Thursday, 21 July 2016


CONGRATULATIONS!
You've decided to get married - that's great and you'll be joining thousands of other happy couples who have enjoyed the marvellous experience of a Humanist wedding.
In June 2005, The Humanist Society of Scotland started to conduct legal wedding ceremonies and since then, interest has grown enormously.  I have conducted about 900 legal weddings since then and I can remember each and every one!
More and more people are finding out about Humanism's core beliefs - promoting a lifestyle whereby people take the responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment and thus aspire to the greater good of humanity as a whole.  Humanists are guided by reason, inspired by compassion and informed by experience.  So we don't feel the need to worship any gods or sing psalms.
With weddings, this means that we can prepare a superb, fully legal ceremony which is memorable and meaningful for couples without any references to gods, hymns and prayers.

2017
Suddenly it's January but it's a good time to get married in what is traditionally a quiet month.  Although the weather can be a bit rough, it's usually nice and snug in a warm hotel.  Kerry and Neil thought so as they sign the Marriage Schedule in the posh Inverlochy Castle Hotel near Fort William.  Neil comes from Barra so I had to say a few words of Gaelic in the ceremony - and Kerry managed some too, much to the delight of the guests!




February can be busy too!  The rain cleared as Dawn and Ryan led their guests to the front of the chapel at Glasgow University for a group photo.  I think group photos are great - but make sure you organise it before everyone gets a drink!   




And in March, Amy and Stephen had a similar idea and organised a group shot of their guests pre-fizz on the stairs of the Mansionhouse in Edinburgh Zoo.  By the way, the penguins were amazing and it looked like a wedding was in progress there too - see the wee pic on the right! 
 




Here's a novelty for a wedding!  In a wedding in April, the Groom Will's family were involved in the ice cream business so what better way to celebrate than with some ice cream!  They did up this old van and when it played a wee tune, all the guests ran over and got free cones!  And no - Bride Karen did not get ice cream on her dress!  I suppose you couldn't do this everywhere - but here at Dunglass Estate, it's fine as there's loads of room outside. 




Another novelty is to hire not just a piper, but a whole pipe band!  In May, Frances and Michael had fab weather - again at Dunglass Estate - and the band was in great form.  Every foot at the wedding was tapping, but all the wee birds had flown away!  There's pic of Frances and Michael on the right.




Confetti always adds a sort of celebratory vibe to a wedding, I always think!  And Claire and Richard seem to agree at their June wedding at Dunglass.  June can often be a sunny and settled month in Scotland, so a lot of weddings are outside.  I like an outdoor wedding......   



I've always said it's a bad idea to have animals at a wedding.  I've seen owls flying in with the wedding rings a few times - it's quite dramatic but a bit risky, especially if the bird spies a mouse and flies out the window with £2k of jewellery on its leg!  But Lauren and Sean insisted that their lovely bulldog, Alfie, was going to be the ring bearer at their July wedding.  And he was just great - calm, quiet and responsible - and he toddled down the aisle with the rings on his collar as if he'd done it all a hundred times before.  What a relief!    




More confetti!  It was a lovely warm summer's day for Cristiane and Thomas's wedding at the Wellwood Hotel in Pitlochry, but it looks like it's snowing!





And we had a lovely day in September for Fiona and Susie's outdoor wedding at Tyninghame, East Lothian.  Just look at the azure sea and sky!  And the Bass Rock - or Guano Island as some less kind folk call it.  More pix of the happy couple at the side....




Also in September, Kirsty and Angus were married in Applecross.  This is a lovely wee peninsula in the north west Highlands, and Kirsty is pictured with her mum and dad.  Her dad, Ruaraidh, is a famous and respected Gaelic broadcaster and journalist so we exchanged a few words in that ancient language.  Math ga rireabh!



This is Ellen and Kevin just after their marriage ceremony in Wedderburn Barn, near Duns in October.  Kevin had set up all the chairs outside, but on checking his phone, he realised it was going to pour with rain in 5 minutes!  So we swiftly brought them all back into the Barn and indeed, while we were dong so, it did start to pour!  Ellen, of course, didn't know much about the drama and concentrated instead on one of her younger guests!   



