Saturday, February 23, 2013

When Harry Met Sally

At yesterday's wedding they had a really cool reading. What's great about Humanist weddings is that we can have readings that come from all sorts of sources. This extract from the movie When Harry Met Sally sums up how true love feels:

"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
― Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

Lets see these lovely words in action!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Humanist Wedding Readings

One of the things I really enjoy about my wedding ceremonies is the contributions that other people make to them. I feel that readings are very important to a wedding ceremony because they break up what I am saying, giving the ceremony variety and colour and they're a way of including some guests in the ceremony.

However, I've noticed that some couples take a bit of convincing when it comes to readings. I think this is partly because they think of 'readings' in the context of a religious ceremony where the contributor would be reading a Bible passage that would be in the same tone of voice as the rest of the ceremony. In Humanist weddings it works so differently because there are endless possibilities of what you could have and there really is something that would suit everyone.

What I'm most interested in is giving the ceremony flow so it's important to put the readings in the right place. For example, if a couple have chosen a funny reading I'd put that in after the welcome and introduction. Anything romantic would go near where I talk about why the couple love one another and a more serious piece would be nearer the vows and the thoughts on marriage section. I've had some pretty unusual readings in the past but have always managed to fit them in and for them to resonate well with the rest of the ceremony.

Sometimes choosing readers is a problem but there are ways of thinking out of the box for this too. Here are a few examples of the ways readings have been done in my ceremonies:

Surprise readings

This is always a fun one! The couple choose several people to make contributions then trust them to come up with something they'd like. I always check what the readings are directly with the people chosen so that I can put them into the right part of the ceremony and also to make sure they haven't chosen the same thing! At a recent wedding the bride's friend got up and read from 'The Gospel according to Edward', which turned out to be an extract from the Twilight books! Her other friend read from her favourite novel, Wuthering Heights. So this worked really well and we ended up with two thoughtful contributions, one lighthearted and one more serious but romantic too.

Group readings

I've noticed an emerging trend where readings are done as a group activity! This mainly happens when a bride has a gaggle of girlfriends who aren't going to be bridesmaids but she wants to involve them all. So they all come up and read a verse each from a (usually humourous poem. This works well because it involves a few people rather than singling one out and the contributors feel brave and confident because they have their chums alongside them. This also works well with children. I've a wedding coming up where there are as many child guests as adult ones, all relatives of the couple. The children are all going to get up and read a poem together and although some of them will be too small and shy to read they will come to the front and be part of it anyway!

Couple readings

Some pieces lend themselves to a male and female voice or can be done by a same sex couple. Simply knowing the people reading are in love with one another really adds something to the atmosphere of the reading.

Foreign language readings

I'm always keen for non-English speaking guests to feel acknowledged in the ceremony and having a reading in their mother tongue is a great way of doing that. So everyone has an understanding of what's being said I would either briefly explain the reading as I'm introducing the contributor or another reader can translate it, either verse by verse or at the end.

The no reading reading

Contributors don't have to pick a reading that someone else has written, they can read something they've penned themselves. This could be a piece about the couple or some advice to newlyweds.

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to have fun and use your imagination when it comes to readings. It can often be difficult to choose people but I find that if you give the reader a piece that suits their personality they are likely to be able to carry it off well.

Here's a charming and well known poem by Edward Lear that would work well for a couple to read together:

The Owl and the Pussy Cat went to sea 
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!’
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! Too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose!
With a ring at the end of his nose.

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ said the Piggy, ‘I will’.
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dines on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unusual wedding poetry - Ogden Nash

Ogden knew when to keep schtum!

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

Ogden Nash certainly knew a thing or two about relationships! The verse above, although named A Word to Husbands, applies to both people in the relationship! This has been a reading at a couple of my weddings and although short, it creates quite an impact.

Here's another of my favourite Ogden Nash poems. It sprung to mind when I met one of my wedding couples who told me that what kept them together wasn't that they liked the same things but that they disliked the same things, which they felt was more important! The way such a positive sentiment is presented agains a sea of negativity is quite refreshing and unexpectedly moving.


More than a catbird hates a cat,
Or a criminal hates a clue,
Or the Axis hates the United States,
That’s how much I love you.

I love you more than a duck can swim,
And more than a grapefruit squirts,
I love you more than gin rummy is a bore,
And more than a toothache hurts.

As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
Or a juggler hates a shove,
As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
That’s how much you I love.

I love you more than a wasp can sting,
And more than a subway jerks,
I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
And more than a hangnail irks.

I swear to you by the stars above,
And below, if such there be,
As the High Court loathes perjurious oaths,
That’s how much you’re loved by me.

(Ogden Nash)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Singing in a humanist ceremony

Dean Martin, he knows a good singalong song!
When I meet wedding couples there's one element of the wedding they usually have very strong feelings about: singing! Many are adamant that the thought of communal signing is cringeworthy, whereas others feel that a sing song will add to the joy of the ceremony and give everyone a way to contribute.

