Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Candace and Luis's Humanist Wedding at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow but they've got nothing on the Sequoiadendron giganteum or giant redwood.

This baby grew from a seed planted by Candace and Luis whose wedding I celebrated last year.

The John Muir Grove at the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is a natural cathedral formed by six of these huge trees that were planted in the 1920's and are now more than 400 feet high. It's a staggering thought that they could live for more than three thousand years, and that one day they could stand more than twice as high. The grove made the perfect setting for the marriage of Candace and Luis.

A free-spirited pair, their ceremony was as radical and original as they are. Delivered by me in Spanish and English, with contributions from most of the guests, it was a suitably free-form celebration of love between 'a bleak poet and a gothic musician who create love poems on the fridge'. They even created a booklet that gave people all the text of the ceremony as well as some of their favourite poems, which was a beautiful idea.

Some of the text wasn't in the ceremony itself. I loved the way they talked in the introduction about what marriage means to them.

We imagine that marriage is a guarantor 
of the happiness we're enjoying with someone.
That it will make permanent what might otherwise be fleeting.
But in truth, our desperate urge to make things permanent 
will only lead to unhappiness,
because a marriage is a journey, not a pause button.
Happiness is transient.
Marriage should be permanent.
We have agreed never to divorce because we believe 
that going through the hard stuff
will add value to our experience in life, and with each other.
With all this in mind, cheers to you and to our happy day!

At the end of the ceremony, they planted several tiny seeds of giant redwoods that could live for more than three thousand years and sent me not just these lovely words, but my very own tiny tree.

Hopefully with the spring and summer sun the dear little sequoia will grow strong and lively. 
We hope that you are well: we speak about you so much, and we had such a great experience (plus we are the poster couple for happily married). Thank you - it was an amazing day. And it's a beautiful life.

My thanks to you too, Candace y Luis: I hope you remain very much in love!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Homework 2.0

One of the more enjoyable parts of my job as a celebrant is reading homework, because that's where couples really open up about themselves to me for the first time. But April - who's getting married to Greg later this year - thought outside the box, and she created a slideshow compiled from all the photographs they've taken over the time they've been together.

As April said, "I found writing everything down without waffling was quite hard! 

I do love pictures though, and the homework inspired me to test out our new Mac (I've never used one before) to create a slideshow of "us" to go with it. 

Greg loved it, and it was a great reminder for both of us of all the great times we've spent together so far!"

I loved it too, and I hope it will inspire you to do something creative of your own to enhance your words. 

Well done April - come to the front of the class and take the rest of the day off: you've earned it!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

TY in B&W

There's something timeless about black and white photography, and it seems to be making a bit of a comeback, if my three most recent thank-you cards are anything to go by.

Kyle was the best man at the wedding of Russell and Sarah at The Royal Scots Club back in July. He and Jen got in touch a couple of days later, when the celebrant who they'd booked to conduct their wedding fell ill. They really embraced the whole process, and their wedding just two months later at The George Hotel was relaxed, very moving, and extremely good fun.

Erin & Brian had an extraordinary story. Their five-year love story wasn't just long-distance, it was trans-Atlantic, but thanks to Skype and regular visits, they survived to tell the tale at the wonderful Balbirnie House Hotel in Fife

In their letter, Brian & Erin said, "We want to send our gratitude for your important and unforgettable role on our wedding day. You made the whole process of writing our ceremony while being oceans apart a simple one. One of our favourite moments - as you predicted - was writing our 'homework'. The night we shared what we wrote to each other was so special and intimate that we will remember it for years to come. 

Our family and friends cannot stop talking about our ceremony, and how special it was. It was personal and told the story of our love, and everyone was able to feel it. Thanks to you, the day flowed seamlessly, and we will always have our ceremony to look back on as another wonderful memory of our special day".

Claire and Graeme's wedding was a bit of a first for me - I was astonished to realise that after ten years of conducting marriages in Edinburgh, theirs would be the first I'd ever conduct at the historic Caledonian Hotel and it was a real blast: big crowd, great ceremony, and the legend that is Mister Patrick Hayes as toastmaster.

