Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Jane & David's Humanist Wedding in the garden of Haddington House

One of the things that surprises me most about the ceremonies I have the privilege of conducting is that they are all genuinely unique. Every couple's journey is different and they way in which they tell their story is too. Jane and David's approach was intimate, open and honest and they chose a lovely spot, where we were surrounded by apple trees.

Sadly Jane's brother Michael and his family live in Australia and couldn't be there, but he sent a wonderful letter and two very thoughful presents that made us all laugh...

As you can see in these shots taken by Jane's nephew Cameron. My thanks to David's friend Gary Eunson for the first shot on this page; he doesn't generally do weddings, but he's a wonderful landscape and wildlife photographer and his site is well worth a visit

Monday, 29 September 2008

Face to Faith - Making Everyone Feel Welcome

Humanist weddings are non-religious but they're not anti-religious and I believe it's important that everyone feels welcome. It's a subject that comes up fairly often when I meet people for the first time and although many couples have no interest in religion themselves, I always ask them about their friends and relatives so if they are religious, we can make time to welcome and include them and respect their beliefs.

Victoria & John handled this delicate issue very sensitively in their ceremony at Dundas Castle earlier this year, and this is the form of words that they used.

"I mentioned at the start that this is not a religious service. However, many of you here today may have your own beliefs, and John and Victoria wish to acknowledge these during the ceremony. We will now take a moment to allow any of you to silently add your own thoughts, wishes, blessings or prayers to the happy couple."

I always give people copies of our leaflet 'Sharing the Future' to pass on to relatives or friends who've never heard about Humanism. If you'd like a copy you can download one from our web site by clicking here.

My thanks for the photograph to Mairi & Neill of Neil Fordyce Photography

Sunday, 28 September 2008

How much does a Humanist Wedding cost?

I suppose one answer to this question might be "much less that the dress" but it's an important question, so I'll be serious for once.

I've just spent a merry couple of hours trying to find out if there's a standard cost for a non-religious wedding in Scotland and I've come to the conclusion that there really isn't one.

It's true that you can be married during the working week by a Registrar in a civil ceremony at a Registry Office for £107.00, including the cost of a copy of your marriage certificate, but - if you want to marry somewhere else or at the weekend, for example - the variables start to kick in; the cost of a temporary licence for the venue perhaps, or additional fees to the Registrar, all of which you can read about on their web site, although it doesn't go into detail about the costs.

One of the many advantages of a Humanist Wedding is that the cost is straightforward.

As of January 2012, all celebrants of the Humanist Society of Scotland charge the same fee of £335.00 wherever and whenever the wedding takes place.

Our only additional charges are for travel, for which we charge £0.55 per mile and £50.00 for a rehearsal, which is optional and not always necessary. You can find more information about our costs and the way in which we all work at the HSS website here.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Sarah & Robert's Humanist Wedding at Linlithgow Palace

I love this shot of the vault at Linlithgow Palace; a now roofless masterpiece of mediaeval architecture, (deliberately set on fire by Butcher Cumberland en route to Culloden) it was a very atmospheric setting for Robert & Sarah's wedding.

Robert & Sarah's story was very romantic. When they were only in their teens, they both worked in the same supermarket after school. Robert even used to check to the schedules to find out what shifts Sarah was working, but they didn't actually get together for another 12 years.

They each wrote part of their vows in secret and read them out to one another on the day - this was very moving and really heightened the emotional tension, well captured in these shots by Kate Chandler and Callum Bennetts.

Juliet and I have worked out about eight different ways in which people can say their vows, but I think this is my favourite. It's often the first time the couples' voices have been heard during the ceremony and no matter how quietly they speak, everyone can hear how they feel, which is really what we're all there for.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Best Man or Groom's Men?

