Monday, September 8, 2008

Kirknewton House Stables Wedding

Kirknewton House Stables is another venue I seem to visit fairly regularly. I really like it as it is lovely whatever the weather - it's both bright and airy but still cosy.

I was delighted to meet this talented group of musicians, the Capriccio Quartet. As the bride was running ten minutes late they humoured me by playing me the Pizzicato Polka.

Here are the bride and groom, Laura and George. Laura's dress is stunning and so unusua! They make a gorgeous couple and were very open and sweet in expressing how much they loved one another.

Napier University Wedding

I've been to Napier University's Craighouse Campus a few times now and always receive a warm welcome from Moira the wedding coordinator, who runs a very tight ship! It was a lovely day for Susan and Peter and they had the best dressed snapper I've ever seen:

After the ceremony the guests went out onto the terrace for drinks and enjoyed the view.

I think they look fabulous together! Peter is a magician and although there wasn't any magic in the ceremony (apart from the romantic kind, of course) he did lots at the reception. When I first met them, he did lots of tricks including making me think of a certain card, pulling a coin from behind my ear then putting it in my hand and making it disappear. "Awesome" is a very overused word but it was! I'm thinking of advertising my services in the Magic Circle newsletter now.

Barony Castle Wedding

I thought Barony Castle sounded very romantic when Lindsey and Graham asked me to marry them there but i had no idea the 'aisle' would be as pretty as this.

There was a big stone 'altar' at the end and it was covered in the most lovely flowers which looked like they had grown there (or would do if real life was like a fairy story).

Here we are during the wedding. It was a bit rainy so the guests stood under the trees with loads of big umbrellas.

Here is a pic of the bridesmaid and Graham's best friend who was the Best Woman!

And just when the ceremony finished, what should happen? The sun came out, and Graham and Lindsey had some lovely photos taken with the sunlight streaming through the trees.

Last minute wedding!

Usually I meet couples a year in advance before I marry them but that's not always the case. Stephanie and Gary originally planned to get married at another venue by a registrar but as they had to change their plans at the last minute, they moved the ceremony to Harburn House which isn't licensed. I was called in at the 11th hour and we got the whole ceremony completed in a week.

Here are the mothers of the bride and groom looking very elegant in their wedding finery:

Here is Gary hanging out with his friends.

Here are the newlyweds, Stephanie and Gary. It was a lovely surprise having this last minute wedding as they are a terrific couple and the ceremony was a real celebration of their relationship.

Harburn House Wedding

Moira and Douglas had a lovely wedding at Harburn House. Although it was a lovely day the ceremony was inside but the room was pretty and bright.

Doug’s niece, Karen sang Song to the Moon by Dvorzak from the opera, Rusalka. She was fabulous! Bravo Karen!

I thought this wedding cake was really cute and it has little pigs and a hedgehogs on it.

In the ceremony I said that one of the (many) things Doug loves about Moira is that he can rest his chin on her head when they are having a hug. Here they are enjoying a post wedding cuddle.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Humanist weddings up 64%!

I'm a bit past being excited about the pop charts these days (or the 'hit parade' as my dad calls it) but one chart we humanist celebrants have been looking forward to is the annual Registrar General of Scotland's marriage statistics.

In the year of 2007 The Humanist Society of Scotland married 710 couples last year, up from 434 in 2006. This figure puts us at number 4 in the wedding charts. The Church of Scotland are still at number one, the Catholic Church at two and the Episcopalians, with only 38 more weddings than us at number three. We still have a long way to go - this chart is for the 'faith' groups and registrar weddings are by far the most popular of all.

The press coverage in the last week has been awesome. My favourite piece of coverage is a thoughtful article by one of my favourite philosophers Julian Baginni in The Herald. I was interviewed by Craig McQueen in The Daily Record and Shan Ross in The Scotsman.

Of course, not everyone is pleased that our weddings are becomming more popular...

