Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Helen and Simon's Renewal of Vows at The Glasshouse Hotel

Renewal of vows ceremonies aren't yet as familiar here in Scotland as they are elsewhere in the world, but if Simon and Helen's was anything to go by, I think we're going to see many more!

Helen and Simon were coming up to their Silver Wedding Anniversary, so they decided to have a renewal of vows to add an element of surprise to their party.

We met just a month before the big day - or evening as it actually was - and in that time they went through the same homework process I set every couple who want me to marry them. The results were amazing, as Helen said when she sent me these photographs.

We loved the whole process of writing 'our story' separately and then reading each others versions over a nice bottle of wine. What struck us was that all the landmark events over the last 25 years were clearly just as important to both of us, as we highlighted all of the same landmarks in our separate stories. We definitely felt that the ceremony and celebration made us feel very close to each other.

They invited lots of people to contribute: their close friend Dorothy gave the first reading, which was a very appropriate passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin, then Simon’s best man Richard, and  Michelle, who chaperoned Helen on their first date, told very different versions of how their story began!

Helen and Simon’s children,  Richard and Alex,  gave a reading called The Loving Heart.

And then I talked about the reasons Simon and Helen had chosen to spend their lives together and what the renewal of their vows meant to them.

Helen’s brother John and Simon’s sister Lindsay gave us two more readings before we took a short pause for quiet contemplation and then Helen and Simon spoke their vows to each other. Once everyone had dried their eyes, Jane Sharp spoke a blessing and then everyone raised their glasses in a toast to the future. As Helen wrote, 

To have our family and friends with us to celebrate 25 years of marriage was fantastic. The renewal of our vows was also very special: it marked 25 very full and busy years (raising 2 children and building a home) but it was also a way for us to look forward to the next 25 years and realise that it was a the marking of a new era for us, where we can watch our children (now adults) thrive, and make their own way in life.

We are so looking forward to the 'next stage' of our marriage - where we can celebrate our and our children’s successes, look forward to doing much more together as a couple, and enjoying the freedom this new era brings before we (hopefully) get involved in grandchildren, and future travels. 

It has truly been a great year for us both and the silver Wedding Party/ Renewal of Vows was amazing.  Many thanks for making it so special xxx

It was a pleasure, Helen and Simon: I wish you and your children every happiness in this new stage of your lives, and thank you again for asking me to help you create such a moving and powerful ceremony.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Kirsty & Euan's Tips on How To Make Your Humanist Wedding Unique

I married this lovely couple three years ago now, but as We Fell In Love decided to feature them today as an inspiring example of how to throw an autumn wedding, it prompted me to look back at a few of the things Euan and Kirsty did to make their day extra special.

First of all, don't wear white! Kirsty looked stunning in this outfit by Linea Raffaeli. What makes it really cool is that she found it on Ebay…

Secondly, come in with your mum. Let's face it, she probably did most of the hard yards in bringing you up, so why not recognise that by walking her down the aisle?

Finally, write your own vows, and speak them directly to one another from cards that I can hold for you at the shoulder of the person opposite you. Nobody else can see them and you get to say the most important words you've ever said directly to your husband or wife to be. What could be more powerful than that?

As Kirsty and Euan told me after the event, "Everyone thought the ceremony was wonderful - so personal and meaningful - and you of course played a huge part in ensuring that that was the case!" 

Thanks to Alie from We Fell In Love for reminding me: to Euan and Kirsty for choosing to work with me and of course Andrew & Emmett of Wilson McSheffrey for the lovely photographs. You can read my original post here 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My take on happiness: Time For Reflection at The Scottish Parliament

I was delighted when Cameron Buchanan MSP invited me to deliver one of the weekly TIme For Reflection talks at the Scottish Parliament earlier this year. In the sixteen years that the Parliament has existed, I am only the fifth humanist to have been asked to do this, so it was an honour.

The guidelines for TFR are pretty strict. You can't make political points, make discriminatory comments or denigrate people of faith. And of course the script has to be submitted for approval, which isn't automatic. I had to revise one phrase in mine - let me know if you can guess which it was?

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

This (I think) is pretty much what I said…

Presiding Officer, thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I hope you would agree that the aims of politics and philosophy are the same - to increase happiness and wellbeing.

Now happiness is a nebulous concept, but there are people who believe they can measure it, and when the UN compiled its latest World Happiness Report, Scotland – as part of the UK – didn't even make it into the Top Twenty.

Which rather begs the question: would Scotland be happier in a different political landscape?

You may say so: I couldn’t possibly comment.

One Scottish city however, is punching well above its weight in the happiness stakes.

Two years ago, a survey found that Edinburgh was the happiest city in the UK: two months ago, Condé Nast Traveller called it one of the friendliest cities in the world.

Something has clearly changed.

For generations, we were lead to believe that life was a vale of tears, and earthly happiness, a snare and a delusion. Happiness might be your reward in the next life, but only if you toed the line in this.

That began to change in 1776, when Thomas Jefferson - inspired by the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers Francis Hutcheson and David Hume - enshrined ‘the pursuit of happiness’ in the American Declaration of Independence. We’ve since come to regard happiness as a universal human right, but - and it pains me to say this - we Scots weren’t the first to conceive this radical idea.