I don't know when this began to happen, but this year I've found myself surrounded by more and more blokes. Like the grey squirrel and cosmetic surgery, the tradition of 'The Groom's Men' has arrived here from the States and it's definitely catching on. There's certainly an argument for having a few guys to keep the bridesmaids company and it's always an honour to be asked to be part of somebody's big day. These strapping lads were there to support Billy in his marriage to Leanne earlier this year at the Capital Hotel, and my thanks go once again to Colin Kilgour for the shot.

Pam & Andy's Humanist Wedding at Orocco Pier

Orocco Pier is a boutique hotel in South Queensferry that sits under the Forth Rail Bridge, and even on an overcast day, it provided a dramatic backdrop for Andy & Pam's very chic ceremony. They were a delightful couple whose expressive, funny and loving words had their guests in tears almost from the start.

Somewhere under that spray of flowers is the marriage schedule. And somewhere under that hat is Pam! My thanks to Colin Kilgour who took these shots.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Louise & Bob's Humanist Wedding at The Point Hotel, Edinburgh

It must be at least ten years old now, but The Point is still one of Edinburgh's coolest hotels. It was designed by the late and much lamented Andy Doolan who topped it off with this minimalist glass penthouse that gives onto Edinburgh Castle.

I like this rather eerie silhouette of me, Bob and his best man waiting nervously for Louise to appear, but I hope the professional photographer sends me some shots so you can see how great they both looked. Read on for the postscript...

The Humanist Society of Scotland's magazine Humanitie has a 'Society Page' on the inside back cover, where we feature the best shots the celebrants are sent by the couples we marry. The new issue hit the doormat yesterday, which prompted Louise to send me this one of the three of us looking as happy as they still feel, almost nine months later. it was a great day and this brings it all flooding back - thanks, Lou!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Bob and Alison's Humanist Wedding in their back garden

Alison recently sent me this clip of her wedding to Bob last summer: I love it, not just because I'm largely out of shot, but mostly because it really does capture something of the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of the day. Thanks Alison!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Little touches

It's been a busy - if rather wet - summer, but now that the swallows are leaving our shores (at a rate of 3,500 an hour, according to the bird observatory at Portland Bill) I've had time to look back over the wedding ceremonies I've conducted this year and I'm not entirely surprised to find that I've done more at Dundas Castle than anywhere else.

Why is Dundas so popular? Well, it's true that there's nowhere else quite like their mediaeval keep, but I've a suspicion the real reason is something else entirely. I think it's this pen.

Every marriage schedule has to be signed, with a fountain pen, using black, indelible ink. Technically, it's the responsibility of the celebrant, but Dundas leave nothing to chance. They give every couple their own Dundas Castle fountain pen, and it's waiting there for them in the chamber off the chapel where the signing takes place.

The following day, when the couple leave, the staff not only give them their pen as a souvenir of the wedding, but better still, they return the signed Marriage Schedule to the Registry Office in South Queensferry.


Friday, 12 September 2008

Rachel & Ash's Humanist Wedding at Dundas Castle

I'm not a great fan of the phrase 'a picture says a thousand words', but sometimes it's absolutely appropriate. Long Lens Maestro Tony Marsh is one of the best wedding photographers around and you can see why.

Ash & Rachel met while clearing mines in Nagorno Karabakh, a little known part of the former Soviet Empire on the borders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, where the war in 1993 left a nasty legacy that remains to this day. They're a lovely couple and one of the readings they chose really sums up who they are and what they're about. It was written by Oriah, Mountain Dreamer (who I recently discovered is not a long-deceased Native American Medicine Man but a living, breathing Canadian mother of two and best selling author) and it goes like this.

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments..

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer from her book THE INVITATION (c) 1999. Published by Thorsons in the UK. All rights reserved. Presented by kind permission of the author. http://www.oriah.org

You can find Oriah's web site here and buy her poetry here: I hope you do.

Jill and Chris's Humanist Wedding at Mansfield Traquair

Just look at Mansfield Traquair . Could it be more calm and tranquil? Little did Jill and Chris know what was to come. If they h...