Nothing to do with weddings really, but I just love my new kitten.  His name is Teddy and he came here on 20/10/17 aged 8 weeks.  He's a real adorable wee cutie and he loves to play, sleep, eat and play....  More pix on the right.      





In November, Caroline and Michael were married in the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh.  It's a fabulous venue in the New Town with a long and interesting history - and you don't have to be a physician to be married there!




ORGANISING YOUR WEDDING
So - the hard work starts here.  Under the following headings, you may find some help and advice about planning the celebrations.  Try to keep calm - there's a lot of organising to do!
But first, some advice:
1. Be organised!  Start your preparations early.  Make lists, keep notes, liaise with all concerned and keep on top of it all.
2. Keep in touch with your Celebrant!  S/he is a mine of information and is always willing to offer help and advice on the legal bits and on the creation of a good ceremony.
3. Yes, do keep calm - don’t leave things to the last minute!


CHOOSING A VENUE
Most couples like to set the date and choose a venue for their big day first of all.  Some like a ruin, like Aberdour Castle in Fife....


....or perhaps the slightly unusual, like the beautiful Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh....


....or a gorgeous remote hotel, like the Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll....


....or even a stately pile, like Scone Palace....

....or an upmarket hotel in the Scottish Borders - the Barony Castle Hotel near Peebles....

There are so many lovely venues out there to chose from - and they are all just fab!  But don't forget the Caves in Edinburgh's Old Town for a really atmospheric and historic venue....



CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC
So, once you've decided on your venue, you may then want to think about what kind of music to have.  Many couples have a piper to pipe their guests in to the venue and to pipe them out at the end of the ceremony - like Roddy the Piper at Edinburgh Castle, for example...

RODDY THE PIPER AT EDINBURGH CASTLE

        ....or how about a foot-stomping jazz band to entertain your guests after the ceremony?   
          Here's the West End Jazz Band at Linlithgow Palace....

THE WEST END JAZZ BAND AT LINLITHGOW PALACE
            ....perhaps something a bit more sedate like the Canongate String Quartet in  the Signet Library may be more to your taste?                
                                     
THE CANONGATE STRING QUARTET AT THE SIGNET LIBRARY

              Then there's Ailie on the Clarsach, looking very thoughtful at Craighouse....

AILIE ON THE CLARSACH AT CRAIGHOUSE

I think the music is a very personal choice and I think all the favourites are fine – Highland Cathedral, Pachelbel’s Canon, Entrance of the Queen of Sheba – but some couples choose more recent music.  At two or three weddings, the Proclaimers belted out "Let's Get Married" - very appropriate!



SO WHAT ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE CEREMONY?
You've got the venue and the music organised.  Another thing to think about is the content of the ceremony itself.

Typically, a Humanist marriage ceremony will last for about 20 minutes.  It starts by me asking all your guests to stand as the Bride enters with her Bridesmaids.

Once everyone is nice and relaxed and seated again, I welcome your guests, thank them all for coming and introduce myself.  A few words on why you've chosen to have a Humanist wedding ceremony may be appropriate, followed by some general observations on marriage - just to remind everyone why they're all there!

And then there's readings.  Most couples have one or two appropriate poems or readings - and again, I think the choice is a very personal one.  I do, however, have a favourite piece – “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns.  To me, it seems to underline the permanence of strong love and so is very appropriate at a wedding.  At one recent wedding consisting of Americans, English and Scottish guests, the Bridesmaid (who was very Scottish) read this beautifully.  At the end, I said that I’d hoped our American guests had understood it and there was a ripple of laughter.  Above the laughter was heard a very English voice, “Yes, but what about us English!”


And don't forget the symbolic gestures.  You will probably have one  - the exchange of wedding rings - but there are others like lighting candles, drinking from a quaich or mixing sand....yes, mixing sand.  But my favourite has to be hand fasting, or tying the knot.  There are various ways to do this ancient gesture with one or two ribbons or cords, but it's great as you can keep them to remind you of your special day.


