Thursday, 11 April 2019

Destination Weddings

Despite all the uncertainty over the UK's future, more and more couples are choosing Scotland as the place they want to tie the knot. 

Just two days ago, I conducted the wedding of Julie and Nicolas, a French couple who brought their families over to see them getting married on the shores of Loch Fyne, and very romantic it was too. This is 'the wedding tree' at their venue, Stonefield Castle, which is decorated with mooring buoys, one for every couple who's been married there.

One couple who know all about 'Destination Weddings' are Christina and Jay of Elemental Photography. They love photographing their couples in wild and romantic destinations, and you can really see that in their work.

They recently launched their own online magazine, We Fell In Love, and their second issue is all about how to plan your perfect day from 10,000 miles away. 

It's full of practical tips as well as inspirational photography

And even if you're not flying in from the four corners of the earth, it's well worth checking out.

I'm looking forward to conducting a wedding blessing later this year for an American couple who've produced their very own guest guide book to Scotland.

I wonder who told them about Irn Bru?

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Sarah and David's Humanist Wedding at Archerfield House

I love getting thank you cards, and as you can see from the date on this one, David and Sarah sent it to me last year. 

They created a very moving and inspiring ceremony, and as they wrote at the time, 

"Thank you for making us truly appreciate what marriage is all about. You made the experience more special and profound than we thought possible. Your guidance and patience were appreciated more than you know. We promise we'll write our testimonial and send some pics soon. All our love, David and Sarah."

Well as we know, life got in the way, and it was only yesterday that Sarah sent me these photos and this wonderful message. "We’re doing great. Puppy on board and bun in the oven yikes!! It’s all systems go. We haven’t actually finished looking through the 15000 photos that Gerardo gave us aaah! But here are a few for you to do with what you please"

David and Sarah first met when he interviewed her for a position as a personal trainer, and over time, she supplanted Gloria, David's first love, in his affections.

Gloria is the triathlon bike on which David cycled to Barcelona and completed his first Ironman in Nice. She's now proudly hanging on the wall of their living room.

In the ceremony, we learned how they'd met and learned from both sets of parents. Charlotte, Helen and Lucy gave us readings, and we discovered the location of David's proposal (appropriately, on a morning training run along the Costa del Fife, near their happy place, Pittenweem).

Sarah and David spoke their secret vows to one another directly. I'm not going to tell you everything they said, but I think these short excerpts will give you an idea...

David said

I promise that I will never forget the fun, the excitement, the joy and the reward. 
The challenge is the journey, not the destination. 
I promise that we will not have a destination, 
because I don’t want our adventure to ever end.

and Sarah said

Today, I marry you because I love you, 
and I feel loved by you. 
You’re the best part of my day 
(even at 5am when only fitness nutters are awake) 
and I marry you knowing 
that our best days are yet to come. 

Well, the best days are here now, Sarah and David. Congratulations on your happy news, and much love to you, to the bun and to Archie (the pup!) Big thanks to Gerardo Jaconelli as well - you can get a sense of his work from his Instagram page here

Monday, 1 April 2019

Ashley and Jackie's Humanist Wedding at Marlin's Wynd

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll have seen my version of this photo about a month ago!

Ashley looked lovely, but I could tell she was a bit nervous.

Marlin's Wynd isn't just one of Edinburgh's cutest venues: it's also one of its oldest. Just off the Cowgate, and tucked into the side of Blair Street, it was named after the French stonemason Jean Marlouin who paved the Royal Mile in the mid-sixteenth century when Mary Queen of Scots was on the throne, so it has a long and interesting history.

Ashley and Jackie were doing what I call 'reversing into marriage' because they already have a family, and Ashley arrived with their daughter Violet and son Jackie, attended by her sister Rebecca, her friends Susan and Nina and her future sister-in-law, Jackie's sister Kirsty.

Naturally, Violet and Jack stole the show!

