Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Getting married in Scotland if you live overseas

I just got an email from a couple who are coming all the way from the USA to marry near Edinburgh later this year, and what they say may be of interest if you're not in the UK.

...handling the registrar is easy, but dealing with the British Consulate to get the visa is a NIGHTMARE.  


Basically, they will not tell you how long the visa is going to take to get, and there is no one you can talk to about the process once it's started: you are at their complete mercy.  They also do not advertise that you can arrange for expedited service from a company called Worldbridge until after you have sent the application in and it is too late to do so!  We are just crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.

Thanks for the heads up, guys - I just hope you get it all sorted in time!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Heather and Paul's Humanist Wedding at Boturich Castle

We're basking in the most wonderful heatwave right now, and Paul and Heather chose the perfect day to marry high on a hill above Loch Lomond.


Before jetting off on their honeymoon, Paul sent me this old-skool Polaroid, and this lovely message.

I know Heather has already been in touch but I just wanted to pass on my own personal thank you for helping make the day so perfect. You conducted the ceremony with great personality and heart, and enabled us to express our feelings in a way that I never thought I'd be capable of. 


The 'homework' you set for us, whilst a little challenging, really made us focus on what's important, and being able to stand in front of our friends and family and create a ceremony and say vows that were uniquely personal to us was incredibly special.

The comments on the ceremony have been brilliant, and I can't thank you enough for helping Heather and I get the next chapter of our lives together off to the perfect start.



I can't wait to see the rest of these photos - Boturich Castle was new to me, but it's a stunning location, and Laura and Ruaridh made me feel very welcome. I'd had a long drive to get there, and I was absolutely starving when I arrived, so I asked if they could possibly run to a sandwich or a cup of tea. Nothing so ordinary - they gave me a plate of the most delicious lasagne - how incredibly kind!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 11 - Photography

Photography is a really important part of your day, so my ground rule is to let your snappers go wherever they need to get those great shots you want.

Keren and her dad captured by Sylwia of Crofts and Kowalczyk Photography

I also suggest that they take my POV (or point of view as we civilians call it) for the entrance of the bridal party, so the back of my head doesn't spoil the shot...


Talking of the entrance of the bride, one thing that drives photographers CRAZY is when your guests stick their iPads and iPhones into the aisle, and spoil your catwalk moment. 


This graphic illustration comes courtesy of Trevor Wilson of Silver Photography
I've written at length about the dos and don'ts of social media etiquette here
 but if you're paying good money for a top pro, it makes sense to ask your guests not to spoil the shot...

There are one or two other angles some photographers overlook.


All lenses swivel on the entrance of the bride - of course they do, it's the big moment. But at the other end of the room, there's an amazing photo that's very rarely captured - the expression on the face of the groom.

This is George, captured by Rod Irvine as his gorgeous bride Carol walked into the John Muir Grove down at The Botanic Gardens…


Another shot we don't often see is this one: the reverse to the audience. 
Most photographers focus almost exclusively on you, to the exclusion of your guests, which is a shame because after the ceremony, it's lovely to see how your ceremony made them feel.


If you really want to break the rules, get the photographer to stand directly behind me as I pronounce you husband and wife.


I always get out of the way very quickly...


so you get to see yourselves and your guests being really happy all in the one shot!

When it comes to signing the Marriage Schedule, some people love to strike a pose, but that may not be your style. 


Decide what you want, and tell your photographer. Documentary style often gives great results.


Finally, I've noticed that a lot of photographers take a break once the bride and groom have signed the Marriage Schedule, which is a missed opportunity: it's nice for your witnesses to have a record of their big moment - especially if you choose to ask your mums, like Iona and Nigel…


Good luck, and bye bye for now!




Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 3 - Involving Your Guests

In religious or civil weddings, the celebrant does most of the talking, and a couple of special guests are invited to give readings. In a Humanist ceremony, the celebrant generally welcomes the guests and makes the all-important legal declarations, but you're more than welcome to involve your family and friends in delivering parts of the ceremony itself. Anita and Isra did that really well.


