Thursday, 30 May 2013

Alt Wedding Piper

When you think 'wedding piper' you automatically think of a' phìob mhòr, the Great Highland Bagpipe, but there are others. Some years ago in another life, I made a documentary called 'Piping Hot' about the first ever Glasgow Piping Festival, where I came across pipers from Albania to, well not Zambia but you know what I mean. It turns out that the oldest set of pipes in the world hail from the now ruined Mesapotamian city of Ur, which means that the idea of taking a sheep's intestine and shoving some bits of wood into it isn't a uniquely Scottish idea.

I used to think that the Irish Bellows Pipes, better known as Uilleann Pipes were equally ancient, but it turns out they were invented in the 18th century, and as they're much sweeter in tone and quieter than the Highland ones, they're ideal for a domestic setting. The ones in the photo above belong to brother Liam Hackett who was playing at the wedding of Colin & Jill at the McDonald Holyrood Hotel earlier this month. I knew there was something familar about him, and then I remembered I'd actually filmed him on top of a mountain for the Piping Hot documentary all those years ago.

Brother Liam is a lay member of a religious order, who gives all his fees to support their work, so he's one of the good guys. He'd never been at a Humanist wedding before, but afterwards he came up to say that he'd found it very sincere and moving. Sadly I don't seem to have his card, and I can't find him through Google, but if I can track him down, I'll add him to my musicians list. 

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Caroline and David's Humanist Wedding at Dalmahoy Country Club


I want you to imagine the man on the right, wearing a naval uniform while taking his clothes off for money...


Yes, that's what David was doing when Caroline first saw David. OK it was to raise money for charity, but I have to admit its one of the more unusual stories I've heard on the subject of "love at first sight"!


Caroline and David got in touch with me almost a year to the day before their wedding, and they wrote their ceremony as David was completing his master's dissertation at University.


Their vows were great! After lulling their guests with some more or less conventional promises on walking side by side and taking the time to listen and share, honour and respect, they finished with these lines

Me: Caroline do you promise to try not to get fake tan on the bedding?
Caroline: I do
Me: David do you promise to try to remember to take your football boots off before entering the house?
David: I do



Caroline sent me a happy snap before they headed off on honeymoon, but I'm glad she also sent me these great shots by Martin Smith and this note

The day went by in the blink of an eye, the fastest and best day of our lives.  We would like to say a huge thank you again for making the ceremony so special, people are still talking about it.

Just wait Caroline. I bet that in five years time, they'll still be talking about it! Thanks again xxx


Saturday, 11 May 2013

Step by Step Guide to a Humanist Wedding no. 13 - Blessings

I've just been reading Alain de Botton's provocative book 'Religion for Atheists', in which he makes the point that whatever faults religions may have, they also have strengths, from which we can all learn. One of them is undoubtedly in creating a sense of community, and one of the ways they do that is by speaking or singing together in their ceremonies.


Praying or singing in churches isn't actually a mile away from shouting and singing on the terraces of a football match. It's a way of reinforcing group identity and social bonds.

Until now it has to be admitted that humanists haven't been great at creating that sense of community, and that's not surprising: humanists are usually from what you might call The Groucho Marx Tendency, and wouldn't want to join any club that would admit them as a member. The phrase 'herding cats' is overused these days, but it's true that getting humanists to agree on anything is a good deal harder than you might imagine.

But leaving that to one side, one way of getting people, humanist or not, to do something together is to get them to speak a blessing. It's something I often recommend to couples as a way of finishing the ceremony, and I think it's great.

Up to that point, the couple hasn't really seen the guests, so they've got no idea how the ceremony is going down. I have of course because I've been talking to them, so I can see the shining eyes, and the tissue action, and I think it's lovely for the couple to get a sense of the impact on their guests of the words they've chosen to say.

So I generally get everyone to stand, and then repeat the lines phrase by phrase after me, just like learning a foreign language. One of my favourite blessings is an old Irish one, that goes like this.

May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
Slow to make enemies,
And quick to make friends.
But rich or poor,
Quick or slow,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

Ellie & Neil's Humanist Wedding at The City Chambers, Edinburgh


This lovely thank you card reminded me why I'll never forget Ellie and Neil's wedding.
Ellie's mum Catrin gave a reading of a poem  by Edward Lear that had been Ellie's favourite as a child. It's called the Quangle Wangle Quee, and what made it so special was that Catrin was actually wearing the Quangle Wangle Quee’s hat! 


Thanks Ellie and Neil for an unforgettable day!


Leanne and Greig's Humanist Wedding at Carlowrie Castle

Leanne and Greig's story is a very modern fairytale, so - if you're sitting comfortably - I'll begin... Greig first prop...