Thursday, 27 March 2014

Alex and Christina's Humanist Wedding at Prestonfield House

It's been ages since I married Christina and Alex, which makes their story even better.


They didn't just write their ceremony: they delivered most of it themselves too!

When we first sat down to plan our wedding, we were united in what was important to us – both as individuals and as a couple:

  • No religious ceremony – we’re atheists.
  • As a couple in our 40’s, this was for us and by us. 
  • There was no need to follow traditions – no giving away of the bride, no walking down the aisle to Mendelssohn, no groom doing all the talking whilst the bride looks on. 
  • It should be a celebration of us, our family and our friends. Those that matter most to us and have played a central role in our lives – both before we met and since we’ve been together. 
As it happens, we had been to quite a few funerals of elderly relatives in the year before our wedding. And the one that stuck in our minds the most was a Humanist service. We both enjoyed – if that’s not too inappropriate for a funeral – the celebration of people as opposed to ascribing everything to the will of an omnipotent being. So, we resolved to take a Humanist approach to our wedding. And that’s how we came to meet Tim.

At our first meeting, Tim outlined various approaches to planning our ceremony. Needless to say, we liked the ones where he did most of the talking and we just furnished him with some background information to flesh it all out. But Tim really helped us to realise that we could do a lot more – and that if we wanted to celebrate our relationship with those closest to us, we should make it as personal as we wanted. 

Initially it wasn’t easy. Although it was our wedding, we really didn’t want it to be self-indulgent. It really was about a collective celebration of everyone in the room – the value and importance of family and friends in helping one ride the highs and lows. We wanted everyone in the room to know how much they meant to us – and why we wanted to stand up in front of them and make a promise to one another about why we wanted to be married. There was no legal, religious or moral reason for us to get married. So why did we want to do it? Because we had been together long enough to know we wanted to journey together and build a common future and we wanted to share that commitment publicly with those closest to us.

 We decided that our wedding would have no formal speeches – best man, father of the bride, groom and so on – largely because we were so nervous about the ceremony that we wanted to get the talking bits over early so that we could relax, have a drink and enjoy dinner! There were only 36 people at our wedding. We wanted to acknowledge the part they all played in our happiness, so we decided that our ceremony would outline how it was we came to be together and why we wanted to make this commitment. It was a celebration of everyone in the room.

With Tim’s support, we ended up writing vows which described our journey as a couple. The things that united us, the things that made us different. And in telling that story, we were able to weave in something of reference to everyone with us that day.

 We included readings from Christina’s sister and best friend. We asked our mutual best friend – Mark – to say a few words about us both and help puncture any earnestness or pomposity with the wry observations only those closest can make and get away with! And we asked Alex’s brother-in-law to provide the musical interlude by singing Flower of Scotland, unaccompanied. Not out of any nationalist fervour but because it was on a trip to Murrayfield for a Six Nations match against England that we first discussed the idea of leaving London and moving to Edinburgh. And now, five years since that match, here we were – living in Edinburgh and getting married!



Once we’d planned it all – we realised that we would be doing most of the talking during our ceremony. Not how we’d originally planned it - we realised we’d be doing a lot more than that the usual “I do’s”. But with Tim there to help guide proceedings, we felt sure we could do it – however nerve wracking it all felt.

We wrote our own vows – discussed, negotiated and agreed without much trouble at all. We compared notes on our remembrances of the early days of our relationship and found entertaining references that would highlight why we fell in love and why we wanted to get married.



By the time our wedding day arrived, we had typed everything up on small prompt cards so that we wouldn’t forget our lines or crucial pieces of information. In the anxiety filled hours immediately preceding the ceremony, we felt sure we’d have to read the cards without ever looking up. Not having the spent the night before together, we were consigned to texting each other with worries about screwing it all up. But, when the moment arrived and we walked into the room together with Tim waiting for us in front of our guests, it all just clicked.

We barely needed the cards, because everything on them had been written, shaped and honed by us. It was second nature and actually made the whole ceremony far more relaxing and enjoyable. We weren’t having to pay attention to someone else’s script and wait for the moments to give the right answer. We were simply standing up in front of a room of people we knew and loved, and sharing with them stories they had been part of. And letting them know why we planned to stay together and how they could help us do that.

Looking back now, almost two years later, we’re so glad of the effort we put in. The prompt cards from the ceremony are framed in our home and a constant reminder of our ceremony and the promises we made to one another. They are also a great memento of a day that passed so quickly and in such a blur that it’s impossible to remember all the details without some help!

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