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!

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!

 

Wedding Hotel of the Year (again) with Lindsey and Rob


 

 
100916d-291100916d-131Balbirnie House is in the village of Markinch just outside Glenrothes and has won the Scottish Wedding Hotel of the Year Award so many times it is insane. But not unjustified. A short drive over the Forth Bridge and onwards into the heart of Fife, you approach the house through the manicured golf course. The staff ensure that every wedding is perfect and that certainly was the case with Lindsey and Rob’s big day.

100916d-132The one thing I remember above all else from the ceremony was just how friendly everyone was and how up for a party they were – I bet it was some night. The ceremony was that perfect mix of laughter and lumps in throats none more so than when they exchanged their pledges:

On this day,

I give you my heart,

My promise,

That I will walk with you,

Hand in hand,

Wherever our journey leads us,

Living, learning, loving,

Together,

Forever

Isn’t that beautiful.

Lyndsey sent me an email afterward:

We are so glad that we were able to meet you and have you be a part of our wedding day. Although at first nervous when looking for a celebrant for our big day, your brief description of yourself seemed to click perfectly with us and we were not disappointed at all along the way! We were so glad that we were able to communicate via Skype and then to meet in person closer to the wedding when we were up in Scotland.You followed our brief of how we wanting our wedding to be perfectly. We asked for it to be a happy day and to avoid tears and that is exactly what we received. You made everyone laugh in all the right places and helped us to make the ceremony both meaningful to us and lighthearted enough to show our less serious sides.The feedback from our guests was nothing short of outstanding. You were a true highlight on our wedding day.

Thank you once again for your guidance and support in helping us to create our ideal ceremony.

Lindsey and Rob

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Finnish/Irish Occasion at Errol Park


Emma and Chris’s big day was quite an occasion held deep in the woods on the Errol estate outside Dundee. This was to be Emma’s perfect wedding and indeed everything was quite perfect. Including the weather which, in Scotland in September was almost unbelievable. The couple’s guests from all over the world with Emma’s family joining us from Finland and Chris’s from Ireland plus many of their great friends whom they had met on their journeys. The ceremony included elements from both their cultures including a band warming from Ireland and reading in Finnish and even a hand fasting from their adopted Scottish home.

Emma and Chris decided to write their own promises to one another and they eventually sent them through about a week before the wedding so that I could print them out for them to read to one another. However, the two of them had been up most the previous night and had separately re-written their promises so they bore no relation to anything I had in my script – not a dry eye in the glade and a somewhat confused celebrant but so what?

Emma chose an extract from April Rise by Laurie Lee to end the ceremony with:
If ever I heard blessing it is there

Where birds in trees that shoals and shadows are

Splash with their hidden wings and drops of sound
Break on my ear their crests of throbbing air.
Pure in the haze the emerald sun dilates,
The lips of sparrows milk the mossy stones,
While white as water by the lake a girl
Swims her green hand among the gathered swans.
Now, as the almond burns its smoking wick,
Dropping small flames to light the candled grass;
Now, as my low blood scales its second chance,
If ever world were blessed, now it is.”

With Kirsten and Pablo at The Mackintosh Church Church


Tucked away in Queen’s Cross is one of Glasgow’s hidden architectural gems. The only church in the world designed by the great Scottish architect, designer and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and it is beautiful. I had not conducted a ceremony before so when Kirsten and Pablo contacted me all the way from California, I was so excited. and their wedding was truly wonderful.

Working with a couple from abroad takes a lot of trust and although we had chatted on Skype a couple of times we had obviously never met. Kirsten was returning home to get married and I believe it was for many of Pablo’s family their first time in Scotland. The ceremony that Pablo and Kirsten helped me put together was an emotional roller coaster and for many of the guests who had never been to a Humanist ceremony it was a real eye opener.As Kirsten wrote to me afterwards, “Starting out writing our ceremony was initially rather daunting however with your positivity, guidance and suggestions we managed to create the most perfect ceremony which was very personal to us and even better than we could have imagined! So many people commented on how lovely the ceremony was and how you managed to set the perfect celebratory tone for the day – relaxed and fun yet serious at the bits that needed to be! Thank you so much for helping us make our day so special, we loved every minute!”

