Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Future of Humanism

"Humanism is now facing an existential challenge and the idea of “free will” is under threat." 

This is an excerpt from an article by the Israeli academic and thinker Yuval Hariri who book "Homo Deus" I've been reading recently. 

The article in the Financial Times is well worth reading for anyone who thinks that Humanism as a philosophy is somehow the ultimate conclusion of a long history of philosophical development. 

Hariri echoes recent discoveries in neuroscience that cast doubt on the existence of free will and show that reason is not the opposite of emotion but the result of it and he goes on to suggest that we're now facing a crisis as Big Data threatens to know us better than we know ourselves. 

I'm not sure that his use of the word 'humanism' exactly lines up with my own understanding of it but he's a fascinating thinker. I'm more than a bit surprised that none of the Humanist magazines seem ever to have interviewed him.

So - is Humanism an outdated philosophy? Discuss!

Friday, 13 October 2017

How to cut the cost of your wedding

I don't generally post things from other people, but this little chart from MoneyGuru struck me as worth sharing: let me know if you find it useful?

X Marks the Spot

Get Married for Less than a £1,000, courtesy of

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Louise and James's Humanist Wedding at the Principal George Street

 Sometimes the best weddings are when things go wrong. Like when the groom realises that he's left the Marriage Schedule at home, and it's only half an hour till kick off...

I will never forget James's expression when I turned up at the Principal George Street, and he realised that there was one important element missing from what was to be his perfect day. Luckily, we managed to sort it all out in time, so I was delighted to get this message from him and Louise earlier this evening.

"James and I just wanted to say a massive thank you to you for being our celebrant, and for not only marrying us, but all your help and support both on the run up and on the day itself, from answering my daft questions, to helping James through the various stages of panic and the process of retrieving the paperwork from our house! 

We’ve had so many family members and friends say to us that it was the best, most personal wedding ceremony that they’ve been to, just how much that they felt included and a part of it, and they all said just how fantastic you were! 
While I’ll be honest and say I think we were both a bit daunted by the homework, it was absolutely the best part of the run up to the wedding for me, and just reaffirmed how much we love each other, what we love about each other, and why we are spending the rest of our lives together 😊 Thank you so much for taking us through that process and asking us to do it.
I’ve attached a few wee action shots from the day as well! I especially love the one of me and my sister laughing when you were reading out the stories about the bridal party!

Thank you so so much again for everything, wishing you all the best and many more happy weddings!
Louise and James Todd xx  

Louise and James, it was my pleasure: and like you, I'll never forget your wedding day - for all the best reasons!

Many thanks to Dan and Matt from Fern Photography for getting these great shots: I hope to add some more later!

Ayns and Chris's Humanist Wedding at Dalduff Farm

Earlier this year, I found myself over in deepest Ayshire where Chris and Ayns had booked Dalduff Farm for their wedding. 

It had been a long journey from our first contact, but I knew we were going to have a great day.

We did!

I'd been hoping to hear from them afterwards, because I felt theirs was a very special ceremony, so I dropped them a line yesterday. Here's what I found in my inbox this morning.

Hi Tim, 
Sorry we have taken so long to reply....we are laughing as this is how we remember starting our emails to you when writing our ceremony!

We can't believe it has been 6 months already. We can honestly say we had the best day. The ceremony was definitely our favorite part!

Based on feedback from friends and family they too were very impressed by the humanist ceremony and the personal story that was told throughout. 

Some of our guests even commented that they wished they had had a humanist ceremony.

Prior to the wedding we remember emailing back and forth, providing you with the information you were looking for. If you remember Chris struggled with the homework and that caused a ruckus. 

Anyway, eventually we got there with your guidance. When writing we had a great laugh, although it took up a fair amount of time and  a couple of arguments.  

At times before the wedding we wondered what work you were doing and what we were paying you for! Ha! Ha! #jokes. 

At that point we could never have imagined those words being told in such a personal loving way by someone we barely knew. 

The way you conducted the ceremony and put us at ease was amazing. 

We thought the ceremony would have been a nerve wracking point of the day but we have never felt so at ease and so loved by everyone present. 

You started the day in such an amazing way, and the rest of the day flowed with more love, laughs and tears! 

We feel like you did our words justice in the ceremony you conducted and expressed our story and love for each other perfectly. 

