How to be a better….Planned Person

When I say ‘planned person’, I don’t mean a person who was meant. If you were the thirteen year gap surprise little brother that nobody knew they needed, you are valued and loved and probably get away with murder so stop whingeing, ya big baby, away and play with your nerf guns.

What I mean is a person who is organised, prepared, ready for all eventualities and, if I’m honest, that’s not me. In my own niche work life, I’m sorted but advising you how to plan your entire wedding is beyond my puny powers.

Thankfully, there are experts who thrive on keeping things running smoothly and, right up there is the bum-bag wearing fairy of the top of the Wedding Planning Christmas tree, the very organised Cat Duthie at Fin Flukra

Tell us, O Wise One, how does someone plan their wedding better?

When I was asked for my “super duper, all time amazing top tips” to help couples planning their wedding I was stumped. There are so many planning tips I could give people, what would be most helpful? Should I talk about wedding budgets, about guest lists, about decor or food or choosing a celebrant [Edit: hello! Claire x]

Then it hit me. There’s one thing I say to every single couple I speak to and from that single phrase everything tends to fall into place. 

“You do you”. 

Yep. Simple. Right? You do you. Plan a wedding that you would love to attend. Plan a wedding that reflects the two of you and your relationship. It sounds simple but there are so many wedding options out there. So. Many. Options. Which means that giving two recently engaged people such a vast, all encompassing list might freak them out a wee bit. So, I’ll condense it down. 

How do you start to plan a wedding that feels completely and utterly ‘you’? Here are my top three tips. 

Number One Tip: why are we doing this? 

No, no. I’m not getting you to assess your relationship and ask yourselves why you’re getting married! The answer to that is easy. It’s all about love! 

The ‘this’ in my Number 1 Tip is all about your wedding day. As you’re planning each part of the celebration, keep one question in the back of your mind,

Why are we doing this particular thing?

If the answer is ‘because it’s tradition’ or ‘because we know we have to’ then I’d say you can ditch it! The answer should always be some kind of variation of ‘because it sounds like it’s going to be a fab addition to our day and we are going to love it!’

At its very core a wedding needs three things – you two, somebody legally authorised to marry you and a couple of witnesses. Everything else is up to you and is completely optional. Once you keep that in mind then you’ll find you’ve given yourselves permission to do absolutely anything you want on the day. 

Number Two tip- What are your priorities? 

For some couples they want amazing food, for others they want their day to be an epic adventure into the Highlands and I’ve known couples who love music and want that to be the biggest feature of their day. 

Sit down together and chat through your thoughts. You might both have slightly different priorities to the other, you might be on completely the same page for everything. This wedding planning lark is probably something neither of you have put this much thought into before so it’s always good to talk and see what you’re both thinking. 

You’ll probably end up with a big old list of priorities and that’s ok. You can start whittling them down to the key ones. I always recommend that couples have a top three must haves which then helps you to start allocating budgets and working out what to spend more on and what you can ditch completely. 

Number Three Tip: Manage expectations

It’s all well and good me saying “you do you” but we all know that wedding planning doesn’t exist within a bubble. 

Well meaning friends and family like to get involved. Sometimes with not so welcome advice. This can be particularly tricky if family members are contributing to the wedding budget and feel like they should have a bit more of a say in things. Asking for certain events to have for emotional reasons can also be hard to hear and navigate too. Especially if it’s around first looks or aisle walks. 

I can only ever recommend clear communication here. Have open and honest discussions about why you do (or don’t) want a particular thing or event included in your day. Nine times out of ten I’ve found that people just want to feel heard and like to understand the reasoning behind decisions. Weddings have changed so much over the years that sometimes it’s as simple as older family members have no idea that you now can take or leave traditions and do things your own way. I’ve found that once they’re aware of this, they tend to fully embrace the day and plans. 

There you have it. Three tips to help you start to plan a wedding day that feels right for you both. I hope that’s helped in some way and you can begin planning an amazing celebration. 

PS. My alternative top tip was going to be both a cop out and a marketing coup – “hire me as your wedding planner”. But my ego just couldn’t let me go there. Of course if you do want to chat about your wedding planning and how I can help, just head over to my website and get in touch!

Thanks to Walnut Wasp for the smashing featured image

Person standing between beautiful vases of flowers reading aloud

How to be a better… Reader of Excellent Words

I’ve seen a lot of people read at weddings and funerals. Some have been incredible, some made me cry, a few have made me want to interrupt them and ask if they’re okay. It’s a daunting thing, being asked to speak in front of everyone you have ever known. It’s equally terrifying if they are all strangers but there are things you can do to make your life easier.

Welcome to Claire the Humanist’s Five Point Plan that guarantees1 success if you’ve been asked to do some public speaking at an important life event.

Do you really want to do it?

Does the thought of reading a poem or delivering a eulogy fill you with The Fear? Be honest. I’d be surprised if it didn’t. Does your love for the person who asked you to do the reading carry you beyond The Fear and into the land of Good Times? If so, well done, you can move straight to the next point.

