Saturday, 12 December 2015

Vicky and Mat's Humanist Wedding at The Glen Pavilion

Mat and Vicky first met just over five years before their big day. A trip to the legendary Download Festival sealed the deal, and they made it more real by living together and getting their two dogs, Blue and Kizzy. 

Grooms-to-be could learn a lot from the way Mat approached their engagement in April 2013. Knowing that Vicky has very specific tastes in jewellery, he used a piece of ribbon to propose and then allowed her to choose her own ring: smart move, Mat!

Their friend Lee Sutherland gave us an excellent rendition of Edward Monkton's tale of two dinosaurs, 'A Lovely Love Story', and then Vicky and Mat spoke their vows. They really wanted to say 'I take you', but as long term followers of this blog will know, the HSS insists that couples use the word 'accept', so we came up with a compromise that kept them within their interpretation of the law.

Tim: Do you Mathew take Vicky as your wife; will you love her with all your heart? Do you promise to encourage and inspire her, to laugh with and comfort her in times of sorrow and struggle, to love and cherish her always through whatever life may bring you?
Mat: I do.
Tim: Thank you. Now we will have an exchange of rings

Mat (speaking): Vicky, I accept you as my wife and give you this ring as a reminder of my love for you.

Vicky and Mat asked their grannies, Rosemary and Paddy, to be the witnesses, and then, once all the guests had promised to enjoy themselves, we all went outside for some al fresco photos in the park. A wee while back, they got in touch to send me these photos and some kind words.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for conducting our
ceremony. It was all we expected, and more and really made the day feel
like it was about us.

Everyone that attended had something positive to say about the
ceremony, especially the ones that hadn't seen a humanist one
before. I think it was the subject of most conversations in the
evening (unless people were just changing the subject everytime we

We would definitely recommend a humanist ceremony to anyone we know
and we have done so on a few occasions since our wedding.

Mat added, 
'It felt good to finally finish the ceremony but at times it was it was very difficult to find the right words (you may remember the correspondence regarding the term "I accept"). 

I would never suggest people use a general ceremony as writing it is what makes the ceremony yours. 
I felt pretty relaxed throughout, even though it did seem to go very quickly!' 

Mat's so right. If you want a unique expression of your love, the more you put into it, the more you get back. (But it will still seem to go very quickly!) My thanks again for choosing me to be your celebrant and thanks to Thomas Adameczek of White Tree Photography for these great shots.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Catherine and Alastair's Humanist Wedding at The Scottish Cafe at The National Galleries of Scotland

Catherine and Alastair's story proves that distance is no obstacle to romance. 

They fell in love even before they met in person for the first time, when Catherine flew over from Quebec, and Alastair gave her a whirlwind tour that took in gigs and ceilidhs, family meetings and the very special Isle of Jura. By the end, Catherine had fallen in love with Scotland too.

Getting a visa wasn't a cakewalk but when it finally came through, they celebrated with a 'Famous Canadians/Scots' fancy dress party where Alastair came as a mythical Québécois lumberjack, and Catherine dressed up as Dolly The Sheep. 

Their ceremony was joyous. Both their mothers spoke: Lyne, Catherine's mother, read an excerpt from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres, and Alastair’s mother Gay read from The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran. Then Catherine and Alastair did a very brave thing: they shared some of the reasons they love each other.

  After a pause for contemplation, they spoke their vows in both French and English, and exchanged rings.

While we signed the Marriage Schedule, we were treated to a great acoustic version of the David Bowie classic, Heroes, performed by Andy & Gabrielle, the best man and bridesmaid. They chose to ask their mums to be witnesses, but they kept that a secret so it was a wee surprise for them both on the day.

'We had a wonderful wedding day and are so glad we chose a Humanist ceremony' wrote Alastair and Catherine when they sent me these photos taken by their friend, the Canadian photographer and comedienne Genevieve Cytko. 
'Having the freedom to design our own ceremony (under your invaluable guidance!) 
allowed us to make it so personal and special to us'. 

