Thursday, 12 April 2018

Kirsty and Rob's Humanist Wedding at West on the Green

Its great when couples really embrace the freedom of expression that a humanist wedding offers. Robert and Kirsty totally got that idea, and I loved the way they told their story at their winter wedding at West on the Green

"When Robert and Kirsty met, it quickly became clear that Robert had - and continues to have - some fairly terrible habits. Luckily, Kirsty likes a challenge, and Robert has often proven himself to be very, very challenging..."

After a year of living together Robert finally convinced Kirsty to get a kitten. Before she knew it, she discovered that he had reserved two. 

James and Georgie quickly became part of the family and although sceptical at first, Kirsty’s favourite sound now is hearing Robert giggling with his cats.

It really was 'a winter wedding!'

Kirsty sensibly chose a pair of Hunter wellies to make the short journey from the limo to the venue.

Robert's sister Susan gave us a reading called 'Union', by Robert Fulghum.

Then Kirsty and Robert spoke their vows and exchanged rings.

After they signed the marriage schedule, Kirsty's brother John gave us a last reading of 'The Art of a Good Marriage' by Wilfred Arlan Peterson before the wedding party headed out onto Glasgow Green to brave the Beast from the East!

I was very pleased to get this message today, along with these great photos by Simon Lees.

We can't thank you enough for your help with building and delivering our ceremony and how well it went on the day. 

Everyone commented on how lovely and how special and suited to ourselves it was which was all down to you guidance. You really did put us both at ease as well as set the scene for what was the best day of our lives!

Again we can't thank you enough for the work put in beforehand and for helping us through the process. It really did make the whole ceremony very special to us and we won't forget this for a very long time (hopefully forever!)

Thank you again for helping to make our big day extra special to us both.

Best wishes, Rob and Kirsty 

Mr and Mrs Boab I should be thanking you! It was a real joy working with you, and I hope that your wedding will continue to inspire you and your families and friends for years to come. Thanks for these kind words, and thanks again to Simon Lees for these very atmospheric photos.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Humanism in Pastoral Care

I was very pleased to see this story in today's Guardian. It's taken a lot of campaigning to allow humanists to be part of chaplaincy teams of any kind, so this is something to celebrate.

I am more than a little confused however, by the related article from Andrew Brown in Comment is Free 

Humanism is increasingly the default position in England when people don’t want to think about theology or religious questions. It has replaced “C of E” as the translation of a muffled “don’t know” in questions about religious identity. It’s not the same as atheism, which implies a much sharper-edged conception of identity.

Apart from the careless substitution of 'Britain' with 'England' - let's not go there - I think Andrew Brown greatly overestimates public awareness of Humanism.

Humanists UK, formerly the British Humanist Association, claims only 65 thousand members: a drop in the ocean in a country with a population of more than 65 million people. 

I wish it were more. As a humanist celebrant I rarely meet anyone who actively identifies as humanist, which is why my reaction on these occasions is one as much of surprise as delight.

I also take issue with Andrew's notion that Atheism has a 'sharper-edged conception of identity'. Atheism amounts to no more than a certainty that gods don't exist.

Secular humanists can be atheist or agnostic, and for most of us, what we believe in is much more important than what we do not.

My lift-pitch version goes like this: Humanists believe that we should behave towards others as we would like them to behave towards us; we believe that we can lead good and worthwhile lives guided by reason and compassion and we believe - as the late Jo Cox MP said in her maiden speech to parliament - that there are more things that unite humanity than divides it. 

Here's another statement of what humanists believe, which comes from the Caledonian Humanist Association, of which I'm a member. 

One day, Andrew Brown may well be right, and Humanism will be a 'default position', but not because people don't want to think about religion.

On the contrary, it will be because people have thought about religion, and want to be part of a movement that celebrates the values that unite humanity, rather than divide it.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Lucy and Jason's Humanist Wedding at Eskmills Venue

We've all had those conversations outside nightclubs, haven't we?

Well it was on the steps outside Mood, not long after she and Jason first met, that Lucy told her bridesmaids Dawn and Danielle, ‘If I don’t marry him one day, there is something wrong!’ 

Six years later, she was proved right, in a very moving ceremony that she and Jason wrote themselves. 

As she told me,"The day itself was wonderful. I'm so glad that we chose a humanist wedding as everything that everyone heard had been written by us. 

This gave us the chance to involve many special people on the day which otherwise I would have been unsure how to do. 

The preparation for the wedding and our ceremony was a little challenging, because it forced us to think outside the box and think in depth about our true thoughts and feelings, often things we don't discuss.

I'm glad we were made to do this, it made me appreciate Jason for who he was and I realised I was valuable to Jason and we had the basis to move on with our big day. 

Lucy and Jason made two big decisions. The first was to ask bridesmaid Becca to write a poem for them: the second was to keep it - and their vows - a secret till the day.

Writing our own vows was another choice we made: for once I was lost for words and didn't know where to start whereas Jason surprised me. He had his done long before me, and hearing what he had to say on the day was invaluable to me, we made promises to one another that are personal to us and important to keep.

This photo is a perfect example of how to lay  out your vows. As you can see, I was holding Jason's card at Lucy's shoulder so he could glance at it when he needed a prompt, and that made it easy for him to look her in the eye as he spoke these very important words.

I have to give the last word on the ceremony to Lucy. As she said, 

"I would do it all over again in a heartbeat... although Jason might decline!"