If the answer is ‘nope’, politely decline. The last thing the person who asked wants is for you to be super-stressed to the point of sweaty oblivion. They’ll just ask their cousin Kayleigh instead. She used to dancing and loves being centre of attention AND it will keep their auntie happy so, actually you’ve just solved a massive problem, thanks pal!

Choose wisely

Readings vary in tone and language and, like Julian Glover picking the Holy Grail, if you choose unwisely, it’s an instant late 80’s special effects death for you. A good reading is one you like and understand, one you can deliver authentically. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 ain’t for everyone but then again, neither is anthropomorphic schmaltz peddler, Edward Monkton. Find words you think are funny, touching, sweet, romantic, find something you like and go for it.

If you can write it yourself, all the better and this is especially true of eulogies and speeches. DO NOT AI IT. If you do AI it, read through the resulting chunderspeech very very carefully because the robots are weird and nuance is not their friend.

There is a happy middle ground and that is to take an existing reading and adapt it to suit the occasion. You should always give credit to the original author but there’s a lot of fun mileage in ‘an adapted version of…’ or ‘inspired by the works of…’. Bonus points for making the couple feel really special even if you did rhyme Glasgow Fort with being at court.


If you are a professional performer, feel free to act out your reading. If you are a non-acting normal, please don’t unless you want my unfiltered cringe face staring at you throughout.

What you do need to do is practise. Repeated practise is by far the most important tool2 in your pre-ceremony preparations. Don’t be shy about it, don’t mumbleread your reading in your hotel room fifteen minutes before kick-off. Practise reading aloud at the volume you need to achieve. Go louder. Somewhere between a teacher getting the attention of twenty post-lunch Primary Threes and a furious Pipe Major trying to get his squad back on the bus at the World Champs oughta do it.

You don’t need to memorise what you’re going to say but when you practise, you become familiar with the words, the rhythm and emotion of the reading. Poetic muscle memory kicks in. Who knows? You might remember enough to read from memory. Makes you look double clever. There is also the very real chance that you might be more emotionally affected by the words than you anticipate. There’s a lot going on. It’s cute to lose it a wee bit but it will be the practise that will get you through.

Person standing between beautiful vases of flowers reading aloud
Zoe Alexandra Photography Zoe Alexander Photography

Slow the f*ck down

Scottish people speak fast but nervous Scottish people are unintelligible. Calm down and speak slowly. Not Zombieland opening credits slow motion slow, just a slower pace than normal. Try reading this sexy little wedding reading at your normal pace:

There are dreamers, and there are realists in the world.
You’d think the dreamers would find the dreamers, and the realists would find the realists but more often than not, the opposite is true.
You see, the dreamers need the realists to stop them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists? Well, without the dreamers they may never get off the ground.

Cam, Modern Family

If I read this in my normal, everyday information-sharing speaking voice, I race through this in about 13 seconds. If I read it in my special work voice, it’s 25 seconds. Maybe longer.

Break up the reading on the page.

Physical gaps on the paper slow you down.

Pay attention to the punctuation……and use it. To. Slow. You. Down.

Mind at school when your teacher said that a full stop was a breath? Don’t be weird about it, don’t dramatically inhale/exhale like you’re seven and MAKING A POINT. Just take a beat. Your audience needs time to digest what you’re saying so slow the pace, let the words sink in.

Enjoy the moment

From a purely practical point of view, if you’re reading in a ceremony, make sure you have a copy of your reading printed large enough for you to read it. Don’t read it off your phone. It’s not a shopping list.

Speak to the celebrant before the ceremony starts. They’ll tell you your cue, where to stand and any acoustic issues that you might have to deal with. The videographer might want to attach a mic to you and, from the second it’s clipped on your clothes, it will be recording. Prepare to feel very vulnerable when you remember that, mid-nervous pee. Welcome to my world.

Sit at the end of a row. Make your life easier, make it the end at the aisle.

Before you start your reading, look at the people you are reading it to. Look at them and know that every single one of them is looking forward to what you’re about to say/thankful they aren’t you.You are brave. You’re the star, the chosen one, so bring forth your Big Trucker Energy and smash this. Plant your feet on the floor, lower your shoulders, find your space and go for it.

Speak louder than you think. Stop fidgeting. Smile. If you mess up a word or line, don’t worry. Either keep going or breathe and start the line again. Own it.

At the end, the temptation may be to race back to your seat. Take a sec. Bask in the resulting glory and enjoy the applause. You did that. Good job. Also, it gives the photographer a fighting chance to get a photo of you with a normal face. Again, welcome to my contorted trollchops world.

PS Just in case you need it, promulgation is pronounced Prom-uhl-gay-shun. Ebullient is Ebb-uhl-yent. Uhl rhymes with skull. You’re welcome.

  1. 100% not guaranteed
  2. YOU’RE an important tool ↩︎