After the ceremony, their photographer Ricky Baillie whisked them off to the top of the Royal Mile for an impromptu photo session, as you can see from the shot they chose for their card, but there are some other wonderful ones here too http://www.rickybaillie.com/claire-graeme/

\My thanks to Jen & Kyle, Erin & Brian, Claire & Graeme and of course to all their photographers!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Are You Free To Conduct Our Wedding?

This has to be my most Frequently Asked Question, and I can't count the number of times I've had to say 'Sorry, I'm not', and then pass the request onto my colleagues. However I'm pleased to say I've found a solution. It's called Doodle.

I've been using it to manage my meetings for ages, but now it can see much further into the future so you can see not just the dates when I am free, but the times too. If you want to try it out, please click here

For instance I know that in week commencing 10th October next year, I've got two weddings booked, on the Thursday and the Sunday. Now you can see that too…

Give it a shot, and let me know if it's a help?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Vicky and Mat's Humanist Wedding at The Glen Pavilion

Mat and Vicky first met just over five years before their big day. A trip to the legendary Download Festival sealed the deal, and they made it more real by living together and getting their two dogs, Blue and Kizzy. 

Grooms-to-be could learn a lot from the way Mat approached their engagement in April 2013. Knowing that Vicky has very specific tastes in jewellery, he used a piece of ribbon to propose and then allowed her to choose her own ring: smart move, Mat!

Their friend Lee Sutherland gave us an excellent rendition of Edward Monkton's tale of two dinosaurs, 'A Lovely Love Story', and then Vicky and Mat spoke their vows. They really wanted to say 'I take you', but as long term followers of this blog will know, the HSS insists that couples use the word 'accept', so we came up with a compromise that kept them within their interpretation of the law.

Tim: Do you Mathew take Vicky as your wife; will you love her with all your heart? Do you promise to encourage and inspire her, to laugh with and comfort her in times of sorrow and struggle, to love and cherish her always through whatever life may bring you?
Mat: I do.
Tim: Thank you. Now we will have an exchange of rings

Mat (speaking): Vicky, I accept you as my wife and give you this ring as a reminder of my love for you.

Vicky and Mat asked their grannies, Rosemary and Paddy, to be the witnesses, and then, once all the guests had promised to enjoy themselves, we all went outside for some al fresco photos in the park. A wee while back, they got in touch to send me these photos and some kind words.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for conducting our
ceremony. It was all we expected, and more and really made the day feel
like it was about us.

Everyone that attended had something positive to say about the
ceremony, especially the ones that hadn't seen a humanist one
before. I think it was the subject of most conversations in the
evening (unless people were just changing the subject everytime we

We would definitely recommend a humanist ceremony to anyone we know
and we have done so on a few occasions since our wedding.

Mat added, 
'It felt good to finally finish the ceremony but at times it was it was very difficult to find the right words (you may remember the correspondence regarding the term "I accept"). 

I would never suggest people use a general ceremony as writing it is what makes the ceremony yours. 
I felt pretty relaxed throughout, even though it did seem to go very quickly!' 

Mat's so right. If you want a unique expression of your love, the more you put into it, the more you get back. (But it will still seem to go very quickly!) My thanks again for choosing me to be your celebrant and thanks to Thomas Adameczek of White Tree Photography for these great shots.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Catherine and Alastair's Humanist Wedding at The Scottish Cafe at The National Galleries of Scotland

Catherine and Alastair's story proves that distance is no obstacle to romance. 

They fell in love even before they met in person for the first time, when Catherine flew over from Quebec, and Alastair gave her a whirlwind tour that took in gigs and ceilidhs, family meetings and the very special Isle of Jura. By the end, Catherine had fallen in love with Scotland too.

Getting a visa wasn't a cakewalk but when it finally came through, they celebrated with a 'Famous Canadians/Scots' fancy dress party where Alastair came as a mythical Québécois lumberjack, and Catherine dressed up as Dolly The Sheep. 

Their ceremony was joyous. Both their mothers spoke: Lyne, Catherine's mother, read an excerpt from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, and Alastair’s mother Gay read from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran. Then Catherine and Alastair did a very brave thing: they shared some of the reasons they love each other.

