How are you doing, pals? Are you alright? Are you struggling with lockdown or are you revelling in the fact that staying at home and not having to see Other People is actually your Best Life? We’ve spent a lot of time playing cards (I recommend Spite and Malice if you want a game that passes a bit of time), found a new love for jigsaws (although I will kill the person who put one into the charity shop with two pieces missing) and I learnt how to solve a Rubiks cube. What an overachieving day that was.
Oh aye, and my daughter discovered TikTok.
I’ve also been attempting to move an entire wedding season into a new month I’ve created in 2021, Clairpril. Or Diganuary if you prefer. It’s been a testing few weeks for all my wedding supplier colleagues and if you’re a couple who have had to move your wedding date, well done if you kept the heid. It was a bit stressy, wasn’t it?
If you have changed wedding dates, what are you doing to mark your OG date? Are you going to celebrate it somehow? You definitely should. You’ve got the day off anyway. Take some time to celebrate what was going to be a brilliant day, drink some booze, call your pals, one of you should absolutely dance around your kitchen in a wedding dress (bonus points if neither of you were intending on wearing one) and then, when you wake up the next day, you might have a raging hangover but you also have a wedding to look forward to, not one to miss.
Scottish Wedding featured the loveliest article about a couple who got ’emotionally married’ on what should’ve been their wedding date. It’s an absolute treat of a read and might inspire you to think a little differently about your own un-wedding day.
You might want to create a tradition of your own. You could drink from your quaich with the wrong date engraved on the bottom, dance your first dance together to the song you really wanted, not the one you felt you should have, create your own wedding feast (as long as it doesn’t involve flour) or have an all-in-one hen/stag Zoom party with the people you’d most want to spend your day with if you were allowed out the house.
I immediately thought about a handfast. Handfasting is a traditional ceremony that signified an intent to marry. Imagine it’s five hundred years ago, there were all manner of plagues ravaging the land and people who could conduct legal weddings were few and far between. This was very inconvenient if you were young and in love and impatient so you could be bound together by family, using tartan or cloth, a symbol to everyone that you had made a commitment to be together, to live as family and be legally married within the year. Life was much simpler in Ye Olde Times.
Usually, you need a third person to handfast you. That might prove a little tricky so I’ve written a Useful Guide to DIY Handfasts. Exciting, huh?
I also recorded a video of Flora and Andy attempting to demonstrate it. Honestly, if that pair of clowns can do it, anyone can.
I’m sure you’ll come up with some really lovely ways to celebrate your un-wedding day. These are extraordinary times and you need light in your lives. Celebrate your relationship so far, embrace the love of your socially distant family and take time to make the most of a day off together in the madness. Whatver you do, have fun and if you choose to celebrate your wedding day, email pics of your happiness (I said happiness) to email@example.com and cheer me right up!
Most folk getting married have never been married before and, if they don’t fancy a religious wedding, it’s confusing- what exactly is the difference between a Registrar, Humanist Celebrant, Marriage Officer, Interfaith Celebrant, Officiant, Spiritualist etc?
Glad you asked. Let me try to explain.
In Scotland, you can only be married by someone who is authorised under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 and/or by the Registrar General of Scotland. This basically means that your pal who is really good at speaking loudly in front of people can’t do it, not unless they are affiliated to a religious or belief body and supported by office bearers of that body to conduct a marriage ceremony on its behalf. Hope that clears that one up.
One option is a civil ceremony. That’s one that’s conducted by a Council Registrar. They’ve changed a wee bit in recent years. I was always under the impression that they were completely non-religious ceremonies, reflecting the official, council, non-church-based nature of a civil ceremony, Turns out hymns and religious readings can be included as long as they aren’t delivered by the registrar. Who knew?
