Monday, 21 November 2016

Emma & Candy's Humanist Wedding at The Royal Botanical Gardens

The John Muir Grove at The Royal Botanical Gardens is one of my favourite venues, but being outdoors it's not available all year round. A few years back, I conducted a wedding in February that the Cairn String Quartet will never forget, because it was so bitterly cold, and by a strange coincidence, they were playing at Candy and Emma's wedding in October, which was the very last one of the year to take place there before the winter sets in. 


As you can see from these great photos by Robbie Adam of Duke Photography, the weather was still mild, and the guests really enjoyed the warmth and wit of the ceremony that Emma and Candy composed. Here's Emma's account of the day. 

I remember being so nervous before arriving at the Botanics. At one point I actually thought I would say to you that I couldn’t walk down the aisle and could you just go get Candy and marry us over in a corner... 


Although once I got there my nerves and worries vanished and I just remember being so excited and happy that we were finally getting married! And I’m glad to say it wasn’t just me who felt the nerves – Candy said that he felt nervous all over again just looking at the pictures of me walking down the aisle!
 And here is the Candyman himself, accompanied by his best man, Scottish author David F Porteous, and his groomsman, Emma's brother Steven.


You can actually see the relief/realisation that we’d done it in the last picture of us walking back up the aisle together! Haha!


Our day was so amazing, so much more than what we could have hoped for. 


It was so wonderful to have all our family and friends with us to share the day. Our guests all said that the ceremony was so personal and that they all learned something about us that they'd never known before! 


They loved that we stood facing out to them, not with our backs to them, and that we had written the ceremony ourselves. 


We also loved that we had the freedom to tell our story in our own words and got to pick readings that weren’t your classic wedding picks! (That's so true: this is one of Emma’s closest friends, Mhairi Henderson, reading an excerpt from “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?”, by Mindy Kaling, writer of the American version of The Office.)



One of our friends even said he felt like he was in Bryan Adams’ music video for (Everything I Do) I Do it for You, the song I walked down the aisle to, and that this was amazing seeing as it’s from Candy’s favourite movie, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves!


It’s true what everyone says; it goes by so quickly and you don’t get a chance to speak to everyone, but it really was one of the happiest days of our lives. So, thank you for setting us our homework, keeping us right along the way and sharing our day with us. It means the world! 


Big hugs, Emma & Candy xx

By a strange coincidence, I got an email a few days later from Annemarie of the Cairn String Quartet who'd been playing for Candy and Emma on the day. She'd gone home that evening to find her boyfriend Jonny waiting to propose to her!


Even better, once they've decided on a venue, I'll be conducting their wedding too: it's not many days that I help to make two couples equally happy, so I feel very touched.

Thanks again Candy and Emma - may you have many more years of fun, fancy dress, Cuban rum and of course, David F. Porteous!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Lauren and David's humanist wedding at The Hub

It's not often my stories lead with the honeymoon, but this one is special! I hadn't come across the 'Trash The Dress' idea before, but Stuart Craig who shot the wedding travelled all the way to the Hebrides with Lauren and David to record this as well, and here's Lauren's account of their trip.


David and I had a lovely mini moon in Skye and Harris. Slightly unlucky with the weather at the start of the week but thankfully it cleared up and we were blessed with blue sky and sunshine and fell in love with Skye. We stayed in a lovely cottage in the north west of the island and our German shepherd pooch Arya (our ring bearer at the wedding) was there to enjoy lots of walks and a log fire to curl up in front of at the end of each day! What more could you ask for?




So the Trash the Dress! I'm not sure if Stuart told you much about this but it really was wonderful and felt like an achievement in itself even just getting there. Everything was against up during the planning stages as our ferry from Skye to Harris crashed a couple of days before we travelled, resulting in all sailings being cancelled. David and I had a mad cross country dash from our cottage in Skye to Ullapool where Stuart was waiting, cursing storm force winds which had threatened to cancel all sailings again that day. Thankfully Stuart, David, Arya, and I together with kilt, dress, veil, bouquet, camera and 2 cars sailed across to the Isle of Lewis and drove South to Harris. The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn and in utter disbelief at the sunshine! We had a fantastic photoshoot that morning on the tropical beaches of Harris where Stuart got some stunning pictures of David and I. This also gave us an opportunity to include Arya in the fun which is what Stuart probably told you about!


Arya and I take part in a sport called Cani-cross which is cross country running with your dog... and its great fun! As a team, I give Arya commands and she leads the way, attached to me with a bungee style rope and encouraged to pull. The speed we can go together is just incredible! Arya and I compete in races across Scotland therefore it just seemed natural to want to run cani-cross in my wedding dress... especially given our beautiful location! This was too good an opportunity to miss! So at the end of our photoshoot, a beautiful rainbow appeared just as Arya and I started running across the beach... much to Stuarts amazement and this was something he had never seen before! I've attached some of the photos so you can see for yourself!



I've attached some photos of the wedding too. Our day really was special and everything we could've wished for and more. David and I are both delighted we chose to have a Humanist ceremony and the feedback from our guests was wonderful. And to think we wrote it ourselves...!


I won't lie - at the time of doing the homework this was definitely something we continually put off and off... it sounded rather daunting writing a ceremony whereas choosing flowers, music, food and drink sounded much more easy and fun! The ceremony was so personal though and meant so much to us. I don't think David will live down being called 'cuddle bear' in front of all our family and friends though!


