Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Thank you, thank you, thank you

If you haven't yet got round to designing your thank you cards, here are some great ones that have come my way recently. The first is from Bruce and Bindy who married at the Signet Library in Edinburgh.

Their wonderful ceremony included this truly original vow:

Bruce: Bindy, If our house burnt down tomorrow, would you live with me in the woods?
Bindy: I would”

Dani and Pete flew over from the States, and they chose to have the tiniest possible surprise ceremony in Saint Andrews, with just their parents as guests. They squeezed their story into just two sentences, of which this was the first.

Our journey began with a very early morning running regimen that led to a meet-cute at Greenlake, a separating from the pack, followed by an arrow through the heart. 

And our last card comes from Claire & Gareth, who had a truly enjoyable wedding at Leith Town Hall that I've written about at greater length here. Love the portrait don't you?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Jason and Alice's Humanist Wedding at their home in Lenzie

Can you imagine leaving it till the night before your wedding to write your ceremony? No, neither can I. 

Alice and Jason did. Mind you, they're writers. And therein lies the clue. 

Writers work to deadlines. And even though we first met fully EIGHT months beforehand, it wasn't until the morning of the ceremony itself that I got the final draft in my hot little hand because that they didn't feel that vital sense of urgency until the very last minute.

Was I worried? Of course not. 

As you can see here, Alice and Jason write a rather brilliant blog called David Reviews. It's about the creative side of TV advertising (where I misspent many happy years as a producer and director) and Jason does a regular column for The Grauniad too, so I knew that come the hour, words wouldn't fail them. Indeed they didn't. I loved their ceremony, and I'm going to let them tell you about it in their own words. (Which have finally arrived a mere six months later but like their script, it's well worth the wait).

It's nearly six months since the rainy day in July when Alice May and I were married at our lovely house in Lenzie. 
There were so many reasons why I thought I'd never marry.  A lot of my friends thought - and still think - that I'd been married before.  The existence of my beautiful daughters Lana, Eve and Sasha providing obvious proof that I might have been through all of this before... but I hadn't. 
I had never wanted to marry anyone until I met Alice.  I've been lucky enough to have some wonderful relationships, some full of the love and laughter that I'd want as the foundation stones of a lifelong union but - in truth - none of them felt as though they were forever.
The restlessness provoked by a sense that these relationships ought to be have been better hasn't always cast me in a good light.  I haven't always been as fair or as considerate as I should have been and I worried greatly that this search - such as it was - for something completely fulfilling was going to be in vain. 
But it wasn't and I pretty much knew that as soon as I met Alice.  I was well into my forties by then and by the time we married on July 27th, I'd managed forty-seven years, three months and a week unsullied by matrimony.  But the wait was worth it for she is my one true love and I know with absolute certainty that'll I'll only ever be married once and I was right to wait all those years.
It was a thoroughly modern wedding.  During my years of prevarication, the rules had changed it a lot and you no longer have to opt for a dreary registry office if - as an atheist - you want to avoid the uneasy hypocrisy of a church wedding.
I knew my friend Tim Maguire had become a humanist celebrant and his name came up in the first practical conversation Alice and I had after we'd decided to marry. 
We visited him in Edinburgh and he explained how a humanist wedding works.  Tim's showmanship was impressive, reassuring and a little unnerving.  He is very much master of his domain and as much as he emphasised that we would be calling all the shots, we still came away with a slight sense that he'd make it his show. 
How wrong we were.  Tim Maguire was the humblest and kindest master of ceremonies it is possible to imagine.  Humorous when humour was needed and sombre when sombreness was needed, he did exactly what he promised he'd do and allowed us to have exactly the wedding we wanted. 
Even church weddings these days generally allow the bride and the groom to write their own vows (presuming they aren't committing to support each others' worship of the devil) but a humanist ceremony allows the participants to write the whole damn thing.  And that's what we decided to do.
We left it very late of course.  We both write for a living and it's customary in our world to leave everything until you can feel the deadline's hot breath on the back of your neck (why do you think it's taken so long for this piece to be written?)
But this backfired spectacularly when we received some terrible news just a week before the wedding.  My father - who had been planning to come over from Australia - was diagnosed with an extremely serious illness and would be unable to attend.  My brother and my father hadn't seen each other for fifteen years and it was a matter of some pride that my wedding had provided the motivation for them to end this inadvertent drought.  And now it wouldn't happen.  And Alice wouldn't meet him.  And - most of all - my dad was ill... very, very ill.
The task of writing the ceremony which lain before us in such an inviting way suddenly took on the appearance of a difficult chore. As did everything else that was yet to be arranged.  But we muddled through and on the morning of the wedding, we finally completed writing the words we would speak in the afternoon.
When I emailed the final draft to Tim Maguire - a couple of hours before he was due to set off for Lenzie - I worried that he might think we had gone too far.  We wanted to convey the idea that the ceremony itself was of no great importance - that it was the marriage that mattered - and we were determined to be quite subversive.  There were jokes - quite a lot of jokes. 

