Monday, 21 April 2008

Where can we get married 2

One of the nicest things about being a humanist celebrant is that every so often someone invites you to a dream location to conduct their wedding. It's just happened to me - a summer wedding in a picturesque village in the French Alps. I'd love to do it, and the date is open in my diary. So what's the problem?

As an authorised celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland, I am able to conduct legal marriages in Scotland, and only in Scotland. While our marriages are legal and valid all around the world, they're only legal and valid if conducted on Scottish soil.

In France, all marriages are secular and have been since just apres la Revolution de 1792. So if my happy couple are still set on having a humanist wedding ceremony as well as their civil one, it will have to be a blessing - the same situation as existed in Scotland before humanist weddings became legal in June 2005. 

Comment dire "ironic, huh?" en francais?

Monday, 14 April 2008

Do we have to write the ceremony ourselves?

For most of us, if standing up in public is terrifying and speaking in public is worse, then telling the most important person in your life how much you love them in front of an audience composed of  your nearest and dearest is unthinkable.  So - given that's what a humanist wedding in Scotland is about - I'm amazed our ceremonies are so popular, really.

When Juliet and I went to see Ivan Middleton, who married us back in 2005, we weren't over thrilled at the prospect of having to sit down and think about "saying what we had to say to each other" either. But when I did begin to put my mind to it, it didn't take me long to remember what is was about Juliet that made me fall in love with her; her imagination and sense of fun; her honesty, generosity and fairness; her loyalty and courage; and I have to admit that her physical appearance wasn't exactly a drawback. 

As Ivan told us, we didn't have to write ALL of our ceremony ourselves, but there are some parts that only we could do ourselves. I call them the "how did we get here?" and "where are we going?" sections; or to put it another way, the "what do we feel about one another?", and "what does marriage mean to us?" bits. Only we knew this, and suddenly, writing it in our own words made perfect sense. 

Since becoming celebrants of the Humanist Society of Scotland and being authorised to conduct legal humanist weddings, we've both had lots of opportunity to help other couples to deal with this issue and Juliet came up with the idea of turning it into a game.  I was going to keep it a secret, but as she's just spilled the beans on her blog, and because I can't put it any better myself, why don't you click through and read what she wrote? 

Wedding Music - a new idea

Next month (May, 2008) I'm going to be marrying a lovely young couple called Robbie and Vicky at Dunblane Hydro. One of the things I'm most looking forward to is watching Vicky come down the aisle to the song she has written and recorded for the ceremony. It's called 'Sweet Blessings' and you can listen to it here

Vicky says "Music brings people together and gives them a wonderful sense of joy and freedom. It can take a person through every conceivable emotion from the celebration of love to the desperation of grief. Music is with us everywhere. I want to bring people happiness and if this can be done through my songs, then I myself will become more relaxed and at peace with the world around me."

She has a lovely voice, and it's a very moving song. She says that if anyone else wants to use it for their wedding, they can download it from her web site with her blessing; so if you listen to it and like it, please use the contact form on her site to get in touch and say thank you! 

She would love to be commissioned to write a love song for other couples, so if you're looking for a truly original, personal and unique way to celebrate your love for one another in song, Vicky Haylott is the composer for you..!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Seeing someone else on the side...

Couples sometimes feel bad about approaching more than one celebrant before they decide who they want to work with. I recommend that you speak to more than one of us. OK, you can read our profiles on the web site, but until you meet someone, you don't really have a sense of who they are.

What I also suggest is that
  • you tell all of us that you're 'seeing more than one celebrant'
  • when you've made your choice, remember to let the rest of us know
Here's why. Whenever a couple approaches me about a wedding, I pencil the date and time into my diary, so I can keep it clear for them. If they forget to tell me they've gone with someone else, then there's a good chance that I've turned down the chance to celebrate someone else's marriage instead.  

So please be up front; you can see why it's important. End of lecture!

Friday, 4 April 2008


Even though this is the era of "Ola!" and "OK!", there are still some couples who don't want any photographs of any kind taken by anyone at their wedding. That might seem eccentric to you, but I find it quite touching. Most people want to have more tangible memories so choosing the right photographer is important. I've been lucky to work with some good ones, and Martin Pettinger is one of them. You can see his shots of Barbara & Colin's wedding at Arnott Tower here.

Tony Marsh, who's based in Edinburgh, is another genius with a long lens - his background is in reportage and he's very good at 'stealing' shots without you even realising he's there. This one's from the wedding of John and Fiona at Kirknewton Stables.

One idea I often suggest is that with digital cameras and online photo-sharing, everyone can be the photographer: think about it. Your photographer can only ever be in one place at any given time (or two if there's an assistant), but your friends and family can get shots from angles they'll never be. You could create a free web-page and invite everyone to post their shots there. And given that some "photographic packages start from around £1500.." it's not just more creative, it frees up some cash!

I was surprised to get a potentially libelous comment on this post today from a disgruntled anonymous photographer with an axe to grind. I don't allow comments on my blog from people who aren't prepared to put their name to what they say, so if you want to express an opinion, have the courage to say who you are.

Dotting the "i"s...

One of the great joys of being a celebrant is that we deal with the fun bits of the wedding - meeting the couple, creating and delivering the ceremony - and the Registrars do all the painstaking (but crucial) investigative work behind the scenes - checking you really are who you say you are; checking you're not actually married to someone else; checking that you understand what you're getting yourself into; and - when they've done all that - producing the all important Marriage Schedule. 

So, what do you do if you want to get married in Scotland? First of all, go to the General Register of Scotland site, read the information and download the Form M10, which is the Marriage Notice. Before you complete it, phone the Registrar local to your venue and they'll give you advice. 

I think these are the most important (but not the only) things they'll tell you:
Before the wedding 
  • If you've never been married, you need to get your completed M10 to the Registrar 4 weeks before the date of the wedding. 
  • If you're divorced, get it in 6 weeks beforehand.
  • The normal minimum is 15 days but in exceptional circumstances, they can be and usually are extremely helpful.
  • When you send in or hand over the M10, the Registrar will want to see your passport, birth certificate and (if relevant) divorce papers.
  • During the week before your wedding, at least one of you must go in person to the Registrar's office to collect the Marriage Schedule.

During the wedding
  • You need two witnesses over the age of 16 
  • The schedule must be signed with a fountain pen using indelible black ink (don't worry, I'll bring that)

After the wedding
  • The schedule must be returned to the Registrar within three days (I usually suggest giving it to one of the mums as they tend to be the most 'responsible adult' on the day, and asking them to drop it off on their way home the next day)
  • If you want a copy of the signed marriage schedule, they'll give you one in exchange for the appropriate fee.

By the way, when you get to the GRO site, you'll notice it doesn't mention humanist ceremonies. Instead it says, "If you want a civil rather than religious marriage (which includes other belief systems), the Registrar will be able to help you choose a day and time and tell you what fees you are likely to pay."

Which I find confusing. Although you might expect a secular, non-religious humanist wedding to be "a civil marriage", it isn't. Humanism is one of the "other belief systems" referred to above. Never mind - if you let them know you're having a humanist ceremony, at the very least they'll know what you're talking about.

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...