Friday, 26 August 2011

Laura & Chris's Secret Humanist Wedding at Eskmills

Chris and Laura have been together for 11 years and they already have two children, Sean and Katie, but for one reason or another they'd never got married. More than that, they'd never even been engaged, so they decided to play a little trick on all of their friends and have an 'engagement party' one Saturday night in August.

I turned up early as always, and was led through a side door to the back of the building where I could see a party was in full swing. But there was a big screen of material hiding one area of the hall from the guests, and it was in there that Laura and Chris were going to get married.

They sneaked out of their party so they could get dressed, and then with Katie and Sean, bridesmaid Cara and their best man and maid of honour Paul and Stacey, they all came downstairs and very, very, quietly, took their places and waited for the DJ in the next room to ask everyone to move through.

The result was a good five minutes of pandemonium! In most marriages, everyone waits till the end to kiss the bride and slap the groom on the back, but it was the other way round this time, and it was lovely seeing the surprise and joy on everybody's face. Eventually they all sat down and we had a short and very moving ceremony, where Laura promised always to try to remain the girl Chris fell in love with when they first met 21 years before, and Chris promised that he would always continue to sing the wrong words to songs.

Laura sent me this short note along with these pictures. "We just wanted to thank you for conducting our ceremony.  The ceremony was lovely and delivered beautifully by you.  We had such an amazing evening.  It was great to see all the surprised faces wasn't it?!"

It was, Laura - unforgettable! x

Michelle & Derek's Humanist Renewal of Vows Ceremony on the beach at North Berwick

Once upon a time, a bloke went into Bannerman's Bar in the Cowgate, and stared into a pair of big brown eyes. Later that evening, the owner of the eyes had to help him open his packet of chewing gum, because he was a little too refreshed. And that was the start of a relationship that led Derek and Michelle to get married on a beach in Barbados in 2001. As they said, "Our relationship has gone backwards. We sort of stumbled into marriage, and we've got stronger and stronger, and closer and closer." 

Ten years on, they decided it was time to renew their vows to one another. They still wanted to do it on a beach, but this time it would be closer to home, and all their friends and family would be there.

They took their time, and after giving a great deal of thought to what they wanted to say, they decided to invite lots of their friends to be involved. So Sharon told us her version of how they met. John remembered when he first met Michelle and thought "She's far to young to be his carer!". And Michelle's sister Shaeren and her brother in law Ian both gave us readings before Derek and Michelle exchanged and renewed their vows.

It was a very happy and relaxed evening that was topped off by a specially written blessing from Egg. A Renewal of Vows ceremony has a different atmosphere from a wedding. It's much less tense, I suppose because everyone knows one another already and they're confident in the love that's being shared. But some things are always the same. Flower girls would much rather go and explore the beach than listen to elderly bald men droning on...

And a glass of champagne always goes down a treat!

Michelle sent me these pics the very next day, along with a lovely note.

"We just wanted to thank you - we had a fantastic day! The ceremony was amazing, and everyone commented on how special it was. I think you may have found yourself a few fans and I'm sure we will see you at future weddings and other celebrations! Thanks for ordering the sunshine!!"

 The party went on well into the evening, as you can tell from this shot of the sun setting over the island of Fidra. Thanks Derek and Michelle - it was a real pleasure!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Gillian & Gavin's Humanist Wedding at Glenbervie House

"Rain sometimes,
Money down the drain sometimes..."

Until today, I'd thought this popular wedding reading was a poem - but I've only just discovered that it's actually a song, written by Arthur Hamilton, and a standard for schmaltzy crooners like the late Matt Monro.

Why do I mention the rain? Well looking back over the summer, it has been something of a theme, one captured perfectly in this great set of shots by Trevor Wilson.

Gavin and Gillian's wedding at Glenbervie House must rank as one of the wettest weddings of the year, but as Gillian wrote to me afterwards, "We both had an absolutely fantastic day and it proves you dont need good weather to make it... although the sun did eventually show face!" 

Gillian and Gavin's paths first crossed at school, but it wasn't until she helped him with his maths homework at University that their relationship really got going. As they said in their ceremony, "the reason our love for one another is so strong is that we're best friends", and it's easy to see how comfortable they are together.

Gillian wrote, "I'm so glad we decided on a humanist ceremony as it was great coming out afterwards and hearing everyone say how wonderful it was.  They said you were particularly funny at the start!"

"I think the ceremony captured everything that we are and it made our guests feel involved in the day.  It was funny, emotional and relaxed all in one ceremony.  

"It really set the mood for the rest of the day as I relaxed myself and had a better day than I ever imagined I also a thank you to you for helping us create that!"

 A pleasure as ever, Gillian. Thanks for the kind words and of course a big thanks as ever to Trevor Wilson for the wonderfully atmospheric shots.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Politeness of Kings...

When you're planning your wedding, one of the most important things of all is the time the ceremony starts.

And almost everyone who asks me to conduct their wedding is really clear from the outset that their ceremony absolutely has to start at X o' clock, because they've got a tight timetable, and everything else that happens during the rest of the day and evening depends on the ceremony running like clockwork.

I entirely understand. And you may remember that when Miss Kate Middleton married young Master Windsor the other month, she turned up at the doors of Westminster Abbey at precisely 11.00 a.m. 

But it seems that the Countess of Strathearn (as she is now known to us in Scotland) is the exception that proves the rule. 

Yes, we all know that it's the bride's prerogative to be late, and I agree with Debrett's (the ultimate guide to etiquette), that a fashionable five minutes is perfectly acceptable. But some brides are really pushing it, and turning up, ten, fifteen, and even twenty minutes late. And then spending a further ten minutes having an impromptu photo shoot outside the venue before making their grand entrance. 