This was definitely a day to remember for me and for Kirsten and Pablo. I do hope that they keep in touch.

Kirsten and Pablo Wedding 486{D - The Bride and Groom

Outdoors With Lee and Scott. In May!


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A wedding outside in Scotland at the end of May? You’ve got to be joking but Lee was insistent that her wedding would be in the unforgettable scenery of the banks of Loch Ard and, sure enough, it was. But my goodness was it chilly, I think, if you look closely, you may be able to see Lee’s goose bumps in the photograph. Altskeith House was the venue for the big day and, my goodness, it is gorgeous, what I call a “do it yourself” venue where you hire the house and then bring in your own caterers etc.

 

Lee and Scott decided that they wanted to integrate a hand fasting into their ceremony and you can see their hands bound as they made their vows. Very romantic, very Scottish, just perfect for the location and Lee told me it was the best part of the ceremony for them both.: 166A4331_resized“I’d like to start by saying that my day was perfect, and that all started with you. I couldn’t have asked for a better ceremony. Everything was amazing from start to finish.

IMG_1744You helped us so much with our preparation and made us feel completely at ease. You’ve had numerous compliments from our guests, and I know that choosing you as our celebrant was the perfect choice
I loved the handfasting, the photos of that are some of my favourites. Also the way that you interact with the guests make the ceremony that little bit more special.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning Dundas Castle with Victoria and Joe


 

I arrived at Dundas castle to be told that poor Victoria was really quite unwell and “had spent most of the morning in the toilet”. My heart sank at that point but, heh, I wasn’t going anywhere else that day so we could all just wait until she recovered. Which she did and in tons of time for her own wedding. Phew!
Now, the chapel in Dundas Castle is not a large room so when Victoria told me months before that she had five bridesmaids and a bridesman (is that the right word?) and Joe then followed that by telling me that he had two best men and two ushers that he wanted at the front with the wedding party I thought wee were going to be a bit cramped and, to be honest, on the day they had so many guests there was no where else for them all to go anyway. So we were a tiny bit cramped, but it was so cold it actually helped keep us all warm. The ceremony that Joe and Victoria helped put together was just beautiful and so, so personal. In their homework Joe wrote the most amazing passage about what marriage meant to him so, with Victoria’s permission, I read it at their ceremony:

“It means making a commitment to ensuring Victoria is as happy as she possibly can be each and every day.

Marriage means bringing two families together as one – Officially, at last!
Marriage means accepting each other for who we are.
Marriage means planning for the future and all the exciting things that it holds for us.
Marriage means celebrating what we represent as a couple.
Marriage means having shared beliefs and values that we live by together.
Marriage means being completely comfortable in each other’s company – comfortable being our true selves together.
Marriage means committing ourselves to be the best we can be, both individually and as a married couple.
Marriage means I get to spend the rest of my life with the person I love.”
 
There was not a dry eye in the room and I think the bridesmaids used up a whole packet of my tissues on their own. But that wasn’t even the high point because they followed that with reading aloud to the other what they loved about them. Victoria’s was five paragraphs long and just inspiring. It ended as follows: 
 
I love that I have no doubts, no fears whatsoever in the future of our relationship. I have never been so sure of anything. You are my light, my sunshine.”
 
To be honest I think I was sobbing at this point.

Victoria was good enough to drop me a note after the wedding:
“We just wanted to also let you know how fantastic our ceremony was. It was truly personal and it was without a doubt my favourite part of the day. Our guests (many of whom had never attended a Humanist ceremony before) were blown away by it. They loved how quickly you put them at ease with some humorous remarks and I believe that you created a relaxed and happy feeling that lasted throughout our whole day (and night!). You were wonderful and I cannot thank you enough for making our wedding ceremony so memorable with the perfect balance of laugher and tears!”