Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tune in, turn on

My old friend and colleague Chris Miller is a splendid fellow, who strains every sinew to make commercial radio listenable.

He wrote this little gem on the subject of weddings, and as it made me laugh out loud, I hope it will have the same effect on you.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Yvonne and Andrew, you're making me blush...

I first met Andy and Yvonne last October, and over the intervening months, they've had a lot of fun doing their homework.

When they sent me their ceremony today, they included a surprise ending, which I've printed below. I don't know why it should be any less embarrassing for me to post this on my blog than it would be to read it out on the day, but it is*, and I am deeply touched.

As soon as we met you we knew you were the perfect guy to marry us. You are full of fun, with a good sense of humour, but with a serious side, and a strong belief in Humanism. 

We love what you stand for, your commitment to the strengths of humankind and how you explained about Humanism and what it really meant. We loved the fact that you made us do our homework (not really done since High School) so that we could take the time to really understand what getting married and saying our vows meant. 

We love the way you read and liked our stories and the way you wanted us more than merely to stand in front of everyone and say our vows. You listened to us and you let us write our own ceremony. With you we had the perfect harmony of belief and freedom. 

For this, we thank you from our hearts.

*I've worked it out: you can't see me blushing over the net... Thanks Yvonne & Andrew. Not long now!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Let's Talk About Death, Baby

I know, this is meant to be a blog about weddings, but I just had to share this brilliant piece by a physicist called Aaron Freeman that was sent to me today by Joanne & Colin, who I'm looking forward to marrying next June at Keavil House.

It was posted on a Facebook group you may or may not have heard of, called "I Fucking Love Science" and it's very timely because I'm going to be part of an event on Wednesday May 15th at the Serenity Cafe on Holyrood Road, called "Let's Talk About Death, Baby."

It's one of three HSS led events for Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief Awareness Week, where I and several other HSS members and celebrants will be talking and listening to members of the public about life, love, death and everything in between.

Humanist funerals are just as much a celebration of life as a wedding. The difference (or at least as I find it) is that at a funeral, I make people laugh, whereas at a wedding I make them cry. This great piece made me do both. I hope you like it too. 

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Love Connection

James and Paula just came round for their rehearsal.

I was sure they'd told me it would just be the two of them, but when I opened the door, I met not just Paula's mum, who's going to give her away, but Jeni and Rune, who I married to the sound of thunder on the shores of Loch Lomond two years ago, and Charlie and David, who tied the knot here in Edinburgh last year, with their brand new baby boy, Julian. This is them, as they were almost a year ago to the day.

Moments like these that remind me that one of the joys of being a Humanist celebrant is becoming a part of other people's lives, and I can't wait to see them all again in a week's time!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A Lovely Love Story about David and Megan's Humanist Wedding at The Lounge in Largs

When we want to talk about love, we tend to get tongue-tied. That's when we turn for help to the poets, because they have the gift of expressing our thoughts and feelings better than we can ourselves. Few living poets do this better than Edward Monkton

I first heard his poem, A Lovely Love Story, at the wedding of Elizabeth and Bengtis, way back in 2009. Since then, I've heard lots of people tell the story of the Lovely Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur, but nobody's done it better than Ben and Finn at the wedding of Megan and David.

The poem was read by Megan's brother Matthew, who I'd married to Karen on a gloriously sunny afternoon the year before, but Finn and Ben stole the show with their drawings.

They had them arranged on a kind of turnspit, and every time Matthew read a new verse, they turned it over to show their version of the new illustration.

It's not quite as breathtaking an homage to Mr Monkton as the tattoo Lauren Roach now has on her back, but it was much more cute.

And when I got in touch with Megan and David to ask for these great photos by David Ross they told me some wonderful news. Megan's going to have a baby, and they've asked me to conduct a naming and welcoming ceremony on their wedding anniversary this year! 

I wonder what poems we'll read this time?

My thanks to Megan and David, and of course to Mr Monkton for letting me use his portrait.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Amy & Graham's wedding at the Parliament Hall in St Andrews

I remember when Graham and Amy first got in touch. They were working on a project in rural India at the time, and they got in touch because they'd seen I was the Humanist contact at The University of Edinburgh where they'd both studied, and first met playing Frisbee on the meadows on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon eleven years before. After we'd spoken on Skype, they wrote their very honest and personal homework on a beach in Sri Lanka before we finally met almost a year later to talk about how they wanted their ceremony to go.

St Andrews is Amy's home town, and The Parliament Hall is a beautiful 17th century building that houses the university's debating society - a very appropriate choice, as Amy and Graham frequently enjoy a full and frank exchange of views!

The ceremony had a vintage theme, as you can see from these photos by Nikki Leadbetter that were featured in the Scottish Wedding Directory, and it was a very moving affair. As they said in their interview, this was their top tip

Going over our vows repeatedly in the build up to the wedding meant that despite all the overwhelming emotion we never had to worry about messing it up. The day went very quickly but because we managed to be quite relaxed we didn't feel we missed anything and managed to enjoy it in exactly the way we wanted". 

In the lovely card they sent me six months after the big day, Amy and Graham said, "the ceremony was one of the few things we never really had any worries about, and that was due almost entirely to your calm and professional advice. You helped us to have exactly the type of ceremony we had always wanted, and for that we are forever grateful.

"Almost all of our friends told us that it was one of the few ceremonies they'd actually bothered to listen to, and we even managed to trigger some tears amongst even the most cynical. You were great on the day, and you played a huge part in making our special day special, so please accept our sincere thanks.

Thank you, Graham and Amy - and thanks too to Nikki Leadbetter for these 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...