal bits and on the creation of a good ceremony.
3. Yes, do keep calm - don’t leave things to the last minute!


CHOOSING A VENUE
Most couples like to set the date and choose a venue for their big day first of all.  Some like a ruin, like Aberdour Castle in Fife....


....or perhaps the slightly unusual, like the beautiful Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh....


....or a gorgeous remote hotel, like the Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll....


....or even a stately pile, like Scone Palace....

....or an upmarket hotel in the Scottish Borders - the Barony Castle Hotel near Peebles....

There are so many lovely venues out there to chose from - and they are all just fab!  But don't forget the Caves in Edinburgh's Old Town for a really atmospheric and historic venue....



CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC
So, once you've decided on your venue, you may then want to think about what kind of music to have.  Many couples have a piper to pipe their guests in to the venue and to pipe them out at the end of the ceremony - like Roddy the Piper at Edinburgh Castle, for example...

RODDY THE PIPER AT EDINBURGH CASTLE

        ....or how about a foot-stomping jazz band to entertain your guests after the ceremony?   
          Here's the West End Jazz Band at Linlithgow Palace....

THE WEST END JAZZ BAND AT LINLITHGOW PALACE
 
            ....perhaps something a bit more sedate like the Canongate String Quartet in  the Signet Library may be more to your taste?                
                                     
THE CANONGATE STRING QUARTET AT THE SIGNET LIBRARY

              Then there's Ailie on the Clarsach, looking very thoughtful at Craighouse....

AILIE ON THE CLARSACH AT CRAIGHOUSE

I think the music is a very personal choice and I think all the favourites are fine – Highland Cathedral, Pachelbel’s Canon, Entrance of the Queen of Sheba – but some couples choose more recent music.  At two or three weddings, the Proclaimers belted out "Let's Get Married" - very appropriate!



SO WHAT ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE CEREMONY?
You've got the venue and the music organised.  Another thing to think about is the content of the ceremony itself.

Typically, a Humanist marriage ceremony will last for about 20 minutes.  It starts by me asking all your guests to stand as the Bride enters with her Bridesmaids.

Once everyone is nice and relaxed and seated again, I welcome your guests, thank them all for coming and introduce myself.  A few words on why you've chosen to have a Humanist wedding ceremony may be appropriate, followed by some general observations on marriage - just to remind everyone why they're all there!

And then there's readings.  Most couples have one or two appropriate poems or readings - and again, I think the choice is a very personal one.  I do, however, have a favourite piece – “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns.  To me, it seems to underline the permanence of strong love and so is very appropriate at a wedding.  At one recent wedding consisting of Americans, English and Scottish guests, the Bridesmaid (who was very Scottish) read this beautifully.  At the end, I said that I’d hoped our American guests had understood it and there was a ripple of laughter.  Above the laughter was heard a very English voice, “Yes, but what about us English!”


And don't forget the symbolic gestures.  You will probably have one  - the exchange of wedding rings - but there are others like lighting candles, drinking from a quaich or mixing sand....yes, mixing sand.  But my favourite has to be hand fasting, or tying the knot.  There are various ways to do this ancient gesture with one or two ribbons or cords, but it's great as you can keep them to remind you of your special day.


THE LEGAL BITS
A wedding is a legal undertaking and so you must have the marriage vows as part of the ceremony.  The law requires that your two witnesses, but preferably all your guests as well, hear you accept each other as husband and wife.  Normally, couples repeat the necessary lines after me to minimise any chance of messing up!  But you could also have your own personal vows before or after the legal stuff where you could say something really special and personal to one another.
After the vows, or sometimes before, couples exchange wedding rings.  This is not a legal requirement, but it is symbolic of the life-time commitment you want to make to each other and most couples do it.  The wedding ring is a never ending circle of love and is usually made of gold which never fades or tarnishes.  
The law says that I then have to make a pronouncement that you are husband and wife so that everybody knows what stage we're at, and this is usually a jolly moment with lots of clapping and cheering!

The other wee legal bit is signing the Marriage Schedule - commonly referred to as "signing the register".  This is a bit of paper, a legal document, that you get from the Registrar and it's a permanent record of your marriage.  See http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland 
 for further details on this important aspect of organising your wedding.

ENDING THE CEREMONY
A good ceremony ends on a high so that everyone feels in a party mood!  So after me wishing you all the best, I could ask everyone to stand and I present you to them as Mr and Mrs...........  This produces loud cheering and whistling, and is exactly what we want at the end of the ceremony as all your guests head off to start the party and pick up a glass of fizz! 

MY APPROACH TO WEDDINGS
After the initial contact by phone or email, I normally arrange to meet couples in their home or mine.  I explain about the legal aspects of weddings, and then we discuss the sort of ceremony they’d like with the help of recent examples.  If they like what they see and hear and want to proceed with me as their Celebrant, we would then sign an Agreement Form, they would pay a £75 deposit and join the Humanist Society.  The couple would then either prepare a rough draft of what sort of ceremony they’d like, or I’d prepare an outline for them to slot in their own preferences.  Over the following months, I’d offer help and advice and we’d keep in touch by emailing the draft ceremony back and forth, making wee changes as appropriate until we are all completely happy with it.  Then, during the week before the wedding, I’d visit them again just to go over it in detail to make sure it’s all going to go smoothly on the day.

But if you have any queries, questions, problems or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch - my contact details are at the top of this blog.