'Everything that we said and did really meant something to us 
and we loved having Andy and Gabrielle
playing and singing while we signed the register with our mums. 

Being able to add a bit of French into the ceremony was great too 
and an added bonus that you were able to speak it. 

All our friends and family really enjoyed the ceremony. 
We think a few even said it was the best wedding ceremony they'd ever been to! 

If we hear of anyone else planning to get married, 
we will definitely recommend Humanism to them 
and we won't hesitate to suggest you as a celebrant too. 
All the best, Alastair and Catherine'.

As you can see, The Scottish Cafe at The National Galleries of Scotland is a great place to marry because you have all of Edinburgh's top sites right in front of you. The cafe is run by the wonderful Carina and Victor Contini, so the food is great too. You can check that out here, or just pop in for a coffee or dinner.

As I type, Edinburgh's Winter Festival is in full flow. The German Market is going on above, and there's open-air skating in the Princes Street Gardens, so it's an ideal time to visit!

Once again, thank you, Catherine and Alastair, for choosing to work with me: I loved the warmth and sincerity of your ceremony, and I wish you both every happiness in the years to come!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Jenna and Jonathan's Humanist Wedding at The Royal College of Physicians

If there is such a thing as a blockbuster wedding, then this was it. 
Jenna and Jonathan left nothing to chance. They chose the one sunny day in June. 

They booked the splendidly grand Royal College of Physicians
and they stuffed it to capacity with 150 of their favourite family and friends.

Jonathan had four ruggedly handsome best men; Jenna had two gorgeous bridesmaids and a maid of honour.

They had a great story that began over a hot photocopier in London, 
and ended at the very cool Tribeca Grill in NYC. 

Their dear friends Mhairi and John wrote and delivered a very cheeky poem, 

And Jonathan's little sister Rosie made everyone cry 

After a pause for quiet contemplation, 
we reached the climax of the ceremony when Jenna and Jonathan spoke their vows.

I loved the way their photographer Zsofia Molnar of Studio Life Photography stole all these great reaction shots: it must have been lovely for Jonathan and Jenna to see the expressions on their guests faces as they said the most important words they will ever say.

Their mums witnessed the Marriage Schedule, we all spoke a blessing, and then off they went to Queen Street Gardens for a quick, but romantic photo shoot.

Much time has passed since that sunny afternoon, and as I type, December gales are giving Edinburgh a battering, but these photos - and Team JJ's lovely letter - warmed my heart. 

"We can honestly say that creating our ceremony was a brilliant experience (if, a little daunting at first!)

But thanks to you and your words of wisdom and ideas, the creative juices were soon flowing, so much so that we had to attempt to cut the ceremony down (which to people that know us, was not a surprise!) 

So many people have come up to us and said it was the best ceremony they've ever been to and they couldn't believe how personal it was. It incorporated everything: love, happiness, humour and most of all, it represented us, and for that we cannot thank you enough. We will remember it for the rest of our lives. 

Thank you for making our day so special. We look forward to staying in contact, and will recommend you to everyone we know! All our best wishes, Jenna and Jonathan".

There is nothing better that a bride and groom can hear from their guests is there? The reason Team JJ is very simple: you wrote it! 

Thank you for having the courage to do it your own way, for making me a part of your wonderful day, and thank you Zsofia for your brilliant pics

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Helen and Simon's Renewal of Vows at The Glasshouse Hotel

Renewal of vows ceremonies aren't yet as familiar here in Scotland as they are elsewhere in the world, but if Simon and Helen's was anything to go by, I think we're going to see many more!

Helen and Simon were coming up to their Silver Wedding Anniversary, so they decided to have a renewal of vows to add an element of surprise to their party.

We met just a month before the big day - or evening as it actually was - and in that time they went through the same homework process I set every couple who want me to marry them. The results were amazing, as Helen said when she sent me these photographs.

