Thursday, 30 July 2015

Rebecca and Dominique's Humanist Wedding at The Balmoral Hotel


When I first meet a couple, I always hope they realise what a unique privilege it is to be free to say why they love each other in their own words. Dominique and Rebecca completely got that, so of course their ceremony was as personal and moving as it possibly could be. 




Dominique and Rebecca live in The Netherlands. They fell in love with each other and Edinburgh almost at the same time, and it was back to Edinburgh that they came when, after eight years together and as parents to the then just born Julia (who is now two), they decided to celebrate with some time to themselves – in Amsterdam. Or at least that was what Rebecca had been led to believe.




Instead, Dominique had created an elaborate set of clues that led to a marriage proposal in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle, and when the time came to choose somewhere to get married, The Balmoral was perfect, as of course it is to the Castle that all of its function suites look. 








The ceremony involved many members of their families: Dominique's twin brother, Pascal, Rebecca’s big brother, Paul, Do’s uncle Peter and Rebecca's big sister, Claire, and they all wrote and spoke their own contributions.








It was a misty day, as so many of our summer days have been recently, and it was captured very well  in these very atmospheric photos, taken by Sarah McFedries and Rian van Dijk. 




Rebecca wrote to me just the other day, saying,



Just over a month gone by since our magical day. 
And I wanted to take this moment to say thank you. 


Thank you for making our day extra special, 
thank you for guiding us whilst we got to write our own our ceremony,
 and thank you for the homework. 

The whole process was amazing. 



All our guests have told us what a unique ceremony it was and how impressed they were by you. 
I could not have wished for a lovelier ceremony. 


Both Dominique and I were amazed how emotional it was. 
Not just for ourselves, but also for our witnesses as well as our guests. 

It is such a privilege to be able to stand before your loved ones and share your love and your story.

So thank you once more. 
Lots of love,


Dominique and Rebecca

It was a privilege for me to help you do that, Rebecca and Dominique, so thank you once more. Een grote dank aan u, en ik wens u veel geluk!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Cara-Mae's Naming Ceremony at home with Zoe and Gavin


A naming ceremony is very like a wedding but much more relaxed. There are always nerves on a wedding day, whereas the anxious times are pretty much over when a couple are ready to name their child. I find this tends to happen around their first birthday, when life has settled to its new rhythms, and everyone is ready to celebrate the presence of this new life in their lives.



The story of how Cara-Mae came to be here was a funny and moving one. Zoe and Gavin had been trying for a baby for a while but nothing was happening, so they thought they might buy a camper van and head off into the sunset, but almost as they came to that conclusion, Cara-Mae decided she wanted to be here!

Zoe wanted Cara-Mae to have a natural birth, and I loved how she described her delight to learn she'd won a space in the massively over-subscribed birthing centre. And then how she suddenly regretted her decision, because it was only when she was in the birthing centre that she realised she wanted all the drugs they had!





As you can see from these photographs, we were blessed with a warm, sunny day in the back garden of their house, and Cara-Mae was on top form: giggly, happy and true to character, ever curious.



The tears flowed almost as lavishly as the pink champagne, mine included, when Claire (or 'Coach McGeary' as she used to be before she married Gareth last year) read Neil Gaiman's wonderful poem, Blueberry Girl, and Cara-Mae's Guide Parents, Gemma and Gary spoke their promises.




 These are just some of the things that Gavin and Zoe promised Cara-Mae


We promise to keep you safe, but encourage you to find your own way in this wonderful world.
We promise to nurture your curiosity, enthusiasm, and confidence.
 We promise to teach you that you always have choices, and that you can be whoever you want to be.

And these are some of the things they said to me in the lovely message they sent this morning

We so enjoyed the day. We loved the fact that it was informal, funny, touching, and most of all very personal to us - you had really listened to us and everything we wanted was reflected in the ceremony.  

All of our family and friends enjoyed it too and we had lots of comments about what a special occasion it was, even from those who had been a bit unsure/sceptical initially (we had so many people beforehand asking 'so what IS a naming ceremony?!'). 

People seemed to especially like the promises made by us and our chosen guideparents - this is where it really differed from a christening I think, as got to personally pledge what we will do to support C-M as she grows.

Thank you once again, Zoe, Gav, Cara-Mae and family x

Not at all Zoe: it was a pleasure! Thanks to Gareth for the great photos, and thank you again for asking me to be a part of your wonderful day.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Sarah and Rob's Humanist Wedding at Marlin's Wynd

I told Rob and Sarah they'd never use this photo...


As so often, I was wrong!


Sarah and Rob are both busies, as they call the police in Liverpool, and they first met at the scene of a pipe-bomb incident. That and some Facebook stalking led to a first date at Alton Towers that gave Rob a funny feeling in his woogy, which is a word I can't find in my Scouse dictionary…

They fell in love with each other and Edinburgh at more or less the same time, which was why they chose to come back here to the atmospheric 16th century Marlin's Wynd to get married in a ceremony that ticked all the boxes for passion, comedy and drama. 

Creating it wasn't easy, but I did tell them that when we met.