You actually are a legend, and we can't thank you enough!! We wish we could do it all again, but we do have that lovely feeling in our hearts forever to remember. 

We have joked though if it all goes wrong and we get divorced, we would definitely use you again for our ceremony! ha! 

Please find attached some photos from our friends and family, and from our friend Greg Urquhart who was our photographer. Please feel free to use any images you wish. 

Lots of love, Ayns and Chris.........and not to forget Eve and Robbie xx

Chris and Ayns (and Eve and Robbie) you just made my day! Thank you so much for these lovely words and matching photos - (thanks Greg Urquhart too), stay happy, don't get divorced, and above all, don't lose touch! XXX

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Regrets: I’ve had a few…

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I was delighted to be nominated, and then shortlisted for the Vows Awards a couple of weeks ago: that was entirely thanks to the many couples who voted for me to show their appreciation for the ceremonies that I conducted for them.

I have been a celebrant for twelve years now, and the Honorary Chaplain to the University of Edinburgh for five. 

I regard celebrancy as a vocation, and I take great pride in the ceremonies I conduct, particularly the funerals, which are the most important part of my work. 

However my nomination has been called into question, so on ethical grounds and to avoid further politicisation, I feel my only course of action is to withdraw.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who voted for me.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Seeing with your Head and Heart

Ditte of First Light Weddings is one of my favourite photographers, and I'm delighted that she's found the time to contribute this heartfelt story to my blog.

Seeing with your head and heart - why you should have an unplugged wedding ceremony

I often lament the fact that we forget to look with our eyes and heart, but rather observe the big and small moments in our lives through a lens or screen.

But then I can hardly talk, my trigger finger itches when I see nice light or my beautiful children and I don't have a camera to hand. I'm slowly learning to see, hear, smell and live the moments rather than capturing them.

Except when I'm working, of course.
It is estimated that over a TRILLION photos will be taken in 2017. About half of those are taken as newlyweds make their way down the aisle. Ok, that last part may not be true, but it can sometimes feel that way when we battle against iPhones, iPads and other booby traps to capture wedding ceremonies.
Much as I love to capture big and small moments on my phone, I'm a fierce advocate for unplugged wedding ceremonies.

I remember walking down the aisle at my own wedding nine-and-a-bit years ago - All the well-known faces of friends and family smiling at me, whispering hellos and good-luck wishes as I passed. I remember it so keenly, each look and smile filling me with love and happiness as I approached my husband-to-be.

We had asked guests not to take photographs during the service, so instead of a sea of phones and cameras, I saw the eyes and faces of our loved ones. I will always be grateful for that.

As a wedding photographer, it can be frustrating when our photographs looking up the aisle are full of screens, detracting attention from the main point of focus: the couple. The bolder guests will sometime step out into the middle of the aisle to capture the best shot of the wedding ceremony, completely blocking our view - which in turn restricts the couple's memories of the day, as we are there for them, to document their day for them.

I don't begrudge guests wanting to take photos on a wedding day - it's a big day for them too, one they'll want to remember.
But during the ceremony, you have a responsibility to the couple - to play your part: To be there, be present, to bear witness to the joining together of two people in marriage. Not via a screen, but with your eyes, minds, hearts.

So please: for just 45 minutes, put your phone away. Look up, into the eyes of your friend/ relative as they walk up the aisle. They (and we!) will be eternally grateful.

About Ditte: 
Ditte is the owner and primary photographer of First Light Photography  A wedding and portrait photographer, her photographic style is light and natural, seeking to capture the beauty and personality of whatever or whoever is in front of her lens. 

She did the photos when Susie and I got married and you can see some of them here

Originally from Denmark, Ditte lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two kids. When not behind a camera or in front of the computer, she can be found travelling around Scotland and further afield (usually with a camera in her hand…)

Wednesday, 20 September 2017


I feel very honoured to learn that I've been shortlisted for a Vows Award: I'm told that I'm the first celebrant ever to be nominated, so I'm chuffed!

My sincere thanks go to all the happy couples who voted for me. 

The awards night is 20th November, so, fingers crossed!

The Future of Humanism

"Humanism is now facing an existential challenge and the idea of “free will” is under threat."  This is an excerpt from an art...