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.”

Olivia and Ryan – The Wedding Of The Year


From my new base in Highland Perthshire I can tell already that I am going to be working with some amazing people at some amazing venues. Big call out to Emma @timelesswhite for organising this amazing extravaganza.

The bride and groom’s photo shoot was before the ceremony

Olivia and Ryan both came from the USA and they lived in Chicago so all of the preparation was done via Skype and email. As I arrived at the amazing Inverlochy Castle I could see them in one of the fields with the Craig and Eva getting their photos done. Photos before the ceremony? All will become clear.

To say that Ryan loves Scotland would be an understatement, he owns three kilts, which is two more than me, though obviously he only wears one at a time. At Olivia’s insistence, sorry suggestion, the wedding ceremony was to be held outside at sunset in November – in Scotland! Was she mad?

No. she was just incredibly lucky.

The ceremony was beautiful if a bit chilly around the knees. We shared a Quiche including the grooms superb choice of whisky but the best bit in the whole ceremony was a gag played on Ryan by Olivia. It is so American that I don’t really understand it but all the guests fell out of their seats laughing, so it went well. Anyway, Olivia had Ryan’s ring made especially with gem stones inside the band and she chose the gemstones to symbolise key aspects of Ryan’s life and their marriage. I introduced it innocently as follows: “On the inside it has four sets of gemstones: The first is a sapphire surrounded by two peridots (her birthstone surrounded by his birthstone) to symbolize his love surrounding her, then a peridot surrounded by two sapphires to symbolize her love surrounding him , then a diamond surrounded by two sapphires to symbolize Scotland and this amazing wedding day and finally, a burnt orange stone set beside a maroon ruby to symbolize the combining of your alma matters into one household as you begin your marriage ” The joke was that burnt orange is the colour of Olivia’s school her alma matar, a rival to Ryan’s and he HATES and I mean HATES it and all that it symbolises. And that’s true, as I read this out I thought he was going to have a stroke! I got a standing ovation when I said “only joking” – it’s all in the timing.

Emma and I had decided that not would be far too cold to sign the paperwork outside so we retired to the dining room to sign the schedule.

An amazing day with an amazing couple and their families, just joyful.

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 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

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!”

To The Roman Camp with Katie and Sam


A beautiful drive up to the Trossachs, still not too many caravans on the road nor tractors to raise my blood pressure so arrived relaxed and ready to go. The Roman Camp is a lovely venue, expensive I imagine, but lovely with the most amazing staff. I was greeted by Alex Graham as I arrived. He was the pianist for the ceremony and he and I had worked together before but neither of us could remember where. I found Sam and the Best Man amongst the guests in the bar and walked through the ring exchange with them. Katie and bridesmaids arrived on time.
One of the things I ask my wedding couples to do is some homework and I ask them to tell me their story and their hopes and dreams for their marriage. The thing is that I ask them to do it separately and sometimes, just sometimes the result can be hilarious. Let me illustrate from Katie and Sam’s ceremony:
” Sometimes you read someone’s homework and your heart sinks. Let me quote from the first paragraph of Katie’s homework, “We were set up on a blind date by Sam’s brother, didn’t go so well – he was a cheapskate who had no clue about wine and was very keen.”  It doesn’t get much better but let’s just find out, from Sam, what actually happened.

According to him that first date generally went very well. I hate to think what a date going badly would be like. Anyway, apparently there was a slight misunderstanding over the wine because Sam thought £14 for a bottle of house wine was expensive. Well, they had managed to get through two of them but still, so he asked Katie to go Dutch. The word cheapskate does actually spring to mind Sam.  As Sam says in his homework, with a hint of despair, “there was no second date”.”

Needless to say it all turned out right in the end. we had two readings and the second was read by Lisa, one of their friends. It is called Marriage Fulfils The Dreams And Love Two People Share by Glenda Wilm:

“Everyone searches for one special person
They can share their lives with.
The other half who makes them whole,
Like two notes blending together to make a beautiful song,
Or the colours that complement
Each other to form a rainbow.
It is everyone’s wish to have a lifetime of sunny days,
A rainbow after every storm;
A lifetime of loving and living and growing and giving,
Of sharing and caring; a lifetime of days together,
Learning from the bad times and cherishing the good times.
Marriage is everything your heart desires
And the strength, courage and determination to work for it.
In marriage you take care of each other’s heart
And hold on to what you share.
You hold it gently so it doesn’t smother
And firmly so it doesn’t slip away.
Hold it so that it can grow
And you can grow together
And live and laugh and love together always”


Not a dry eye in the room.

A Chilly Day at Dundas Castle with Marcus and Lindsey


It was quite a cold and damp March day as I threaded my way through the road works for the new Forth crossing, skirted South Queensferry and made my way through the front entrance to Dundas Castle. Perhaps they will restore the wee road outside Newton once the new bridge is open.




I discovered Marcus and his best man with his guests in the tower relaxing (ha, ha) before the big event. We managed to grab a few moments and walked through the ring exchange just to make sure we all knew what we were doing.
At Dundas Castle the ceremony is held in the chapel atop the tower up a long, winding and uneven circular stone staircase and I seemed to spend a lot of time and energy going up and down the stairs to get updated on Lindsey’s progress.
The guests were all asked to climb the stairs to the chapel, the music played and we waited patiently. Then, in the distance, I heard the swirl of the bagpipes that heralds the bride’s entrance.
At the beginning of the ceremony Lindsey and Marcus took a moment to light a candle for everyone who could not share in the celebrations; a very touching moment. The rest of the ceremony was very simple, just as they wanted it to be and focused very much on them and their hopes and dreams for the of life together.

 

Dundas is a wonderful venue, very traditional, a true taste of Scotland and remarkably close to Edinburgh. The staff are professional and whole event is always handled with care and precision. What more could you ask for?

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!

Rachael and James at the Royal College of Physicians


 It has been raining in Scotland non-stop (or so it seems) for two months. I have had three outdoor weddings moved inside because of the weather. Last year in total I had one.

I was not looking forward to the walk up the hill to Queens Street in Edinburgh to the imposing Royal College of Physicians because, frankly, there is nothing worse than a soggy kilt hem sawing its way through the back of your knees. But it was fine, I managed to dodge the thundery showers, and arrived to the strains of the string quartet playing in the library. What a venue, just stunning and, with a lot of Rachael and James’s relatives having travelled over from Canada, it just captured the essence of Edinburgh’s New Town and the age of enlightenment.

Rachael and James asked to perform a handfasting. There are many variations on this ancient ritual using various numbers of ribbons or even ropes. A handfasting symbolises your union by joining your hands together and originally symbolised a union for a year and a day although of course in a marriage ceremony it symbolises your union for life. The most common handfasting ceremonies use either one ribbon as in this case or two ribbons that tie themselves together when you draw your hands apart.

I have the distinct feeling that Rachael influenced the choice of readings which included:

  • The Lovely Love Story from the children’s book by Edward Monkton (Thank you Flora)
  • An extract from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (Thank you Cate) and
  • Love by Roy Croft (Thank You Emily)

We followed the bride and groom across the road and into Queen Street Gardens (a first for me) and there, waiting for us was a Luca’s ice cream van. Result!