Chris and Victoria are wedding photographers. They had a vision. They wanted to elope to Glencoe, so they did. There were wild plans to get married on the 2nd January (and I’m still laughing about that one) but once the real date was set and the paperwork lodged in Fort William, the big day came and….. actually? Do you know what? Cinemate’s video tells their story so much better than I can.
Recognise the scenery from a big ol’ Bond film.
Elope, take me with you and get these guys to film it.
Also present that day were the rather fabulous Neil Thomas Douglas and Fiona Higgins: top photographers, semi-professional witnesses and purveyors of shockingly bad chat. If the video hasn’t persuaded you that Scotland is the very best place to get married, have a look at Neil’s photo. Squeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
One of the best thing about Humanist weddings is that they are so personal.
Yada yada yada.
You know that already though, right? You know you can include readings and poetry, music and symbolic gestures. You guys are on it. You know what you like and you know what you don’t (dove release, talking about you).
So why are vows so difficult? Why do I get more panicky emails about vows than any other part of your ceremony?
Because vows are the most flexible part of your ceremony. You can say whatever you like, in whatever form you like and they aren’t even legally binding. I know! There are words we include in your ceremony that are very definitely legally binding but if you promise to always put the bins out or make a cup of tea every morning, no one is going to sue you if you don’t. Your conscience though, that’s another story. The reproachful looks, the ‘but you promised….’
This I’ll defend.
This is the motto of my clan and my promise to you.
It is these words I will always remember
It is you I will forever cherish.
It is this I will defend.
The best vows I’ve heard are genuine, honest and kind. They are full of love and warmth and gentle humour. They aren’t overly Shakespearey or flowery and, if all else fails, tell ’em you love them and they’re your best person, the Pumpkin to your Honey Bunny, your lobster…
I hope to support and encourage you as much as you do for me
Because you make me a better person and now I see,
That facial hair isn’t everything and we are meant to be.
Or don’t. Because it’s your wedding and if you don’t want to write your own vows, don’t. Choose from the examples I send you or get married the Ronseal way; accept each other in marriage, by name, in front of your witnesses and me and that’s you. Job done.
I like to blog in a timely manner. It’s important to be relevant. That’s why I’ve waited a WHOLE YEAR to blog about Claire and Steve and their tremendous winter wedding at The Lodge on the Loch on the 21st November last year. Great at weddings, useless at blogging.
Steve spent their first date grinning goofily and not really understanding what Claire was saying. Claire just kept talking regardless and time passed and lo, they got married! It was a great big, everyone’s invited kinda wedding- Steve and Claire booked out the entire hotel, filled it with their very excited pals and, as parties go, this one was tough one to leave. Nearly didn’t. Nearly went home with them to London.
Their ceremony was full of lovely moments including a band warming that started with Steve’s Dad, Richard, and ended with Sebastian and Ethan (super-nephews) polishing the rings on their kilts to make them shiny again. Then Claire and Steve’s mums lit the first two candles on a Unity candle, a nice touch and a great way to include two very important women. As for their handfasting, aaaaw man! This pair chose to use one of Steve’s ties and a piece from Claire’s dress but not just any old tie or dress, oh no. They used the dress and tie that they wore on their first date. All. The. Heart. Eyes.
I wasn’t sure I would ever find someone as caring, wonderful and inherently good to share my life with, who understands my quirks, calms me when I need it, and supports me in all I do.
I’ll be eternally grateful that we found one another.
Something that was obvious was how relaxed their guests were. This was a three day party and the wedding fell right in the middle so everyone had been hanging out together and, by the time I arrived, they were all pals. Cue the tall humanist woman trying to be part of the gang. As atmospheres go, this one was buzzing even before the Bold Colin Lawrie started blawin’ all that hot air.
Add to the mix an usher called Tudo-rhymes-with-Judo, some lovely readings read by lovely voices (sucker for an Irish reader) and the best vows and it was a spectacular wedding.
I will always be your safe place and I love you more and more as every day passes.
I spent much more time than I should have having a good nosey at all the gorgeous photos courtesy of Paul Walker Images but just look how much Claire and Steve love each other! Absolutely brilliant day and happy anniversary, Mr and Mrs Aldous!