But as soon as Tim told me how much he liked what we'd written, I knew that everything was going to be all right.  And it was. 

Thank you, Jason and Alice, you've made my day!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Jolan and Dougie's Humanist Wedding at Glencorse Golf Club

Writing your own wedding ceremony isn't for everyone. And even when you know that it's exactly what you want to do, it can still be a challenge. It certainly was for Jolan and Dougie. We first met back in June, but two months later, Jolan got in touch to say that they were finding it the hardest thing they'd ever done. Her draft was like a book, whereas Dougie's was an empty sheet of paper, and they felt they were going round in circles, unsure of what to say. So we got together and had another chat.

It turned out that Jolan was worried about talking about her feelings in front of her daughters, while Dougie was worried that talking about his feelings at all would come across as being really soppy. I listened, and made some suggestions, and three weeks later, we had a great script that was moving and funny (but not even remotely soppy)

Dougie and Jolan had been together for a long time - so long in fact, that everyone just assumed that they were already  married. They were away on one of their wonderful holidays on a cruise ship when they made some new friends, Deb and Tim who, as Jolan and Dougie wrote, "when they found out that we weren’t actually married, marched us off to the ship’s Wedding Chapel, asked Dougie to bang out the Wedding March on the Grand Piano and Deb was all set to get the Captain out of his bed at 2am in the morning to officiate. (You may already have guessed that there was more than a little alcohol involved in this grand plan…)

But just when we were about to raid the ship’s shops for an evening gown, the Ship’s Chaplain appeared and - not being too impressed with our antics to say the least - asked us to leave. We laughed until we cried!"

On a more serious note, they also said, "We have already said how important our families are to us: the love and appreciation we have for our children is overwhelming, but they have all grown up now, and made their own way in life. Now it’s the right time for us to make our own way forward too."

It was a lovely, heartfelt evening in their favourite place, with all the most important people in their lives around them. From my own point of view, it was nice to meet my old friend Scott Wilson who I'd last seen at his niece Amy's wedding to JP on the beach at Orocco Pier.

I was so happy when I got these photos and this message from the happy couple shortly afterwards.

"We would just like to say thank you so much for conducting our beautiful ceremony last Saturday. I would put it down as one of the happiest days of my life. We would definitely recommend you to anyone who is getting married in the future. We have had such positive feedback about the ceremony as no one knew what to expect but they were amazed by it. Once again, a big thank you for everything, with love from Jolan & Dougie xx"

So it just goes to show - when you take the time and make the effort to use your own words to tell your family and friends just why it is that you're getting married, it really makes all the difference. 

I'm so proud of Jolan and Dougie for having the courage to keep going when they felt it was too much for them, and so glad that everyone there loved it too. It's all I ever hope for, and it's wonderful when it happens like this. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Chelle and Tim's Humanist Wedding at The Point

It's more than twenty-five years ago that a few hardcore travellers got together on a remote but beautiful beach on a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand to sit and watch the full moon and no doubt enjoy some exotic tobacco... It's sobering to think that Michelle and Tim would have been seven years old at the time...

Why is this relevant? Well, over the intervening years, the Full Moon Party on Haad Rin beach on Koh Phangan has become a huge world-famous event, and it was there that Chelle and Tim's paths first crossed. 

Actually, it was the day after the party, and the first time Tim saw Michelle, she was asleep under a dayglo T-shirt in the morning sun. They clicked immediately, and over the next few days, their lives changed forever as they talked, ate, drank and laughed together. 

Their very romantic story was interspersed with contributions from friends and family. 

Even before we properly got going, their friends Krystal and Martin shared some first impressions, and Jamie read us the lyrics to 'Let's Get Married' by The Proclaimers.

Michelle's mum Carol gave us a rendition of "Us Two", by A.A, Milne,  Tim's mum Sue gave us The Apache Blessing, and then I asked all the guests to make a series of promises to the happy couple before they made their own personal vows, which were similar but not identical. 

In a nice twist to acknowledge their love of all things Eastern, they asked my to read a final blessing that I hadn't come across before, called Namaste, by Rajendar Krishnan.

It was lovely that we were able to enjoy the rooftop setting for the duration of the ceremony - by good fortune, the clouds only started to break just as we ended, so everyone went inside to enjoy the unique view of the castle.  