On Tuesday's Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland, contributor Alistair McIntosh, a Quaker said that he felt our ceremonies were 'missing something'. I think Alistair Mackintosh himself missed an important point when he said:

"Marriage poses fundamental questions about what it really means to be in a profound relationship with another human being."

In a humanist wedding we don't give couples reasons for getting married but ask them to work out why is is they feel marriage and commitment are important to them. Humanists think that marriage is a choice not a necessity and don't think that a couple who choose not to marry would be living in sin. Therefore couples who marry in a humanist ceremony are making a commitment for reasons that are, deeply considered and 100% positive.

Alistair Mackintosh goes on to say that Humanist weddings have no 'spiritual element'. It is true that humanist weddings do not focus on spirituality but that doesn't mean some humanists wouldn't describe their thoughts on the world around them and their feelings towards their fellow man as 'spiritual'. However it is described, we think that being thoughtful about the world and open to new ideas is a more positive lifestance than accepting dogma.

The Registrar General defines Humanist Society of Scotland weddings in its faith group for statistical purposes. It is ironic that if Alistair Mackintosh was criticising any of the faith groups in those statistics they would have a chance to answer him on Thought for the Day, but we don't because we think rather than believe.

Of course Alistair wouldn't talk about any of the others because their marriage figures are falling or at best stagnant. Perhaps with more people choosing humanism as a positive way of life, it is time for the BBC to rethink its Thought for the Day policy.

I will look forward to tuning into Thought for the Day in 2010, because we estimate that by then we will be a more popular wedding provider than the Catholic Church. I wonder what their contributors will think of that and whether there will be a humanist on talking about it?

Hey, its better to be criticised than ignored, don't you think?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dirleton Castle Wedding

Only the lonely...dum, dum, dum, dummi-doo-waah...

Sometimes a piper's place is outdoors as they will be too loud in the actual venue. This piper was great and the sound coming through the open spaces of the vault in Dirleton Castle was haunting and atmospheric.

What a setting! This vault looks amazing as it is but with all the tea-lights is was so romantic. I personally lit at least 20. I really like helping out that way - it is nice to get another job and be useful! Though I got told off later by the photographer for looking the wrong way when he was doing a group shot, so I'm not good at everything.

And here is the happy couple Janine and James. They expressed in the ceremony about how much they wanted to BE married, not just to GET married and as a celebrant I can't ask for more than that.

Personally, I prefer the vault for a wedding but you can get married on the roof and as it was a nice day we all went up there for a toast. Here are the lovely bridesmaid Anne and usher Kevin who both did a reading.

Dynamic Earth Wedding

There's nothing I like chatting about more than weddings but when I met Marjorie and Adam all they wanted to talk about was their families because that's the most important thing to them. So we made their love for their children and grandchildren a big part of the ceremony and that made it extra special. Young love is a beautiful thing to behold but marrying a couple who are in the 'late summer' of their years was an especially lovely thing to do. I am so happy for them! They are a very much loved couple and when they walked in together they made all of us feel in love too.

I'll have to get more photos of this ceremony. Their grandchildren were at their feet as I pronounced them to be husband and wife, which was so great as they wanted to be part of the proceedings. The piper is what we call in the trade: 'a character' and the wedding coordinator at Dynamic Earth and I had quite a laugh with him before the ceremony.

Point Hotel Wedding

I've been to many a fancy function at the Penthouse Suite of The Point Hotel but Natalie and David's wedding was the first nuptuals I had officiated at in this dramatic setting. These photos (sweetly taken by one of the coordinators for the venue) just don't do it justice (not her fault - my camera!). Here, you can get married in a modern setting with a fabulous view of Edinburgh Castle in front of you. It is incredibly romantic in a rather groovy, ecclectic way. David and Natalie had a very special ceremony and there was a very warm, intimate atmosphere in the room.

Here we are signing the paperwork.