Ashley came in on the arm of her mum, while Jackie waited with his best friends, Mikey and Jamie.

Jackie had been led to believe that Ashley was a bit quiet and didn't say very much, so when her first question to him was, 'are you married?', his reply made sure she was. 'No', he said, and that constituted the entirety of their first exchange.

Fortunately, they got over their nerves, and over the coming weeks and months, Jackie introduced Ashley to some of his favourite bars and eateries in Portobello and further afield. Ashley was fair swept off her feet!

Not long after they got their trial baby, Higgs the puppy, Ashley became pregnant with Violet who was born healthy and happy on the 13th of April 2015. Jackie said that week was the happiest of his life because his team secured a place in the Scottish Cup Final, so the arrival of Violet was the icing on the cake. They soon decided she needed a wee playmate, and Jack was born on the 16th of March the following year. Jackie enjoyed that week too!

Jackie and Ashley told some great stories about each other. We now all know that Ashley is a very messy eater, whose favourite dish is nachos, because she prefers to eat with her hands!

Ashley complimented Jackie on his great dress sense - for her as well as for him. She also said what a great father he is to the kids: they love wrestling, kissing and cuddling with him and they even like to listen when he plays his guitar!

Bro Maid Barry flew all the way from Qatar to be with them, and he read us an excerpt from a rather famous love letter: from Johnny Cash to his wife June. It's been voted the greatest love letter of all time, and you can read it for yourself here

Like that love letter, jackie and Ashley's vows were very simple, very heart-felt and very true.

I, Ashley, accept you, Jackie, as my husband.
I offer you this ring 
as a symbol of my love and commitment to you.
With it, I give you all that I am, 
and all that I ever hope to be.

I, Jackie, accept you, Ashley, as my wife.
I offer you this ring 
as a symbol of my love and commitment to you.
With it, I give you all that I am, 
and all that I ever hope to be.

I always love working with Victoria Litster, who took these great photos - I really like the way that Ashley and Jackie made sure that they were surrounded by images of all the people they love when they signed their marriage schedule.

Ashley dropped me a line the other day.

She said, 'We just want to say a big thanks again for the wonderful ceremony!'

Everything was just perfect, and everyone commented how lovely it was, and very personal. 

Looking back it was such an amazing day and if I could do it all over again I would: it was one of the best days of my life. 

We couldn't have asked for a better humanist to conduct our ceremony. You spoke as if you had known has for years and the ceremony was very personal. It was so lovely to have a small wedding during the day with just close friends and family, then having the big party at night with everyone else. 

If I could change anything about the whole thing, it would definitely be not to be so worried about everyone else and not to be so nervous before walking down the aisle to Jackie. 

Jackie said he doesn't know why he got himself so worked up about doing a speech and this is something he regrets. 

I waken up everyday with my smile on my face that I have finally married the man of my dreams, and I am sure Jackie feels the same haha! The whole day was just perfect from start to finish and these are memories that we will treasure forever. 

I'm sure that you will, Ashley - and thank you again for allowing me to help you create them in the first place!

Friday, 15 March 2019

Siobhan and Stephen's Humanist Wedding at Orocco Pier

I sometimes talk on this blog about couples 'reversing into marriage' and what I mean by that is that nowadays it's much more normal to have your family first and get married later.

That's what Stephen and Siobhan did. They met because they worked in the same office in Glasgow, but it took a couple of years for them to notice each other, so it definitely wasn't a case of love at first sight!

Then there was a period of commuting from the Central Belt to Stonehaven before Stephen managed to get a transfer to Aberdeen where they enjoyed a lot of eating out, cycling and running together.

It was only a month after they moved into their new home that their first son Finn was born, which was wonderful until they discovered, when he was almost a year old, that he had a rare and aggressive form of leukaemia.

That led to five months of intense chemotherapy, but it didn't work. Things were desperate. Finn urgently needed a stem cell transplant and it was only when he was in a children's hospital in Glasgow that an anonymous donor came forward to save his life.