THE LEGAL BITS
A wedding is a legal undertaking and so you must have the marriage vows as part of the ceremony.  The law requires that your two witnesses, but preferably all your guests as well, hear you accept each other as husband and wife.  Normally, couples repeat the necessary lines after me to minimise any chance of messing up!  But you could also have your own personal vows before or after the legal stuff where you could say something really special and personal to one another.
After the vows, or sometimes before, couples exchange wedding rings.  This is not a legal requirement, but it is symbolic of the life-time commitment you want to make to each other and most couples do it.  The wedding ring is a never ending circle of love and is usually made of gold which never fades or tarnishes.  
The law says that I then have to make a pronouncement that you are husband and wife so that everybody knows what stage we're at, and this is usually a jolly moment with lots of clapping and cheering!

The other wee legal bit is signing the Marriage Schedule - commonly referred to as "signing the register".  This is a bit of paper, a legal document, that you get from the Registrar and it's a permanent record of your marriage.  See http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland 
 for further details on this important aspect of organising your wedding.

ENDING THE CEREMONY
A good ceremony ends on a high so that everyone feels in a party mood!  So after me wishing you all the best, I could ask everyone to stand and I present you to them as Mr and Mrs...........  This produces loud cheering and whistling, and is exactly what we want at the end of the ceremony as all your guests head off to start the party and pick up a glass of fizz! 

MY APPROACH TO WEDDINGS
After the initial contact by phone or email, I normally arrange to meet couples in their home or mine.  I explain about the legal aspects of weddings, and then we discuss the sort of ceremony they’d like with the help of recent examples.  If they like what they see and hear and want to proceed with me as their Celebrant, we would then sign an Agreement Form, they would pay a £75 deposit and join the Humanist Society.  The couple would then either prepare a rough draft of what sort of ceremony they’d like, or I’d prepare an outline for them to slot in their own preferences.  Over the following months, I’d offer help and advice and we’d keep in touch by emailing the draft ceremony back and forth, making wee changes as appropriate until we are all completely happy with it.  Then, during the week before the wedding, I’d visit them again just to go over it in detail to make sure it’s all going to go smoothly on the day.

But if you have any queries, questions, problems or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch - my contact details are at the top of this blog.


2016
January 2016 already - but couples still want to be married in the depths of winter.  One that stands out is Shelley and Elvis (no jokes, please!) at the Ghillie Dhu in Edinburgh.  An aspect I really like at a wedding is live music, and our couple had their friend Joanne to sing and entertain the guests.  It's a huge room at the Ghillie Dhu, but Joanne's voice filled the space with ease.  And note the wee Christmas tree there - very festive!  




In February 2016, Juliet and Mathew were married in Winton House - a beautiful venue in a country setting near Pencaitland in East Lothian.  There's a pic of the happy couple on the right.  Here in the Drawing Room is an antique carpet.  It is, I believe over 150 years old and was made in India.  It is the largest single piece of carpet known, and I usually make an announcement along the lines of 'please do not slosh your red wine over the antique carpet!'    




Ahh, canapes - one of the best parts of the day!  The Murrayfield Hotel in Edinburgh provided fab canapes after Denise and John's wedding ceremony in March 2016.  And no - that's not my hand.  I'm taking the pic! 
    


The first outdoor wedding of the year - in April 2016, Becky and Steve were married at St Abb's Head Nature Reserve.  The spot meant something to them both as a couple, and it was indeed a lovely spot.  Loads of sea birds wheeling about down by the cliffs and a keen north easterly wind made it a day to remember.  I mean, note Becky's furry jacket....!




What a great backdrop for a wedding photo!  Aren't the poppies in the painting just fab?  Oh, and the couple look fab too!  




I love a Highland wedding - especially one in a castle!  So I was delighted to conduct Beccy and Alan's wedding in Eilean Donan Castle in June 2016.  Eilean Donan Castle is about 10 miles before Kyle of Lochalsh and is reputedly the most photographed castle in Scotland!  So to continue that trend, there's a wee pic of it on the right - I bet you recognise it?  And don't Beccy and Alan look stunning in the Gun Room after their ceremony with a glass of fizz?  






