Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Steven & Gillian's Humanist Wedding at Gean House

Gillian and Steven met when they were in their early twenties, and in her homework Gillian told me how she remembered their first date. She chose the venue (a cinema) and the film, Blade 2, a Wesley Snipes Vampire Horror romp because she was trying to be cool and impress Steven, who looked very cool in a lovely soft cream jumper that she only discovered much later he'd borrowed from a friend for the evening!

Nine years, two houses and one baby boy later, they finally tied the knot at the beautiful Gean House at Tullibody, an early 20th Century Arts & Crafts mansion house in the style of Lutyens, complete with a grand hall, a minstrels gallery and Japanese gardens.

Keen students of tradition will note something 'wrong' with this picture. Gillian is standing on my right, where the groom usually goes. But in a humanist ceremony, there's no right or wrong about where the couple choose to stand. For me, what's more important is to remember where the close family members should go. No - not on the same side as their loved one, but the opposite one, because that's where they get the best view.

Gillian's friend Nicola gave us a passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin that she chose specially for them and which she kept secret until the day, which was lovely but perhaps the quirkiest surprise of the day was the music.

No - not the piper, although they did have one, but a massed band of Ukeleles! Gillian’s Aunty Kate and other members of Smut (AKA The Scottish Multicoloured Ukulele Troupe) turned out in force to play a song for Steven which was kept a secret until the day itself.

Steven and Gillian wrote their own vows, and exchanged rings which were brought to us by their little boy Aaron, before signing the marriage schedule to the sound of "Songbird" by Oasis and "The Bucket" by The Kings of Leon, which worked surprisingly well on massed ukeleles as you can hear from this clip on YouTube

As Gillian wrote when they got back from their Venetian honeymoon, "We had so many compliments on how much guests enjoyed the ceremony and how they liked you.  The ukuele troupe were a big hit too and we feel lucky we had the freedom to have personal details like the ukes because the ceremony was Humanist." 

It must have been good - a few months later, Steven's dad Dougie got in touch, and now I'm looking forward to conducting his marriage to Muriel next year at the Wallace Monument!

Thanks Gillian, Steven, Aaron, Michael Macari of Polarberry Photography, and everyone else whose contributions made the day such a great success.

They've Got The H Factor!

I was very pleased with the first phase of the results from The H Factor campaign we ran in September, when we went all over Scotland to find out what humanists believe on a wide range of important moral issues, including same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide and sectarianism. The films feature contributions from more than 50 individuals, ranging from 10 year old Mellin Buchanan from Thurso to 81 year old Margaret Ferguson from Inverness. You can see them all on the H Factor web site or on Vimeo where they can also be downloaded and shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

These short films were made as part of the process of casting the first ever Humanist TV commercial, which will shoot in Spring 2012.

Although the word 'Humanist' is starting to pop up more often across the media, I find that very few people actually know what humanists believe. The H Factor films will allow the public to see for themselves and I hope that a fair few of them will realise they've actually been 'Secret Humanists' all their lives.

PS - The HSS is now giving you a chance to win £1,000 by creating a new slogan for the society. Find out more at the H Factor web site 

Jo & Tosh's Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

I got a lovely email from deepest Rajasthan the other day. That's where Jo and Tosh were on honeymoon, but thanks to the wonders of t'internet, they were still able to send me some shots from their wedding earlier this year at Broxmouth Park, and seeing them and reading the ceremony again just reminded me of all the little ways in which a humanist wedding can be made uniquely personal.

What name do you want to be called in the ceremony? It's a question I always ask right at the start, and as you might expect if you've been reading this blog for a while, there's no right answer. Some people like to be formal, others don't, so Jo decided to carry on being Jo, rather than Joanne, while Tosh reverted to his given name, Richard, for thirty minutes or so rather than use the nickname by which he's best known.

Another question I always ask is, how do you want the ceremony to begin? Tosh chose to walk up the aisle with his Nan, while Jo's brother Paul walked in with their Granny at the same time, which was a thoughtful touch, and much appreciated by the ladies present.

How many bridesmaids can you have? As many as you like, but it looks better when the groom isn't left up there like Johnny No-Mates, so while Jo had three gorgeous girls on her right, Tosh was joined not just by his best man, but three ushers as well.

One of the joys of the homework process is that it allows the couple to say in their own words why they want to marry, and I remember that when I read Tosh's, I was really struck by the words he used, and I was very pleased when he decided to incorporate them into the ceremony.

“It took me quite a long time to get here. Don’t think I really saw the point. I get it now. My friends know I love you, my family knows I love you, your family knows I love you, so that’s not it. I’m no fan of rules or tradition for the sake of it so it’s not that. We have arrived at a point in our relationship where it feels right, not because it is deemed appropriate by others, but because I am so in love with you that I want to make this public declaration and spend the rest of my life with you.”

Poetry and readings are always a part of a wedding; what made this particularly nice was that Dan, one of Tosh's closest friends from University, read one he'd written himself.

Music is crucial, and it was lovely to hear some of Jo's friends from her days in the Glasgow Youth Choir singing 'Sound The Pibroch'.

But best of all, as far as I was concerned anyway, was that they had the courage to stand in front of their family and friends and not only speak their vows directly to one another, but say why they love one another and what their hopes are for the future. I laughed out loud when they sent me the final draft of the script and I saw this.

 "Because they don’t trust themselves not to start crying, they hope you don’t mind that I’m now going to read these out on their behalf.

Every wedding is unique, and uniquely moving, but I'll remember this one for a long time.

It's always what I hope, but I was very pleased when Jo and Tosh said, "You were such an integral part of our wedding day and the ceremony remains the favourite part of our day. Your warmth, inclusiveness and humour all helped to make it a truly memorable experience and we've lost count of the number of family and friends who have commented on how much they enjoyed it; most saying that it was their first humanist wedding, but admitting it was the best they've ever been to. High praise indeed!"

Thanks Tosh and Jo! Please do let me know who took these excellent pics?

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...