Tuesday, 25 February 2014

James and Anna's Humanist Wedding at Carberry Tower

Sometimes you just know you're going to get on with people, and that was how I felt from my first contact with Anna and James. 

She's German, he's Scottish, they're both designers, and it turned out that James and I had connections through an ad agency I used to work for in Amsterdam, Weiden & Kennedy, for whom - in a previous life - I produced this award-winning spot.

But that's by the by. I loved Anna and James's story, which ran for seven years, and involved three countries, one ocean, a lot of hellos, goodbyes and thousands of Skype calls that led them all the way from their present home in Portland, Oregon to Carberry Tower just outside Edinburgh in August 2013. 

Carberry Tower has had some major investment recently, so it's well worth checking out. Anna and James chose to use the chapel which has one wall entirely made of glass, with lovely views out to a lawn with a forest behind it. Their story began with a chance meeting at an insanely busy party at the Milan Furniture Fair. Here's how Anna wrote it up in the ceremony.

He was standing there in his baggy jeans, grey sweater and a grey beanie, as you all know, James’s normal uniform. He looked at Anna and had the biggest smile on his face, she couldn’t stop smiling back at him. At this point he used an insanely cheesy line. “Hi, you look fantastic.” Not his coolest moment! But he meant it. Funnily enough Anna didn't find that line so bad... It was his next line that caused her concern. “I love your outfit"   

Because (as I said earlier) Anna is German and James is Scots, their initial conversations were a bit challenging. Anna called James the day after the party, but when he answered, she had no idea what he was saying and thought she'd got the wrong number! Once she realised it really was him she couldn't believe how she had missed the accent. After many times asking James to repeat himself he finally said “I’m reeeally baad on the phooone.”

Being such a multi-national wedding, with guests from all over the world, there were some nice bits in another incomprehensible language: German. Anna's sister Nora read a poem called Die Hochzeitskerze Spright (The Wedding Candle Speaks) 

And of course, they created some really personal vows. Here's just a taste of what Anna promised James. "I love you because of your need to do new and crazy things. I promise to support you and hold your hand wherever our future takes us, to let you jump off things and let you inspire me to be a bit crazy too because that is what makes you wonderful."

James gave as good as he got. "You are my chosen one. I promise to always make you feel beautiful and to make you feel like the most special and desired person in the world even when you think you are having a bad hair day".

I remember thinking that it was one of the happiest weddings of the year: I think you can see that from these great photos by Neil Thomas Douglas who really knows how to compose a shot, as you can see at his website here

A few months after the ceremony, I got a lovely card that used the picture above as the cover image. It said, "Thank you so much for helping us have the most incredible and best day of our lives. You were absolutely perfect and made us feel so special. It was a true pleasure to have you involved from the absolute beginning. We were so lucky to have met you and have you involved in our special day. We received so many compliments for the ceremony and everyone said it was the best they had ever seen! 

Even my 10 year old nephew said "i usually hate weddings but that was the best one ever, it was so funny". He is a very hard boy to please, so I took it as real praise. I think part of what he was laughing at could have been me and how sweaty and nervous I was! Thank you again, James and Anna"

My pleasure, J&A - and once again, I wish you both every happiness!


What's So Special About A Humanist Wedding?

That's the question Juliet Wilson and I set out to answer in the first ever Humanist Wedding Showcase.

I was really pleased when Elizabeth Bell, the wedding co-ordinator at Edinburgh's prestigious Balmoral Hotel invited the HSS to be a part of the recent Luxury Wedding Show. The Balmoral is a city landmark, and it can cater for weddings of all sizes from the most intimate to the seriously massive - I think there were more than150 guests in the ballroom for the wedding of John and Nimi that I conducted there just before Christmas - but we chose to stage our show in one of the medium-sized suites on the second floor.

Every celebrant spends several hours a week meeting couples face to face to have a chat about what they want their wedding to be like, but we'd never had the chance to explain it to a group. Obviously we had to make it informative, but we wanted to make it fun and engaging too, so over a couple of months Juliet and I worked with our training officer and friend, Brian Hawkins to come up with a 20 minute show that conveyed just some of the many ways in which couples can really make their humanist ceremony uniquely their own.

We kicked off with a slide show, and then Juliet and I ran through some of the different aspects of the ceremony, with some slides inspired by song titles.

As you probably know, the whole point of a humanist wedding is that it gives you the chance to say in your own words why you're getting married, so humanist celebrants don't tell you what to think: instead we ask you to think for yourselves, and the results are always amazing.

All the illustrations you see here are taken from our new weddings leaflet, beautifully drawn by Kate McLelland and designed by long-time HSS collaborator, Derek Green.

The most enjoyable part of the show was getting members of the audience to come up on stage.

It really helped the couple to imagine what it would be like to be standing there in front of their friends and family on the day, and of course it was a great help to the audience, many of whom had never been to a humanist wedding before.

We had lots of great feedback on the day, and since then I've met several couples who came along out of curiosity and decided that a humanist wedding is what they want. The grand finale is something I can't show here - a four minute film that really does let you see what's special about a humanist wedding. We're keeping that specially for live shows for now, but here's a trailer you can see and enjoy. Thanks also to my friend and colleague Stewart Struthers for helping out on the day and taking these snaps on his iPad!

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...