Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Keren & Woody's Humanist Wedding at Pollockshields Burgh Hall

There was a lot to love about this wedding, not least the way it started, when Woody came in with his mum and dad on each arm. In a traditional ceremony, the groom's parents are just two more guests; this is a subtle way of saying, "I've got a family too, and they're important to me".

Keren did the same thing, moments later, and then they did two more unconventional things.

Keren stood on my left, traditonally the groom's side, with her bridesmaid Marie Claire, while Woody stood on my right, with his best woman, Jen.

Because the couple are standing at a slight angle, looking over their shoulders at one another, I tend to suggest that their parents sit, not on the same side as their child, but diagonally opposite, because that's where they get the best view, so that's why Woody's parents were in the front row on my left, while Keren's were across the aisle.

As I reminded their guests when I told their story, Woody and Keren met at university in Edinburgh where they were both members of the university’s Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Society. I knew this of course from the homework they'd sent me, and I remember being touched by the note Woody sent with his.

I really enjoyed doing this "homework". I loved analysing our relationship, why we are together, and then sharing my thoughts with Keren in a way that I hadn't done before. We kicked Keren's parents out of the house for a whole weekend, and had an entirely relaxing time together, which in itself we rarely get to do any more. On the Saturday evening we cooked a favourite meal, and talked about anything and everything. When we had finished the meal we pulled out our homework and shared, one part each until we had read all three. There was laughter, embarrassment, and lots of tears.

It was great hearing exactly how Keren was feeling about the wedding, and had felt at important junctures in our time together. I loved listening to her recall stories that I had forgotten, and I loved seeing her reaction to my stories that she had forgotten.

In keeping with their thoughtful approach, they both wrote their own vows which they spoke directly to one another. They also invited their mums to be witnesses to the signing of the Marriage Schedule - apparently, they were both thrilled to be asked.

Naturally music is an important part of their lives, so it was lovely to hear eight of their friends singing a piece called "This Marriage", by Eric Whiteacre.

And I was delighted a few weeks later when they sent me a CD with these photos, and a card that said, "You did so much to make our guests feel relaxed, welcomed and included and to make sure that everything during our ceremony went smoothly. 

The ceremony was the best part of the day. While you spoke, we were reminded of the feelings we had when we first met you and that had got a little lost in the planning and preparations. The sense of just how important and meaningful the moment was came rushing back. 

The help and guidance that you offered us gave us the opportunity to reflect on our relationship and we're convinced that this made our wedding the meaningful and inclusive day that it was. I hope you can see from the photographs how much everyone enjoyed it!

I certainly can, Keren & Woody! Thanks again, and thanks also to Caroline Weiss, who's the photographer behind CandySnaps Wedding Photography

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Steven & Gillian's Humanist Wedding at Gean House

Gillian and Steven met when they were in their early twenties, and in her homework Gillian told me how she remembered their first date. She chose the venue (a cinema) and the film, Blade 2, a Wesley Snipes Vampire Horror romp because she was trying to be cool and impress Steven, who looked very cool in a lovely soft cream jumper that she only discovered much later he'd borrowed from a friend for the evening!

Nine years, two houses and one baby boy later, they finally tied the knot at the beautiful Gean House at Tullibody, an early 20th Century Arts & Crafts mansion house in the style of Lutyens, complete with a grand hall, a minstrels gallery and Japanese gardens.

Keen students of tradition will note something 'wrong' with this picture. Gillian is standing on my right, where the groom usually goes. But in a humanist ceremony, there's no right or wrong about where the couple choose to stand. For me, what's more important is to remember where the close family members should go. No - not on the same side as their loved one, but the opposite one, because that's where they get the best view.

Gillian's friend Nicola gave us a passage from Captain Corelli's Mandolin that she chose specially for them and which she kept secret until the day, which was lovely but perhaps the quirkiest surprise of the day was the music.

No - not the piper, although they did have one, but a massed band of Ukeleles! Gillian’s Aunty Kate and other members of Smut (AKA The Scottish Multicoloured Ukulele Troupe) turned out in force to play a song for Steven which was kept a secret until the day itself.

Steven and Gillian wrote their own vows, and exchanged rings which were brought to us by their little boy Aaron, before signing the marriage schedule to the sound of "Songbird" by Oasis and "The Bucket" by The Kings of Leon, which worked surprisingly well on massed ukeleles as you can hear from this clip on YouTube

As Gillian wrote when they got back from their Venetian honeymoon, "We had so many compliments on how much guests enjoyed the ceremony and how they liked you.  The ukuele troupe were a big hit too and we feel lucky we had the freedom to have personal details like the ukes because the ceremony was Humanist." 

