Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no.7 - The Order of Ceremony

It's sometimes a good idea to have an Order of Ceremony, just so your guests know what's happening.

It doesn't need to be complicated: it can be a simple, single sheet of A4

It can be something clever that reflects your interests...

Or it can be simply a beautifully bound example of the printer's art.

If you ARE having one, apart from the location date and time, here are some of the other things you may want to include:

What happens when - the names of the various sections of the ceremony, which can, (but don't have to) include

'The Introduction & Welcome',
'The Story So Far'
'The Reasons We Love One Another'
'Thoughts on Marriage'
'Vows & Declarations'
'The Exchange of Rings'
'Readings & Songs'
'Signing of the Marriage Schedule'
'Last Words'
'Wedding Blessing'

It's generally a good idea to give the names of the people you've asked to give readings or songs and the title of their piece: you can include the text as well, but I find that if you do, everyone sits there reading it, rather than really listening, which I think is the point.

If you have live music, remember to credit the performers; if it's recorded, at least tell us what the songs are. And if you want your guests to sing along with something, include the lyrics!

If you've got room, it's not a bad idea to say something about the reasons you've chosen a Humanist Wedding ceremony; not everyone you've invited will know what it is, and while I will always say something about Humanism in the introduction to the ceremony, you may want to explain it in your own words.

And finally, two small and niggling points.

Please remember to describe it as an 'Order of Ceremony', rather than an 'Order of Service'. It's a small point, but it's a Humanist Ceremony rather than a Religious Service.

Please remember to use the name and the title of the person conducting the ceremony, so if it's me, please describe me as 'Tim Maguire, Authorised Celebrant, Humanist Society of Scotland', rather than Tim Maguire Total Pedant About Trivial Things Like Titles...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

How to make an Entrance!

Juliet just sent me a link to her "Let's Get Married!" blog, which has a clip on it that I absolutely love and I hope you do too.

I spend quite a bit of time talking to couples about how they choose to begin their ceremony and of course, traditionally, the bride comes in with her dad and that's just fine, but there are other ways to do it. After all, when you think about it, the wedding is both the creation of a new family unit and the leaving of two others. So some grooms send their best man in ahead of them, and come in with both their parents, give them a kiss, see that they're settled and then come and stand by me.

And some brides then do the same - and when you think about it, it's really nice to acknowledge the mothers in this way because they have very little formal recognition in a traditional marriage ceremony.

Some couples choose to come in together; some like to be there with their guests from the very start, But nobody I've married so far has ever come in like this. It really brought a huge smile to my face when I saw it, and I hope you enjoy it too!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Honeymoons & Marriage Certificates

"We're going on honeymoon a few days after the ceremony and the airline/hotel has told us that if we bring a copy of our Marriage Certificate, they'll upgrade us to First Class/The Presidential Suite. Can you give us a copy?"

This is a question I've been asked a few times, and unfortunately the answer is "No, not really, because I don't issue it, the Registrar does, once you've returned the Marriage Schedule, which is what we sign on the day". But there is good news.

At the rehearsal for their wedding at Prestonfield House tomorrow, Alex & Patrick, (who are extremely well organised) told me that the Registrar says that if they come in to the office with their signed Marriage Schedule, they'll issue them with a Marriage Certificate and as many copies as they want to pay for there and then. So now you know - and so do I. Thanks Alex & Patrick - enjoy your honeymoon!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 9 - Wedding Vows

The vows are the heart of the wedding ceremony so it's not putting it too strongly to say that the words you choose will be the basis on which you will live for the rest of your life. There are two ways of doing them: either repeat after me, or I shut up for a bit and you do the talking. There's no right way and they both have their strong points.

REPEAT AFTER ME - Whatever your vows, whether they are the traditional "I, full legal name, take you, full legal name, to be my lawful wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward etc, etc" or vows that you've written yourself, this works well because a) everyone will hear what's being said at least once, because that's my job and b) they will hear how you feel, which is what they've come for.

OVER TO YOU - This is your wedding and these are your promises: who better to speak them than the two of you, directly to one another? It doesn't matter how quietly you say what you have to say, just the fact that you are making promises to one another in your own words and your own voice is incredibly moving, both for you and your family and friends. "But how do we remember what to say", I hear you ask..?

If you do choose this route, what i suggest is that you print your vows in a large font on two or more pieces of card or paper, like these ones from Heather & Stephen's wedding at Cambo House.

Then place your cards in separate envelopes and label them with your names. Give the envelopes to the groom or the best man so he can give it to your celebrant before the start of your ceremony.

That way she or he can hold them both up at shoulder height and you'll be able to read them. Or of course you can hold them yourself - it's up to you.

If you do decide to have the celebrant hold the cards, it's worth taking a little time to practise it at home - what we're aiming for is to see you talking to one another while looking into one another's eyes. What we don't want is seeing you reading to one another while not looking into one another's eyes.

An easy way to do this is to paste them onto the wall next to the mirror over the sink in your bathroom, and try to read the note, then speak it directly to your reflection: notice when you are looking away before you've finished speaking, and try not to do that. Take your time. It's the most important moment of the whole ceremony, so try not to let the pressure of the day make you rush it.