Of course the story has a happy ending. Finn recovered fully, and now he and his wee brother Leo lead entirely normal lives, but you can just imagine what Siobhan, Stephen and their families went through during that time.

This story was an important element in the ceremony, and of course it was very moving, but what I didn't tell the guests was that among them there was a very special person: that anonymous stem cell donor.

Stephen saved that story for his speech at dinner, and as I wasn't there, like you I can only imagine how it went down, but I'm sure it must have been amazing! 

So here he is: our hero Anthony, on the beach outside the hotel with young Finn and the rest of the family. I feel so lucky to have played a small part in telling this inspiring story!

I couldn't have told it if Siobhan hadn't just sent me these photos today, with this message.

We have just returned to normal after a lovely few days away after the wedding and I wanted to get in touch to say thank you so much for the beautiful ceremony you conducted for us! So many guests commented and said how wonderful it was.  We really couldn’t have asked for a better day from start to finish :) 
Thank you so much again for helping to make the day so amazing!

Siobhan and Stephen x 

Not at all, Siobhan and Stephen - the pleasure was mine! Thanks again for allowing me to share your day and to share your amazing story and thanks of course to the lovely Emma Gray who took these great shots.

I speak far too quickly

The lovely people at Luath Press have just shared a wee story about WE DO! on Instagram, with a link to the interview I did with Ellen and Nicole on Soundcloud.

They took me a bit unawares, and perhaps because of that I didn't realise that they were going to stream it: I had thought they were just going to extract the odd phrase here and there.

Anyway, I was wrong - the whole thing is now online and I apologise if I'm gabbling: I must learn to speak more slowly...

Sunday, 10 March 2019

The D Word

I heard an interesting story on the radio this morning: it seems that BBC's Sunday Programme on Radio 4 has commissioned its own research into the statistics and found that couples who choose to marry in a Humanist ceremony are up to four times less likely to divorce.

You can read the full story here and it's very heartening, although I think that this observation from the research director of the Marriage Foundation is worth bearing in mind.

Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation said the figures were "sensible" but there are "caveats".
"It may be that humanists are older or richer than most, either of which would account for their apparently lower divorce rates," he told Radio 4's Sunday programme.
"However couples with a shared faith or worldview tend to do better, which might well also apply to humanist couples. And as social pressure to marry has reduced, divorce rates have been tumbling across the board as fewer couples 'slide' into marriage and more 'decide'."
I'm not a statistician, but anecdotally, my own experience backs this up.
When I was writing my book, I contacted 100 couples to ask them if they were happy to be part of it, and of them, only one had separated. 
It did strike me at the time that this was remarkable, and I think it if there is a single underlying reason, it's simply that when I meet a couple to discuss their wedding, I give them an exercise to do.
I call it 'The Homework Process' and it's very simple. If you have time, you can do it yourself now
  • Under exam conditions - no conferring - write down the story of you: when you met and what’s happened since. 
  • Write down 10 things that made you decide that this is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with
  • Write down 10 things that marriage means to you or that you want to achieve in your marriage
Their reward for that is a date night where they get to share what they wrote, and it's usually an incredibly emotional and rewarding process - I never tire of getting e-mails from couples telling me how much they enjoyed it, but there is a 'but' and here it is...
What I also say to every couple I meet is that I'd rather they shared their homework, had a screaming row, and never spoke again that go through with their wedding and find themselves 10 years down the line realising that they've made a big mistake.
Almost every year, I get an email from a couple who found that their homework showed they weren't on the same path, and it's incredibly sad, but I know that when they look back, they will realise it was for the good.
Divorce - however amicable - is painful: I know that from my own experience. But if humanist weddings really do help couples make their marriage work, then I am delighted, and I am truly grateful to be a part of rebuilding society's most important institution.

Destination Weddings

Despite all the uncertainty over the UK's future, more and more couples are choosing Scotland as the place they want to tie the knot...