To The Trossachs with Alister and Michelle


When they first approached me and explained they wanted an outdoor wedding in November frankly I thought they were insane but Michelle and Alister were insistent, “It will be fine!” became the motto of the day. The venue was a new one for me as well – Loch Venachar Lochside, and a new venue always intrigues me so I shrugged my shoulders and said, “What could possibly go wrong?”

As it transpired it was much better than “fine”. They were so lucky, the day dawned cloudless but cold. The drive down along Loch Tay, through Killin and down to the Trossachs was just sensational and to find the venue just turn right at the real ale shop, which I visited on the way back of course.

It was second time around for them and for their extra special day they were joined by Michelle’s daughters, our bridesmaids Kirsten and Louissa and by Alister’s sons, Struan and Ruaridh our best men. Michelle had lived for many years in Athens so they were joined by a very international group of guests from Greece, Greece via New York and by one well-travelled family who joined us from Greece via Stenhousemuir. The venue was not very large and all the guests seemed to know one another so for me it a bit like being a guest at a private party but it was a great atmosphere.

Michelle did warn me that she would arrive around 1-ish and that she was not the most punctual of people. I think it was 1.45 when she arrived, much to the relief of all involved including me.

It was very much their day and very much their ceremony. It was so personal and the two of them were such hopeless romantics it was wonderful. I am sure they won’t mind me sharing this piece from their homework, it is something every single one of us should recall every day:

“But now they have found each other and that finding is too nice for them to let go. They have been alone for so long that the simplest acts of kindness have profound meaning – making each other a cup of coffee; hanging up the washing; going to the shop in the rain when they’ve run out of milk; hugs after a hard day at the office. These moments are the very essence of love and they promise that they will never take them for granted again.”

Alister wrote to me afterwards:

“Our wedding day was wonderful and when we think of it – the sunshine, the laughter, the love and the fun – Brian is right at the heart of our memories. He’s warm and humourous and engaging and our guests loved him. We loved him too and he made everything about the ceremony so special for us. He spent time with us in advance to learn our story and used it to shape the ceremony and make it unique and personal to us; he created a special atmosphere right from the start, making everyone laugh and share our happiness; and his words and approach to the celebration captured the spirit of our love for each other perfectly. Marriage is a happy occasion and Brian picks up that happiness and shapes it into something extraordinary that everyone is a part of. Our day was perfect.”

An amazing day with Ashton and David


I first met Ashton 10 years ago when my daughter moved into her halls of residence. I’m sure I met him that day but the two of them have remained the very best of friends (she is one of the groom maids, if that’s a word) and Ashton and I have bumped into each other on numerous occasions, including, most recently, seeing Annie Lennox (we are both her biggest fans). But it was about three years earlier, on the 19th December 2016 that I received a message from Ashton asking if I might be able to marry him and David. It took me all of two seconds to say “yes”, mainly because I was utterly speechless. What an honour. Between then and their wedding day we have met many times and used a few of them to plan their wonderful ceremony at one of my favourite venues, The Cottiers in Glasgow. The Cottiers is one of the most theatrical venues in the city and ideally suited to the marriage of the ex-President of the university Musical Theatre Society.

I guess you’ve already worked out that the ceremony was something special. We laughed and we cried, well David did, had some wonderful readings, a Hand Fasting, we shared a Quaich, Hannah sang beautifully and it was just the most emotional day imaginable. Their story was like a fairytale. It was really love at first sight, David admitted in his homework that, “from that first moment I knew he was right for me.” This photo from the ceremony captures the moment when I talked about their first date quoting from Ashton’s homework, “he arrived at my flat with a bottle of wine and a monkey onesie under his clothes, and we watched Death Becomes Her”

When David admitted that Death Becomes Her was his second favourite musical-in-a-movie after Beaches they both knew that that was the moment.

Let me finish with a reading from a book that captures a generation, that pre-dates Harry Potter, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. It was read by Justine and she absolutely nailed it:

I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me.

Ashton and David sent me a note:

There was no other option for us for who should officiate on our wedding day (and not just because Brian’s daughter is one of our closest friends!) – Brian was organised, super helpful and full of great tips to help us make our ceremony meaningful. He was fantastic at keeping our guests informed as to what was happening during the ceremony itself and wove our personal stories together to create what really was an unforgettable celebration.