It must have been good - a few months later, Steven's dad Dougie got in touch, and now I'm looking forward to conducting his marriage to Muriel next year at the Wallace Monument!

Thanks Gillian, Steven, Aaron, Michael Macari of Polarberry Photography, and everyone else whose contributions made the day such a great success.

They've Got The H Factor!

I was very pleased with the first phase of the results from The H Factor campaign we ran in September, when we went all over Scotland to find out what humanists believe on a wide range of important moral issues, including same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide and sectarianism. The films feature contributions from more than 50 individuals, ranging from 10 year old Mellin Buchanan from Thurso to 81 year old Margaret Ferguson from Inverness. You can see them all on the H Factor web site or on Vimeo where they can also be downloaded and shared on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

These short films were made as part of the process of casting the first ever Humanist TV commercial, which will shoot in Spring 2012.

Although the word 'Humanist' is starting to pop up more often across the media, I find that very few people actually know what humanists believe. The H Factor films will allow the public to see for themselves and I hope that a fair few of them will realise they've actually been 'Secret Humanists' all their lives.

PS - The HSS is now giving you a chance to win £1,000 by creating a new slogan for the society. Find out more at the H Factor web site 

Jo & Tosh's Humanist Wedding at Broxmouth Park

I got a lovely email from deepest Rajasthan the other day. That's where Jo and Tosh were on honeymoon, but thanks to the wonders of t'internet, they were still able to send me some shots from their wedding earlier this year at Broxmouth Park, and seeing them and reading the ceremony again just reminded me of all the little ways in which a humanist wedding can be made uniquely personal.

What name do you want to be called in the ceremony? It's a question I always ask right at the start, and as you might expect if you've been reading this blog for a while, there's no right answer. Some people like to be formal, others don't, so Jo decided to carry on being Jo, rather than Joanne, while Tosh reverted to his given name, Richard, for thirty minutes or so rather than use the nickname by which he's best known.

Another question I always ask is, how do you want the ceremony to begin? Tosh chose to walk up the aisle with his Nan, while Jo's brother Paul walked in with their Granny at the same time, which was a thoughtful touch, and much appreciated by the ladies present.

How many bridesmaids can you have? As many as you like, but it looks better when the groom isn't left up there like Johnny No-Mates, so while Jo had three gorgeous girls on her right, Tosh was joined not just by his best man, but three ushers as well.

One of the joys of the homework process is that it allows the couple to say in their own words why they want to marry, and I remember that when I read Tosh's, I was really struck by the words he used, and I was very pleased when he decided to incorporate them into the ceremony.

“It took me quite a long time to get here. Don’t think I really saw the point. I get it now. My friends know I love you, my family knows I love you, your family knows I love you, so that’s not it. I’m no fan of rules or tradition for the sake of it so it’s not that. We have arrived at a point in our relationship where it feels right, not because it is deemed appropriate by others, but because I am so in love with you that I want to make this public declaration and spend the rest of my life with you.”

Poetry and readings are always a part of a wedding; what made this particularly nice was that Dan, one of Tosh's closest friends from University, read one he'd written himself.

Music is crucial, and it was lovely to hear some of Jo's friends from her days in the Glasgow Youth Choir singing 'Sound The Pibroch'.

But best of all, as far as I was concerned anyway, was that they had the courage to stand in front of their family and friends and not only speak their vows directly to one another, but say why they love one another and what their hopes are for the future. I laughed out loud when they sent me the final draft of the script and I saw this.

 "Because they don’t trust themselves not to start crying, they hope you don’t mind that I’m now going to read these out on their behalf.

Every wedding is unique, and uniquely moving, but I'll remember this one for a long time.

It's always what I hope, but I was very pleased when Jo and Tosh said, "You were such an integral part of our wedding day and the ceremony remains the favourite part of our day. Your warmth, inclusiveness and humour all helped to make it a truly memorable experience and we've lost count of the number of family and friends who have commented on how much they enjoyed it; most saying that it was their first humanist wedding, but admitting it was the best they've ever been to. High praise indeed!"

Thanks Tosh and Jo! Please do let me know who took these excellent pics?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Nik & Becky's humanist wedding at Pollokshields Burgh Hall

About 4 years, ago, I married Bryan and Jen Ross at Dundas castle, where among the guests were Becky and Nikhil who loved the ceremony so much they decided to ask me to marry them earlier this summer. 

As they told me when we first met ten months beforehand, they were planning to have a slightly unusual wedding, with an Indian and Scottish mix, and I can still remember the wonderful smell that greeted me when I arrived at the venue, where the wedding breakfast was being prepared. I don't think I've ever felt so hungry and on reflection, I should probably have asked for a cairry oot!

