Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Cheryl and Andy's Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

Almost all my recent weddings at Broxmouth Park have taken place outside, under the huge cedar of Lebanon that was planted by Queen Victoria when she popped in on a Scottish trip in 1878, and it all looked very promising when I was down there for Andy and Cheryl's rehearsal the day before their wedding: it really was absolutely baking hot!

The local nickname for Dunbar is 'Sunny Dunny' because it enjoys more hours of sunlight than anywhere in the country, but this is Scotland,and I think you know where this story is going now, don't you?

It's agonising when your best-laid plans gang agley, especially when you've been looking forward to your big day for more than a year, but fortunately Broxmouth Park was built around a very beautiful house with lots of elegant interior spaces, so Simon and his team can cope with whatever the weather throws at them.

In the end, we all squeezed into the dining room, where pianist and singer Catherine Ward started the ceremony with a rendition of the Fleetwood Mac classic, 'Songbird' for the entrance of the bridal party.

Cheryl and Andy's story had a strong East Lothian theme, thank not least to their shared love of golf, and after I'd told it, Cheryl's friend Jessica gave us a reading of Wendy Cope's poem, 'A Vow'. You can find it along with some other great suggestions here

Andy and Cheryl dropped me a line the other day with these excellent photos taken by the talented Hamish Irvine who despite his name isn't a local lad: he's based in Leeds and London.

"We chose a humanist ceremony for a number of reasons. Firstly, we really liked the idea of having a non-religious ceremony that had some meaning and substance - too often civil ceremonies are short and almost procedural. 

Having the flexibility to create our own ceremony was also really important to us. 

We wanted the whole day to be a fun, informal but very personal celebration and a humanist ceremony allowed us to do that. 

Finally, the humanist ethos of seeking happiness and allowing others to do the same is very much how we like to live our lives - not too seriously, having respect for others and making the most of life.

One of the many nice personal touches I loved was that Andy and Cheryl give the guests a lyric sheet so they could join Catherine to sing the Beatles' perfect wedding song, 'All You Need is Love'

I also love this 'reverse two-shot' where you can see the expressions on the guests' faces as Cheryl and Andy kissed for the first time as man and wife. 

Looking back on the day now, we're delighted we chose a humanist ceremony and all of the effort that went into writing the ceremony was definitely worth it! 

It was great being able to share our story in a personal way with our guests using plenty of humour. We also really liked being able to incorporate our love of different music into the ceremony.

When we tried to explain to our families what the ceremony would entail, they seemed a little unsure(!) but the feedback from our guests has been brilliantly positive, with many of them commenting that it was one of the best ceremonies they have been to - so happy, full of joy and laughter and a perfect start to the day. 

Of course you played a huge role in making the ceremony such a success, guiding us through the drafting process by FaceTime and over email and then in the rehearsal on the Friday (which definitely helped to ease some of the nerves on the day!). 

The day surpassed our expectations, we had the most fantastic time and thank you for helping to make it as special as it was!"

Thank you so much, Andy and Cheryl. The reason I started this blog almost ten years ago was to allow people to get a sense of what it is that makes humanist weddings different, and I don't think I could have asked for a better anniversary present than your very cogent analysis: I really do appreciate it, and I am sure your words and pictures will inspire a whole new generation of happy humanist couples!

PS - of course the sun came out almost as soon as the ceremony came to an end! Thanks again to Cheryl and Andy, and to Hamish Irvine for these wonderful images.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

The Importance of Being Earnest

My old friend Giles just stumbled across his Marriage Certificate while tidying up some old paperwork. We met when we were both working in advertising and I'm pretty sure that when he and Nicki got married back in 2003, he was a Group Account Director at the hip Leith Agency. The one thing I am 100% sure he wasn't was a 'Biscuit Designer'.

Here's the story, as Giles tells it. 'An old friend of mine from the agency WCRS got fed up with City types in bars asking her what she did for a living, and used to tell them she was a Biscuit Designer. 

It struck me that my occupation at the time had absolutely no bearing on the act of getting married, so that's how I answered when the official asked. I wasn't aware it would show up on the form...'

And there it is. Giles Moffat, Biscuit Designer.

We don't tend to look at our Marriage Certificates once we've got them: they go into the filing cabinet, and it's usually only our children who get to see them when the time comes to lay us to rest. So take Giles's advice and when the Registrar asks you for your occupation, play it straight if you want to avoid causing them a lot of confusion!

Mind you, had Nicki and Giles been getting married today, the question,'what do you do for a living?' would still have been almost impossible to answer. 

Giles is currently a Gin brand owner, a clothing entrepreneur, and a CMO for occasional hire, so as he says, 'The form is not fit for purpose!'

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Why can't I use my own pen?

The moment you sign the Marriage Schedule is an important one: as the Registrar General of Scotland says, 'no marriage can proceed without it', and people often ask me if they can use their own pen. The answer is, 'sorry, no you can't', and here's why.

The Marriage Schedule is a permanent record, so it must be signed using permanent black liquid ink. The ink in ballpoint pens isn't permanent - it fades over time, and it can be erased, and that's why celebrants, members of the clergy and registrars have to use fountain pens and archival, or permanent black ink.

I've got three or four fountain pens, and I bring them all to every wedding just in case the ink in any one of them has dried up. You might say, 'well I've got a fountain pen too, and I'd like to use it'.  

In that case, I will be happy to use your pen instead, but only if you load it - in my presence - with an appropriate permanent black liquid ink.

If you'd like to take that approach, have a look at this post about the kinds of ink you can use. The one I'd recommend is called, appropriately, 'Registrars Ink' and you can order some here.