Katie and Craig at Comrie Croft


You may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything for ages. That’s because in May I moved right to the other end of the country, to Aberfeldy. I thought this would be an appropriate post to begin my new life as this is going to be one of my local venues from now on – the glorious Comrie Croft.

©Fraser Stewart

Family and friends had joined them from all over the world because the two of them had travelled when they first met and had spent time in Asia and Australia, proving their love for one another touring the latter in a camper van. As I said during the ceremony “if that isn’t true love I don’t know what is”.

©Fraser Stewart

The sun shone and we had a right laugh as you can see. I suspect that the party afterwards would have been a complete riot. We had a Hand Fasting and we shared a Quaich but I must admit that the highlight was a reading that I hadn’t heard before (as a reading) and Holly, who read it, completely nailed Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End Of Love. I share only two verses here – go look it up:

Dance me to the wedding now,
dance me on and on Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

We cheered and clapped the happy couple.

©Fraser Stewart

A Very Aussie Occasion at Bachilton Barn


I do find it strange when the first time you meet a couple is at their wedding but sometimes it’s just not possible to meet-up beforehand so everything is planned over Skype. As Catriona and Hok live on The Gold Coast in Australia there were many Skype calls and many emails as we put their ceremony together. But the day arrived and I scuttled down the road to Bachilton Barn on a slightly breezy day, as you can see. I arrived early secure in the knowledge that I would recognise Catriona (the one in the fancy white dress!) but Hok? Fortunately he dashed across and introduced himself and then all his groomsmen.

The ceremony was outside and we survived the wind but I do remember that keeping Catriona’s veil secure was a challenge. We even had a song and all sang Stand By Me, which was great. Their stories were hilarious but the best bit was when they read their promises to each other. Promises that they had kept secret until that moment. Not a dry eye in the house.

To end Lisa came forward and read the delightful Realistic Wedding Poem:

Marriage is a journey, and not just a destination
That goes far beyond this wedding, this public celebration.
This is just the beginning of a path we’ll travel together
With obstacles to overcome, and possible storms to weather.

One day we’ll sit side by side, hands withered and bent
Thinking back over the years, the good times we have spent.
We’ll remember the laughs. We’ll recall special places
And look far beyond the greyed hair and softly lined faces.

So let’s take it all in and cherish each day
No matter what happens, no matter what’s thrown our way.
We’re both realistic. Every day won’t be a dream
But we’re in this together, because we make a cracking team!

With Ann and John in Glasgow


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It does make a change for me to conduct a wedding at a city centre hotel, so frequently am I out driving through the countryside searching for a castle in the mist. The Blytheswood Square Hotel is very grand and a wedding there is always special. I managed to park, there never seems to be a problem at the weekend, got organised, rehearsed the Band Warming where we pass the couple’s rings around their guests and then John and I waited patiently for the lovely Ann to arrive.

 

Theirs was a classic wedding ceremony and we began, as I said, with a Band Warming. There were three readings and they asked me to deliver one of them, which I am always delighted to do and then they opted for a Hand Fasting as they exchanged their vows. Very Scottish.

I will leave you with the hilarious poem that young Luke read out and that had everyone in stitches:

I promise to love you

When your jokes are not funny

I promise to love you

When you have no money

 

I promise to love you

When you’re sick and all snotty

I promise to love you

When you’re angry and grotty

 

I promise to love you

When you’re drunk and unruly

I promise to love you 

When you’re hung over and drooly

 

And I promise to love you

When you drive me round the bend 

I promise to love you

Because you are my best friend

 

What a superstar!

 

 

With Carol and Kieran at The Parsonage


One of the great joys about my job as a celebrant is the variety of the couples I work with and the different ways they put their ceremonies together. Each ceremony is different, each is unique because, well, each couple is different and unique, especially each of their stories about how they met. This was so true in the case of Carol and Kieran. Their stroy was not just unique it was, well … this is how I introduced it during the ceremony, “As you can imagine their homework had a certain whiff of the surreal about it, a hint of the absurd and a couple of tablespoonful’s of just plain, not self raising, weirdness!” As you can see from their guest’s reaction their stories were hilarious.