Readings – The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach, The Union by Robert Fulghum and The One (Poet unknown)
Music- Colin Lawrie making a tuneful racket and Pharrell’s Happy for skipping back up the aisle
Here’s a thing. I thought it might be useful if you knew what happened on your wedding day, prior to your ceremony starting and guess what? There’s no one way. You’re all very different. You are all individuals <insert Life of Brian quote here>.
When I arrive at your wedding, I have a good scout* around for someone clutching a very official-looking envelope and I take it from them and I check it and I tuck it away in my folder and I smile and say, ‘There SHALL be a wedding today!’ and choirs sing and bells ring in glorious chorus and folk drop to their knees in elation. Or something like that.
When I arrive at your wedding, I have a good scout* around for someone clutching a very official-looking envelope and, instead, I see queasy, grey-faced blank stares. No marriage schedule. It’s lost, forgotten, a dog ate it, it spontaneously combusted, it Evanesco’d, it’s an ex-schedule (what’s with the Python references tonight?).
Whatever. Find it. If you don’t find it, yo wedding is a bust. It’s a very expensive party for some very grumpy people and the only saving grace is that your Mother-in-law, the one giving you the hardest, longest I’m-going-to-kill-you stare, isn’t actually your Mother-in-law BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT MARRIED.
So, for the love of All Things Dull and Ugly, remember your effing Marriage Schedule.
* Here’s a good scout, my friend and colleague, Jennifer. With a owl. Not a parrot.
I’m sure you’ve realised by now that a Humanist wedding is an opportunity for you to have the wedding of your dreams. Some people’s dreams are traditional, others less so and the wonder of our ceremonies is that that’s fine, in fact, it’s encouraged. You choose. It’s your wedding.
Themes for weddings are common, THEMED weddings less so.
On my first meeting with Angela and Ryan, we gently chatted awhile until Angela paused, leaned forward and said, ‘How do you feel about a Doctor Who themed wedding?’
Naturally I felt just fine, especially when they told me that Dr Who brought them together. Not in an ‘actual time travel’ kind of way but in a ‘both mad Whovians and met at a Convention’ turn of events. They knew what they wanted and that was a wedding that was elegantly geeky and truly reflected who they were. I think you’ll find that’s what we HSS celebrants do…..
In their wedding we covered how they got together with expedience and urgency took a hundred years to stop man-flirting and start snogging, how the proposal ended with “[sitting] under the stars, on a bench in the car park, drinking alcohol that neither of them particularly liked, listening to the sounds of the neds leaping off the pier” and how special the wedding rings were. Yes, I know, all wedding rings are special but these ones were handcrafted by Angela and Ryan (and Angela’s son) from bits of jewellery donated by their mums. And they were “currently resting on your ring bearer’s plunger”. I kid you not. Best line in a wedding ever.
Witnesses? An actual doctor and a (sometimes) pretend Doctor’s assistant.
Vows? Oh yes. Written by themselves and including the line “Your reliable, confident, constant friend and favourite Companion”
Symbolic gestures? A dinky wee handfasting with a dinky wee tardis charm to bring us luck.
When it comes to themes, you can go all out and that works….as long as you commit. Don’t be half arsed- do it like these super-cool Biffy Clyro fans. Share the love.
Alternatively, reflect your passion with subtlety and clever touches* (and a few props that even normals will recognise) and enjoy your day being a little different and very much all about you.
“Thank you so much for the work you did on conducting our ceremony at the end of August. We had a totally perfect day and the beautiful ceremony you conducted was exactly what we had hoped for. We knew the first time we met you that you were the one for us and you didn’t disappoint!
My father was pretty upset that you seemed to have stolen his ENTIRE speech. He really did explain this when it came to his turn to speak and just said “ditto”. It is good to know that our ceremony reflected us so well that it echoed the words used by someone that has loved me for my entire life (& for months before).
