Saturday, 18 June 2011

Jo & Rob's Humanist Wedding on Buachaille Etive Mhor

When I first wrote my profile on the HSS web site, one of my hopes was that one day someone would ask me to conduct their wedding on top of a mountain.

Many years went by but then in March of this year, I got a call from Rob and Jo who not only wanted to take me at my word, but wanted to climb one of Scotland's most iconic peaks, Buachaille Etive Mhor, the big shepherd of Etive, which stands guard at the mouth of Glencoe.

When I parked up at the side of the A90, I was surprised to meet Jo and her bridesmaid Emily just beginning their 90 minute walk to the foot of the hill from where they'd begin their ascent of Curved Ridge which is a grade 3 scramble on the East face. Rob, his best man, Carl and intrepid photographer friend George Burgess had gone ahead about an hour earlier. I thought I'd better move fast.

So while they made their dizzying ascent the hard way, I followed the rocky path, crossing streams, scrambling over boulders and scree and passing several groups of other walkers en route: I didn't want to be late!

As it happened, I needn't have worried. I made it to the 3,353 ft summit with half an hour to spare before Rob and Carl appeared over the lip of the hill. 

George stayed below to get some great shots of the girls, but eventually they all made it to the top - with seven minutes to go before the official start time of the ceremony, which has to be a first! 

Thanks to George's great pics, the story was widely reported, and you can read all about Jo and Rob's very personal vows and rope hand fasting in Scotland on Sunday or here in The Daily Mail

It was as every bit as romantic as you might imagine and of course we had every kind of mountain weather - rain, snow, wind and bright sunshine. 

At times I could see all the way to another of my favourite hills, Schiehallion, far across the moor of Rannoch. In the other direction, we could see the bridge at Ballachulish, and of course just across the way, tiny figures were winding their slow way up the Devil's Staircase on the West Highland Way.

Sadly I had to get back to Edinburgh that evening for a wedding rehearsal, so I couldn't join the wedding party for their nuptial lunch of haggis at the Clachaig Inn, but I was pleased to get these shots from Jo who said, "I'd love to give you some thoughts but I haven't really had time to collect them yet. It was a brilliant day and we are loving married life. The press interest has been a bit of a surprise though!" 

So perhaps more to add here later, but as always, my thanks to Rob and Jo for a wonderful day and to George Burgess for the stunning shots!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Jeni & Rune's Humanist Wedding on the Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond

Jeni and Rune are quite unusual names, so you won't be surprised to learn that their wedding was pretty unusual too. Brought together by a love of music, Jeni had studied Scandinavia as part of her degree, so when she met Rune, who's from that part of the world,  she was quick to tell him that Sweden was her favourite country. That was when Rune told her he was Norwegian... The funny and touching story of their courtship was one of the highlights of their ceremony, but the real star of the day was the weather.

Outdoor weddings in Scotland are always a gamble, and this year that seems particularly true. Rune and Jeni had taken over The Waterfront at Balmaha, on the quieter Eastern shore of Loch Lomond, and when I turned up, the sun was shining, and wedding guests were still enjoying a few beers in the hot tubs. But that wasn't to last. When I walked down to the lochside, dark clouds were massing overhead, and as their photographer (the ubiquitous and talented Stuart Craig) said, "This is shaping up to be an epic!" Never a truer word...

Just as the bride approached, the heavens opened, and Stuart got his first great shot of the day. Luckily, I was underneath the marquee, along with Rune and all  the guests, but then, just as Jeni arrived 'on set' there was an almighty clap of thunder! It wasn't until after the ceremony that I learned that Rune's dad's name is Thor...

From then on, things could only get even better, and despite - or perhaps because of - the downpours, and the thunder and lightning, it was an absolutely magical day.  

When they exchanged their rings, they both spoke a personalised version of a poem by the great Humanist philosopher and writer Bertrand Russell, called "Today, I Marry My Friend."

Rune is a professional musician, and while he and Jeni signed The Marriage Schedule, his best man and childhood friend Dagfinn joined singing star bridesmaid Ciaran in a song called "Laughter Instead" that Dagfinn had written specially for the day. 

What with the need to keep the marriage schedule out of the rain, the song ended before the ink was dry on our signatures, so in response to popular demand, Ciaran and Dagfinn played it a second time, and of course we all joined in on the chorus. The bridesmaids made a stunning backing group!

By the time the ceremony was over, the weather had changed yet again - it's times like this you really appreciate how good a photographer has to be to produce a coherent picture of your wedding day, and Stuart did a great job.

Stuart has done his own blog about the ceremony, and I think he really captured the atmosphere , not just in his great shots but also in his writing. Check it out here!

I just got an email from the new Mrs Hansen. She said, "I just wanted to say a huge thank you for being our celebrant for our wedding, we loved the ceremony and are so happy that we chose you - all of the guests are still talking about how memorable it was, not just because of the thunder, but also because of you, so thank you! There were so many people who asked about you afterwards and said how fantastic you were, I'm so pleased we came across your blog and dragged you all the way to Loch Lomond!"

Thanks Jeni, tak, Rune, and I look forward to seeing you both again at the Balmoral Hotel next March for Charlie & Dave's wedding! Of course, big thanks also go to Stuart for allowing me to use his shots here too.

Claire & Andy's Humanist Wedding at Hopetoun House

It was back in March 2010 that I first heard from Claire and Andy. One of the first things they told me was that they were from different religious backgrounds, but neither were churchgoers, so they felt that a Humanist ceremony would be the right thing for them. I was pleased that they'd raised the subject, because Humanism is all about the things that unite rather than divide us, and over the years, I've married lots of people who've chosen to look beyond the faith they were raised in and found that they recognised themselves in what Humanists believe.

They were planning to marry in the stables at Hopetoun House, the fabulous Adam mansion out by South Queensferry - it wasn't until later that I discovered that Claire is a keen horsewoman, so that may have been part of the reason they chose the venue.

We met in April, and in the year that elapsed between that and the wedding date, she and Andy moved house, did their homework, chose readings, wrote a poem that told their story so far, and created a very personal ceremony that involved both friends and family. They were so organised, they even managed to fit in a quick pre-wedding holiday after their stag and hen nights so they could relax, catch a bit of spring sunshine, and feel at their very best on the big day.

Their young nephew Jack was the ring bearer, and I remember he took his job very seriously!

When the bride walks down the aisle, it's always fun to watch how the bridegroom reacts: and I had no doubt how pleased Andy was to see Claire!

Claire and Andy spoke their vows directly to one another, which takes a lot of courage and is always very moving - not just for them, but for the guests too.

When we signed the Marriage Schedule, I was pleased they took my suggestion that they invite their mums to be the witnesses. There's nobody to whom your wedding is more important than your mother, and they are always surprised and delighted to be asked, because they usually assume that the best man and chief bridesmaid will be doing it.

I got a lovely email from them not long afterwards, saying "We just wanted to say thank you for a fantastic wedding ceremony.  We and everyone else loved it and all have said how good you were. It was very personal and emotional and just what we wanted... it all went so fast.  We had a fantastic day and the sun was even shining by the time we got to the reception!"

Thanks Claire and Andy - I hope you have lots of fun on your long trip around the world, and thanks also to Alan Hutchison Photography for the excellent shots.

It's time to celebrate, people!

I'm delighted to announce that from now on, I will be a celebrant with Celebrate People , a new Humanist organisation led by two of Scot...