It's easy for the bride to get carried away with all the excitement of her big day, so I try to be understanding.  But I can also sympathise with the Brazilians, whose Zero Tolerance policy costs latecomers $300!

But here's the thing. If you're half an hour late, the musicians may have run out of music, (and that drives them mad, as you can see from this message board!). 

More importantly, by the time you arrive, your elderly relatives have been sitting waiting for you for at least 45 minutes. That can mean they've got more pressing concerns on their minds during the ceremony than listening to your well-chosen words. They need to go to the bathroom...

Of course, sometimes brides are late through no fault of their own. 

Not only did Nicola's wedding car break down, but so did the one that was sent as a replacement, so eventually she had to grab a cab!

It's not always the bride who's late. 

The longest I've ever had to wait for a wedding to begin was an hour and a half - and that was because we were all waiting for the groom

But please - for all our sakes - when the time comes and it's your turn, do try to be on time. As Louis XVIII said, Punctuality is the Politeness of Kings...

Amy & JP's Humanist Wedding on the beach at Orocco Pier

I knew when I met JP and Amy that they were going to be more fun than a barrel full of very naughty monkeys.

And I was right! Their invitation had a circus theme and it was subtitled Amy and Jaypee's Rootin'-Tootin' Weddin', so nobody could have been in any doubt that they were in for an extremely special day... 

Although they didn't wear the false moustaches during the wedding itself.

Amy's bridesmaids and flower girls brought a welcome hint of the South Pacific to South Queensferry...

One of the things I liked most about JP & Amy's approach was that they decided to keep their vows a secret from one another, which always raises the pulse rate a bit. They sent the vows to me individually of course, so I knew that they were both going to be very happy with what they heard, especially as they both made reference in their own way to the impending Zombie Apocalypse...

Which may explain the wedding cake that they made themselves! One of the poems they chose was 'A Lovely Love Story,' by Edward Monkton, which is becoming a favourite of mine. What they didn't tell me until the day before was who was going to read it. 

It turned out to be Amy's Uncle Scott. I thought he had a great voice, and read it particularly well. It wasn't until about halfway through that I recognised it as belonging to Radio Legend Scotty Wilson!

The next bit of fun was the singing. Amy and JP chose to have Your Song by Elton John, which was lovely, and 'Good Day Sunshine' by the Beatles, which of course was more than a little ironic, with a cold wind whipping along the Firth of Forth, and the temperature hovering just above freezing!

Once they'd thawed out, Amy & JP sent me this lovely note along with all their great photos.

We just wanted to say a huge thank you for everything! Your ceremony was excellent and you really made the day special and memorable... Our family and friends loved you... You managed to make them laugh and relax even though it was freezing!! Everyone said how 'us' the ceremony was... We'd like to thank you for helping us write it and the vows, we dont think it could have been any more beautiful!

It was perfect, thank you very much.
JP and Amy Ranaldi x

Sam & Em's Humanist Wedding on Inchcolm Island

It's been a wild summer, and the weather's played a part in making some memorable weddings. Sam and Emma sent me this account of their big day...

Our wedding seems so long ago now, but we're still getting lots of notes, cards and lovely comments from everyone. We had a truly wonderful day; even with all the chaos such as no music, force 9 winds and that rollercoaster of a boat ride home, it was absolutely perfect. 

As I said to you on the boat home, the preparations were hard work - you know how difficult we found it to get the homework done, and how it took a while for the ceremony to really start coming together - but you were right, it was worth every last second.  We were pleased with the ceremony on paper, but that was nothing compared to how it felt being stood up there listening to it actually happening.  Every bit of it was so personal, so totally unique and so 'us' - and you managed to deliver it better than I had ever imagined. Even though I knew what was coming next (even without reading over my shoulder!) I was totally captivated by it. Thank you.

We've had people tell us it was a beautiful ceremony, people tell us it was fun, people tell us it was hilarious - I'm not sure that the last one was exactly what we were going for, but to me the most important one was how memorable it was. 

I have a feeling that stories about Sam fluffing his lines, and people nearly being blown into the Forth are going to be coming out in family lore for a long time to come. Its certainly something I will always remember, or at least hope that I will never forget. We had a great day, and one that really meant something to us, and I'm really grateful for all the guidance you gave which has allowed us to have that start in our lives together.

We've just received our images from Simon Grosset, which have brought back even more memories. Simon has also posted about the day on his blog, here.

I'm also sending you one last thing - my Mum was supposed to make a speech on the boat back, but the conditions meant that she a) didn't feel it was wise to drag everyone into the main cabin to listen to her and b) couldn't have stood up to deliver it anyway.  She had a few words that she wanted to say to you as part of it, so she's asked me if I'll forward them on to you... 

And here they are... When Emma and Sam chose a humanist wedding it was a very conscious decision to have a very personal ceremony celebrating all that is special about each other and their journey together so far and their hopes and dreams for the future. I know that they specifically wanted to work with Tim as his views and explanation of the humanist approach struck a chord with them.

I’m not entirely sure that they appreciated just how much thought, deliberation and homework this would involve but at times I’m sure that their honours projects and dissertations seemed like a breeze in comparison!

Tim – thank you for being so flexible and for  such a beautiful ceremony, thank you for taking the time to help Emma and Sam plan today and for showing them how to take a step back and appreciate the little and the big things in life that they each bring to their relationship. 

My heartfelt thanks to Emma & Sam and of course her mum Elaine, and to Simon Grosset for these really atmospheric shots!

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...