My own personal opinion is that I like singing but only when it's done in an (almost) foolproof way. So if you like the idea of communal singing at your ceremony here are some things to consider.

Is the song easy to sing? You'd be amazed at how many popular songs aren't designed for communal singing. Hymns are composed for this purpose but pop music rarely is. One song that many couples ask about which is a no-no is Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles, it just doesn't work as the melody of the verse is too weird. If you can imagine singing a song on a football terrace chances are it will work for your wedding. You're looking for an easy melody and steady rhythm.

Is it a song everyone knows? You can't pick anything obscure and a song for everyone to sing has to cross the generational divide too.

Are your guests enthusiastic types? You have to be up for a bit of fun for a singalong and there has to be plenty of you to make a good sound. Nine out of ten times I usually make sure the guests are standing to sing. I never suggest they just sing along 'if they feel like it'.

What are you going to sing along to? Most people play the original song nice and loud and we sing to that but if someone has a guitar or plays the piano that works well providing they lead the singing too.

One effective compromise is that a singer or little choir sing the verse and everyone else joins in on the chorus. This happened at a recent wedding where a group of the bride and groom's friends sang Happy Together by The Turtles and we all joined in for the easy parts. It was even done with no backing music at all.

At another ceremony all the guests had come up from England where legal Humanist weddings aren't legal yet, so as the marriage was in an old ruined chapel they were all expecting something churchy. So as not to spoil the surprise the guests were handed sealed envelopes with song lyrics in them on arrival and I instructed them to open them just before we fired up the music to sing It Must Be Love by Madness. It worked really well and the guests couldn't have been happier.

Here are some songs that have been fun to sing:

Madness, It Must Be Love
The Turtles, Happy Together
Dean Martin, That's Amore
The Proclaimers, 500 Miles
John Denver, Annie's Song
The Beatles, When I'm 64

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wedding at The Vu in Bathgate

I've been really keen to write a blog post about The Vu in Bathgate, as I often conduct ceremonies there. The Vu is pretty much a purpose-built wedding venue. It has an awesome setting and is a great location for couples from across the central belt. Many venues like this provide a complete wedding package but I find that couples use their imaginations to make their celebrations really beautiful and personal. As you can see, Amanda and Drew got married on a lovely bright day. Their wedding was so pretty and they looked absolutely gorgeous!

I was incredibly envious of the glamorous bridesmaids, their dresses were to die for! Amanda and Drew had many wonderful friends supporting them on the day and it was lovely to express in the ceremony what these special people mean to them.

I love the snapshots couples send me of when they're signing their paperwork. As they've just said their vows and I've pronounced them to be husband and wife their faces always have a look of joy and relief. I, however, look a little bit 'Here's Johnny!' in this picture!

Drew and Amanda very kindly sent me these lovely words about their ceremony:

"Amanda and I would sincerely like to thank you for your ceremony on our Wedding Day. You were fantastic from start to finish. From our initial meeting you put us at ease and the day itself went better than we'd ever hoped.  Family and friends were also full of praise for your ceremony.  It was so personal and exactly as we'd wanted!"

Monday, October 8, 2012

A partnership of equals

You might expect me to be crying into my cornflakes upon seeing this article in the Daily Mail this morning, but far from it. As a mother of a daughter I'm always interested in changing attitudes towards women and what we consider to be positive feminine attributes. A survey of the Girl Guiding association found that whilst girls still value marriage only one in five thought it was the definition of success whereas three in five thought success was about being confident and independent. This is great news for a Humanist celebrant!

I have never in my seven years of conducting legal Humanist weddings heard a couple tell me they feel they 'ought' to get married. Humanists see marriage as a positive choice and a partnership of equals. We also respect that couples are together because they love one another but they can have quite different reasons for choosing to get married.

A partnership of two confident and independent people is an admirable one in my book. The men I admire are the ones who value strong women and respect their opinions and personalities. I seem to be marrying a lot of couples in their mid to late 20s who have been together for ten years or more. They know they don't have to get married and I'm always keen to stress in the ceremony that the wedding isn't just about the future but also a celebration of what's already been a very successful relationship.

If women no longer feel marriage is the be all and end all then there might be fewer weddings but it might also mean that if they do get married they'll choose a ceremony that reflects their choice and their own views on marriage. It will also mean that the majority of women will marry when they feel fulfilled by themselves as well as their partner and that's great news for men too!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A short but sweet wedding reading

Some couples I marry seem doubtful when I talk about the importance of readings in their ceremony. Contributions from voices other than my own are (almost) essential, as they break up what I'm saying and add colour to the ceremony. I think many people associate wedding readings with bible readings they've had to endure, but there are all sorts of readings included in Humanist weddings and they don't have to be long-winded. Here's a sweet little reading that says all you need to know about a happy relationship.

Here is Lang Leav's blog if you'd like to see more.