But what made it even more special was that they had written most of the ceremony themselves including their promises to one another:

“You’re about to make promises to each other that you intend to keep. You’re going to vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, and find happiness in the other. There’s a simple premise to each of these promises: you’re vowing to be there. You’re teaming up and saying to the other, “Every experience I am going to have, I want you to be a part of.

“Will you, Kieran, keep Carol as your favourite person – to laugh with her, go on adventures with her, support her through life’s tough moments, be proud of her, grow old with her, and give her all the affection and love you give the fish?

Kieran: I will.

“and will you, Carol, keep Kieran as your favourite person – to laugh with him, go on adventures with him, support him through life’s tough moments, be proud of him, grow old with him, and give him all the affection and love you give the cats?

Carol: I will.

Will you, Kieran and Carol, be each other’s partners from this day forward? Will you bring out the best in one another, share your happiest moments together, and love each other absolutely – for the rest of this lifetime and for whatever may come next?

Carol and Kieran: We will.

Oh, and let me share one other thing from their sparkling ceremony. It’s a poem called Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton:

“I like you a lot
You’re funny and kind
So let me explain
What I have in mind.

I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to walk right by your side
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
I want to travel with you far and wide

Wherever you go, I’ll go there too
Here and there and everywhere
And always with you
I want to be Your Personal Penguin
From now on.

Now lots of other penguins seem to do fine
In a universe of nothing but ice
But if I could be yours and you could be mine
A cozy little world would be twice as nice”

It was read at the ceremony by Karen O’Driscoll who, I will be honest, absolutely nailed it.

Carol  was kind enough to send me the following:

““When we first went to meet Brian to talk about our ceremony we knew he was the right man for the job straight away. We wanted a light, relaxed and humorous ceremony and he didn’t disappoint! All our guests, some of whom had not experienced a Humanist ceremony before, couldn’t stop complimenting Brian and the ceremony. He made the whole process easy and stress free from start to finish”

Thank you my dear, a pleasure.

Married by the guy down the pub – Zsofia and Phill


In my job, you get asked to all sorts of different weddings. Phill and Zsofi approached me in the pub we frequent because they were looking for something entirely unique, informal and without all the, eh, shall we call in razzmatazz of a “typical” wedding. As they said to me, they just fancied going off and being married by the guy in the pub! Theirs was a small, intimate affair at lunchtime in the garden of a restaurant in Linlithgow with a few of their close family and friends. I should share with you all that it was not a warm and balmy as the photos make it appear and Zsofia, in her gorgeous dress, was the bravest woman in the world.

Zsofia is from Hungary and we were joined for the day by some of her family and really close friends. Phill is from Scotland and he wanted a touch of Scotland in the ceremony so we performed a Hand Fasting. My Hungarian is non-existant  but I did manage the odd phrase in the story of their romance because Zsofia shared the most romantic of Phill’s proposal: “The ring was already on my finger for a long time, I know it is strange to say, but I felt it so real. I had a secret wish and the answer for that was Phill… When he asked me “Hozzám jössz?” (Will you marry me?), there was only one possible answer: Igen! (Yes!)”

First Wedding of 2017 with Gavin and Emma


The weather was kind and the drive beautiful as I made my way north to the Huntingtower Hotel outside Perth. There was a tangible buzz around the place when I arrived and even before the ceremony began I could tell people were up for a good time and ready for a laugh. Which is just as well because my goodness, did we have a laugh although I don’t think Emma always approved.

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But I was pleased with the response from the assembled family and friends because I knew what was in store for them at the end – we shared a Quaich. Well, when I say we shared a Quaich it was more like cocktail time. The Best Man brought the Quaich forward, Emma’s Dad added the gin; Gavin’s Dad, the tonic and Emma’s Step-Dad squeezed the lime. Gavin and Emma shared their Quaich and the Dads finished it off. What a hoot.

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To Culcreuch Castle with Arlene and Paul


Oh, I do love a good castle and Culcreuch is amongst the best of the amazing selection we have in Scotland, still in private hands and looking very castley and Scottish in the misty, autumnal light. In fact, Arlene and Paul included a little bit about the castle in their ceremony and I didn’t know that it was built in 1296 and is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland.