July 2016 already, but despite its reputation as being one of the wettest months, we managed an outdoor wedding in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.  Tati and Matt (that's him on the right!) came from New Jersey and loved Scotland, whisky and the outdoors.  So they were my kinda guys!  The weather was good - the main thing it was dry so there were a few great pix - another on the right. 




Laura and Robin were also married in a spectacular location in July - the Wallace Monument in Stirling.  After the ceremony, which was outside on a wee grassy bit, they posed for photos.  And what better backdrop could there possibly be?  The Bride's veil blowing artistically over Stirling Castle was just perfect!  More pix on the right.   



Into August 2016, and here are Martha and Kenneth doing the paperwork in Gilmerton House.  This a wee hidden gem of a venue, tucked away in the East Lothian countryside.  I've only been there a handful of times, but it's well worth a visit if you'd like an out of town wedding.



As you may have gathered, I really enjoy an outdoor wedding.  Especially on a beautiful sunny, Scottish summer afternoon in the west of the country.  In September, Jenny and Rich were married in Argyll on the shores of Loch Fyne.  Aye, although it is fab to be outside, it can have a downside - there were various biting and stinging insects around.  In this case, it was wasps.  One of the kilted Groomsmen was stung in a rather embarrassing place, thereby proving that he was a real Scotsman!  There's a couple of wee pix on the right.
     


Cat and Kirsty's wedding wasn't outside in October, but the photos after were.  This lovely couple were married at Fernie Castle in Fife, a place I wasn't too familiar with.  But the grounds were lovely, complete with rutting deer statue - see wee pix on the right.  Well, it was October and the rutting season...... 



November was surprisingly busy for a wedding Celebrant, but I had time to notice this particular guest who seemed a wee bit stoned....



And in December, the sun shone on Leith for Laura and Jamie's wedding.  Aren't the flowers in Laura's hair pretty?



2015
It's January and fairly quiet on the wedding front!  But there must have been a lot of proposals over the festive holidays as I've had a raft of enquiries about my availability for this year and for 2016.... and even for 2017!  Couples want to meet, they want to ask questions, they want to discuss their plans - so I guess that January is not so quiet really!  But I have had time to catch up on various bits of paperwork and even take a few days break here and there.  

So not a lot of weddings this month - so instead, and in keeping with the seasonal-type weather, here are Victoria and Michael being married on the top of Scald Law in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh in January a couple of years ago.  At least the Champagne was well chilled!





Quite a few weddings in February 2015 - one of which was a fairly quirky affair -

my sentiments entirely!




Also in February 2015, Erica and Melvyn were married at Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh. Erica is a good friend of mine and I know she's into healthy eating.  With all that fruit on the wedding  cake, she thinks she can get one of her five-a-day just by eating a slice!




Here's Leah and Paul 'tying the knot' at the Braid Hills Hotel in March 2015.  Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic custom used in marriage ceremonies to bind two people together.  A form of it appeared in the film 'Braveheart'.  And it's becoming very popular in Humanist ceremonies these days too - well, Leah seems to be enjoying it anyway!

   



And in April 2015, Lori and Hiten were married in Kinross House.  Lori is very into history and loved  that she could see Loch Leven Castle from the ceremony room - see wee pic at the side.  It's where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and some artefacts have been dug up - keys, for example.  So keys were naturally a theme at the wedding - but doesn't she look very historical herself!





Right then!  In May 2015, Sara and Ally were married in the Rowantree in Edinburgh's Cowgate.  Instead of the Best Man traditionally looking after the wedding rings, this lovely couple entrusted their cool wee Snauser to have this onerous responsibility.  His name is Kurt and you can see, he's taking his duties very seriously - he's just spotted an enormous Alsation down the road and his body language suggests that the bigger dog dare not think about messing with him!  But Ally is just checking to see if the rings are safe on his collar.....    







In June 2015, Hillary and Tim were married by Loch Coruisk in the lovely Isle of Skye.  An American couple from Montana, they just wanted a really special Scottish venue - and it doesn't come more special than the shadow of the Cuillin Hills.  We all took the wee ferry over from Elgol, walked for 10 minutes and found the perfect spot on a bit of flat ground by the loch.  The weather was kind - dry and warm(ish) - and no midges!  It was a bit cooler on the ferry back - see the we pic on the right - but there was some celebratory whisky involved which has the amazing effect of keeping the cold out!     





