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.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Ewan and Stewart's Humanist Wedding at The Caves

Look at these photos, then tell me what's missing…

Gaydar didn't exist 23 years ago when Ewan & Stewart got together.
They met over the phone: this very one, in fact 

The Caves weren't even a glint in Norrie Rowan's eye then either...

Yes, this will be a kind of detective story
and these are not realistic portraits of the Groom & Groom
But they do love to travel...

Every wedding needs an usher

But only this one had an usherette...

Lots of their friends had speaking parts

and the boys arrived in style (The car is a Lanchester)
The music they played as we waited for them to make their entrance was very eclectic and included Pace Mihi Domine, by Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble, Ennio Morricone's theme from Cinema Paradiso and Eli's Theme from Tomas Alfredson's film Let the Right One In before they made their entrance to Doris Day singing Secret Love.

Stewart's very glamorous mum
Ewan's very happy family
Me giving them all my chat...
The ceremony was a total hoot
I loved the way they invited several of their guests to ask them questions

To which they could say

We Do

or even

 We Don't!

Of course they wrote their own personal vows

which they kept secret from each other until the day

and which would have brought a tear to the proverbial glass eye
The guests absolutely loved it

Not least because they asked their mums to be witnesses

And then off they went to start the party
and enjoy a delicious dinner
Much has changed since Ewan and Stewart first met all those years ago.
The age of consent was 21 then: now it's 16.
And of course same-sex marriage is now legal here in Scotland, which is wonderful.
But one thing hasn't changed.

Homophobia is alive and well.
It thrives in all sorts of institutions, including education, the law and the armed services.

I've conducted a lot of same-sex weddings, and in every case until now, I haven't been able to write about them because it might jeopardise the careers - or even the lives - of the participants.

 Until people are able to be open about their sexuality, I will continue to have to continue to disguise the identities of my same-sex couples.

Stewart and Ewan's wedding was one of the most moving and meaningful ceremonies I've ever had the privilege of conducting, but it  frustrates both them and me that there are two important things missing from these fabulous photographs of their extremely happy day: their faces.

Ewan and Stewart sent me a note with these photographs from the lovely Lindsey MacKenzie Parker

We had the best and happiest day of our lives and the wedding, particularly the ceremony, was everything we could have hoped for.  Full of love, laughter and utterly human.  
So many of our friends and family said the sense of joy and love was palpable and it was, by far, the best wedding they've been to including their own!  
One of our guests, who is getting a divorce, said to me that watching our ceremony made him realise that he wasn't in love when he got married.
 Our guests thought you were wonderful and some English friends said they would get married in Scotland now because they absolutely wanted a humanist wedding.

So thank you so much Ewan and Stewart for sharing these with me and my readers. It was a privilege to conduct your marriage and I wish you both many years of happiness to come!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Daisy & David's Humanist Wedding at The Loch Fyne Restaurant, Newhaven Harbour

if you recognise either of these gorgeous newly-weds, chances are that you hail from the world of sport or film. Daisy works with my old friend Simon Mallinson at one of Scotland's leading production companies. MTP. David, like his best man brother James is a Judo player who's had a distinguished career at international level, which explained why there was more than the usual compliment of cauliflower ears in the crowd that came to watch them get hitched on a glorious May afternoon down at Newhaven Harbour.

They took a lot of care and imagination to craft a wonderful ceremony, which incorporated inspiring and moving speeches from both their parents and grandparents. A particular highlight for me was the reading by Daisy's friend Norman of a beautiful piece I'd never heard before, called The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

“Ultimately there comes a time when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person.

When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”

L’Engle was an American author and a devout Episcopalian who died in 2007. She believed in universal salvation, which meant that not only were her books banned from Christian schools and libraries, but that secular critics found her work too religious: poor woman! She deserved better. 

It was just a shame I had to rush off afterwards, because there were some old friends in the crowd I'd have loved to caught up with, and I could tell it was going to be a wonderful day. I was really touched to get these photos just last night from D&D, along with this note.

Hi Tim, We are back from honeymoon and finally have the chance to write and say a huge thank you for conducting our wedding ceremony. You were a brilliant presence of calm on the day and we have had so many comments about your smooth delivery and wonderful manner. You made our day.