Just the other day, Tim and Chelle sent me a lovely card, these great photos from their photographer and friend Craig Stephen, and these kind words.

"Thank you so much for your time, thoughts and encouragement, both in our wedding preparation and on the day! You allowed us to be us, and to celebrate as suited us best. We are now, and always will be so grateful for this, and the reaction of so many friends and family pay testament to how people loved both your ceremony and the humanist approach".

May your wanderings over the earth continue, Chelle and Tim - and thank you for asking me to be your celebrant. It was a pleasure!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Bita and Bryan's Humanist Wedding at Solsgirth House

Who remembers foam parties? Everyone should. My sources tell me that the first one was in 1932, and featured Louis Armstrong dancing, singing, and of course playing his trumpet in the short film, "A Rhapsody In Black and Blue". Fast forward 80 years to Bryan and Bita's meet-cute at the legendary Revolution Nightclub where Brian said to Bita, "Oi, do you do Biology?" covered her in foam and then walked off. And they say romance is dead!

Many painful months of flirting and not so subtle attempts by friends to sit them together in lectures paid off. A working holiday in Canada introduced them to bears (scary) and poutine (scarier) and so began their four-year long-distance relationship. Their fun-filled story, and a beautiful Persian love poem by Hafiz led us to the big moment where Bita prepared to speak her vows to Bryan.

Bita's dark, lustrous eyes were welling up… and in the distance, I could just make out the unmistakeable sound of a helicopter. Where was it going? I couldn't be sure. But we were outside. A hundred guests were on the edge of their seats, and the videographer was zooming in for his big close-up, so I made an executive decision. "Cut!" I yelled.

It was the right call. About a minute later, the helicopter passed overhead. If we'd continued, nobody would have heard a word. As it was, much joy ensued. Here's what Bita said in the lovely card she and Bryan sent me the other day.

Bryan and I would like to thank you for making our wedding such a special experience. For many of our guests it was the first Humanist wedding they had attended, and so many of them approached us afterwards to say how much they had enjoyed it, particularly as it was both personal and humorous at the same time. We could never have achieved this without your expert guidance and your very personable character. I would also like to thank you personally for helping me out when my emotions began to get the better of me,  at the beginning of my vows. Your quick thinking, and the helicopter passing overhead were most welcome! 

Thank you, Bryan and Bita - your wedding is one that I will definitely remember for a long, long time!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Carol and George's Humanist Wedding in The John Muir Grove at The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

I love what I do, and never more than when I get emails like this one from the lovely Carol and George...

I don’t think we can put into words how thankful we are that a) we decided on a Humanist wedding and b) chose you as our celebrant.  From the first time we met with you we were very sure that we had made the right decision: the Humanist values and ethos spoke to us from the moment you started talking to us.  

We have to admit to being slightly daunted at the thought of the homework but once we both got started it was one of the most therapeutic and worthwhile things we have ever done and George tells everyone he can that he thinks every couple should do this whether they are getting married, already married or in a committed relationship, it’s definitely something we plan to re-visit annually!

It was from our homework notes that we sculpted our ceremony (with some helpful guidance and tips from you) and that was where the magic really happened, being able to write our own ceremony and stand up in front of our family and friends was an emotional, beautiful and meaningful experience and every single one of our guests said it was the best wedding they have ever been to and are still talking about it nearly 6 weeks later. 

We never imagined our day would be quite as perfect as it was.  The weather couldn’t have been better and our musician friends made it the relaxed fun filled day we had envisioned, even with a couple of funny moments - Mum forgetting to give anyone my words after being told it was the most important thing she had to do when she arrived - and me not knowing my left from my right! Your helpful, “his other left hand Carol” did the trick, not to mention the fact that you had a copy of the whole ceremony to hand – disaster averted!!

 We had an amazing day and loved every second of it and are now very much enjoying married life.   I have heard people say in the past that they think they won’t feel any different or it’s really just a piece of paper but we can, without question, say that we do feel different, it’s a wonderful feeling and I think writing our own ceremony definitely had a huge impact on not only us but also our guests so thank you very much from both George and I for making our day the very special occasion that it was.

So from now, if anyone asks me "What makes a humanist wedding so special?"  on I will just refer them to you, George and Carol - it was a lovely day, and I can't thank you enough for your kind words.

My thanks too, to ace lensman Rod Irvine, who managed to steal those magic shots of George and Carol wiping their eyes, and to the delightful Jed Milroy and Mike Kearney who put their two fabulous bands together to serenade Carol and George all the way back to the reception.