We loved the whole process of writing 'our story' separately and then reading each others versions over a nice bottle of wine. What struck us was that all the landmark events over the last 25 years were clearly just as important to both of us, as we highlighted all of the same landmarks in our separate stories. We definitely felt that the ceremony and celebration made us feel very close to each other.

They invited lots of people to contribute: their close friend Dorothy gave the first reading, which was a very appropriate passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin, then Simon’s best man Richard, and  Michelle, who chaperoned Helen on their first date, told very different versions of how their story began!

Helen and Simon’s children,  Richard and Alex,  gave a reading called The Loving Heart.

And then I talked about the reasons Simon and Helen had chosen to spend their lives together and what the renewal of their vows meant to them.

Helen’s brother John and Simon’s sister Lindsay gave us two more readings before we took a short pause for quiet contemplation and then Helen and Simon spoke their vows to each other. Once everyone had dried their eyes, Jane Sharp spoke a blessing and then everyone raised their glasses in a toast to the future. As Helen wrote, 

To have our family and friends with us to celebrate 25 years of marriage was fantastic. The renewal of our vows was also very special: it marked 25 very full and busy years (raising 2 children and building a home) but it was also a way for us to look forward to the next 25 years and realise that it was a the marking of a new era for us, where we can watch our children (now adults) thrive, and make their own way in life.

We are so looking forward to the 'next stage' of our marriage - where we can celebrate our and our children’s successes, look forward to doing much more together as a couple, and enjoying the freedom this new era brings before we (hopefully) get involved in grandchildren, and future travels. 

It has truly been a great year for us both and the silver Wedding Party/ Renewal of Vows was amazing.  Many thanks for making it so special xxx

It was a pleasure, Helen and Simon: I wish you and your children every happiness in this new stage of your lives, and thank you again for asking me to help you create such a moving and powerful ceremony.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Kirsty & Euan's Tips on How To Make Your Humanist Wedding Unique

I married this lovely couple three years ago now, but as We Fell In Love decided to feature them today as an inspiring example of how to throw an autumn wedding, it prompted me to look back at a few of the things Euan and Kirsty did to make their day extra special.

First of all, don't wear white! Kirsty looked stunning in this outfit by Linea Raffaeli. What makes it really cool is that she found it on Ebay…

Secondly, come in with your mum. Let's face it, she probably did most of the hard yards in bringing you up, so why not recognise that by walking her down the aisle?

Finally, write your own vows, and speak them directly to one another from cards that I can hold for you at the shoulder of the person opposite you. Nobody else can see them and you get to say the most important words you've ever said directly to your husband or wife to be. What could be more powerful than that?

As Kirsty and Euan told me after the event, "Everyone thought the ceremony was wonderful - so personal and meaningful - and you of course played a huge part in ensuring that that was the case!" 

Thanks to Alie from We Fell In Love for reminding me: to Euan and Kirsty for choosing to work with me and of course Andrew & Emmett of Wilson McSheffrey for the lovely photographs. You can read my original post here 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

My take on happiness: Time For Reflection at The Scottish Parliament

I was delighted when Cameron Buchanan MSP invited me to deliver one of the weekly TIme For Reflection talks at the Scottish Parliament earlier this year. In the sixteen years that the Parliament has existed, I am only the fifth humanist to have been asked to do this, so it was an honour.

The guidelines for TFR are pretty strict. You can't make political points, make discriminatory comments or denigrate people of faith. And of course the script has to be submitted for approval, which isn't automatic. I had to revise one phrase in mine - let me know if you can guess which it was?

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This (I think) is pretty much what I said…

Presiding Officer, thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I hope you would agree that the aims of politics and philosophy are the same - to increase happiness and wellbeing.

Now happiness is a nebulous concept, but there are people who believe they can measure it, and when the UN compiled its latest World Happiness Report, Scotland – as part of the UK – didn't even make it into the Top Twenty.

Which rather begs the question: would Scotland be happier in a different political landscape?

You may say so: I couldn’t possibly comment.

One Scottish city however, is punching well above its weight in the happiness stakes.