What a way to arrive at a wedding!  This is Sian and Richard in July at Dalhousie Castle.  This old Rolls Royce certainly ensured that Sian arrived in style!  Some Brides just hire a taxi, some a campervan - and one Bride even got the bus!  But doesn't the vintage car look great in the photograph?   







How's this for a wedding venue?  It's the Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry where Laura  and John were married in August.  It's a lovely venue - enormous and with a sort of Victorian feel - with beautiful grounds for wedding photos.  And the stone lion seems to offer some protection for the proceedings................








.......... and similarly at Broxmouth Park, Dunbar where Jen and Jamie tied the knot in September.  Two lovely beasts guarding the driveway - prresumably to ensure that the Groom doesn't do a runner!  For a close up of one of these majestic beasts, see the pic to the right.








Here are Lesley Ann and John doing the legal paperwork stuff being watched attentively by their two witnesses at the Queensferry Hotel in Fife in October.  It's an important part of the ceremony, but the taller guys, like me, were distracted by these low-flying orange and yellow globes which look as if they're just floating about the room.....    








I wonder if anyone will recognise this guy?  No prizes, but he's pretty well known in rugby circles........it's the one and only - Andy Irvine!  He was a guest at Jayne and Gregor's wedding in November at Inchyra Byre in Perthshire.  It's a lovely renovation of an old steading (that's the Byre, not Andy!) and it's becoming more popular as a venue.    





Into December and just the sort of weather for an outdoor wedding at a remote Scottish castle!  This is Brittany and Matty being very bold and holding their marriage ceremony outside instead of inside the nice, warm Forter Castle.  There's a wee pic of the castle on the right - it's near Glenshee where there was snow on the ground, but nothing would deter our intrepid couple.  They even had these wee gloves for all the guests which heat up your hands - I wish they'd had similar socks!  
  


2014

January is traditionally a quiet time for wedding Celebrants.  However, some couples prefer this time of year, and I conducted two weddings in January and four in February.  It seems the wedding season kicks off in March, builds up to June, July, August and September, and then eases off a bit in October and November.  And like January, some couples prefer to be married in December - often on Hogmanay.  So I usually try to take my holidays in the quieter times, but it doesn't always seem to work out somehow! 

But below you can see a December 2014 wedding.  The venue was the sumptuous Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, and here are Rhona and John signing the Marriage Schedule.  It was a small wedding which I quite like as the atmosphere is more relaxed and intimate.  But Prestonfield is a great venue because it sits in lovely grounds - there's always Highland cows in a field by the drive and there's always peacocks squawking and running about the place , which you can see in a wee pic at the side!   




In October 2014, Stina and Andrew were married at the Scotsman Hotel in Edinburgh.  Bride Stina made a dramatic arrival in a big, red, vintage, double decker bus - commonly known by those in the trade as the 'Love Bus'.... see over on the right for another pic.  Here they are after the ceremony, along with Groom Andrew's Mum, on board the 'Love Bus' on their way to the lovely Orocco Pier for the wedding breakfast.  Stina is Estonian and we had a reading in that beautiful language - it was magical!     

     


This is Claire and Paul just after the ceremony at Fingask Castle in Perthshire in September 2014.  A great venue with great staff - and interesting grounds with some, er, unusual statues - see wee pic on right!  But the wedding was memorable for another reason as Claire's dad had secretly hired a stunt plane from nearby Perth Aerodrome at Scone to do a fly-past  to celebrate his daughter's wedding!  It was a wee biplane and it appeared in the blue sky just after this pic was taken.  It was great - rolling and diving, twisting and turning, looping the loop. Then it tipped its wings in salute and it was gone - 10 minutes of magic!    
  


What a great setting for a group photo!  This is Claire and Andrew after the ceremony on the steps of Linlithgow Burgh Halls in August 2014.  Needless to say, they attracted a lot of attention from shoppers on a Saturday afternoon!    