Almost forty years earlier, half way across the world, in the tiny Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, the Legal Code decreed “if the Government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist”. Bhutan remains one of the world’s poorest states, but for forty years it’s inspired governments everywhere to look beyond GDP as a measure of a nation’s health.

Bhutan was the first country to measure Gross National Happiness, and now we’re all doing it. Just last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the happiest place in the UK is Fermanagh, while Londoners remain amongst the most miserable people in the country.

Now happiness may well be desirable, but the paradox of happiness is that we only find it by searching for something else. I think the 19th century humanist philosopher Robert Ingersoll put it best: “happiness is the only good, and the way to be happy is to make others so”.

Members of the Scottish Parliament: may you find happiness, by making the people of Scotland happy.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Sarah and Kyle's Humanist Wedding at The Signet Library

Being a chaplain sometimes has real-life consequences. I'll let Sarah tell the story...

As she wrote, "I graduated from Edinburgh University in 2013. Each graduation ceremony includes a speech from one of the university chaplains and I was lucky enough to take part in a ceremony where Tim, as honorary humanist chaplain, was giving the address. I remember it was a great speech, which captivated the audience and made a real impression on those in attendance. A couple of years later I began to plan my wedding in Edinburgh, upon finding out that humanist ceremonies are legal in Scotland I knew that we had to ask Tim to be our celebrant".

Kyle and Sarah's love for each other survived  four years of separation, five thousand miles of distance and hundreds of hours of Skype calls. As they wrote, "So many people’s relationships crumble over long-distance, but ours only got stronger. While other couples had hugs and kisses, we had words, and we both became very good at expressing our feelings and emotions".

They certainly did, and they created a very moving ceremony. After it, Sarah and Kyle sent me these photos by the talented Anna Urban, and this note. "We just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful ceremony last week. Everybody loved it and has said it was the best ceremony they have ever been to. Even my very catholic relatives thought it was a beautiful and personal ceremony. Thanks again, Sarah and Kyle". 

It was a pleasure, Sarah and Kyle. All I can do is reiterate the old Irish blessing that all your guests spoke at the end of the ceremony:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your faces
And the rain fall soft upon your feet.
And may a slow wind work
These words of love around you
An invisible cloak to mind your life.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sarah and Russell's Humanist Wedding at The Royal Scots Club


That was the word that came to mind when this card hit my mat this morning, because I'd literally just sent a copy of Russell and Sarah's ceremony to another couple, as inspiration to create their own.

I thought their wedding ceremony was great, but I didn't realise how great until a few days later when Russell's best man Kyle and his fiancée Jen asked if I could conduct their wedding next month - and they were so fired up by what they'd seen and heard that they even did their homework before we met!

What made it so special? 

Well according to Sarah and Russell it was me keeping it running like clockwork, making everyone laugh and pulling at their heart strings, but of course that's not true, because all the funny stuff, and all the heartstring pulling material came from Russell and Sarah themselves: I just got to tell their families and friends on their behalf, and that's what makes humanist ceremonies so powerful!

So thank you, Sarah and Russell, not just for making me a part of your very special day, and not just for introducing me to Jen and Kyle either: thank you for my 100th review! 

I look forward very much to seeing you again in just a couple of weeks, and Russell - your jokes had better be funnier than Kyle's...

Monday, 24 August 2015

Alison and Michael's Humanist Wedding at Balbirnie House

You don't need to write a three volume novel to tell your story, as Alison and Michael's tale shows.

 They first met when Alison took a notion to play badminton at a club where Michael was already a member.  After a few dates in the bars and restaurants of Edinburgh,  they were soon seeing each other so regularly that Alison allowed her attendance at badminton to dwindle.  Despite their their differing views on back-seating driving and the importance of hot water bottles, their love grew and they started living together. 

I loved their promises which were almost - but not quite - identical. Alison promised that Michael would always be allowed to listen to Coldplay, and get to choose what films to watch: Michael promised to catch all of their spiders, and make Alison a hot water bottle every night!

I was delighted to read their card: it succinctly sums up all  I ever hope for, so thank you Michael and Alison, for allowing me to be a part of your perfect day!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Louise and Neil's Humanist Wedding at The Caves

Neil and Louise's relationship kicked off at a Potterrow School Disco when they were freshers at Edinburgh University, and survived not only Neil's choice of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a first date movie, but a year's separation as they set out on their separate careers. 11 and a half years later, they and their family and friends came together at The Caves, where Louise, Neil and five of their friends entertained everyone with a very funny and touching ceremony. Three months later, they sent me these photos and this lovely note.

We just want to say a huge thank you for letting us create our own wedding; the ceremony was absolutely perfect and everyone said after how lovely and personal it was! 

All of the input you gave to allow us to pick and choose what we wanted to include in our wedding really made us realise that it was about what we wanted to say in front of our friends and family and we kept that at the forefront of our minds the entire time. It was a perfect day: thank you again! Louise and Neil xx

Not at all, Neil and Louise, thank you for saying what you did, the way you did. It was great and I felt privileged to be a part of your special day! Thanks too to Ryan White whose great shots these are.

You can see more detailed photos from the day on We Fell In Love too: well worth checking out!