Two years ago, a survey found that Edinburgh was the happiest city in the UK: two months ago, Condé Nast Traveller called it one of the friendliest cities in the world.

Something has clearly changed.

For generations, we were lead to believe that life was a vale of tears, and earthly happiness, a snare and a delusion. Happiness might be your reward in the next life, but only if you toed the line in this.

That began to change in 1776, when Thomas Jefferson - inspired by the writings of the Enlightenment philosophers Francis Hutcheson and David Hume - enshrined ‘the pursuit of happiness’ in the American Declaration of Independence. We’ve since come to regard happiness as a universal human right, but - and it pains me to say this - we Scots weren’t the first to conceive this radical idea.

Almost forty years earlier, half way across the world, in the tiny Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, the Legal Code decreed “if the Government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the Government to exist”. Bhutan remains one of the world’s poorest states, but for forty years it’s inspired governments everywhere to look beyond GDP as a measure of a nation’s health.

Bhutan was the first country to measure Gross National Happiness, and now we’re all doing it. Just last week, the Office for National Statistics revealed that the happiest place in the UK is Fermanagh, while Londoners remain amongst the most miserable people in the country.

Now happiness may well be desirable, but the paradox of happiness is that we only find it by searching for something else. I think the 19th century humanist philosopher Robert Ingersoll put it best: “happiness is the only good, and the way to be happy is to make others so”.

Members of the Scottish Parliament: may you find happiness, by making the people of Scotland happy.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Sarah and Kyle's Humanist Wedding at The Signet Library

Being a chaplain sometimes has real-life consequences. I'll let Sarah tell the story...

As she wrote, "I graduated from Edinburgh University in 2013. Each graduation ceremony includes a speech from one of the university chaplains and I was lucky enough to take part in a ceremony where Tim, as honorary humanist chaplain, was giving the address. I remember it was a great speech, which captivated the audience and made a real impression on those in attendance. A couple of years later I began to plan my wedding in Edinburgh, upon finding out that humanist ceremonies are legal in Scotland I knew that we had to ask Tim to be our celebrant".

Kyle and Sarah's love for each other survived  four years of separation, five thousand miles of distance and hundreds of hours of Skype calls. As they wrote, "So many people’s relationships crumble over long-distance, but ours only got stronger. While other couples had hugs and kisses, we had words, and we both became very good at expressing our feelings and emotions".

They certainly did, and they created a very moving ceremony. After it, Sarah and Kyle sent me these photos by the talented Anna Urban, and this note. "We just wanted to say thank you for the wonderful ceremony last week. Everybody loved it and has said it was the best ceremony they have ever been to. Even my very catholic relatives thought it was a beautiful and personal ceremony. Thanks again, Sarah and Kyle". 

It was a pleasure, Sarah and Kyle. All I can do is reiterate the old Irish blessing that all your guests spoke at the end of the ceremony:

May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind always be at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your faces
And the rain fall soft upon your feet.
And may a slow wind work
These words of love around you
An invisible cloak to mind your life.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Sarah and Russell's Humanist Wedding at The Royal Scots Club


That was the word that came to mind when this card hit my mat this morning, because I'd literally just sent a copy of Russell and Sarah's ceremony to another couple, as inspiration to create their own.

I thought their wedding ceremony was great, but I didn't realise how great until a few days later when Russell's best man Kyle and his fiancée Jen asked if I could conduct their wedding next month - and they were so fired up by what they'd seen and heard that they even did their homework before we met!

What made it so special? 

Well according to Sarah and Russell it was me keeping it running like clockwork, making everyone laugh and pulling at their heart strings, but of course that's not true, because all the funny stuff, and all the heartstring pulling material came from Russell and Sarah themselves: I just got to tell their families and friends on their behalf, and that's what makes humanist ceremonies so powerful!

So thank you, Sarah and Russell, not just for making me a part of your very special day, and not just for introducing me to Jen and Kyle either: thank you for my 100th review! 

I look forward very much to seeing you again in just a couple of weeks, and Russell - your jokes had better be funnier than Kyle's...

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...