Carberry Tower was the setting for Jodie and Jamie's wedding also in August 2014.  Here they are signing the all important piece of paper - the Marriage Schedule.  Normally referred to as signing the Register, it's an integral part of the ceremony and is a legal requirement.  You need two witnesses to sign it too, along with the Celebrant.  It is a photo opportunity, and this photo was taken by wedding photographer Jonathon Fowler - a pal of mine.  He does some amazing stuff and you should check his website on www.jonathon.co or email him on hello@jonathon.co.  Let him know you saw his name here first!     




The Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh is a lovely Georgian building in Queen Street in Edinburgh's New Town.  I don't think you have to have a connection with the medical profession,  but Stacy and Mat were both scientists.  As a surprise for their guests at the end of the ceremony, which was in July 2014, they had a men's chorus come in to serenade then back up the aisle.  But there were about 30 of them in the chorus - they just seemed to keep on coming in and in...... and afterwards, the all went up on to the balcony in the library to continue to entertain the guests.  Quite magical, really - there's a photo among the wee photos on the right hand side. 



Also in July 2014, Lissa and Allan decided a horse-drawn carriage would be the ideal mode of transport to take them down the road a bit for some wedding photos.  Anyway, it was raining at Culcreuch Castle, near Fintry in Stirlingshire..........  There's a picture of the horse among all the wee photos over on the right hand side.



Kelly and Shaun were married at Dundas Castle near Queensferry also in June 2014.  Dundas is a great and atmospheric venue - really old stone work and worn, uneven stairs up to the Keep where the wedding ceremonies are held.  If the weather is fine after the ceremony, we can get right up to the top by the flag pole for some stunning photos - can you the see the Forth Bridges in the background? 



June 2014 and my first beach wedding of the year!  This is Claire and Craig on Gullane Beach on a fairly warm and breezy afternoon - but with the threat of rain looming as we proceeded with the ceremony.  But we got away with it and it poured half an hour after we'd finished.  Note Claire and Craig's bare feet - a good idea, I thought, as I emptied my shoes of sand when I got home.



A few couples like to have an bird to fly in with the wedding rings instead of the traditional Best Man.  I know it's not to everyone's taste, but I do quite like it.  This is Liz, but I'm not sure just how much she liked having Bonnie the owl sitting on her arm after the ceremony!  Liz and Nick were married at Dalhousie Castle in May 2014.  They came from the States and the American guests were wowed by Bonnie and they all lined up to have their photos taken with her.  
By the way, this wedding was organised by wedding planner LITU, which stands, appropriately, for Leave It To Us.  It's managed by my friends Kimmie and George Brown, who are both very well-organised and who are lovely, friendly and really helpful.  Check out their website!



This is Renee and Duncan being married at Mellerstain House in Berwickshire in April 2014.  They had live music which is something I'm pretty keen on.  One of their friends played the piano, and during the signing of the marriage schedule, the pianist accompanied a viola player who played some Massenet and Beethoven.  Great!  And they had a hand fasting which always goes down well with the guests - especially as a lot of them had travelled from Australia! 



Here are Karen and Gerald at Solsgirth House, near Dollar, in March 2014.  A lovely couple and a lovely venue.  Nine year old Erin read beautifully for us, and Gerald commented that the bouquet he seems to be carrying in his right hand suited him really well!   



BREAKING AND GREAT NEWS!
Hooray! The Scottish Government has passed the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill by 105 votes to 18 on 4th February 2014.  The first same sex marriage will take place in the early hours of 31st December 2014.  I am delighted to be part of this great news, and to celebrate, the Humanist Society is offering to convert 105 civil partnerships to marriages for free!  So if you are couple I have conducted a ceremony for in the past, or if you are in a civil partnership, and you'd like a wee 'upgrade' - or if you'd like to book a marriage later in the year, do get in touch and we'll get the wheels in motion! 



SOME MORE RECENT WEDDINGS
Being a wedding celebrant is just fab!  Meeting couples to help steer them through the most important day of their lives is the most satisfying and rewarding experience.  It’s a tremendous responsibility for the three of us, but when all our preparations culminate in a well-crafted, relaxed ceremony, the joy on everyone’s faces is a delight!

This is Gillian and Fergus braving the chilly temperatures and confetti after their wedding ceremony at Melville Castle in December 2013.  They had three readings, one of which was written especially by Gillian's sister.




