A Very French Ocassion with Jennifer and Louis


This is my new home – Perthshire. On the left is Schiehallion and on the right is Loch Tummel taken from the door of our venue for today Craiganour Lodge where it was Jennifer and Louis’s big day. It was Wendy from Utopia Scotland who got touch with me to help Jennifer and Louis from France have their dream wedding in Scotland.The two of them proved to be great fun and we had quite a giggle over Skype as we put they ceremony together, mainly laughing at my appalling French.

Craganour Lodge is one of many highland lodges scattered around this part of the country. Usually part of a large estate they are used chiefly for hunting and fishing parties. But they are not used all the time and they do make the most amazing intimate wedding venue.

As you can see the venue dictates a much more relaxed and informal approach to a wedding especially when you consider that there were only a dozen or so guests. The ceremony itself was a blend of Scottish and French. We shared two delicious poems in French, read by their best friends, we had a Hand Fasting and the Louis cried and sobbed his way through his beautiful French promises. I will share Jennie’s with you here:

“Je te promets de t’aimer, de veiller sur toi et de t’offrir chaque jour le meilleur de moi-même. Je te promets de t’offrir ce quotidien créatif et amoureux dont on rêve ensemble et de continuer à vivre et à voyager de façon imprévisible. Je te promets de continuer à te surprendre comme tu aimes si bien, parce que ton bonheur est important pour moi.”

The star of the show and of course my new best friend was Jennie’s gorgeous daughter Valentine, a little charmer. It was difficult to say goodbye after such an emotional day. To be honest, I still miss them all.

What a Great Day With Sean and Michael


 

I will be honest, the Roxburghe Hotel in Edinburgh is not the easiest place to get to especially on a Friday. The parking is expensive or miles away and the tram, well, where do you get off? I decided on the tram, left early, got off at Shandwick Place and had something to eat en route to the hotel. I arrived at the hotel and decided to go and see if Sean and Michael were OK. OK?, I have never seen two more laid back people about to get married. Their Groomsmaids (Groomsmaids? now there’s a new word for me) were more nervous than they were.

Their ceremony was perfect. When I say perfect I mean by that that is was “just them” and reflected the two of them and their relationship. To design a ceremony that is perfect I need the willing help of the couple and I ask them to do some homework for me when we first meet about four months before the big day. I have realised that the care and attention that the couple put into their homework has quite an impact on the quality of their ceremony. Well, it might be that or it might be the quantity of wine consumed when they discuss their homework. The wine, by the way, is a compulsory part of the homework! Anyhow, to illustrate, here is an extract from Sean and Michael’s promises and pledges to one another (I would get a hanky):

Michael:

“Sean has a great sense of humour, he can make light and laughter in any situation. He is caring and compassionate and always brings a different perspective to mine. I don’t admit this much but he’s often right and he cares deeply for his friends and family. I want to marry him because he is my soul mate and I can’t see the rest of my life without him. There is a lot more to come and I can’t wait for it.”

Sean:

“I don’t know what Life has in store for Michael and I but I hope it’s filled with music, The Dixie Chicks and Celine, travelling, a kid or a dog and lots of love and laughter.”

I mean, don’t you just feel that you know them already?

They sent me a note with their photos. “Our guests loved the ceremony and many have remarked since that it’s one of the most memorable they have attended.  Thanks for making everyone feel welcome before our arrival and for the light hearted and laid back manner of the ceremony which left guests and us feeling at ease.” It was a pleasure guys and thank you for including me in your big day.

 

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?

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Down The Road at Inchyra Grange with Rachel and Iain


 

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Well, you’ve got have a bit of a laugh at a wedding!

A short drive down the road from me is the Macdonald Inchyra Grange Hotel ao, I suppose, it’s one of my more regular wedding venues. I remember Iain and Rachel’s ceremony fondly because their guest were such a nice crowd and so very welcoming. I think they also had quite a good time as Rachel said the following, “Thanks for conducting such a wonderful service for our wedding! You really did make it special. We have had so many people compliment you and say that it was the best humanist ceremony they’ve been to!! You really did put us at ease and we instantly knew that you would be the person to marry us when we first met you, so thank you very much.”

 

The ceremony itself was lovely and included a cracker of a reading, which I don’t think I had heard before: Don’t Squeeze My Shoes

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“A love, like shoes, must feel justright
Not too loose and not too tight
Not too high or far too low
And if you’re young have room to grow
It must look good with any clothes
It must be kind, not pinch your toes
It must last well and not wear through
It must be just the thing for you

 

 

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The style you choose, however strange
Must show ability to change
To cope with rains and frosty
morns
To help you dodge bunions and corns
Your love must fit and not break banks
It must not always expect thanks
It should be happy being there
The chosen one, the happy pair

 

 

Isn’t that lovely? The two of them then exited to Elbow, “One Day Like This”, such a romantic moment.

 

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Four Weddings And A Funeral


This is one of the busiest times of the year and in three days over the weekend I delivered four weddings and a funeral and thought, well, that’s got to be worth a post!

Wedding 1: To Whitburn with Tammy and Jon (and Rory)

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So, the weekend began with a drive over to Whitburn to be with Tammy, Jon and their family for their wedding at the Hilcroft Hotel. Tammy and Jon lit a candle at the beginning of the ceremony in remembrance of all those who couldn’t be there on their big day, which was a lovely touch. We also had a handfasting, two readings I ended with the following very Scottish well-wishing:

 

May the best ye’ve ever seen

Be the worst ye’ll ever see;

May the moose ne’er leave yer girnal

Wi’ a tear drap in his ee;

May ye aye keep hale and he’erty

Till ye’re auld enough tae dee,

May ye aye be juist as happy

As I wish ye aye tae be.

