Monday, 31 December 2012

Ending The Year On A High

It's been another wonderful, love-filled, life-affirming year, and it couldn't have ended more appropriately than with a snowy wedding atop Ben Vorlich with Louise and Stuart, their witnesses, Ross and Davie and four bemused but delighted fellow hill-walkers who just happened to arrive at the summit at the same time.

More on this in the New Year, but until then, I hope you have a very happy Hogmanay wherever you are!

Friday, 28 December 2012

Humanist Weddings Legal in Ireland

It's been an extraordinary few years for Humanism. Since Humanist weddings became legal in Scotland in 2005, they've quickly become part of the fabric of society, and I am delighted to see that the Dail in Dublin has decided to make them legal in Ireland too from the start of 2013.

You can read the story here in the Irish Times, but as the Humanist Association of Ireland says, it's a major victory after a ten year campaign.

If you're living in the Republic, or just want to marry there, you can find out more here.

I can only wonder how the Catholic Church will respond, but it's hard not to see it as a judgement on their many failings over the last fifty years.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Camilla and Kevin's Humanist Wedding at Winton House

I am growing more absent-minded by the day. A chance conversation at the EdCoffeeMorning Christmas Lunch yesterday brought up the subject of Winton House, which as they say on their website, does 'intimacy on a grand scale'

It's a very beautiful house, and I've done lots of weddings there over the last few years. This was the first, on a glorious summer's day in 2010. Yes, almost two and a half years ago. I've had these photos all that time, and I completely forgot to post them. The word half-wit doesn't begin to cover it...

Camilla and Kevin made a gorgeous couple, and they got an absolutely perfect day for an outdoor ceremony in front of 'the cottage'

it was a very laid back, happy day, and Bree, their English Springer Spaniel behaved impeccably throughout.

They were serenaded by Ian & Kevin, who sang an acoustic version of ‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’ by The Beatles, and everyone joined in and sang along (the lyrics were printed on their Order of Ceremony)

One thing I learned about Camilla when we met was that she's an equestrienne, and has a beautiful horse, and at one point she had thought she would arrive at her wedding on horseback.

At the time, I was just setting up my allotment, so I asked if she could possibly bring me some well-rotted horse manure, and of course she said yes.

So what these photos don't show was the horsebox that Camilla's father had driven down that day, or the three brimming bags that he'd kindly brought with him, just for me. 

Let's just say I was glad that a) I still had my old Saab convertible so they could sit on the back seat and b) that it was such a beautiful day I was able to drive them all the way home with the top down!

Camilla sent me this lovely note. "We are not long back from our Honeymoon & just wanted to get in touch to say thank you for helping make our day extra special. We had so many people comment on the ceremony & how much they enjoyed it. It was so important for us to be married in front of dear friends & family. Who would have believed we would get our dream of an outdoor ceremony in Scotland. Our South African relatives promised they would send us some sunshine - even the rain in the evening was perfectly timed for the dancing in the marquee! 

PS I do hope the horse manure is helping your garden grow? There's plenty more when it came from!!!"

Well Camilla, having waited this long for me to post this story, you may want to pour it over my head, but yes, absolutely, it did, and thank you so much once again for a fabulous day!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Be Part of a Global Census of Non-Believers

And yes, you can describe yourself as a humanist... or a freethinker, agnostic, secularist or whatever floats your boat... take part here

Monday, 17 December 2012

Lisa and Alan's Humanist Wedding at The Roxburghe Hotel

I've got lots of laughter lines. 

Not all of them are due to Alan and Lisa's wedding, but  it was such a happy, fun-filled day, I can't remember when I've smiled more. Their story began seven years ago, and in the ceremony, I took their guests all the way from their first near miss in a pub on Rose Street, via a very green flat, to a romantic proposal deep in the Mexican jungle.

I remember being struck by a passage in their homework. Lisa wrote, "One of my best friends said to me not so long ago, that we were her favourite couple.  When I asked her why, she said that it was because “we are good to one another”.  I hope that we continue to be good to one another, never selfish and always true." 

In the ceremony, Lisa put that a different way. She said, "Alan is quite simple the best person I’ve ever met.  He’s loyal, kind and considerate and is always making me laugh – even when I don’t want to". 

For his part, Alan said, “Lisa is the most kind and considerate person I’ve ever met, always putting loved ones ahead of herself for anything.  She goes out of her way to help people.  Most of all she puts up with me.  She has a very un-girlie sense of humour.  She’s fun to be around and I look forward to seeing her come in every night (even when she’s had a few)."

They both chose to speak their vows directly to one another, which was very moving, and even before they set off on honeymoon, they took the time to send me this very touching note.

We just wanted to say a massive thank you for Saturday.  The ceremony was absolutely beautiful, and you did a wonderful job.

So many people came up to us to say how much they enjoyed the ceremony and that it was the best they'd been to.  And I think, half the room was almost in tears - including us.  No higher compliment than that!

Also, thank you for looking after Alan before the ceremony.  He said you got him a glass of water and calmed him down.  I was pretty nervous myself, however seeing Alan face as I walked up the aisle was worth it all.  My friends are still laughing at me for being early though!

That's true actually - I think in all the years I've been conducting weddings, Lisa was the very first bride to make it to the venue with ten minutes to go. But that worked out really well. Not only did that give Lisa and her bridesmaid Dawn a chance to get their breath back, but it also gave us a chance to chat and enjoy a glass of the hotel's delicious champagne! 

My thanks as ever to Alan and Lisa for giving me the privilege of conducting their ceremony, and to Sarah Huston of Sarah Elizabeth Photography for being so great to work with and for sending me these shots.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

2012 Census - The Rise and Rise of the Non-Religious

As reported widely this morning, the results are in from England and Wales for the census conducted last year, and I'm really pleased to see that the non-religious now amount to 25% of the population - a 10% rise on the figure in 2001.

This is particularly good news, given that the census question was phrased in such a way to make it more likely to misrepresent the nature of belief. I was the society's Media Officer at the time and we spent a fair bit of time and money campaigning on this.

"The census question was 'What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?' which pre-supposes you have a religion. We asked the Scottish Government to change it to 'Are you religious?' with three possible answers, yes, no, and don't know.

We then commissioned a scientific survey through YouGov that showed that the two questions gave very different results. 1,000 adults were asked both sets of questions, in two sets of interviews.

When asked the census question, 58% said they were religious. When asked 'Are you religious?', only 35% said 'yes'.

Mark Cuthbert, who conducted the survey on behalf of the HSS, has been a leading independent research consultant in Scotland for more than 20 years. As he said at the time, "This does not stack up. The only explanation is that the Census question significantly overemphasizes the commitment of the people of Scotland to religion."

Why does it matter? The government will use census data to justify maintaining faith schools, and the funding of religious patient support services in the NHS, while religious groups will use it to lobby for their own institutions, which will promote greater separateness in our already dangerously divided society. 

The HSS survey showed that Scotland is already effectively a secular country. Will the census data reflect that? Wait and see...

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...