Anita's family is from India and Switzerland; Isra is Colombian and their friends are from everywhere. One of the many great things about their wedding was the way they embraced my suggestion that they involve as many of their friends as possible in every aspect of it.


So Anita's dad told us about the time that Mr Isra had beaten him at skimming stones...

Anita's friend Tamer told us just how bossy Anita can be...

Anita's mum, Elsbeth read from Neruda...

Savina told us what Isra thought when he first met Anita...

And everyone somehow managed to squeeze their way into the frame. 

So if you really want to make your guests feel a part of your day, think about how you can get them involved. One couple I married last summer had a lovely idea. They came up with about a dozen stories of their relationship, printed them out, cut them up into strips of paper, popped them into numbered envelopes, and then hid them under the seats. So when it was time to tell their story, it was a big surprise and nobody knew what they might find themselves saying until they opened the envelope.



Carol and Craig had another great idea. They wrote to all their friends, asking for their advice on marriage, and they got some great replies. Some were serious, some very emotional, but some were extremely funny. My favourite was "Get a good Pre-Nup" - it was signed Sir Paul McCartney...

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 2 - How do we stand?

One of the first things that you'll notice when you go to a Humanist Wedding is the position of the bride and groom. Unless they're really shy, they don't stand with their backs to you, as they would do in a religious or civil ceremony, but stand on either side of the celebrant, looking at one another.


The reason is simple. In a Humanist ceremony, you are marrying not in the presence of god or the state, you're marrying in the presence of your family and friends, so we think it's important that they get to see how you feel, and that makes a huge difference.


Because of the angle at which you stand, the guests can see you, but you can't see them. And I can promise you that in all the weddings I've conducted, I've rarely seen the bride or groom look at anyone apart from one another during the course of the whole ceremony.


It's conventional for the bride's immediate family to sit on the left hand side and the groom's on the right. Nowadays most couples want their guests to mix from the start, so the phrase 'take a seat, not a side' is one to tell your ushers to use.



As to where YOU stand, I generally suggest that the bride goes to my left, diagonally opposite her family. That way they get the best view. The groom usually stands on my right, for the same reason, but like everything else, it's really up to you, so give it a bit of thought.



The bridesmaids and best man or groom's men should also generally stand to either side of you, forming a shallow semi-circle. Again it allows the guests to see them all, and it completes the circle of love in which they and you are joined.

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 1 - Making An Entrance

Over the six years I've conducted weddings, I've come to realise that there's no such thing as 'the traditional way' to do anything. In truth there are lots of traditions, and you should feel free to draw on any or none of them! This is certainly true of the entrance of the wedding party.

In England, the bride comes in, followed by her bridesmaids, holding the train of her dress, as seen in many a royal wedding, whereas in the USA, the bridesmaids come in first as the warm-up act, followed by the bride, who's the star.

In Scotland, apparently the piper should come first, then the celebrant, followed by the bride and groom arm-in-arm. They're followed by their parents and then come all of the wedding guests. (I've yet to see this happens, but it's a nice idea!)


In Australia it seems that the flower girls come first, followed by the groomsmen and bridesmaids in pairs, with the bride and groom bringing up the rear.

In some parts of Europe, the bride and groom enter together, as they do in Buddhist ceremonies, while in a Catholic wedding, the groom waits at the altar while his friends escort the bride up the aisle.

So there's no right way, other than the right way for you. But here are some suggestions.

You might decide to come in together, like Virginia and Camille.


Or you could come in with your mum and dad, like Woody and Keren






Or you might decide you don't want to make an entrance at all. Instead, you might just want to mingle with your guests for half an hour before the start of the ceremony, and start whenever it feels right. That's how Laura and David did it, and it created a really relaxed atmosphere. 







Claire and Devon's Humanist Marriage at the Royal College of Physicians

Devon and Claire met at University in St. Andrews.  They spent three years talking over Skype while Claire studied in Madrid, and Devo...