Monday, 30 August 2010

Wendy & John's Humanist Wedding on Yellowcraigs Beach, East Lothian

I said in my last post that I was about to conduct a wedding on a beach - well this is it! Sometimes you get lucky with the weather in Scotland, and John and Wendy certainly did.

Most of their friends had come up from England, and they'd never been to a Humanist wedding before.

Although I was pleased to meet the guy in the kilt on the right hand side of this picture again  - it's William, whose wedding to Zoe I'd had the pleasure of celebrating back in 2009.

 We were really lucky with the weather - as we came down to the beach, there was a haar rolling in from the Firth of Forth and the island of Fidra completely vanished at one point.

It was a lovely ceremony. One of the things that made it unique was that Wendy & John decided to give their guests two envelopes that they weren't to open before they got to the beach. Envelope A contained the lyrics to my favourite Proclaimers song, '500 Miles' and although they were all Sassenachs, they sang with lusty enthusiasm!

Another thing was the desk where we signed the Marriage Schedule - there wasn't one, and although we could probably have used a rock, Danny stepped forward and lent us his back for the occasion, and Hazel and Arlene, John and Wendy's mums were the witnesses.

Wendy and John had prepared for the day in every possible way. They even had an alternative ending for the ceremony in case the weather had turned nasty - as they said, "Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain".

I'm glad we didn't need to use it, but I'm sure we would all have been every bit as happy on the day!

My thanks to Alan, Wendy's dad, for the photos - wonderfully informal and every one a winner.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How To Save Money on Your Humanist Wedding

hardly a day goes by without someone in public life deploring the soaring cost of weddings. Canon Giles Fraser was moaning about it on Thought for The Day, with Andrew Brown lining up behind him in The Guardian.

One of their complaints is that wedding ceremonies focus on the egos of the individuals, rather than the universal values that marriage celebrates. The other is the cost.

Having conducted quite a few wedding ceremonies now, I think they're both missing the point.

I encourage the couples I marry to tell their story, talk about their reasons for marrying and their hopes for the future, because I know that in listening to what they have to say, their friends and family hear echoes of their own hopes and fears, recognise their own triumphs and disasters, and that is what makes the ceremony both unique AND universal.

The over-riding message they hear is that love (in the sense of empathy, compassion and fellow-feeling), is the most important human value. And if I had a gold-wrapped chocolate coin for every time I've been told that afterwards by a guest or family member, I'd be a very fat celebrant by now.

Weddings don't need to cost the earth. Last weekend, I conducted a wedding in a field down in the Borders and this weekend I'll be on a beach in East Lothian. Cost for venue, nil.

Unlike Canon Fraser, I don't want to preach. So if you want to marry in a castle and be a princess for a day, go ahead. A wedding is celebration of love, but it's also a party and you should have the best one you possibly can.

But if you feel that you might be able to put twenty grand to better use over the next few years, you could ask your friends to make the food, use your imagination, and focus your energy on having a dream marriage, rather than a dream wedding, as this article in the Guardian suggests.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Fee and Richard's Humanist Wedding on the beach at Orocco Pier

As there's often as much as a year between our first meeting and the wedding, I always ask the couples I'm going to marry to send me a photograph of themselves - it helps me remember who they are. Fee and Richard sent me two, and because they tell a story, I'm posting them here.

This one was taken not long after Fee became the new receptionist at JS Marr, where Richard, "a naive, skinny, spotty 18 year old with very little ambition" was working in the photo lab, and popped his head round the door to greet the new arrival.

Over eight years, their friendship blossomed, before decaying and dying due to new jobs (Fee) and mad girlfriends (Richard), but three years later, curiosity and unassuaged longing brought them together again permanently, hence photo number two, with their little boy Lucas.

So fifteen years after they first met, they finally decided to tell their story on their wedding day at Orocco Pier in South Queensferry

I arrived just as Richard and his best men were walking down the cobbled street outside

Fee eventually joined us, along with Lucas, her mum and her bridesmaids. (Note to brides: 7 inch stillettos are tricky on a pebble beach. Fee managed, but you might prefer bare feet to the possibility of a twisted ankle!)

And we all assembled in front of one of the eight wonders of the world, the Forth Rail Bridge.

It was a very moving ceremony.

Along with these great photos, taken by friend Gee Whisker, Fee and Richard sent me this note.

I would just like to say a huge thank you for helping make our wedding day the most wonderful day of our lives. Apparently there was hardly a dry eye in the house by the time we had finished.

We had such an amazing day and everyone commented on how special our ceremony was.  
In fact most people have said it’s the best wedding they have ever been to!  I think the barometer for success is also that at least three different people asked for your details for their wedding/funeral(!)/naming ceremony!

We were truly amazed by how many people were genuinely moved by the ceremony due to its very personal nature and how everyone could see how much Richard and I love each other.

There's no doubt about that! My thanks to Rick and Fee for allowing me to share their story with you, and of course to Gillian Whisker for the excellent shots.

I'm delighted by Vicky Allan's article about 'WE DO!' in today's Sunday Herald ! My thanks to all the couples who ...