A civil ceremony can take place at the Council Marriage Suite or anywhere the Registrar is happy to travel to within their registration district and on a day and at a time they are paid to work. Some registrars will only conduct weddings at very specific times of the day and their ceremonies may be a prescribed length of time; they are council employees and their job is to provide a council function- to register births, deaths and marriages. I have met some really very lovely Registrars who are doing their best to make ceremonies less ‘council’ but, regardless of how lovely they are, they are very restricted in the time they have to create a ceremony and their flexibility is limited.
You might consider an Interfaith celebrant and they are usually happy to include religious content or not, they can have hymns and prayers or not. Let’s call them Religion Lite. Spiritualists rip ma knitting and I don’t know what a Marriage Officer is but they sound stern.
Humanist Celebrants are easy. I don’t mean easy easy, although some probably are. I mean, I know what I am talking about with Humanists, in particular, the ones who are my amazing Humanist Society Scotland colleagues.
First things first.
There are a number of Humanist organisations in Scotland. I am a member of Humanist Society Scotland (HSS from now on to save my carpal tunnel) and we are the only Humanist organisation allowed to authorise our own celebrants. This is a big deal. HUGE. HSS HQ recruits, trains, mentors and assesses the very best funeral, naming and wedding celebrants and the Scottish Government has recognised that we can be trusted to authorise them too. Wee proud face for our historic place in Scots’ Law.
What does this mean to you? Well, as long as the HSS will have me, I will be authorised to conduct your wedding. Most organisations are restricted to either a fixed term of a few years or they can be authorised on a wedding-by-wedding basis but, when you book me, I am authorised to legally marry you whenever your wedding is, regardless of how far in the future it may be.
(Just while we are on the subject, always, always check that your celebrant, whichever organisation they hail from, can legally marry you. Ask them outright. I’ve spoken to (and subsequently married) too many couples who have been misled by celebrants who don’t have authorisation and who fudge their way through the awkward questions until it’s too late and you find yourself having to have two ceremonies or looking for someone like me, at untenably short notice).
HSS has over 120 celebrants based all across Scotland and our workloads and expenses vary but we’re all superconscious that planning and budgeting for a wedding is difficult, especially when inflation sucks, so we’ve not increased our basic rate since 2017 and it will remain the same until at least 2020.
We do ask you to join the HSS and your two year membership is a bargain at £85 per couple. We ask you to join for two main reasons, the first being, when you join, you are then covered by our HSS promise. It’s a good thing. Makes me happy.
The second reason is that the HSS isn’t a wedding business or company, it’s a charity and its main function is to provide a secular voice in Scotland. Take away weddings and the HSS would still exist and would still be campaigning.
It’s so important to me that Humanist Society Scotland isn’t just a provider of weddings. I love that I am part of a much bigger thing; a worldwide Humanist family and a Scottish charity that does stuff. It takes your membership fee (and the money I give back from every ceremony I do) and uses it to SHOUT VERY LOUDLY in the face of some equally shouty people who would otherwise get their own way. And yes, shouting is rude but, believe me, some of these guys dinnae listen. Not one bit.
Did you know HSS were involved in the discussions and law-changing that ensured Equal Marriage in Scotland? I know! We monitor religious involvement in education and raise loud objections when lines have been crossed. We are part of a working group looking at Funeral Poverty, working with Funeral providers, Charities and Bereavement groups to address problems and advise government.
We campaign for Women’s Rights; I gave a speech on a wall outside the Scottish Parliament about threats to abortion law from religious nuttersmen campaigners. I did the same thing on the steps of Glasgow Concert Hall. I get about.
We work with the homeless in Glasgow (and now Edinburgh and Stirling too) through our Streetcare initiative. It’s proper hands-on volunteering and it’s local and visible and not just waving a Great Big Cheque at a camera and you can learn more about it on the HSS website. Several of my wedding couples have gone on to volunteer on our TRun and TWalk. Maybe you would like to too?
Further afield, we support and mentor colleagues in Malawi and beyond. The first humanist wedding took place in Kenya recently, the celebrant expertly overseen by our own Gary Smith in Monifieth. What a fabulous thing to be part of!