As a lovely story to come from the day, some relatives decided it was innappropriate for them to attend a Humanist ceremony and declined our invitation. Ryan’s Godfather was concerned that maybe he should not attend and consulted 4 Catholic priests and a BISHOP! He was told that he was ORDERED to go – “love is love and should always be celebrated in all of its forms.” (as long as he didn’t participate in any rituals)
I would not hesitate to reccomend a Humanist ceremony to everyone I know and a few people have even been asking questions about Humanism in general which can only be a good thing! We will also continue to sing your praises every time we remember our most special day.
Readings: Excerpt from Louis de Bernières’ Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Music: Their friend, Zoe, played the flute and it was lovely
* Angela folded a thousand cranes to bring them luck. The patterned paper she used was the Exploding TARDIS. When she wasn’t folding cranes, she stuck a squillion TARDIS coloured crystals on to her shoes.
Sarah and John were married just before Christmas in Glasgow, at the City Halls and Old Fruitmarket and I’m still talking about it. I’d been looking forward to their wedding for ages- our meetings had been a lot of fun, they both really put the effort in with their homework, the ceremony was looking pretty fine and the Fruitmarket is a really cool city centre venue. AND John’s from Sunderland so his accent is a little lush. AND Sarah never. Stopped. Smiling. I’ve looked through all their photos (repeatedly, stalker-like) and Sarah is grinning, all the way through. It’s lovely to see and it’s just amazing to be part of it all.
Three things we covered in their ceremony:
Beetroot makes your pee pink
There’s a relatively new Aldi in Anwick.
Can you tell that this was a fun ceremony to write? Foiled engagement plans, love at first sight, great guns; we had it all!
We also had a band warming, a handfasting (using some very precious Harris Tweed) and, unusually, a wee jumping of the broom at the end. Sarah’s mum and John’s son did fab readings: The Union by Robert Fulghum, which Mum read beautifully during the handfast and an excerpt from Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, which was delivered word perfect and to enthusiastic applause,
“If my like for you was a football crowd, you’d be deaf ’cause of the roar. And if my like for you was a boxer, there’d be a dead guy lying on the floor. And if my like for you was sugar, you’d lose your teeth before you were twenty. And if my like for you was money, let’s just say you’d be spending plenty.”
Back to the jumping of the broom. I’ve maybe had it half a dozen times but it never fails to get your guests excited, especially in a kilted wedding ‘cos you never know what you might see, mid-leap. Some say it’s a fertility rite, others reckon it’s more a way of marrying when there’s no one to marry you. Whatever the reasons, it’s really good fun and a bit different. You should try it!
“Dear Claire, We wanted to thank you again for being so wonderful and making our wedding ceremony certainly one to remember! We had such a wonderful day and a big part of that was down to your care, attention to detail and, of course, humour! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, Lots of love, Sarah & John”
This was also my first wedding with ace photographer, the bold Neil Thomas Douglas, he of the beard. There were lots of ginger beards there that day: Neil, The Groom, Me……
Readings: The Union by Robert Fulghum and an excerpt from Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Music: Rhys the Piper
Photographer: Neil Thomas Douglas (cheers for letting me use all your amazing photos and not running away when I started waving a fake beard about!
It’s been a full year since I married the delightful Diane and Thomas. And what have I learnt?
Loads, loads, loads.
Things I quickly confirmed: my admin skills are abysmal, I have a pathological fear of double booking (but have invented a 400 point strategy to avoid it) and sleep in July is for wimps.
Perhaps more importantly for you:
It’s never to early to book your celebrant. Fact.
If you are getting married between May- September, regardless of how far away your wedding is, BOOK YOUR CELEBRANT!! Then sit back and peruse Pinterest with impunity, smug in the knowledge that you are sorted.
And, if you are getting married between October- April, BOOK YOUR CELEBRANT! Damn it, just do it!
People confuse Humanists with Spiritualists all the time.
Let me be clear. Humanists are fantastic, genuine, considerate and compassionate folk who would never pray on the understandable desire of the bereaved and vulnerable to speak to their much loved deceased relatives.
Spiritualists, not so much.
Weddings get HOT. Damn hot.
Open ALL the windows. Now.
Folk worry about being emotionally vulnerable in front of their guests.
