Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fame at last!

The Humanist Society of Scotland recently announced a 59% increase in the demand for legal Humanist Weddings in Scotland making it the fifth top wedding supplier in the Registrar General of Scotland's 'religion table'.

Celebrants of the Society conducted 675 legal marriages during 2007, an increase of 59% on 2006 when the figure was 465. 525 weddings are already booked for 2008 and predictions suggest they will continue to increase in popularity and by 2010 will overtake those of the Roman Catholics, Methodists and the Episcopalians. Read the press coverage in The Herald

This story was featured on Reporting Scotland recently and yours truely gets 5.4 seconds of fame. They filmed me for about ten minutes to get these words of wisdom.

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!

Merchant's Hall Wedding

What happens in January? Nothing apart from bad weather, Christmas guilt and general misery. But not if you are friends with Emma and Fraser! They decided to get married in January at The Merchant's Hall and this gave everyone, including me, something to look forward to.

Here's The Queen!

She looks quite the fox in her younger years, doesn't she?

And here is another gorgeous girl.

A nicer couple you could not meet.

Here they are signing the paperwork.

Kirknewton House Stables Wedding

Danielle and Roland married at Kirknewton House Stables and as the wedding was in December it had quite a Christmassy feel.

Both their mothers did a reading and here is Danielle's mum looking at her son in law to be with fondness.

And Roland making it legal!

Danielle is a jewellery designer and needless to say the rings were lovely. Her shop is called Rock Candy.

Abden House Wedding

Charlotte and Neil got married at Abden House on a crisp, clear winter's day. The clarsach music was perfect for this intimate venue.

And here is the lovely couple.

I just love Charlotte's bolero and, of course, the fact that they look so happy!

Stair Arms Hotel Wedding

What bride could ask for a lovelier wedding present than this?

This is Louise's surprise flower girl with her mum and dad.

Louise and David were married at the Stair Arms just outside Pathhead. As you may have noticed, David is in the army and I think they would be very proud to see him so well turned out.

Louise's brother is in a pipe band and he piped her in but when the ceremony was over the staff at the hotel opened the doors and there was the whole pipe band waiting for them.

And here is the happy couple.

Best Men

A touching groom and best man moment!

I'm not qualified to advise on how to choose a best man, but am more than happy to share my experience of this rare breed because my grooms spend their last moments of sigledom with two people - their best man and me...

I often feel quite sorry for best men because not only do they have to make a speech that is expected to be funny without going too far and look after the rings for at least twenty minutes but they often, particularly the younger, single ones, feel like they are losing their friend. Poor lambs. Sometimes this leads them to erratic behaviour like saying to the groom, "Let's go for a wander?" just as the bride's car is pulling up. They almost always make a joke about losing the rings and inevitably we are all so relieved that they actually have the rings we end up finding this prank hilariously funny.

But I have encountered some stellar best men. There was the ex army best man who ran the show with military precision and sweetly held my script at exactly the right time so I could perform a handfasting and produced the rings before I'd even asked for them, the many best men who offer their friend comforting words when he is either nervous or emotional and the best men who are so excited to be a best man either because they feel it is a great honour or are especially looking forwards to a dance with the foxy bridesmaid...

I once did a wedding and was introduced to the 'better man'. When I asked why he was called the 'better man' the groom replied, "Nobody could possibly describe John as the 'best'." To which John added, "He's absolutely right, the better man is what I am!" I wonder if this better man got his sweeter revenge in his speech?

Choosing Witnesses

When it comes to witnesses most couples choose their chief bridesmaid and best man, usually because this is the way its taditionally done and often because they haven't been given any other options.

But let's face it, the best man and bridesmaid already have a great job to do on the day and making other people your witnesses is an oportunity to involve them in an important part of the ceremony. If a groom has had a hard time choosing between two of his best friends to be best man, he can make the other one a witness. I've also had a few weddings where both mums have been witnesses and this is especially lovely because, unlike men, women don't have such a high profile role in ceremonies as they get older.

At one wedding I saw a lovely choice of witness. The bride's parents had split up when she was very young and she was close to both her father and her step father. Her father walked her down the aisle but her step father was a witness, which was a touching way of making him feel important on the day. I've also had a couple's (grown up) children be witnesses, aunties, siblings and friends who weren't as close to the bride and groom as their best man and bridesmaid but who were the people who introduced them to each other.

In a humanist ceremony there is the opportunity for the celebrant to introduce the witnesses and say why they have been asked by the couple to be part of the ceremony.

Making someone a witness is a good way of making a special person in your lives feel important, but if you choose to have your best man and bridesmaid be your witness, that's fine too!