 

Wedding 2: On The Banks Of Loch Lubnaig

It was then an hour’s drive north beyond Callander to the banks of Loch Lubnaig to join Carly and Scott, the two luckiest people in the world on the dry but cloudy lochside.

The setting was idyllic and the ceremony was just so appropriate. It was a small intimate, mainly family affair with Carly’s Dad, Andrew, doing a wonderful reading of Union by Robert Fulgham. Carly had made her own plaited band for the handfasting and everyone gathered around a pine tree by the loch. So simple, so easy, so rainless, phew.

Wedding 3: To Glenskirlie Castle With Suzanne and Robert (and Rowan)

So, it’s Sunday and off to Banknock, to Glenskirlie Castle where the flower girls stole the whole show. Young Abby read “On Your Wedding Day” to everyone and I awarded her with the gold medal for the fastest ever reading of that poem. But it was little Rowan, Suzanne and Robert’s daughter who was the star upstaging her Mum and Dad and the celebrant with ease and a dimpled smile.

Wedding 4: Rachel and Allan at the Linlithgow Burgh Halls

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Theirs was a lovely ceremony and made special by their friends selecting secret poems that were just so appropriate for the occasion. We had a band warming, which  was just a beautiful way to involve all of their guests in the ceremony, and afterwards we all proceeded out to the garden for the photos and there we were joined by the gorgeous Jayda. I then realised just how appropriate Peter’s reading had been:

Falling In Love Is Like Owning A Dog, by Taylor Mali

Falling in love is like owning a dog
First of all, it’s a big responsibility,especially in a city like [London].
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security: when you’re walking down the street late at night and you have a leash on love
‘ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable. Who knows what love could do in its own defence?
On cold winter nights, love is warm. It lies between you and lives and breathes and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs. It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long. But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life, but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad.
Bad, love, bad!
Very bad love.
Love makes messes. Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after. Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain, just to let love know don’t you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk. Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting. It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you until you’re all wound up and can’t move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go. People who have nothing in common but love stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back, again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops

The Funeral

But the weekend began with one of the saddest of all funerals, a tragedy played out over nearly forty years that resulted in someone taking her own life. Her friends and family celebrated a life cut short by mental illness and the crematorium was filled with tears and bunches of flowers, often simple posies picked on the way to the ceremony.

We finished with the following paragraph:

No-one who knows about the circumstances of Alice’s death can remain untouched by it, or fail to ask themselves if there is something they could have done to prevent it, that’s natural. I think it would be best to recognise that the borderline between life and death is a fragile thing for all of us and accept that Alice’s illness made that borderline even more fragile.” (I have changed the name)

My Ancestral Home with Anushka and Malcolm


Those of you that I have married will know that my middle name is Winton, a family name that had passed through the generations of my mother’s family. If you look up, as I have done, the origin of the name Winton you discover that there are two branches, one down in the west country and one in Scotland and the Scottish Wintons all appear to have originated from one small village in East Lothian, which is where Anushka and Malcolm chose to get married – in the actual Winton House.

And what a venue! The driveway as you approach it is enough to convince you that it is a very special place and as you enter it becomes even more apparent. Anushka and Malcolm’s ceremony fitted perfectly into these surroundings but before it even began their guests, who had joined them from all over the world, were submitted to, or do I mean, took part in, a treasure hunt around the extensive grounds. Suffice to say that from the atmosphere in the room it was apparent that they had all got along very well but I still don’t know who won. Oh, yes I do, because the two people who found the package with the pens came forward and as their surprise witnesses.

The ceremony was full of unique and unusual moments. This reading I had never heard before:

Habitation by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

and they wrote and read their own pledges to one another:

Malcolm    I promise to remember why we fell in love

Anushka    I promise to remember why we fell in love

Malcolm    I promise not to stop loving you just because you get old and shrivel to the size and texture of a prune

Anushka    I promise not to stop loving you just because you get old or wrinkly or because your nose gets too big

Malcolm     I promise to continue to organise treasure hunts

Anushka     I promise to tolerate your endless schemes and puns

Malcolm   I promise you will end up supporting Scotland and they will win the Six Nations and subsequently the football World Cup

Anushka  I promise to pretend that I believe Scotland will win anything ever

Malcolm     I promise to look after you and make you feel safe and secure as long as we are together

Anushka     I promise to take life as it comes but always face it together

Malcolm   I promise to be the best husband I can be

Anushka  I promise to be the best wife I can be

They were good enough to send me the following in their email with the photographs:

“We wanted to say a huge thank you to you for being the perfect celebrant on our special day. You were reassuringly relaxed, endlessly cheerful, and a charming host for our guests as they waited for the ceremony to begin. You went to great efforts to ensure our ceremony kept to who we are as a couple, and to the fun feel we wanted for our day, which definitely did not go unnoticed by our guests. Almost every one of our family and friends mentioned how beautiful and unique our ceremony was and how envious they are that we were able to have a humanist ceremony, and have you as our celebrant. Thank you for helping us create some of the happiest memories we could hope for.”