Thank you Scott Macfarlane for reminding me of the issue: I look forward to signing your Marriage Schedule in a couple of months from now!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Hell on Heels

I've written before about the perils of outdoor weddings for wearers of high heels, but here's an even better idea from Alan and Andrew, whose brilliant wedding I conducted yesterday at Archerfield's Marine Villa.

Don't just advise your guests to get heel protectors: buy some on their behalf, and give them away on the day!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Jade and Michael's Humanist Wedding at The Cowshed in Crail

Jade and Michael did a lovely thing in their very relaxed and informal ceremony at The Cowshed.

They asked their parents and grandparents the BIG question: What's the secret to a long and happy marriage?

Jade’s parents said: ‘Compromise, and doing things together as a partnership and family. Love has blossomed as we’ve grown old together'.

Michael’s parents said: 'it was just a feeling that we knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together and marriage was our commitment to doing that'.

And Jade’s grandparents said: 'Always have fun and have a sense of humour! Do things together – we’ve been dancing together from as long as we can remember.'

Thank you so much for those words of wisdom

oh ancient ones!

Michael and Jade sent me a lovely card that said, 'We want to thank you for conducting our truly amazing ceremony! Even without a rehearsal, it was better than we ever imagined.

we thoroughly enjoyed writing our story, and you delivered it so well, with many laughs and tears from our guests'.

Thank you, Jade and Michael - I loved it too, and thanks to Michele of Lamb Loves Photography for the pics!

Last Minute Rehearsals, or How To Negotiate the Dress!

Even if we've already had a formal rehearsal, I always make a point of having a word with the bridal party in the half hour before the wedding. It's a chance to settle last minute nerves, and most importantly give some advice about how to 'negotiate the dress'.

At the rehearsal, brides are almost invariably wearing skinny jeans and sneakers, so walking down the aisle is easy. It's only on the day that I get to see what she's really going to wear and it's the ideal time to talk about how best she should come down the aisle.

Like many brides, Carly had chosen a beautiful A-Line dress, with a fitted bodice and a skirt that flows to the ground. 

A lot of online advice about making your entrance suggests you 'lock arms' with your escort, but in an A-Line dress, that won't work.

What's actually going to happen is that at some point your escort is going to put his size twelve feet foot right onto your skirt - and that's not a shot you want in your wedding album!

That's why I usually suggest that for this style of dress, the bride holds her bouquet in one hand, and lays her other hand on top of her escort's (in this case, Carly's dad, Garo). 

That way, you have the freedom to move and you can be as close or as far away as sense and the skirt dictate. Even if it does make you look a bit like you're on 'Strictly'...

You can see more of Carly and her beautiful dress here: thanks again to Raymond Keith for these photos.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Carly and Gordon's Humanist Wedding at Carlowrie Castle

In these days when many people meet their life partner on a dating app, it's lovely to be able to tell a story about a couple who first met in primary school, (even if Gordon thought that Carly was 'quiet and shy', and she just remembered him as 'the wee guy with the curtains').

They didn't actually date back then, and it was only after a random meeting at the legendary Subway on Lothian Road in 2005 that their paths and lives entwined. Two years later they moved in together, one year after that, their beautiful baby boy Cole came into the world and delighted though they were, they knew they had to add the lovely Lucia to complete the clan. (Yes, Gordon did get a bit emosh at that point!)

As they said, 'Lucia's the funniest wee girl we've ever met and she never fails to make us laugh every day with her one liners and her diva attitude' (yes, you guessed, she takes after her mother!)

Three years went by, during which Carly gave up on any hope of having her 'big day' but of course Gordon had other plans, and despite giving every appearance to the contrary, he was planning a special surprise.

On the morning of the engagement, Carly said that Gordon was being shifty. She didn't realise why until they were standing next to a beautiful loch, and Gordon got down on one knee and asked her to be his wife. As she said, 'it turns out that Gordon can be romantic when he wants to be!'

After a wonderful honeymoon, and a manic few weeks of getting back to normal life, Carly and Gordon sent me these great shots from the day taken by the award-winning photographer Raymond Keith, and these words, which express better than I can why I take a hardcore approach to weddings.

'Wow - what a day we had! We cannot thank you enough for allowing us to have the ceremony that we dreamed of. It was amazing in every respect - we had tears of happiness and laughter, which every wedding ceremony should have.

When we first came to you and we heard how you bring everything together with homework we were a bit apprehensive.  

With both of us working full time with 2 kids we didn’t know if we would find the time to fit the homework in, however, we gave it our best shot.  Our homework made us realise all the reasons we fell in love with each other in the first place and it was lovely.

I had the fear when you then asked us to write the whole ceremony from the notes we had provided - the whole process seemed a bit daunting.  

Now I know and understand why you do things they way you do - our wedding was so personal to us and that's how it should be. We put in our hard work, and it definitely paid off!

Its funny that the ceremony was the one part of our wedding which we were least looking forward to but looking back it was our favourite part and we can’t wait to get our video back so we can relive it all again.

I would not hesitate to recommend you to a friend should they marry.

Thank you again, Carly and Gordon.

As I said, Carly, your words really do sum this up. From being the part of your day that you least expected to enjoy, your ceremony became your favourite bit. Job done - and it was done by you, not me, and that makes me very proud! 

Thank you so much once again, and thanks of course to Raymond Keith for these lovely photos.

Cheryl and Andy's Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

Almost all my recent weddings at Broxmouth Park  have taken place outside, under the huge cedar of Lebanon that was planted by Quee...