Theirs was a beautiful ceremony and they turned out to be real romantics. The story that touched everyone’s heart is that if the Jim Morrison biography which Arlene was reading on the bus when Paul turned up and interrupted her. Then, months later, well, I’ll let Arlene tell the story:

“One cold and dark Sunday evening shortly afterward, at the end of November, there was a knock at the door. Arlene had been upstairs sleeping after a rather windy and cold day at Edinburgh Zoo. She told her dad, Alan, if it was for her, then she wasn’t in – she was in no mood to speak to anyone after such a miserable day, especially looking like a drookit moose! The conversation at the front door soon ended and the door was closed. In her curiosity Arlene ventured downstairs and was handed a somewhat suspicious looking package, wrapped in a plastic bag, addressed to her! Opening the package, it quickly became obvious as to what its contents were – her very own copy of the Jim Morrison biography that she had been desperately trying to finish reading on the bus! The book was inscribed inside with a message which read ‘For those bus rides without me'”

Isn’t that just sooooo romantic and wonderful.

They had a Hand Fasting and exchanged their promises and then made their legal vows when they exchanged rings. This is what they said to one another:

“With this ring I promise to keep you safe and out of the shadows.

I promise to make you happy for the rest of our lives.

Today I accept you  in marriage”

So simple.

Paul and Arlene were good enough to send me the following with their photos:

We would like to say that you conducted a wonderful, light hearted, and meaningful ceremony in a very unique way. Guests commented that they thought we had known you for years, the way you spoke about our love for each other, and our hopes for the future. I didn’t realise you had a side line in stand up comedy, the guests were delighted to be entertained by you as they waited patiently for me to arrive and for the formalities to begin!! Paul and I can’t thank you enough for everything you did for us leading up to the day, and the advice you gave us on how to piece the ceremony together, (with the help of Brian’s book of poems (????) (sorry – i cant remember the exact name!). We couldn’t imagine choosing anyone else to marry us, and were confident when we first met you that you were the only man for the job! We have so many unforgettable memories of the day, from the relentless rain at the historical venue of Culreuch Castle, the fantastic reception, our amazing guests and of course a wonderful humanist ceremony to start off a truly memorable day, the day we became Mr and Mrs Sabatelli!

 

First Time To Carlowrie Castle with Ruth and Dan


Carlowrie Castle it transpires is about half an hour down the road for and yet I have not conducted a wedding here before. Must be a new venue! Anyhoo, Ruth and Dan live in London so all the initial contact was on Skype although we did eventually meet face-to-face when the two of them ventured north in May.

Theirs was a classic wedding with the odd twist. Dan’s sister Victoria started the proceedings by reading the delightful W H Auden classic “Foxtrot To A Wedding”:

The soldier loves his rifle,


The scholar loves his books,


The farmer loves his horses,


The film star loves her looks.


There’s love the whole world over


Wherever you may be;


Some lose their rest for gay Mae West,


But you’re my cup of tea.


Some talk of Alexander


And some of Fred Astaire,


Some like their heroes hairy


Some like them debonair,


Some prefer a curate


And some an A.D.C.,


Some like a tough to treat’em rough,


But you’re my cup of tea.

 

Some are mad on Airedales


And some on Pekinese,


On tabby cats or parrots


Or guinea pigs or geese.


There are patients in asylums


Who think that they’re a tree;


I had an ant who loved a plant,


But you’re my cup of tea.

 

Some have sagging waistlines


And some a bulbous nose


And some a floating kidney


And some have hammer toes,


Some have tennis elbow


And some have housemaid’s knee,


And some I know have got B.O.,


But you’re my cup of tea.

The blackbird loves the earthworm,


The adder loves the sun,


The polar bear an iceberg,


The elephant a bun,


The trout enjoys the river,


The whale enjoys the sea,


And dogs love most an old lamp-post,


But you’re my cup of tea.

Don’t you just love that? I had all but forgotten it but Victoria absolutely nailed it on the day.

The twist came at the Quaich ceremony where, instead of the more usual whisky being poured into the Quaich, Ruth and Dan shared a gin and tonic. Well, why not?