When they got back from their diving honeymoon, Becky sent me this lovely note.

We just wanted to say thank you SO much for being our celebrant, you really helped us make our day the success it was.

We've had amazing comments and lovely cards from our family and friends saying how much fun they had during the ceremony, how personal it was and the most fun wedding they've ever been to!  

A lot of that is down to your guidance in making our day about us and doing it our way!  

The whole day felt so special but especially the ceremony we wrote with your help.  We are loving married life and will never forget the beginning of it all! :)  

Here are a few pictures of the fun we had, hope you like them!  I did - and if you like them too, you can contact their Manchester based photographer, Matt Wagster, here

If it wasn't for your suggestion to have our ceremony facing our guests, I wouldn't have my most favourite picture of Nik's face as he saw me enter the hall!  

I will always remember walking up the aisle being able to see his face all the way and shaking with excitement!

It's a very special moment - and I'm glad Becky's Uncle Alan caught it on his camera. Becky herself talks about how it made her feel on Any Other Wedding.

I was also most impressed by the short clip Becky and Nik sent me from their wedding video. It was made by Cherry Tree Films, who are based in Edinburgh, and as a former producer and director myself, I thought they did a particularly excellent job!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Ian & Gill's Humanist Wedding at Kaim Park Hotel

When Ian and Gill  finally got back to the “real world” after their wonderful honeymoon in St Lucia they sent me this message to say thanks...

We had the most amazing day, our ceremony was just as we had wanted it to be, personal to us, very moving and also at times very entertaining!  Never before have I been to a wedding and experienced so many tears - tears of both laughter,joy and emotion!  

As you know from when we first met, we had both stressed how important it was for us to be able to include James and Hannah into our ceremony in some way.  Our humanist ceremony enabled us to do just that and we will treasure the memories of it always.

We must admit to initially being a wee bit sceptical and apprehensive when we were set our “homework” – it had been far too many years than each of us cared to remember since we had last been assigned homework!  

As it turned out, it was an extremely emotional, rewarding and enjoyable thing to do.  Thinking back to over 8 years earlier, when we’d first met, how we’d felt, and how we then came together as a family was such a rewarding thing to do.

I can honestly say that the ceremony, for us, was the most special and enjoyable part of our day... We had so many people speak to us later saying it had been the nicest, most enjoyable wedding ceremony they had ever been to.  

We thank you Tim for helping us to step back and realise what the day was really all about... This came through tenfold in our ceremony and we thank for helping us to achieve that.

What can I add to that, Gill and Ian, other than my thanks for asking me to be your celebrant in the first place, and for creating such a moving and inspiring ceremony! 

As you'll have noticed, all the photos are from Lush Photography, where Robert Wilson has done his own blog on the day and posted a whole bunch more great pics

Friday, 14 October 2011

Juls & John's Humanist Wedding at Ravensheugh Beach

The wild and wonderful Ravensheugh Beach is becoming very popular for weddings, not least because you can camp there, have a bonfire and invite all your friends to pitch in. This particular sticky out bit of coastline just south of North Berwick has a unique micro-climate that makes it one of the sunniest spots in the British Isles but even when the haar is rolling in off the Firth of Forth, it has an atmosphere all of its own.

If I'd been wearing one, I'd have taken my hats off to Juls & John, because they went to great lengths to create an incredibly memorable day.

I particularly liked the way they told their guests why they'd been invited.

"Juls and John want to say something very important today and they want to say it in front of you! You might think that you are here because of them but in truth they are here because of you. They want and need you to share this with them. 

You are not here as an audience, your presence here is an intimate part of this ceremony. You are not here merely to listen to recited words; you are to listen to the taking of solemn vows and in years to come, in good times or bad, they will look to you to remember this day and remind them of it and support them to strive for the shared future that it promises. 

You are not here to watch a show; you are here to witness their rite of passage and continue to be part of the story of their lives."

One of the first things they did was ask the best man, Keith "Liability" Aitken, to pass their wedding rings around the gathered throng, so they could all hold them for a moment, and make a silent wish.

And one of the last things they did, was jump over a broomstick with their little boy, Harris who thoroughly stole the show.

As Juls and John wrote, when they got back "from the Moon of Honey... Thanks so much for doing our wedding for us and putting up with our procrastination and last minute tendancies! It was an amazing ceremony, I felt quite giddy throughout and I thought you delivered it brilliantly with aplomb and humour aplenty. And plenty of our friends and family though the same. Thank you for that! Hope all is well and maybe see you around!"

I hope so! Who did these wonderful pics?

Abigail and Ryan's Humanist Wedding at The Signet Library

 I don't usually post photos from the prep, but these candid snaps by Ricky Baillie are too good not to share! David (above) i...