We all sang 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. This was what we sung at my own wedding and it made me so happy to sing it again. This is the band! Unfortunately the lovely Heather isn't in this photo because she also sang 'In My Life' and she is very beautiful and a lovely girl so I'll see if I can get them to send me a photo of her.

This cake is awesome! Before the ceremony began I asked David where they got the cake, thinking it would be the most expensive cake shop in town. His mother made it! Every inch is flawless and all in those lovely boxes... What I like about it the most is that it is so fitting for the setting: cool, simple and sophisticated.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to Choose Wedding Poetry and Readings

Having friends and family contribute to your wedding by reading poetry or prose is a lovely addition to the ceremony. It adds new voices and gets people involved, something we humanists are very keen on.

If you are having a humanist ceremony, your celebrant will give you lots of examples of poetry and prose. You can also go to your local library or bookshop where you'll find lots of great collections of love poetry and you can search on the internet where there is probably too much to choose from.

One important thing to bear in mind when you are selecting readings is to choose them for yourself but also for the person who is going to be reading them. In other words don't give a humorous reading to the most serious person you know! Give them a serious reading which they will carry off really well. I've had a few weddings where very dreamy young women have read romantic, moving pieces which was wonderful, especially for some of the male guests.

I thought I'd share some of my favourites with you:

I absolutely love 'I rely on you' by the late, great Hovis Presley. This is possibly the most popular poem I have heard in my weddings. Here he is performing it himself.

'These I Can Promise' by Mark Twain is romantic but realistic at the same time.

I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
I cannot promise riches, wealth or gold;
I cannot promise you an easy pathway
That leads away from change or growing old.

But I can promise all my heart’s devotion
A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow;
A love that’s ever true and ever growing;
A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.

This extract from 'The Velveteen Rabbit' by Marjorie Williams is my all time favourite reading and I cry every time I hear it. it is a wonderful reading for children to do but adults always love to read it too. Hankies at the ready...


"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit. And he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.

But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"Someone made me Real," he said. "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."


If you haven't read this story you might want to look away now because a spoiler is coming up...

The Rabbit becomes REAL!


There's one thing that couples tell me they worry about more than anything else - emotions. Grooms seem to worry about this more than their brides as they feel it is socially acceptable for a woman to cry in public but not a man. This is a shame because, in my opinion, there's nothing more touching and endearing than seeing a man be openly emotional.

Most couples are most apprehensive about their emotions coming to the fore during their vows. In humanist ceremonies you can write your vows yourself but if a couple is worried that their heartfelt words will move them to tears, we can write the vows in a way that I ask them as a question and all the couple has to say is, "We do."

I have had a couple of instances where either the bride or groom was worried about the wedding because they had recently lost a parent. It is so awful to think that their wedding day might not be the joyous occasion they hope for because it will be touched with sadness that a special person in their life won't be there. When couples have lost parents before they marry, I always advise them to pick up the marriage schedule a few days before the wedding and have a good look at it. If a parent has died it will say "deceased" in brackets after their name. This could come as quite a shock to a couple signing the paperwork if they haven't seen it earlier.

I think that a good way of dealing with bereavement before the wedding is to take some time out earlier in the day to think about the person you will be missing and focus on how happy they would be for you. It is also good to share these feelings with another family member or friend so that they know how you might be feeling on the day and can support you.

Sometimes unexpected emotions can make a wedding extra special. One of my earliest weddings was for a couple who had been together for 20 years and were mainly getting married for practical reasons although they were having a big wedding and had invited all their family and friends. When I asked the groom how he felt about getting married he sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, we've been together all this time so its hardly that exciting." And on the day? Let's just say that I don't think I have married a more emotional groom! Thier wedding was a celebration of the time they had been together and was incredibly moving.