So, when you book your wedding with me or one of my Humanist Society Scotland colleagues, you are contributing to change, to making a difference and making other human lives better. That’s Humanism for ya. Gives you all the feels AND you get a legal wedding full of personality and warmth.
You get a flexible approach to timing and location (I am the actual Martini* wedding woman) and you have input and control over the content of your ceremony. We want you to create something wonderful and personal and very ‘you’.
Me? I don’t want to fill in blanks with your names and read the same thing every time; I want to be laughing and/or weeping in Costa because you’ve written the most beautiful words and I want to hear all the chat about your adorable furbabies and havoc-wreaking human babies and I want to encourage you to do what you want when it comes to your wedding because you are awesome humans and life’s too short for traditions that aren’t for you. Bin them. Do something better.
What was that? You want to arrive in a unicorn carriage suspended by glitterbees, preceded by eight flowergrannies on rollerskates? Do it. I’ll bring my own skates.
Wait. What? You want to climb a modest hill with an amazing view and get married at sunrise? Sounds like an absolute treat.
Now, you’ve read enough. You must be knackered. Take a break and go do something good and worthy and send me cake.
You know me by now. You get that I love weddings, don’t you? I love great big crazy noise-filled ones, wee teeny downing-shots-in-rock-bars ones, ones that go a bit off piste, ones that are your fairytale dream, I love ’em all. But I have a favourite.
Man, it melts my heart when people take their wedding and make it their greatest adventure. Robyn and Adam did it and they took the people they love with them too.
Glencoe is a one of the most beautiful places on the planet and, if you drive through it, and come out the other side, you find yourself in Ballachulish (pron: Ball-a-hoo-lish. You’re welcome). Robyn, Adam, their kids, a smattering of family and friends, their extraordinary photographer, Carole-Ann of Harper Scott Photography and me, we all rocked up to a wee spit of land on the edge of the village, just over a year ago, and we had a wedding….
….but not before we had climbed a gate, lugged giant wooden poles through the mud and helped a man who was previously lost in the wilderness (and possibly raised by wolves) build a teepee. Two hours later than planned, under a well-constructed, sturdy wooden structure and surrounded by big country, the marrying began.
The big kids promised to look after Mum and Adam just like they look after them and the same big kids were in charge of the rings. I’d love to say they were in safe hands but that would be a fib. The main thing is those rings went on the right fingers and that’s all that matters. There was a handfasting with silver cord. Most times, the material you use for a handfast has sentimental value or it’s something precious and relevant to the day. And sometimes the material is hastily bought from a curtain makers in Fort William because you’ve left your actual material in the hoose.
You know what though? This is Adam and Robyn. Their life is a constant juggle of kids and work, craziness and laughter and they took that with them to the peaceful waters of Loch Leven, in the shadows of Beinn Sgulaird (pron: you’re on your own with that one). It was their wedding, their way and it was absolutely brilliant.
So are Carole-Ann’s photos. I’ve only included a few here but head to her page for more. Rock n Roll Bride magazine featured this wedding later last year and no wonder. Glorious! Happy belated anniversary, lovely people x
As as wee note, when we met in the Clachaig Inn, in the heart of Glencoe, there’s a sign on the front desk.
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.
Needs to be a good reason for me not to be sleeping. It takes a lot stop me boarding the train to Bedfordshire or whatever people who like cricket would say. Tonight’s reason is September. It’s giving me The Fear.
Can you not sleep either? Don’t let my September trouble you. It won’t keep me awake much longer and anyway, September will be here whether I’m ready or not* and it will happen and it will be feckin’ marvellous.
Just like your wedding. And if your wedding is in September, even better.
In the meantime, here’s a photo of me, taken a hundred years ago when I was about four. If you look closely, there are biscuit crumbs on my jumper, a statement that has been true every day of my life since.
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!