I had to save the best shot for last: one of these days I hope somebody will invite me to marry them on Luskentyre beach, but until then, this amazing photograph by Stuart Craig will just have to do.

Thank you so much for this, Lauren and David: I wish you both every happiness (and I wish that to Arya too of course!)

Friday, 11 November 2016

Project Elpis: Giving Hope to Refugees

As the humanist chaplain at the University of Edinburgh, I get to meet some inspiring people and I was amazed to see what second-year students Alexandros Angelopoulos and Sam Kellerhals have made happen with their Project Elpis. The word elpis means 'hope' in Greek.


These two environmental sciences undergraduates have created solar-powered mobile phone charging units for refugees living in camps in Greece. For the refugees, a smartphone is a lifeline, but only for as long as its battery lasts.


Access to electricity can be hard to find in overcrowded camps. Young and old people gather together over individual sockets, waiting anxiously to contact home.


The solar-powered devices that Sam and Alex have developed can deliver electricity to 3600 refugees in one month and they're helping to meet major demand for phone charging stations and off-grid electricity. You can read more about them here on the Chaplaincy website


Or visit their website where you can donate in support.

When we met Sam and Alex, Ali Neil, another of our chaplains read us this poem, by Warship Shire: you can read it in full here


It makes me proud that the University of Edinburgh has supported this initiative. Alex and Sam have big plans, so I hope you'll want to support them in any way you can.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Chelsea & Ally's Humanist Wedding at The Vu

It's almost two years since I first met Chelsea and Ally: like most young couples, they had to save long and hard for their big day, but it was worth the wait.

This is what they looked like then...

And they don't seem to have got any older in the intervening period! It's hard to believe that when they first got together, Bebo was still the number one social media platform...

Their ceremony was both romantic and full of fun. Chelsea teased Ally about his cheesy taste in music, and he revelled in telling everyone how gullible she is, and when it came to their vows, they said exactly what they wanted to say.

Ally said,
"Chelsea, you're the best thing that has ever happened to me, 
and I can't imagine my life without you in it."

 Chelsea said, 
"I promise never to take you for granted,
and I promise
That no matter how big and scary it is
I will always be the Spider Catcher of the house!"


They said, "the homework you set us was definitely one of the hardest we have ever done, but it was so worth it and we would totally recommend you to anyone that will listen to us!"

Well I hope they do listen to you, Mr. and Mrs. Macnab - it was a joy working with you and I am just delighted you and your guests enjoyed such a beautiful day! 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Karina and Mark's Humanist Wedding at Carlowrie Castle

I still remember when Mark got in touch with me earlier this year all the way from Hong Kong.


Hi Tim! This is Mark. I believe my boss Karina has been in touch with you. 
Apparently we’re getting married, and we know nothing about how it all goes down during the ceremony. We’ve heard great things about you, and we’d love for you to work your magic for us – hopefully you can cast a spell of ‘happily ever after’ 



How could I resist a pitch like that? 



We chatted over Skype, and then Karina and Mark got on with their homework, which formed the basis of an exceptional ceremony at the stylish Carlowrie Castlethat had a lovely blend of formality and informality. 

The entrance of the bridal party was very elegant, each of the seven bridesmaids came in on the arm of one of the seven groomsmen: they had two charming flower girls, Mavis and Maison who decided not to scatter their rose petals, and both Mark and Karina came in with both their parents, which was lovely but the show was undoubtedly stolen by Micha and Sofianne, with their sign.


I always like to greet the guests in their own language, which in this case was mostly Cantonese, and this is as close as Google Translate gets to what I said. 大家下午好,欢迎光临


Karina's cousin Patricia gave us our first reading, a poem she wrote herself, and then before Mark and Karina made their personal vows, I asked the guests to make some promises to them.


Groomsman Alex gave us a second reading and then it was time for the climax of the ceremony.


Mark and Karina wrote their own vows, which were original, heartfelt, and individual.


They also exchanged rings and it wasn't until I pronounced them husband and wife that Mark finally got to raise Karina's veil.






Karina said, "Mark and I looked at the photographs again last night and we were in tears of joy reminiscing every single detail of the day. 



"The people, the weather, the place and basically everything on the day was more than perfect for us. 



"Thank you again for making our ceremony so memorable and full of love."



As I said to them at the time, the reason it was so wonderful was that you wrote it!' but I'll take the compliment. 



These great photographs were taken by Kuala Lumpur based photographers BY Weddings. They shot the engagement shots at the top of this post, they shot the movie of the wedding too, and they even brought their own drone with them: that's some footage I'd love to see! 

PS Benson Yin just sent me this link to their Facebook Page where you can see lots more great photography of Mark and Karina's celebrations

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A Light For Aleppo

Watching the war in Syria for the last four years has been depressing, frustrating and disempowering, but Harriet Harris, my friend and colleague at the University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy Centre, has come up with a great initiative, which we launched this evening on the beach in North Berwick.

It's called A Light For Aleppo, and it's intended to show the people there that while we can do no more than donate to organisations like Medicins Sans Frontieres or Oxfam, both of whom are working in the region, they are in our thoughts.


We lit the first beacon this evening. 


On Sunday 20th November, we will light many more.


If you'd like to get involved, you can organise your own event, or at the least, light a candle in your window, photograph it, and share it on social media with the hashtag, #alightforaleppo


Let's make this light travel round the world!