It's a good line Lucy, but somehow I don't think so! Thanks again for choosing me to be your celebrant, and thanks to Roy Taylor of Euro Photographics for these lovely photos.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Speaking your vows

Speaking the vows that you have thought about for so long, and written in your own words, is perhaps the ultimate expression of your love. It's what humanists in Scotland campaigned for more than twenty years to allow you to do, and they are the perfect expression of what your wedding is all about, but there are one or two practical considerations you should bear in mind.

It works very well in an intimate setting where all your guests are within earshot, but when you have a bigger gathering, you may find that not everyone can hear what you're saying.

You could opt to have a microphone on a stand between you, as Rebecca and Gary did, or you could do what Lauren and Ross did at their wedding this afternoon.

As they're both quite softly-spoken, they realised that not everyone would be able to hear their words, so they arranged for their vow cards to be passed around the tables over dinner, so their guests were all able to read what they'd chosen to promise. 

Isn't that a great idea? 

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Dan and David's Humanist Wedding Blessing at Edinburgh Castle

Most of the weddings I conduct are legal, but the blessing ceremonies I do that have no legal status whatsoever can be every bit as emotionally powerful - if not more so.

There can't be many couples who waited 20 years to get married, but David and Dan did. 

What made their blessing ceremony at Edinburgh Castle so special was that they chose to have it on the 20th anniversary of the day they met - the 4th of July - making it the 'real' celebration of their marriage, even though it wasn't a legally binding ceremony. (They'd taken care of the legalities before they flew over).

It was a very international gathering, with guests from Spain, Belgium, Germany, England and every corner of the USA, and Dan and David really made it their own.

Their maid of honour and their best man came into the sounds of Pachelbel's Canon, and once they'd arrived, David and Dan entered together to the sound of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

The first thing I told the guests was that this wasn't just their anniversary, it was THE BEST DAY OF THEIR LIVES.

We had a reading from Les Miserables, by Scott: we talked about the sun, about Zeus, and about the Vena Amoris: Sarah read a poem by Anne Sexton called Cinderella, and then Dan and David spoke their vows.

Oh boy... it was emotional!

I think this shot has to get my 'wedding photo of the year' award for its symmetry, balance and emotional heft. Erica Hardesty is a truly exceptional photographer, isn't she?

I've been looking forward to writing about this ceremony for a while now. 

Some time back, David got in touch to say, "Once we Skyped with you on that afternoon really sold it for us. You were so gracious, calming, comforting and smart. You really understood us; you listened to us; and we really understood you. We both remember looking at each other after Skyping with you and saying: WE FOUND THE PERFECT PERSON TO FACILITATE OUR BLESSING."

Well, I feel blessed to have been part of it: it certainly was the best 4th of July party I've ever been at. 

Thank you once again gentlemen, for choosing to work with me, and thanks once again to Erica for these really splendid images.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Rhian and Kenny's Humanist Wedding at Colstouin House

I was very touched to get a thank you message from Kenny and Rhian the other day, illustrated by these very atmospheric photos by the talented Claire Juliet Paton.

They chose to get married on the first day of the Six Nations, when Wales and Scotland met in Cardiff, so that required very careful planning. 

They very sensibly decided to have the ceremony at 1.00 pm which meant that the guests could all watch the match at 2.30. 

OK, the Welsh guests were probably a little happier than the Scots by 4.00 pm, but as you will see, it didn't detract from Rhian and Kenny's truly moving and creative ceremony.

Just over a month on from the day and we’re both still filled with real joy and pride over what our day and our ceremony ended up being. 

I remember thanking Tim immediately after the ceremony and saying how fantastic it had been and he replied, ‘Of course it was – you wrote it!' 

That sums up the whole experience. 

From our first visit to Tim we were encouraged to do what we wanted to and it helped make for a beautiful, emotional, personal experience that we wouldn’t swap for anything. 

Tim offered guidance where required but overall just gave us the reassurance we needed that the ceremony we prepared would work. And it did! 

We were complimented so many times on how enjoyable everyone found it. There were tears, laughter and singing from everyone in the room.

One of our favourite moments, however, happened even before the ceremony. We had chosen not to spend the night or morning separately and to enter the ceremony room at the same time. This meant we were able to grab some time immediately before the ceremony, together with Tim. 

He immediately sensed how nervous we each were and set about settling us down with his trademark humour. Tim then let us have a dry run of putting the rings on so we didn’t mess up with the wrong hands. Of course, this all ended in tears (of joy) and make-up had to be hastily fixed. It was a beautiful moment and it helped prepare us for doing it again in a room full of people.

Tim remained a hugely calming, guiding influence through the ceremony, casually and calmly directing us where to stand and what to do without it even really being noticeable. It helped give us complete faith that everything would go smoothly. 

His advice to take in the moment, enjoy it and to also look at everyone else enjoying it too stuck in our minds throughout and it was great to see our friends and families laughing and crying along with us.

Looking back, we can’t imagine having done things differently and can only offer our complete thanks to Tim for guiding us through the whole process.

Once again we'd like to offer you our thanks for helping to make such a special day.

It was my pleasure, Kenny and Rhian: I can't thank you enough for sharing these words with me and of course these great shots from Claire.

I can't not post these last two - they still bring a big smile to my face, despite the result!

Kirsty and Rob's Humanist Wedding at West on the Green

Its great when couples really embrace the freedom of expression that a humanist wedding offers.  Robert and Kirsty totally got that ide...