Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Scottish Wedding Directory!

I'm in the current issue of The Scottish Wedding Directory! This is very exciting for me. For a wedding celebrant to be interviewed by TSWD is like a fashion designer getting into Vogue.

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Can you explain what humanism is?

Humanism is an ethical stance that asserts that we can lead good lives without religion or superstition and humanists are vitally concerned with issues that affect our world. We accept other people whatever their race, creed, colour, age, gender or sexuality. Humanists think that we can only advance as a society and solve problems through reason and compassion.

In short, Humanism is about the things that bring us together rather than those that divide us. We may not always agree with one another but listening is a very important step towards understanding.

What does a humanist wedding consist of?

A Humanist ceremony is both legal and meaningful. The most important aspect of the ceremony from a Humanist point of view is that it should be personal and unique to the couple getting married. It should reflect their love for one another and their views on what marriage means to them.

A Humanist wedding is entirely secular but can have elements of a traditional wedding. In Humanist ceremonies the couple rarely stand facing the celebrant but instead either face each other or their guests. This is because in a Humanist ceremony you are not getting married in the eyes of God or the state but in the eyes of Humanity and for most couples that means their friends and family.

What's the advantage of choosing a Humanist wedding over a civil one? What's the difference between a Humanist wedding and a civil one?

A civil wedding has to take place in a licensed venue, whereas a Humanist ceremony can take place anywhere that is ‘safe and dignified’. Humanist celebrants have conducted ceremonies on hilltops, and beaches, in woodlands and in people’s back gardens. We also do ceremonies in more traditional settings such as hotels and marquees.

The most important difference between a civil and Humanist ceremony is that although some registrars will allow you to personalize some parts of the ceremony, we allow you to make the whole ceremony uniquely yours. You have to say your legal declarations as you would in any other legal wedding ceremony but the Humanist ceremony is the most personal and thoughtful option for couples who do not want a religious ceremony.

Do we need another ceremony to make the marriage legal?

No, providing you complete the usual paperwork, as you would do with any form of wedding that is approved by the Registrar General, the wedding is fully legal. Weddings conducted by a registered Humanist celebrant have been legal in Scotland since June 2005.

When I mentioned the possibility of a humanist ceremony to my mum she said it all sounded a bit too 'new age' for her liking and that that sort of thing was just for hippies. How can I reassure her that the day will be suitably dignified?

Humanist Celebrants do sometimes officiate at ceremonies that have a New Age ‘feel’ but we also do ceremonies that are very traditional. I am most concerned that couples create a ceremony that reflects their personalities. I have officiated at a ceremony where the guests were all sitting on the grass in the couple’s garden and another in a country house hotel that was extremely formal. For both couples anything else other than the ceremony they chose would have been wholly inappropriate as their ceremonies reflected their views on what makes a meaningful wedding.

Most couples choose to have a ceremony that looks and feels like what people know a wedding to be with some traditional elements. In a Humanist ceremony there is always the opportunity to have romance, fun and humour in the ceremony too.

Do we still get to exchange rings, vows etc and to kiss at the end?

Yes, most couples exchange rings (but they don’t have to), we encourage couples to say their own personal vows and they have to say the legal declaration too. We can also incorporate other symbolic gestures such as handfasting or lighting candles.

Of course you kiss at the end! I’ve had weddings where the couple kissed at the beginning and at some points in between too. The more kissing the better, as far as I am concerned!

How many humanist weddings take place in Scotland each year?

Our weddings were given legal status in June 2005 and we conducted 83 weddings during the rest of that year. In 2006 we did 425 legal weddings and we expect to find that the numbers have gone up considerably since then and will continue to grow.

What advice would you give people who are worried about nerves on the day?

For some people their wedding day will be the first time in their lives that they are the centre of attention and this is quite daunting. I try to reassure the couple that they don’t have to say their vows out loud but can respond to a question and say “I do”. But the most important thing to remember if you are nervous is that all the people around you are your friends and family and they are there to support you on the day. No matter how nervous couples are before the wedding they always enjoy the experience in the end. A Humanist ceremony helps with this as the couple is involved in creating a ceremony that they will feel comfortable with and enjoy.

Any funny wedding stories you'd care to share?

The very first wedding I officiated at was on the beach at Belhaven Bay and the bride was to walk in to Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. I asked the groom if we should fade out the music when once she’s arrived. He looked at me as if I was mad and said: “Nobody fades out Queen!” So we all had a bit of a dance whilst the song finished.

In your experience what are the most common problems on the wedding day? (or leading up to the wedding)

The most common problem is worrying too much about what’s going to go wrong, and really, what’s the worst that can happen? On my own wedding day we thought that the musicians weren’t going to turn up at all for the ceremony and they ended up being half an hour late so I had to wait in the car before being played in. Lots of things didn’t go to plan but our friends and family were there and everyone had a great time. In the end it didn’t matter because good organisation doesn’t make a wedding day special but having a meaningful ceremony and adding personal touches to the day does.

Anything else you think couples should know about either humanism or getting married generally?

I think if you have a lot of money to splash out on a wedding then that is great but I would like people to bear in mind that a fantastic wedding doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of the loveliest weddings I’ve been to were the more home spun ones that cost very little. More than once I’ve admired a spectacular wedding dress and the bride has whispered “E-Bay” into my ear!

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