As I say to every couple I meet, the way I work isn't for everyone, because it asks a lot from you. It's only after your wedding that you realise why it's the best way to create the perfect ceremony, as Sarah and Rob also told me in the lovely card they sent me.

The thought of writing our ceremony sounded great, until we really thought about it: then it became terrifying! Where to start, what to include, how it would come across, and also the work involved in doing it. We nearly both gave up on the idea. I cannot tell you enough how glad we are that we went ahead and did it. 

From the homework, we had a wonderful evening where I saw I side of Rob I very rarely see (but know is hidden somewhere). It was such a moving thing to discuss - our story, and why we love each other. We laughed and we cried, and I will never forget that evening.

The writing of the ceremony was a labour of love and we laughed a lot doing that too. We cannot thank you enough for giving us the ideas, and the confidence to write it. It made the ceremony a lot more enjoyable for our guests too, as we realised from the conversations we had with them throughout the day.

Rob's uncle, who is a lifelong bachelor gave us the thumbs up, and said several times that if he were ever to get married, this is the kind of ceremony he would want: humorous and personal. We just wish we could do it all again now, it went so fast!

Thank you again, from the bottom of our hearts, you made our day!

Love, Sarah & Rob

It's couples like Rob and Sarah who make my life so rewarding. Not everyone has the courage to look hard at their relationship, the honesty to talk about it, and the courage to share their innermost hopes and dreams with the most important people in their lives, but they did, for which I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Hannah & Rory's Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

I knew that marrying a dashing young racing driver to a beautiful equestrienne would be fun.



What I didn't expect was that Hannah's handsome horse Rowan would also be a part of the proceedings. Mind you, they did say in the ceremony, "love me, love my horse", so I shouldn't really have been surprised. Like the couple, Rowan is stubborn, headstrong and good looking.

Rory and Hannah's story began at the tender age of fifteen, with a first date to see Scooby Doo at the cinema. Despite that, romance blossomed, and a formal proposal was made in the mud of the hay pen (Rowan may have wondered what Rory was doing down on his knee at that point…)

Their ceremony at the elegant Broxmouth Park was light-hearted, and full of joy. I was delighted when this card arrived the other day



Only a few days later, confirmation of that arrived from an unexpected quarter. Loraine Ross was the photographer that day, and she dropped me a line to say,

"Thank you for the incredible humanist ceremonies that you have taken where I have been the photographer. Such emotive and personal ceremonies and they stood out from all the others I have been part of".

Her own blog about the wedding is here: 
http://www.lorainerossweddings.co.uk/2015/07/broxmouth-park-wedding-photos.html
I think her photos are lovely and really do capture the atmosphere.

So my thanks to Loraine for the photos, but most of all to Hannah and Rory (and of course Rowan!) for letting me be part of their happiest day.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Aziza & Peter's Humanist Wedding at The Hub

Peter and Aziza had a great story to tell. 



There can't be many times that a bunch of Australian girls meet up with a clan of Scots guys at The Snowbombing Festival in Austria, but they did, and their romantic story went on from there all the way to the snows of Wanaka in NZ which was where they realised that 
"happiness is only real when shared".


Their wedding was a very moving affair, in all sorts of ways. 
Their friend Kirsten read us a bit of Rainer Maria Rilke 


Jamie gave us a verse from our own national bard


And then Aziza and Peter spoke their vows to each other from cards that I held at the shoulder of the person opposite, which is always very emotional.


Before we had the exchange of rings, we had to have an exchange of tissues!


I got a lovely card from them just the other day


Thanks for your love and support. Everyone spoke highly of you and the ceremony.


Having you as our celebrant was the best decision we ever made.
Love Aziza & Peter


Best decision but one, surely! 
Thanks again for asking, Peter and Aziza. 
It was a joy xxx

My thanks to Patrick and Lindsay of Edinburgh Photographic for these very atmospheric shots 

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Humanism & Christianity: friends or foes?

I was delighted to join the reverend Richard Holloway and others as part of this conversation at St Andrew's and St George's church last month, and Liam Fraser who also spoke, pointed me towards this video of the event.

It's long, but if you want to know why I think people choose to have humanist weddings, skip forward to 29' 30", where I sum it up in about two minutes.

 

Monday, 22 June 2015

10 years of legal Humanist marriage

It's amazing what's changed since June 18th 2005, when Karen Watts and Martin Reijns were married by Ivan Middleton at Edinburgh Zoo

Then there were only 12 celebrants authorised to conduct marriage. Now the HSS has ten times that number. Then the society could have counted its membership in the hundreds. Today there are more than 10,000 people who support our campaigns for equality and social justice, and if our statistics are correct, 2015 will be the year that humanist marriage becomes the second most popular form of marriage in Scotland



The most surprising thing to me was that the UK media don't think this is very interesting. There was a bit of online coverage from the BBC, but if there was any TV or radio, I missed it. The second most surprising thing was that France 3 (the equivalent of ITV News) came over here to take a look at humanist marriage as part of an hour long special report on the state of the institution in Europe.  



They came to speak to me when I was meeting a couple who are getting married later this year, and they liked it so much they kept on filming. If you've got a few minutes to spare, you can see the Scottish bit here.