I always think it's nice if a guest can write a few words - it makes the ceremony really personal and gives the bride and groom a really memorable ceremony.


  

Here's Gail and Andrew signing the Marriage Schedule at Balbirnie House in Fife in November 2013. 



It was quite a large wedding with over 100 guests, and they had a hand fasting as part of the ceremony.  This is a lovely symbolic gesture where I bound their arms together with two ribbons to 'tie the knot'.  Gail and Andrew said they would frame the ribbons as a permanent reminder of their love for each other.  You can see the ribbons lying on the table - and don't you like the autumn colours which were the theme for the wedding?  




Tammy and Bob were also married in November 2013.  This is the Caves in Edinburgh - a really romantic and atmospheric venue for a wedding.



All the guys (including me!) were asked to grow beards for the wedding, and instead of walking sedately back up the aisle at the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds jived and twisted to a Chuck Berry number as they made their way up to the bar.  Excellent! 




SOME MEMORABLE WEDDINGS
But some ceremonies do stick in the mind more than others - and here's some that I'm unlikely ever to forget....

Like one of the Ben Nevis hikes.  This one was particularly wet as Bride Anna, Groom Tim and myself approached the summit.




Tim broke his wee toe 3 or 4 days before the wedding, but he managed to get up and down pretty well - hence the poles!  The wedding was in August, but it was cold at the top with the windchill making it -5C.  So signing the marriage schedule was not the easiest task! 




Then there were the belly dancers in Orocco Pier.  The newlyweds had hired them to entertain their guests after the ceremony - 



- well, the old boy sitting watching seems to be appreciating the mother and daughter team anyway!

Inchcolm Island is a very popular venue for weddings.  




After a 40 minute sail from South Queensferry, it's just a short walk to the abbey - there's still a roof on most of it - and after the ceremony, the drinks can be outside on the grass with great views across to Edinburgh and Fife.


And here's Gabriela and William being married in Dalhousie Castle.  It's a stunning venue just outside Edinburgh with beautiful grounds.


And Andrew the piper certainly made it a wedding to remember for the American couple! 


But no matter where the wedding is - be it a mountain, a castle, a stately home, a posh hotel, a beach, a back garden - I always ensure it's a dignified occasion with the appropriate balance of humour and formalities.  It would be a wedding that you and your guests will remember for a long time!




ORGANISING YOUR WEDDING
So - the hard work starts here.  Under the following headings, you may find some help and advice about planning the celebrations.  Try to keep calm - there's a lot of organising to do!
But first, some advice:
1. Be organised!  Start your preparations early.  Make lists, keep notes, liaise with all concerned and keep on top of it all.
2. Keep in touch with your Celebrant!  S/he is a mine of information and is always willing to offer help and advice on the legal bits and on the creation of a good ceremony.
3. Yes, do keep calm - don’t leave things to the last minute!


CHOOSING A VENUE
Most couples like to set the date and choose a venue for their big day first of all.  Some like a ruin, like Aberdour Castle in Fife....


....or perhaps the slightly unusual, like the beautiful Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh....


....or a gorgeous remote hotel, like the Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll....


....or even a stately pile, like Scone Palace....

....or an upmarket hotel in the Scottish Borders - the Barony Castle Hotel near Peebles....

There are so many lovely venues out there to chose from - and they are all just fab!  But don't forget the Caves in Edinburgh's Old Town for a really atmospheric and historic venue....



CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC
So, once you've decided on your venue, you may then want to think about what kind of music to have.  Many couples have a piper to pipe their guests in to the venue and to pipe them out at the end of the ceremony - like Roddy the Piper at Edinburgh Castle, for example...

RODDY THE PIPER AT EDINBURGH CASTLE

        ....or how about a foot-stomping jazz band to entertain your guests after the ceremony?   
          Here's the West End Jazz Band at Linlithgow Palace....

THE WEST END JAZZ BAND AT LINLITHGOW PALACE
 
            ....perhaps something a bit more sedate like the Canongate String Quartet in  the Signet Library may be more to your taste?                
                                     
THE CANONGATE STRING QUARTET AT THE SIGNET LIBRARY

              Then there's Ailie on the Clarsach, looking very thoughtful at Craighouse....

