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.

Dancebase Wedding

Doreen and William are a very cool couple: partly because they got married in the spacious, modern setting of Dancebase in Edinburgh's Grassmarket but mainly because we all sang along to That's Amore! by Deam Martin - a tune that was played at my own wedding.

Here are all their guests lining up on the steps to get their picture taken.

And the happy couple themselves.

Time for Reflection

When I decided to become Humanist Society of Scotland celebrant I thought it was important to get to know and become involved with the Society. I sit on the Board of Trustees and my main aim is to promote Humanism and our ceremonies, so I was delighted when the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament invited me to lead the Time For Reflection slot, which happens at the beginning of Wednesday afternoon's business. This slot is open to people of all faiths and none to speak and as the last Humanist speaker was Nigel Bruce eight years ago, I really hope that we get invited back before 2016! You can view a video of my reflections on the HSS website.

If you squint you can just see me in this pic. The chamber looks huge on the tv but is very small in real life. I took along my proud mum!