I have had to supress a sob or two myself at times but only because I was so happy for the couple!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Oxenfoord Castle Wedding

When Rob and Joanna told me their wedding was going to be at Oxenfoord Castle I'm pretty sure I must have turned a whiter shade of pale. You see, I didn't know Oxenfoord Castle as a wedding venue but as a "School for Gels" where greeen cloaks, green A-line skirts and green knickers were the mandatory dress. A chastity wardrobe, so to speak.

Anyway, it was a cathartic experience for me to go back to OC for a celebration rather than a green cloak fashion extravaganza. This was where the ceremony was held, which used to be the dining room.

In my day only teachers were allowed to go up this staircase and drinking got you expelled. Isn't it great they've built a bar here?

This is where I had to pray every morning - on my knees. But I was only pretending, of course, and often not even bothering to do that.

This is the headmistress's study where I got a severe ticking off on several occasions.

Finally, a lovely sight. The very talented musician Kim Edgar who played some lovely music including a personal favourite, Let's Get Married! by the Proclaimers.

I've saved the best till last. Don't Rob and Joanna look like they are bursting with happiness? They had a naming ceremony for their beautiful daughter Olivia in the middle of the wedding ceremony and that made the whole event so special for me. When couples have children before they get married they already have a living, breathing symbol of the love between them and what could be better to celebrate than that?

Duddingston Loch Wedding

Rod and Fi are people who really care about the world around them, so it was very appropriate for them to be married in a nature sanctuary. Here are the residents:

From getting to know them I just knew that Fi would have a very groovy outfit for her big day. I so wish I'd had wings on my wedding day. Here they are with their beautiful daughter Lori cat.

This is a very cool bridesmaid. She also had wings and the little red dots on her dress are ladybirds. Now why didntt I have some ladybirds on my wedding dress? They were all carrying wild flowers which was a thoughtful touch.

It is so nice to gather for a wedding in an outside setting and it was a cool, comfortable mid-summers day. Here is a picture of the happy throng.

Dundas Castle Wedding

I'm not particularly musical (as a few couples who have been brave enough to hear me singing will tell you!) but, even to an amatuer like me, a good musician really stands out. Roddy The Piper, or Pipe Major Roderick Deans, as he is officially known, is one of the best in the business and a lovely guy too - just look at that boyish smile! I was delighted to see him at my last Dundas Castle wedding for Carole and Scott.

At Dundas they take the wedding party up to the roof straight after the ceremony but this was the first time I'd been up there and the view was stunning. I really liked the way the photographer set up this shot.

See that look of love there? That wasn't posed. Carole and Scott couldn't keep their eyes off each other. I actually shed a tear when I was taking these pictures because they are great people as individuals but as a couple they are even more special.

Hopetoun House Wedding

Hopetoun House is a legendary venue, no question! Yet the main reason I was really looking forward to doing my first wedding there was that it was my second wedding for a member of the same family. Last year I married this lovely couple Tarini and Ed, and here they are eight months on. Tarini was a bridesmaid.

Maya is an absolutely gorgeous girl too, and they are both as clever as they are beautiful. Here is a pic of the ceremony. John the groom was a bit nervous beforehand but calm and collected through the ceremony, which is more than can be said for me because one of their friends read an extract from The Velveteen Rabbit, so I was suppressing my sobs. It was so lovely to see so many of the guests from last time, as they are a very friendly group of people, especially Maya and Tarini's adorable granny.

And here is a picture of the handsome couple.

Unfortunately there are no other sisters for me to marry but Maya and Tarini have a very handsome younger brother who will surely be snapped up before long!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Garden Wedding

Lindsey and Peter both work in Edinburgh's Botanic Gardens, so it seemed fitting for them to get married outdoors. Lindsey's dad did a great job in making his garden fit for a beautiful bride.

It has a huge hedge and here is the groom sitting in front of it. He cuts it and has to climb up inside it to do so.

There was a piper hiding in the hedges too...

Here they are, newly married. During the ceremony they looked at each other with such love and affection I was nearly crying.