We were really pleased that you were able to help us introduce our own humanist perspective on marriage to our friends and family. For many there, humanism was a familiar concept and for others it was all very new. Despite this, you must have gathered from the number of teary-eyed guests we had at the wedding, just how much of an impact the ceremony had on so many of them. There were plenty of big, gruff blokes whose wives had never seen them cry before, even when the kids were born!! 

Our parents and grandparents are still high as kites from the day and we feel incredibly lucky to have had a wedding that went so smoothly. Even the sun shone on Leith that day :) There is not one thing we would want to change about it and you were a big part of the reason we have such wonderful memories of the occasion. Many thanks once again for everything. Best wishes, David & Daisy xxx

It was a privilege and a pleasure D&D. May you enjoy long life, and great happiness! xxx

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ramona's Naming Ceremony

A naming ceremony is very like a wedding but much more relaxed, and Ramona's welcome to the world was very laid back indeed. The house was packed with friends and their children as Claire, Bob and I talked about her journey into existence and the way her character has developed over the year she's been in the world.

It was a great story that began with Bob asking Scott the tiler if he wouldn't mind finishing the bathroom despite the sounds of an expectant mother. What came next was perhaps the most terrifying, exhilarating and beautiful experiences of Claire and Bob’s life, as they were able to deliver Ramona together, with no complications and without anyone else present - just mother, father and baby. (By then, Scott had made his excuses and left…)

Ramona is Bob and Claire's second daughter, and as they said, 'Becoming parents of two children has certainly been an education, but it has been a beautiful year, full of delights, and the challenges are well worth it.  To quote David Frost, “Having one child makes you a parent; having two makes you a referee!”

'Ramona loves spending time with all of her family and friends, but no-one more so than Scarlett.  When Ramona watches her big sister, it is obviously with admiration and love.  On any given day, you may find the two of them chasing each other around the house; playing tea parties; or just enjoying a bedtime story together.  Their absolute favourite games however are making castles out of all the living room furniture.'

One idea I gave them as a way of literally marking the day was of creating a Handbook for Life. You can probably buy them somewhere but The Blue Peter way it is to get a set of A4 sheets of cartridge paper, and some poster paints. Everyone gets their own page where they can make a print of their hand, and write something inspiring or thoughtful.  

Kids love it, and the paint washes off easily so it's not too messy. You then bind the pages together between hard covers and keep the book safe for a couple of decades until Junior is old enough to read it, which could be any time between the ages of 18 and 80, depending on the child... 

Along with these photos, Claire sent me this note. "Thank you again for delivering the ceremony for us. We both had a really wonderful day and hope that everyone enjoyed the ceremony as much as we did. The Handbook for Life was a beautiful idea and we plan to continue adding to it so that we can give Ramona a wonderful gift once she is a young woman".

Sunday, 19 April 2015

My New Portrait

Rhona and Paul are getting married at the beautiful Amisfield Walled Garden in Haddington this August in August, and they kindly sent me a snap of their wedding cake topper: an uncanny resemblance wouldn't you say?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Same Sex Marriage

Last weekend I conducted my second legal same sex marriage since the introduction of new legislation at the end of 2014, and it was a hoot: fantastic music, wonderful ceremony, heightened emotion: everything I've come to associate with same sex ceremonies since I first started to conduct them almost ten years ago now.

In all that time, I've probably conducted about a dozen celebrations, but if you looked through this blog, you won't find a single picture, which is a shame. Gay rights have come a long way over the last 20 years, but there are still professions where people have to conceal their sexual identity for one reason or another, and it seems that every single wedding blessing I've done has fallen into that category.

Until now that is! I'm really delighted to have met Eli and Kate, who've asked me to conduct their wedding in their garden later this year, and they will be sending me some photos of that after the event, which I am really looking forward to, because I like the way they think.

We first met yesterday evening and we had a great chat and I was really pleased when we were talking about where they might stand and Eli came out with this phrase that they're going to have printed up to help the guests to know where to go.

Pick a seat

Not a side
Either way
It's for a bride

Pure dead brilliant, as we used to say: thanks Eli!