Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Gavin & Natasha's Humanist Wedding at a private house in Edinburgh

It was back in September 2011 that Natasha and Gavin first got in touch, and perhaps it was because their wedding was only a few months away that unlike most couples, Natasha was very clear about what she wanted from the start. She told me that she'd already booked a pianist and a violinist, and she wanted to have a reading or two from friends.

So we met and had a chat, and they went off to do their homework, which I was really pleased to get back within a fortnight. I was struck that while Natasha was the talker, it was Gavin who turned out to be the writer, and I was moved by the honesty and candour of his words.

By the time they'd written the final draft of the ceremony, quite a few things had changed. Rather than simply asking friends to do readings, Gavin and Natasha decided to involve their families in delivering parts of the ceremony as well.

Gavin's brother Alistair, and Natasha's sister Janine told the stories of their courtship, before Gavin's father David gave us a very moving reading of the Burns' poem, 'My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose', and Natasha's mum Jan read a poem called 'The Colour of My Love'

Then it was time for us to sing, so we all joined in with the father and daughter team of Joanna and Richard on the fiddle and piano to sing that most evocative of Scottish songs, Wild Mountain Thyme.

Just before the vows, Natasha's friend Jenny read us an ancient Sanskrit poem called Look To This Day, then we had a minute of quiet contemplation before the vows. I always suggest we do this, for two reasons.

First of all, your guests have just heard a lot of intimate truths about you, so it's good to give them a moment to think about what they've heard, and secondly, I think it's important to create a time during the ceremony when people of faith can offer a silent prayer, and I know from the feedback I've had from guests that it's both unexpected and much appreciated.

Gavin had decided he was going to speak his vows from memory, which is always very impressive, but as Natasha wasn't sure how she wanted to speak hers, I suggested that they both created cards for their vows just in case.

They'd chosen a lovely old Irish blessing for the end, and I was glad they agreed with my suggestion that rather than print it on the Order of Ceremony, I ask the guests to repeat it after me, phrase by phrase instead.

That allowed Gavin and Natasha to look at their guests all for the first time, and that's the moment I think they realised just what it was they had done by creating their ceremony in their own words.

About a month after the wedding, they sent me a beautiful card, these lovely photos, and this message.

"We had an absolute blast. To say your guidance was significant would be understating it.  Your approach and advice were such that we were able to craft a ceremony which we looked forward to enormously and enjoyed even more.  So many people said it was "the best wedding I've been to in years", and we're tempted to believe them.  

I suppose it felt like we were truly ourselves on the day and everyone recognised that and enjoyed the experience so much more than they may have, had we conformed to someone else's ideas of what our wedding should involve.  The best start to married life and the most wonderful memories of a warm and loving ceremony forever. Thanks Tim. Gavin and Natasha".

My thanks to Natasha and Gavin for allowing me to post this, and of course to Sandy Young for these great shots.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 4 - The Exchange of Rings

The exchange of wedding rings between a man and a woman is still a comparatively new idea.

Once upon a time, there was only one ring; the best man gave it to the groom, who gave it to the bride who wore it to her grave.

The groom didn't wear a ring at all, and the whole arrangement was rather one-sided, and redolent of ownership, possession and control.

As those ideas went out of fashion during the latter half of the 20th century, men and women began to exchange rings, but for some reason, the best man remained the custodian of both, which gave rise to the strange sight of a bride getting a ring from the groom's best pal only to give it straight back to the groom.

It took me a little while to see what was wrong with that picture, but now I have a solution, and most couples seem to agree it's a good one.

Rather than making the best man responsible for both rings, I usually suggest that while he has the bride's ring to give to the groom, the chief bridesmaid should be given the groom's wedding ring to give to the bride.

That way the exchange is truly equal.

I generally suggest the bridesmaid simply wears the groom's wedding ring on one of her thumbs. As both thumbs tend to be pointing upwards (because they're carrying a bouquet), there's no risk of it falling off, and  it's a simple matter for the bridesmaid to slip the ring off her thumb, and pass it to the bride at the appropriate moment, just as Elise did at the wedding of Victoria and David on Sunday. It's taken me a long time to get a photo of this, so thanks again to Elise for giving me the 'thumb's up'!

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...