AILIE ON THE CLARSACH AT CRAIGHOUSE

I think the music is a very personal choice and I think all the favourites are fine – Highland Cathedral, Pachelbel’s Canon, Entrance of the Queen of Sheba – but some couples choose more recent music.  At two or three weddings, the Proclaimers belted out "Let's Get Married" - very appropriate!



SO WHAT ABOUT THE CONTENT OF THE CEREMONY?
You've got the venue and the music organised.  Another thing to think about is the content of the ceremony itself.

Typically, a Humanist marriage ceremony will last for about 20 minutes.  It starts by me asking all your guests to stand as the Bride enters with her Bridesmaids.

Once everyone is nice and relaxed and seated again, I welcome your guests, thank them all for coming and introduce myself.  A few words on why you've chosen to have a Humanist wedding ceremony may be appropriate, followed by some general observations on marriage - just to remind everyone why they're all there!

And then there's readings.  Most couples have one or two appropriate poems or readings - and again, I think the choice is a very personal one.  I do, however, have a favourite piece – “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns.  To me, it seems to underline the permanence of strong love and so is very appropriate at a wedding.  At one recent wedding consisting of Americans, English and Scottish guests, the Bridesmaid (who was very Scottish) read this beautifully.  At the end, I said that I’d hoped our American guests had understood it and there was a ripple of laughter.  Above the laughter was heard a very English voice, “Yes, but what about us English!”


And don't forget the symbolic gestures.  You will probably have one  - the exchange of wedding rings - but there are others like lighting candles, drinking from a quaich or mixing sand....yes, mixing sand.  But my favourite has to be hand fasting, or tying the knot.  There are various ways to do this ancient gesture with one or two ribbons or cords, but it's great as you can keep them to remind you of your special day.


THE LEGAL BITS
A wedding is a legal undertaking and so you must have the marriage vows as part of the ceremony.  The law requires that your two witnesses, but preferably all your guests as well, hear you accept each other as husband and wife.  Normally, couples repeat the necessary lines after me to minimise any chance of messing up!  But you could also have your own personal vows before or after the legal stuff where you could say something really special and personal to one another.
After the vows, or sometimes before, couples exchange wedding rings.  This is not a legal requirement, but it is symbolic of the life-time commitment you want to make to each other and most couples do it.  The wedding ring is a never ending circle of love and is usually made of gold which never fades or tarnishes.  
The law says that I then have to make a pronouncement that you are husband and wife so that everybody knows what stage we're at, and this is usually a jolly moment with lots of clapping and cheering!

The other wee legal bit is signing the Marriage Schedule - commonly referred to as "signing the register".  This is a bit of paper, a legal document, that you get from the Registrar and it's a permanent record of your marriage.  See http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland 
 for further details on this important aspect of organising your wedding.

ENDING THE CEREMONY
A good ceremony ends on a high so that everyone feels in a party mood!  So after me wishing you all the best, I could ask everyone to stand and I present you to them as Mr and Mrs...........  This produces loud cheering and whistling, and is exactly what we want at the end of the ceremony as all your guests head off to start the party and pick up a glass of fizz! 

MY APPROACH TO WEDDINGS
After the initial contact by phone or email, I normally arrange to meet couples in their home or mine.  I explain about the legal aspects of weddings, and then we discuss the sort of ceremony they’d like with the help of recent examples.  If they like what they see and hear and want to proceed with me as their Celebrant, we would then sign an Agreement Form, they would pay a £75 deposit and join the Humanist Society.  The couple would then either prepare a rough draft of what sort of ceremony they’d like, or I’d prepare an outline for them to slot in their own preferences.  Over the following months, I’d offer help and advice and we’d keep in touch by emailing the draft ceremony back and forth, making wee changes as appropriate until we are all completely happy with it.  Then, during the week before the wedding, I’d visit them again just to go over it in detail to make sure it’s all going to go smoothly on the day.

But if you have any queries, questions, problems or comments, please do not hesitate to get in touch - my contact details are at the top of this blog.