  After a pause for contemplation, they spoke their vows in both French and English, and exchanged rings.

While we signed the Marriage Schedule, we were treated to a great acoustic version of the David Bowie classic, Heroes, performed by Andy & Gabrielle, the best man and bridesmaid. They chose to ask their mums to be witnesses, but they kept that a secret so it was a wee surprise for them both on the day.

'We had a wonderful wedding day and are so glad we chose a Humanist ceremony' wrote Alastair and Catherine when they sent me these photos taken by their friend, the Canadian photographer and comedienne Genevieve Cytko. 
'Having the freedom to design our own ceremony (under your invaluable guidance!) 
allowed us to make it so personal and special to us'. 

'Everything that we said and did really meant something to us 
and we loved having Andy and Gabrielle
playing and singing while we signed the register with our mums. 

Being able to add a bit of French into the ceremony was great too 
and an added bonus that you were able to speak it. 

All our friends and family really enjoyed the ceremony. 
We think a few even said it was the best wedding ceremony they'd ever been to! 

If we hear of anyone else planning to get married, 
we will definitely recommend Humanism to them 
and we won't hesitate to suggest you as a celebrant too. 
All the best, Alastair and Catherine'.

As you can see, The Scottish Cafe at The National Galleries of Scotland is a great place to marry because you have all of Edinburgh's top sites right in front of you. The cafe is run by the wonderful Carina and Victor Contini, so the food is great too. You can check that out here, or just pop in for a coffee or dinner.

As I type, Edinburgh's Winter Festival is in full flow. The German Market is going on above, and there's open-air skating in the Princes Street Gardens, so it's an ideal time to visit!

Once again, thank you, Catherine and Alastair, for choosing to work with me: I loved the warmth and sincerity of your ceremony, and I wish you both every happiness in the years to come!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Jenna and Jonathan's Humanist Wedding at The Royal College of Physicians

If there is such a thing as a blockbuster wedding, then this was it. 
Jenna and Jonathan left nothing to chance. They chose the one sunny day in June. 

They booked the splendidly grand Royal College of Physicians
and they stuffed it to capacity with 150 of their favourite family and friends.

Jonathan had four ruggedly handsome best men; Jenna had two gorgeous bridesmaids and a maid of honour.

They had a great story that began over a hot photocopier in London, 
and ended at the very cool Tribeca Grill in NYC. 

Their dear friends Mhairi and John wrote and delivered a very cheeky poem, 

And Jonathan's little sister Rosie made everyone cry 

After a pause for quiet contemplation, 
we reached the climax of the ceremony when Jenna and Jonathan spoke their vows.

I loved the way their photographer Zsofia Molnar of Studio Life Photography stole all these great reaction shots: it must have been lovely for Jonathan and Jenna to see the expressions on their guests faces as they said the most important words they will ever say.

Their mums witnessed the Marriage Schedule, we all spoke a blessing, and then off they went to Queen Street Gardens for a quick, but romantic photo shoot.

Much time has passed since that sunny afternoon, and as I type, December gales are giving Edinburgh a battering, but these photos - and Team JJ's lovely letter - warmed my heart. 

"We can honestly say that creating our ceremony was a brilliant experience (if, a little daunting at first!)

But thanks to you and your words of wisdom and ideas, the creative juices were soon flowing, so much so that we had to attempt to cut the ceremony down (which to people that know us, was not a surprise!) 

So many people have come up to us and said it was the best ceremony they've ever been to and they couldn't believe how personal it was. It incorporated everything: love, happiness, humour and most of all, it represented us, and for that we cannot thank you enough. We will remember it for the rest of our lives. 

Thank you for making our day so special. We look forward to staying in contact, and will recommend you to everyone we know! All our best wishes, Jenna and Jonathan".

There is nothing better that a bride and groom can hear from their guests is there? The reason Team JJ is very simple: you wrote it! 

Thank you for having the courage to do it your own way, for making me a part of your wonderful day, and thank you Zsofia for your brilliant pics