Dinnae worry about it. They LOVE it. In my limited experience, grooms are more likely to cry than brides. I put this down to the long wait with no dizzyingly chaotic bridal party to distract them. Groomsmen- yo need to up yo game, bruh.
Most commonly asked question about ceremonies is ‘How long does it take?’
Answer: longer than the 20 minutes on offer by some wedding venues. Yes, The Vu, I’m looking at you.
Bridezillas are a figment of TLC’s imagination.
Bridesmaids and Mums, on the other hand, are occasionally as crazy as a soup sandwich.
The most important thing I have learnt this year is this:
Your ceremony sets the tone for your entire wedding day.
You heard me.
If you do your homework and spend some time thinking about who to involve in your ceremony, you will be amazed what happens. A teensy bit of effort on your part and your wedding is elevated from something lovely to something extraordinary. Don’t take my word for it, check out what Katie’s Dad had to say….
You really set the tone for the whole day and it carried on through the meal and the dance at night – we had an absolutely fabulous day.
See? If Mike said it, it must be true.
I know it’s been a good day when I have to wolf whistle to get everyone back to their seats after the ‘Signing the schedule’ photo break ‘cos they are all so hyper. I know it’s been it a good day when I’m picked up and burled round by an excitable Scouser proclaiming it’s the ‘best fookin weddin’ he’s ever been to.
And I know it’s been a good day when I get a wee email afterwards that says this,
Everyone at the wedding said it was quite simply the best they had ever attended, Louise & Chris
We had a totally perfect day and the beautiful ceremony you conducted was exactly what we had hoped for, Ryan & Angela
Thank you so much for making our wedding ceremony so amazing, Derek & Lisa
Thanks, Year One Wedding Couples, it’s been a blast…..bring it on, Year Two!
I arrived at The Highland Fling and there was a definite buzz in the air. That would be because Hannah and Ross had just arrived too and were a leeeeeetle hyper.
Ross was already dressed for the occasion and Hannah looked like she was too until she disappeared and returned…..in her wedding dress! And she wasn’t the only one to make the effort; the bungee fellas were all ready for a wedding, kilts and everything. It was abundantly clear to see they weren’t intending on jumping, if you know what I’m sayin’. <nudge nudge>
We all filled in that waiver, the one that makes you nervous, had numbers written on our hand* were secured into our harnesses and off we went in the minibus to the big bridge that towers over the River Garry. Lovely spot of the world to throw yourself into nothingness.
Once we’d all made our way up the leg (?) of the bridge, we followed the very narrow walkway along the underside until we reached the platform suspended from the middle. Safety checks….done. Not looking down…..absolutely. Just looked down…..gulp.
And that’s when it became less about the crazy-assed surroundings and all about Hannah and Ross and their lovely wedding. And it was lovely. They had sent me their Suffolk ceremony and, as it was so beautifully crafted by their friend, Clive, we used a lot of it when we were creating this one. Ross and Hannah had brought with them a plaited ribbon and, with the help of Michelle, they were handfasted before they read their vows. They rewrote the ones they said on Saturday and they said them to each other with smiles on their faces as broad as the bridge. As a wee surprise, prior to the ceremony, Loz and Callum, two of our kilted bungee dudes, chose a reading each, and they read them beautifully.
It was a ceremony that, for all it was in an odd location, was genuine, romantic, touching, endearing and honest. Perfect.
I declared them married and there were HUGE cheers from the busload of German tourists standing on the banks as they spotted Hannah and Ross locking lips for a great big smooch. They signed their marriage schedule before it was safely tucked away again and, rather than walk up the aisle, they shuffled across the platform, like Siamese penguins. Which is odd given penguins can’t fly…..
Unlike Ross and Hannah! Seconds before they jumped, Hannah realised that, whilst her concerns about folk seeing her pants were very real, she had failed to take into account the effect gravity might have on her strapless dress. ‘If my boobs all out, you stop filming!’ she instructed Callum who was videoing their wedding. Callum, a typical young man, replied, ‘Aye. So I will.’
