Don’t know about you but I’m a wee bit fed up with old ‘Rona. As of today (August 27), weddings are taking place, with restrictions. You can read more about them on the Scottish Goverment Website but they include:
No more than 20 people in attendance. That number includes the couple getting married, guests, kids and babies, your photographer, musicians….if they’re at your wedding in any capacity, they count. Except me. I don’t count.
When it comes to numbers permitted, don’t confuse Scottish guidelines with English ones. Would you listen to anything Bawchops Johnston has to say anyway?
Outside is the new inside. If your wedding is outside, you can socially distance your guests in household clumps much much MUCH easier than you can indoors. There are fewer surfaces to touch, the air is free to circulate like air should and, if it’s outside, no masks are required. Which brings me on to…
Masks/Face coverings. If your wedding is inside, everyone in attendance must wear a face covering or mask, including the couple getting married. I know. Don’t blame me, blame that dodgy wee dreamcrushing virus. Due to conflicting advice given by some venues, Humanist Society Scotland sought clarification from Scottish Government and their reply was unequivocal- wear a mask indoors. It’s the law. Couples can remove their masks to allow identification to take place and to make their legal declarations. And to winch, presumably.
Nae trumpets. You heard me. No instruments which require blown into to create a noise. I feel bad for the romantic tuba lovers but dems the breaks.
Length of ceremony. No longer than 20 minutes. The way I see it, you’re going to get less content so the content you do get has to be extraordinary. All killer, nae pish chat.
Symbolic Gestures. There are some things that you associate with Humanist wedding ceremonies: handfasts, bandwarmings, drinking from a quaich etc. Some are no longer permitted, others have to be modified. I can talk you through what you can and can’t do.
I won’t start a wedding ceremony if the current rules aren’t being adhered to. I don’t like being the Bad Guy but I will (classic Mum line), not just for your safety, but for mine, my family, future weddings, funerals etc. I don’t want to be Typhoid Mary. Or Covid Claire.
It’s really important to remember that life is still not normal. Weddings at the moment definitely aren’t normal. They are short, simple and socially distanced and certainly not the precursor to any kind of party. In fact, when I leave your wedding, the rules regarding gatherings kick in again- no more than eight people from three different households are allowed indoors, fifteen folk from five households outdoors.
I love enabling you to have the best possible wedding ceremony but that is going to be challenging if your heart is set on a ‘normal’ wedding. No shade if it is, by the way, I’m all for Great Big Fat Weddings of Joy but if it is, now is not the time for you. Wait a bit. Get married when you can have what you want to celebrate your big day.
If, however, you are thinking of eloping or having a tiny wee wedding in a garden somewhere, and when you think about it, you get all giddy and giggly and reckon it might be the most perfect way to get married ever, give me a shout. Given we’re racing towards Autumn, it would help if you’re not made of sugar….
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and cheer me right up!
First off, I’m really sorry your wedding has been affected by this wee bastard of a bug, I really am.
If your venue has cancelled or you feel it’s the only option available and you’re sitting in a whirlwind of panic and emotion, take a breath. Talk to someone. Cuddle your partner, have a cup of tea and get yourself in the right frame of mind to take action. This doesn’t have to be sorted right away. The situation isn’t changing so get some sleep and face it afresh with a clear head.
Here’s what I can do to help:
Marry you as planned.
I can marry you on the date you booked me for. You can still be married on that date in a different location (or the same one if they are partially open), with fewer guests. Remember, all you need is you, me, two witnesses and a marriage schedule. Get married and then have a big party to celebrate at a later date when everything is back to normal. You don’t need me for the big party so that increases your flexibility, especially for future weekend dates.
You might need to transfer your marriage notice paperwork to a different council office or, if you choose to be married somewhere in the same local authority, the location on your paperwork can be changed. If they are unable to make it, witnesses can be changed too. It’s just admin and I am sure the registrars will be sympathetic to everything going on.
When it comes to choosing somewhere to have a wedding, you can be married outside, in your house, in your parents’ garden, pretty much anywhere that’s open as long as there are no additional restrictions in place from the Government. Maybe consider having your ceremony filmed or live streamed for people who can’t be there or include them in someway by getting them to write some advice or choose some words or read something out over Facetime/Skype.
If you choose a smaller wedding, it will be beautiful. Just as much care goes into writing a ceremony for a wee wedding and it will be as warm and funny and full of love as you hoped AND you’ll get married, which is the very best.
Postpone your wedding
I imagine the thought of rebooking all your wedding suppliers is filling you with The Fear. You remember it the first time round, don’t you? You’ll get there. There may be tears but you’ll get there.
I’m going to be blunt. I don’t have many Saturdays available this year or next. Thing is, if you’ve booked other stellar suppliers and an awesome venue, they probably won’t either. Consider rebooking a weekday and you’ll have a much better chance of everyone being free.
Alternatively, remember you can be married at any time of day or night. If your venue and photographer are available, consider starting your day by having pictures taken, then come back for a drinks reception and dinner and then get married in front of everyone just before your evening reception kicks off. I think this pandemic will encourage everyone to think a little differently and guests are going to be super-understanding if you’ve had to postpone your big day.
If you’ve exhausted every option and you can’t get everyone available on the same day and I am the sacrifical link, fair enough. I’ll get over it eventually. I’ll also help you find another Humanist Society Scotland celebrant to marry you (even though I am dying inside…)
Cancel your wedding
Don’t do it. I couldn’t bear it. You want to get married so lets do our very best to get you married. It might not be how you imagined it, it might be in a different place or on a different day but you started this journey because you wanted to marry each other and we can make that happen.
Talk to me if you’re worried. I like chatting to people and just saying stuff out loud always makes you feel better. Anyway, you’re saving me from myself. I’m sat here, contemplating day drinking and wondering if there’s a market for a middle-aged, grey-rooted celebrant on Just For Fans….
Most importantly, keep the heid, pals. We’re all humans and all going through the same shit, we’re all worried about diffferent things and we are all, as a world-wide community, uttterly overwhelmed. Keep the heid and don’t lick people’s faces.
NOTE: I’ve written this with the info I have available today. Things are changing quickly so check the facts (in particular those relating to third parties, especially the registrars/paperwork) before you wire in.
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.
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.
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.