Saturday, 29 August 2009

Camille & Virginia's Humanist Wedding in the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh

Camille & Virginia's wedding wasn't the first outdoor wedding that I've conducted half in French and half in English, and it wasn't the first I've done in the Botanics either, but it was the first time I've done it under threat from an imminent thunder storm. Unlike most couples, they chose to arrive together, which was a nice touch.

The French guests were vraiment décontractés, and unlike the douce Scots & English contingent, who all sat down and behaved themselves, they wandered around and stood wherever they felt like, which was great and made for an extremely informal and romantic atmosphere.

I was particularly impressed when Camille's dad got his guitar out and serenaded the happy couple as they signed the marrriage schedule.

And it was only as Virginia and Camille kissed that we felt the first drops of the storm - perfect timing on a glorious summer's day.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Rise and Rise of the Humanist Wedding

I'm not a statistician, but at the end of July every year, I really enjoy reading the Annual Report from the Registrar General for Scotland that (among other things) gives the number of marriages conducted during the previous year. Humanist Weddings only became legal in Scotland on the 12th of June 2005, but since then their growth has been spectacular and they are now the 4th most popular form of wedding in the country.

The Registrar General has just published the stats for 2008, and although overall marriage has declined to a level not seen since the Victorian era, Humanist marriages have risen to 1,026, compared with 710 in 2007 and 434 in 2006. So why are humanist weddings growing in popularity while the institution of marriage itself is not? I think it's because we're living at a time when more and more people have the confidence to think for themselves and want to live meaningful lives. And a humanist ceremony gives them the opportunity to tell their friends and family in their own words why they're here, where're they're going and what they're promising.

There was an article about it in The Scotsman, and while it would be easy to get carried away with the 45% percent rise, the fact is that Humanist Weddings still account for only 3.5% of all marriages in Scotland. So there's a long way to go, but the journey will be enjoyable...

Kerry & Monique's Humanist Wedding at Craigmillar Castle

As a celebrant, I am always standing with the groom waiting nervously for the bride to arrive and I never really have much idea about her journey. Thankfully Kerry and Monique were working with the husband and wife photographic team, Alan & Jackie Rankine so for once I can see how she travelled all the way from the top of the Royal Mile....

Via the Wedding Bus....

All the way across town, past Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags...

To the imposing mass of Craigmillar Castle...

Where a a pair of pickled pipers had been posted on the ramparts to give warning of her arrival...

Monique and Kerry live in London and I first met them a year before their wedding date. Their homework was funny and clever and they were both original and moving on the reasons they love one another.

I liked the way that Kerry chose to have more than one best man - apart from the pleasing visual symmetry, it's always struck me as a little unfair that a bride can have as many maids as she wants, but the groom's only allowed one pal.

Craigmillar Castle is a wonderful venue and the place where the naughty Mary Queen of Scots is said to have planned the murder of her dissolute second husband, Lord Darnley.

I should warn you however, that like all most of Historic Scotland's wonderful properties, it was built with defense rather than comfort in mind. As a result it is absolutely FREEZING even in the middle of summer, so please remember to tell your guests to wrap up warm. I'm serious about this: put it on the invitation!

That said, it didn't put a chill on Kerry and Monique's day - after all Canadians are made of sterner stuff and they wrote to tell me that they the whole wedding was a marvellous party, filled with laughter throughout the day and exactly what they had hoped for!

"We reflect often on the ceremony itself, and will continue to do so throughout our marriage," they wrote. "We were truly delighted with our ceremony, made so personally meaningful in the humanist tradition, namely completely our own."

My thanks once again to Kerry and Monique and to Alan and Jackie of Rankine Photography for the wonderful shots.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Hannah & Albin's Humanist Wedding on The Isle of Eigg

Every summer when I was a child, my family used to make a long and arduous journey, all the way from Edinburgh over single track roads and three separate ferry connections to our holiday home in remote Glenmoidart where there was neither gas nor electricity and the drinking water came from a burn at the back of the house.

And when it wasn't raining, the highlight of our holidays was driving over yet more single track roads all the way to Arisaig and taking the mail boat out to the magical Inner Hebridean islands of Eigg, Rhum and Muck where we might see shearwaters living up to their names over the rolling waves and if we were very lucky, catch a glimpse of a porpoise or dolphin.

All of which is a very long and roundabout way of explaining why I was ecstatic when Hannah & her fiance Albin asked me if I'd be prepared to conduct their wedding in the gardens of the Lodge on Eigg at the end of May. It meant a four day round trip, but it was worth it because the weather was Mediterranean, the location unique and the atmosphere magical, all of which made the ceremony quite the most romantic I've ever conducted.

When I say laidback, I'm not joking; Albin was so relaxed, that when the time for the ceremony came round, he wasn't even dressed, so we started a record hour and a half late. But that was cool, because nobody was going anywhere else and Eigg time is very different from mainland time.

There's an old joke about a Spaniard trying to explain the concept of 'Mañana' to a Hebridean Islander. The ould fella thinks about it for a while and replies, "No, there's not a word in Gaelic that conveys the same sense of urgency."

Hannah & Albin were staying with the lady who is also the island's Registrar. We had a meeting in her house on the morning of the wedding and not only did she make a damn good breakfast, she also completed the Marriage Schedule by hand; I'd never seen that before and it added to the slightly other-worldly feeling of the day.

When she sent me some of these pictures, Hannah wrote, "we have had so many compliments that it was the most emotional yet upbeat wedding ceremony people had witnessed and everyone was raving about your skills as a celebrant! You made us feel very much at ease during our meetings and contact in the months before the wedding and reassured us on the day perfectly. Several of our friends have said that when/if they marry, then a humanist ceremony would now be the only way they would consider doing it!"

If you ever have the chance to go to Eigg, grab it with both hands. Once the plaything of plutocratic landowners, it's now owned by the islanders themselves and you can read more about it here.

Before I went sadly homewards, I swam in the sea and climbed the Sgurr, the amazing column of volcanic rock at the Southern tip of the island, from which I could see all the way North to the Cuillins on Skye, South to Ardnamurchan and the island of Coll and even the Outer Hebrides, far out on the Western horizon.

Go in late May or early June to avoid the midges; find out more about places to stay here, or better still, get a copy of Scotland the Best - the only guidebook we Scots use ourselves.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sharon & Marc's Humanist Wedding at The Caves in Edinburgh

I love this photograph, which looks more like a rock concert than a wedding. It looks very dramatic, although Marc & Sharon's wedding was actually very low key, intimate and affeccting.

When I arrived, looking for the groom, I found him with his bride and their three children, Yasmine, Zak & one year old Dylan, happily chatting to all of their guests; Sharon looked lovely but she wasn't interested in making a grand entrance, so the whole atmosphere was very laid back and friendly.

What I particularly liked was the way they chose to involve their grandparents, Thomas & Shirley by having them on stage with the two older children from the start, so there were three generations of the family on stage together - it was a really nice touch and very moving.

The Caves are a great alternative venue, right in the heart of the Old Town of Edinburgh. They're run by the lovely Lisa Rowan and you can find out all about them here.

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...