The trick is to practice a few times so you get over your nerves and giggles and know what you're going to say on the day so that even though your head will feel like a strange combination of a Wurlitzer and a wind tunnel, you'll be able to treat the prompt card as just that - a prompt.

Look at it, see what the next sentence is, and then look back at your partner and speak to them as you look into their eyes. Do that and you'll both really feel the meaning of what you're saying! And of course so will everyone else, and that's the point.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Doug & Beth's Humanist Wedding at The Bruntsfield Hotel

A lovely portrait of the beautiful bride from photographer and family friend, Ian Cameron. One of the reasons Doug gave for loving her was that, "Beth is the most gorgeous girl in the world and she still won’t take his word for it." Maybe she will now.

Doug's sister, Jenny gave us a reading from 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' by Louis de Bernieres

This wedding will always live in my memory, as well as Beth and Doug's for a very good reason.

At most weddings, rings are exchanged between the bride and groom, and until now it's always been the best man's job to remember them.

It recently occurred to me that it would be symbolically more equal if the bridesmaid had the one that the bride was to give to the groom, and every couple to whom I've suggested this has agreed.

Doug and Beth thought it was a great idea.

Except that just as we were about to have our first reading, Beth whispered to me, "I've left Doug's ring in my room!"

Luckily I didn't have to try to copy Peter Ustinov, and read the phone book; while Cameron Henderson entertained us on the fiddle, bridesmaid Emma raced up, ransacked the suitcases and got back down again just in time to give her slightly out of breath reading of Rowena Edlin-White's poem ‘Wedding day’. I love it when things go wrong - it's such fun, and everyone talks about it for years!

Postscript: the new Mr & Mrs Broadley are back from their honeymoon and sent me a few more pics, and a lovely message saying, " All of our guests commented on what a great ceremony it was and many said it was the best they had ever been to! This was all down to all your great advice from when we were writing the ceremony and choosing readings to keeping everyone entertained on the day."

Lucy & Mike's Humanist Wedding at Ravensheugh Beach

Mike & Lucy have been together for twenty years and their wedding was a wonderfully relaxed and happy event on a day of glorious sunshine.

The beach is near Tyninghame in East Lothian and it's a very romantic spot.

The cabin is absolutely simple but quite magical.

When I arrived, Mike was still getting dressed.

I liked his brand new Converse sneakers...

I loved Sophie's outfit...

And it was great to see Colin & Julia, who I will be marrying in August of this year. Here are some of Colin's shots, which are much better than my own happy snaps

Lucy just sent me a lovely email. She said, "Thank you so much for such a lovely ceremony - we had a really great day, better than we had hoped for. It was really special for us to have so many close friends gathered in such a beautiful location with splendid weather but the best bit for both of us was the ceremony itself. Certainly, I didn't expect to enjoy it anything like as much as I did! Thank you for entering into the relaxed and friendly spirit of the day so well. "

Ravensheugh Log Cabin above Tyninghame Beach must be one of the most spectacular sites for a wedding in Scotland. It's a traditional Canadian style log cabin with a grass roof that sits above the mile long expanse of white sand, about five miles east of North Berwick, and I've been looking forward to conducting a wedding here ever since I first stumbled across it while walking along the coast a few years ago. Built in the 1960's by the Earl of Haddington, it now belongs to the Dale family who farm locally, and you cxan find out more about it here

Monday, 6 July 2009

Anita & Isra's Humanist Wedding at Redhall Walled Garden in Edinburgh

I think this shot by photographer Liz Tainsh really sums up the multi-cultural nature of this lovely ceremony.

Anita's family is from India and Switzerland; Isra is Colombian and their friends are from everywhere. One of the many great things about their wedding was the way they embraced my suggestion that they involve as many of their friends as possible in every aspect of it.

So Anita's dad told us about the time that Mr Isra had beaten him at skimming stones...

Anita's friend Tamer Ghoneim told us just how bossy Anita can be...

Anita's mum, Elsbeth read from Neruda...

Savina told us what Isra thought when he first met Anita...

And everyone somehow managed to squeeze their way into the frame.

In case you were wondering, Redhall is a beautiful Victorian walled garden within Colinton Dell, on the banks of the Water of Leith. You can enter it from the Lanark Road, but it's quite well hidden so keep your eyes peeled. It sells the most wonderful plants and ever since 1983, it's been providing a supportive working environment for up to fifty people recovering from mental health problems. It's open from 9am-3pm, Monday to Friday and you really owe it to yourself to visit. For further information drop them a line.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Kelly & Nick's Humanist Wedding at Harburn House

This was a great day! I first met Kelly and her mum about a year before the wedding and I knew from the start that she was the kind of person who'd put her heart and soul into creating a truly memorable ceremony. I met Nick a few months later and I still can't believe that Kelly can beat him at kick boxing.

When it came to doing their homework, they surprised themselves with how much they got out of it and it inspired them to write some really original and moving vows. Their friends Ryan and Becky used the Big Bang Theory to explain how Nick and Kelly met, taking them from the dawn of time to a beach party in Goa: another unique touch.

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...