Congratulations on your engagement and thanks for looking at my blog!

Congratulations on your engagement and thanks for looking at my blog!

How to use this blog

This blog is structured as a series of questions and under each posting, I've provided what I hope will be helpful advice for you in planning your humanist wedding. All of the posts are on one page, but each one has been condensed in size, so to read the full details, just click on the post title or 'read more'. When you get to the end of the post, just click on 'home' to get back to the full page of posts. If you're interested in a particular subject, you can also click on the list to the left or you can do your own search by using the box below.

I've started with a short video clip, so happy watching, happy reading and happy wedding planning!

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How can we incorporate candle lighting into our ceremony?

The lighting of candles is a lovely symbolic gesture to include in your ceremony. I usually suggest that you each light a candle near the start of the ceremony to symbolise your separate lives before your marriage. Here's a short youtube clip of Alison and David lighting their individual candles at Airth Castle (video by Sharp Focus).  It's just before they then go on to exchange their vows and wedding rings, so you can watch that too. Although the video clip stops when I pronounce them husband and wife, they went on to light a third candle after that, to symbolise the joining together of their lives in marriage. The 'marriage' or 'unity' candle is lit by each of you taking a flame from each of the first two candles and lighting the third one together. This makes a nice photograph as you can see in this picture of Margaret and Jay during their wedding at the historic Alloa Tower

How do we choose readings and poetry?

There is such a vast array of lovely wedding poetry out there that you may find yourselves spoiled for choice! Alternatively, you might find yourselves having to wade through huge numbers of unsuitable readings (some religious, some cheesy, some just badly written) on the internet. There are some very nice wedding poetry books on the market though and I particularly like, 'Handfast', which is a book of Scottish poetry for weddings (published by the Scottish Poetry Library in 2004) and 'Heartsongs' by Pinky Agnew (published by Rider, 2006). The Humanist Society also have a huge collection of lovely non-religious poetry and readings to help you to find something appropriate for you. The most important thing is to choose poems that you like and that express your thoughts and feelings about each other and about your wedding day. I would usually include 2 or 3 readings in a ceremony, but of course you don't have to have any at all if it's not your thing!

You also need to consider carefully who is going to read for you.

Should we risk an outdoor wedding?

For many couples, an outdoor ceremony is their preferred option and it often adds a nicely relaxed air to the proceedings. If you have a particular affinity with the natural world, it might be really important to you to get married outdoors, with the sights and sounds of nature around you.

If you're in the grounds of a hotel, the venue may arrange to have seating and even a red carpet to create an aisle, but quite often the guests will simply stand in informal groups instead (perhaps with a few seats for elderly guests). An outdoor wedding always carries a risk though - what do you do if the weather is bad? You might be lucky and get a day like this at Shieldaig Lodge in Gairloch a few years ago:

We certainly needed the sunscreen that day and midge repellent comes in pretty handy in certain parts of Scotland (north and west mainly) and certain times of the year (summer months) too! Don't forget wasp swatting season either - some people are seriously freaked out by wasps!

The following wedding of Kelly and John at the Roman Camp Hotel in Callander was another lovely day and the sun sparkling off the water gave the whole wedding a magical quality.

(This wedding was also videoed by James at Strageworx Productions and if you follow this link, you can see a web version of Kelly and John's DVD:

What if I get emotional on the day?

No worries! Feeling emotional on your wedding day is natural and I’ll always have tissues at the ready! So far my record is a five hankie wedding by the way! They were all for the bride on that occasion, but actually, it’s often the grooms who go first – so be warned guys! The bride's entry is often the point at which the guys need a tissue: 

(photo by Angus Forbes)

Read on for more on this subject and to view a video clip of one of my weddings.

How do we choose a venue?

So, how do you choose a venue? Many couples choosing a humanist ceremony decide to have the whole day (ceremony and reception) in one place and this has lots of practical advantages (not having to move your guests from A to B being a big one!) Because humanist ceremonies are non-religious (I should stress here that they are never anti religious!) a church building isn't usually an option. But there are so many other places to choose from - hotels, historic buildings, stately homes, National Trust properties or Historic Scotland properties. Mind you, please note that Historic Scotland have decided that weddings will now only be allowed at 21 of their 300+ properties and if you need more information about this, phone the wedding team on 0131 668 8686

There are of course many lovely outdoor places - in fact, you have the whole of Scotland at your disposal and don't forget that an authorised Humanist Celebrant can conduct a legal marriage anywhere (yes, anywhere!) in Scotland without the need for a civil licence!

Choosing the right venue is as much about the right 'feel' of the place as it is about the practicalities (size, location, cost and so on). You may be looking for something formal or something informal or something in between, but there's a huge choice out there, from the elegant splendour of The George Hotel Edinburgh to the rustic charms of Comrie Croft!

How do we set the room out?

It's a good idea to have some form of focal point in the room (or space if it's outdoors) and this could simply be in the form of a table with a flower arrangement on it such as the one above which is at Castle CampbellBy the way, on the subject of flowers, make sure that your florist removes any stamens with pollen! I recently got red pollen from a floral display all over my dress before a wedding and I had to keep the bride well away from it! 

Of course some venues afford a spectacular views that might be all you need for a focal point! This is the lovely view over the loch view from Kinlochard Village Hall for example:

How do we enter and how do we stand?

I often get asked questions about wedding etiquette and in particular, things like which side of her dad should the bride be on when they enter at the start of the ceremony? Just in case you're wondering too, it is traditional for the bride to take her dad's right arm, so that he walks down the aisle on the left, which is traditionally 'the bride's side'. Someone other than dad may of course be 'giving the bride away', such as in the case of Michelle above, whose Gran had the honour of escorting her on her wedding day. As you can see, in this case the bride decided to walk on her Gran's left rather than the right. 

You could of course decide to move completely away from tradition and walk in together as bride and groom! And by the way, I often refer to the 'giving away' tradition during the ceremony and say that in reality there isn't any giving away because the two of you have already given your hearts to each other. It's a nice way of saying that you have a relationship of equals and that there is no relinquishing of ownership on the part of the father of the bride - and indeed, no claiming of ownership by the groom! At the same time, I always like to make a big fuss of dads for their role on the big day!