And, as they jumped, all the distractions that made me temporarily forget my own impending doom, well, they all disappeared and, in their place? Fear. Holy crap, it’s a scary thing to be standing on the edge of an actual abyss. It’s scarier still to jump. But it was my turn and, once I’ve said I’m going to do something, I do it so, I jumped and I opened my mouth to scream…..
….and instead, as I hurtled through the air, I made a sound like a large cow being thrown from a bridge, a sort of ‘Mooooawwwaaaarggggghhhhhhoooooooomph’. The gentle tug of the bungee, the one that meant I was still alive, it was glorious and comforting and not at all retina-detaching.
Looking like Andy Warhol and Boris Johnson’s bouncing love child, I was hoisted back up and, after watching Ross jump again- aye, nutter- and shaking uncontrollably for a little bit, we clambered up and down ladders and back to terra firma and an ever-so-slightly emotional Flora. I think she was a little worried but disguised her fear by telling onlookers that she ‘hoped her Mummy didn’t have too much fun on the bungee jump or she might forget about the Ikea Crayfish party the next day’. Priorities, kiddo.
Cuddles all round and, after wishing the happy couple well on their epic honeymoon, I treated Andy and Flora to lunch at the Blair Atholl Watermill. Seriously, this is one of our favourite places in the world. Go. Eat. Marvel at the working watermill that grinds the flour that makes the bread that we don’t share.
Hannah and Ross’s wedding was extraordinary. They are two of the nicest, most up-for-anything people I’ve ever met and, although it all went a little bonkers after (phonecalls from journalists, BBC, ITV, my pals), they were just genuinely thrilled that they were married and they’d been able to do it they way they really wanted to. I don’t imagine I’ll have many requests like theirs but, do you know what? Bring ’em on!
The ‘joke’ was the numbers made mortuary identification easier. Oh, ha. Ha. Ha.
Hannah and Ross contacted HQ last year- would anyone be interested in conducting a wedding on a bungee platform?? Hmmmmm. I remember saying to them that I had never done a bungee jump but I had once fallen off a set of step-ladders (not my real ladders heh heh heh). No difference, I reckoned.
I was a little wary that some would see this as a silly wedding, a bit of a joke, but, within a few minutes of talking with Ross and Hannah, it was obvious they were incredibly sincere and just keen to have a wedding that was fun, different and reflected them. It was also to be a proper ceremony, not just the declaration, which was good to hear. They weren’t interested in publicity and had no wish for any press or photographers- I couldn’t help but like them from the off!
Over the next few months, we planned their ceremony, talked about paperwork, got excited about bungee jumping (them), resolutely blanked the idea of a bungee jump (me). Did I mention I was going to jump too?
They had a non-legal ceremony in Suffolk, on the family farm, a great big celebration, surrounded by all their family and friends. Ross said it was a truly wonderful day and, when it was all tidied away, they jumped in Kim the Campervan and headed north to the Highland Fling in Killiekrankie.
Meanwhile, Andy, Flora and I also decided to make a wee road trip of it and we had booked a couple of nights in The Roost at the Mill of Logierait. We’re quite partial to a wigwam and this one was magic. Lovely owners, fabulous views and a roaring fire. Right up our street and exactly what we needed.
The day before the wedding, I asked Hannah if she had flowers arranged and, when she didn’t, Flora suggested she collected some from the hedgerows surrounding the farm the next morning. Quick check with Fiona (lovely owner) and off we went, secateurs in hand. Not a bad job, all in all!
I had given the logistics of the ceremony a fair bit of thought. Flat shoes, leggings and no jewellery. My fancy pen was attached to The Clipboard of Impossible Romance with a length of bungee elastic for fear it would fall through the grille platform. The plans were to sign the Marriage Schedule before they jumped but, if it was super windy, we would do it in the minivan. Lots of thinking.
On the day, no breakfast. No wish to see my porridge twice, thanks. A short drive to Killiekrankie and we were almost ready to go……
There’s nothing wrong with traditional music and readings- I like Highland Cathedral as much as the next person- but, when a pair of grooms pick music that they love and their very good friend eschews a traditional reading for something perfect for their wedding, well, it near brought the house down!