The Glorious Prestonfield House in December

I was asked to conduct three intimate marriages at the Prestonfield House Hotel in November and December and I must admit I think it is the perfect winter venue for a small wedding. The largest of the weddings had 12 guests and the smallest 6 and they were all held in the beautiful Leather Room with its wood and leather panelling and roaring log fire. I cannot praise the staff at the Prestonfield enough. The service is faultless from the moment you arrive and nothing is too much trouble (see my Blog about moving the ceremony outdoors).

Alan and Joan got married on the 25th November. Alan is an artist and the two of them work at the College of Art so the wedding had some style to it, to say the least. I always suggest that you should include some music as your guests wait for the arrival of the bride and Joan chose the soundtrack to the film Emilie and then entered to Song of the Siren by the Czars, what else.
They also selected a reading that was unfamiliar to me. It is from “Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules.
The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart’s.
To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endless changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing.
Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back – it does not matter which.

Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it. 

By the time Sam and Jemma got married on the 21st December the Christmas decorations were of course on display and the Leather Room became even more enchanting. It always wonderful to bump into old friends and amongst their guests were Graeme and Jo (Sam’s sister) whom I married on the 25th November 2011 with their little one.

As revenge for the reading she made her do at her wedding Gemma asked Jo to read I Love You:

I love you
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple.
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.
I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good.
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.

Ben, the ultimate ring bearer!

Let’s Move The Wedding Outside – Fiona and Kris at Prestonfield House Hotel

 “Fiona’s decided that she wants her wedding to be outside. Is that Ok with you?” I looked at my watch it was 4:35 and the ceremony was due to begin at 5:00pm. “Eh, yes, I suppose, it’s not a problem for me,” I replied. 

It was a glorious summer evening, not something we have experienced in Scotland for a good few months, and the extraordinary hotel staff got to work moving the fifty or more chairs from the garden suite to the garden. And the table to sign the schedule, and the floral arrangements and two large classical pediments and the harpist. At 4:45 we were ready to go and the guests started arriving – most of them to the garden suite which confused them completely. With Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags as a backdrop and beneath the shade of the enormous oak and beech trees the setting was idyllic and the ceremony matched the occasion perfectly.

Awaiting the bride’s arrival

Emma, Fiona’s Maid of Honour came forward and presented a reading, well, it was way more than a reading. She started, When I was asked to speak today, I wanted to find the perfect quote about love.” She then took us through her considerations touching upon Wet Wet Wet, Elvis, Meatloaf, Richard Geare and ended with, of course, William Shakespeare. Very clever.

Fiona and Kris chose to exchange their declarations and their formal vows in a hand fasting ceremony. They chose to read their own declarations to one another and they were beautiful:

Signing the schedule

Today I give myself to you in marriage.

I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, 
and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle. 
I promise to love you in good times and in bad, 
when life seems easy and when it seems hard,
when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.
I promise to cherish you, and to always hold you in highest regard. 
These things I give to you today, and all the days of our lives.” 

  It is one of those ceremonies that I will never forget, Fiona’s moving the ceremony, the beautiful evening, their wonderful friends and family. I was completely blown away when Fiona and Kris sent me an eCard thanking me for the ceremony:

It was an honour and a privilege to be a part of your special day guys. Thank you.

Do You Need A Rehearsal? – Claire and Michael’s wedding at Prestonfield House Hotel

The weather was a bit variable, light showers and blazing sunshine as we all assembled at The Prestonfield House Hotel for Claire and Michael’s big day. They had chosen a marquee in the grounds as the venue, with the reception being held in the stables about 100m away. The marquee was lovely, decorated with flowers swagged in white, the string quartet was playing in the corner as the ushers showed the guests to their seats and there was a definite buzz of excitement in the air. Claire and Michael had chosen to have a ceremony that was slightly more formal and, in order to make sure of all the details, had asked me to travel down the day before and to have a rehearsal. Which brings me to the subject of this piece – should you have a rehearsal or should you not have a rehearsal?

If you do not have a rehearsal I still promise that your day will be as wonderful and memorable and all that your guests will notice is that is was a relaxed and seemingly spontaneous occasion. For many of the couples I marry this is exactly as they want their wedding to be. I will arrive about 45 minutes before the beginning of the ceremony and spend that time briefing the groom about where to stand, what to do and, most importantly, how to put the ring on his bride’s finger. I am sure there must be many bemused hotel staff who have watched as the groom apparently promises to love me and to care for me as he holds my left hand and mimes putting a ring on my finger! Your best man has a key role to play in the ceremony and I must admit that I am quite tough with them, walking through where they will stand, how they will keep the rings safe and how and when to walk forward with them. I also spend time with the lucky people doing the readings, walking through with them when to come forward and where to stand (they take my place between you both). The challenge with doing the walk through on the day is that I don’t have the opportunity to work with the most important person on the day – the bride – nor can I prepare the bridesmaids nor the bride’s mother.

If you want your wedding to be a little more formal and to appear polished then you really must have a rehearsal. I normally take about 30 -45 minutes and spend most of the time managing the staging and blocking, like a piece of theatre. At a rehearsal we will have the opportunity to run through the Grand Entrance and to work with the bride, her father and the bridesmaids to sort out the timing and to ensure that they know their positions and how to move to them. We can fully rehearse the readings, the best man’s role, and, of course, the exit. But perhaps the most important part is the time that I can spend with the two of you, having asked everyone else to leave, reading your own personal vows or commitments to each other and exchanging your rings.
My own recommendation? If it is at all possible, have a rehearsal.
Claire was good enough to send me the following note:

We can’t thank you enough for being such a major part of what turned out to be the most amazing day of our lives.

All our guests commented on how fantastic you were, and all our English guests were bowled over with what a humanist ceremony entailed. They thought it was amazing at how personal it was. We even had a few guests who aren’t that struck on weddings ceremonies say it was the best service ever and had wished it was longer as they were enjoying so much!!!!

Also since the wedding I have passed your details on to other people, they’ll be very lucky like ourselves if your able to marry them.