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?

On The Bonny Bonny Banks with Diana and Allan


It was, to put it politely, mildly organised chaos when I arrived at the Lodge on the Loch Hotel. “The Best Man has lost the rings” was the first thing I heard as I entered the bar looking for Allan. “You have got to be joking” was my response. I wondered why everyone was looking at me a bit peculiarly and then I realised that no one knew who I was. The chaos had now transformed itself into panic with people taking leather sofas to bits, moving tables and even peering ominously through the cracks in the decking above Loch Lomond. When someone announced that they would have to cancel the wedding I thought it time to introduce myself and was directed to Allan. The best man was in an awful state but somehow I got through to him and asked if he had the Wedding Schedule (the paper we must sign to make the marriage legal). “Oh aye” he said pulling it out his pocket. “The marriage will go ahead” I announced, “this is the only thing we need”. “But the rings…?” “We can borrow two from the guests if need be” I explained.
You see, being a wedding celebrant is not only about solemnising the marriage and often it seems like the only people who know what’s going on is me and the wedding coordinator from the venue – somebody has to take control. As soon as I solved the problem with the rings and looked like I was in charge then, of course, someone found the proper rings. They were in a sporran, as they always are!
Handfasting
It was a lovely setting with the loch stretching out behind us in the mist and the rain – well it was February. Diana was a beautiful bride and everything went perfectly. They even got some photos taken outside when the rain stopped for a moment or two.

 

Julie and Charles at Norton House



So, it was a lovely day in between Christmas and New Year and Julie and Charles chose the wonderful Norton House Hotel for their wedding. There are several rooms that can be used as venues for a wedding from the intimate to the seriously large in the ballroom. But Julie and Chaz chose the Garden Suite, a large self contained venue with a separate bar area. The room is beautiful and, in summer, if the weather is good, you can even have your ceremony outside in the walled courtyard. Not really the venue for a December wedding however but it wasn’t that cold, well not cold enough for you to spot Julie’s goosebumps.

One of the highlights of their ceremony was when they made their promises to one another:

Would you now join hands. Julie and Charles, will you seek to have a loving marriage, allowing it and each other to change and develop, supporting each other in happiness and sorrow, health and illness?
Julie and Charles: We will.
Will you seek to live together as equal yet different individuals, and to recognise and accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses?
Julie and Charles: We will.
Will you seek always to learn from your shared experiences, and to build from them a full and caring friendship based on trust and on respect?
Julie and Charles: We will.

 

Julie was good enough to send me an email after the wedding:
Chaz and I just wanted to thank you so much for last Saturday. All our guests loved the ceremony with a lot of people passing on nice compliments! I know a few people getting married next year and I will definitely be recommending you.
Thanks Again for everything.
Happy New Year.

Julie and Chaz x

 

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!

Where the Forth Bridge stars in your wedding


 Ah, the last wedding ceremony of the year and what a wonderful experience it proved to be. Orocco Pier in South Queensferry must have the room with the most romantic views of the Forth Bridge, now looking pristine and newly decorated without the scaffolding that has plagued it for most of my adult life – the bridge that is, not the room. But I digress.

Lisa and Dave were a joy to work with and we had a lot of fun putting the ceremony together. But not nearly as much fun as the children (nieces and nephews I seem to recall) had with the poem that they had to read. Apparently they had come with at least one alternative version and Lisa was petrified that they were going to read that on her big day. But their moment came and, thankfully, nerves and a bit of stage fright kept them on order. This was their reading:

Do We Have to Kiss?
Do we have to kiss?
Can’t we just hold hands
Can’t we both agree
To make other plans?
I might accidentally get your nose
Get the giggles
If I tread on your toes
A hand-shake won’t do instead, I suppose?
Do we have to kiss?
Do we have to kiss?
Are we old enough
Do we need this wet, romantic stuff
Of course you have to kiss
Are you sure that you know what to do
Should I stand on your chair
Cos I’m shorter than you
Do we have to kiss?
Do we have to kiss?
Do you think it’s true
That it gives you spots and gastric flu
Makes your jaw-bone ache
And your ears turn pink
Isn’t it just like plunging
A blocked-up sink
Do we have to kiss?
If we’re going to kiss
Better do it quick
The anticipation makes me sick
…It’s not too bad
It’s almost fun
Now slowly, give me another one…

Dave and Lisa also chose to write their own promises to one another. This is not something that you have to do but, my goodness, it makes your ceremony so special and so personal. Not a dry sock in the room.

Lisa and Dave were kind enough to send me a card afterwards and I thought this quote from it might help you plan for your special day:

“As you can imagine, so much thought went into the dress I would wear, the food we would eat, the music we would dance to…but what all our guests commented on was how special, natural or personal the ceremony was, and, in turn, how it made the ceremony their favourite part of the whole day. I think that is how it should be!”

Lisa and Dave, thank you for letting me be a small part of a great day.

The luckiest bride in the world – Lindsay & Gregor at the Botanic Gardens


This is the John Muir Grove at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens one of the most special and spectacular wedding venues in the east – as long as it doesn’t rain. The Botanic Gardens have just completed a major refurbishment of their indoor venues and the Caledonian Hall, where Lindsay and Gregor held their wedding dinner, is grand, fairly formal and perfect with all your guests around the single long table. It was rather strange to have people wandering around close to your chosen wedding situation because, of course, they don’t close the Gardens so people drift by and watch your ceremony, from a distance to be honest, generally with their mouth open because the setting is just breathtaking. The grove is formed by a stand of giant Redwood trees and surrounded by rhododendrons in bloom at this time of year and by acers that will be spectacular in the autumn.

It had been raining every day for five days before their wedding but in her texts to me Lindsay was adamant that she was having her wedding outside in the grove. “It will be fine Brian, don’t worry.” She was correct, it was sunny but not very warm if I am honest. Their ceremony was beautiful. They had hired Keith Murray a classical guitarist to play as the guests arrived and during the signing of the schedule but his principal duty was to play “Wild Mountain Thyme” as Lindsay entered. Well, not so much entered as strolled around a winding path, past all the azaleas in bloom, led by her bridesmaids. Just wonderful. Lindsay and Gregor had written their own ceremony and chosen the music and the readings and this is one I would like to share. It was read beautifully by Robin, Lindsay’s brother:


@font-face { font-family: “Arial”; }@font-face { font-family: “Calibri”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }p.MsoNoSpacing, li.MsoNoSpacing, div.MsoNoSpacing { margin: 0cm 0cm 0.0001pt; font-size: 11pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

The Promise
Eileen Rafter

The sun danced on the sea with a sparkling smile,
As two lovers sat quietly, alone for a while.
Then he turned and said, with a casual air
(Though he blushed from his chin to the tips of his hair),
“I think I might like to get married to you”

“Well then, she said, “Well there’s a thought,
But what if we can’t promise to be all that we ought,
If I’m late yet again, when we plan to go out.
For I know I can’t promise, I’ll learn to ignore
Dirty socks and damp towels strewn all over the floor.

So if we can’t vow to be all that we should
I’m not sure what to do, though the idea’s quite good”.
But he gently smiled and tilted his head
Till his lips met her ear and softly he said

“I promise, to weave my dreams into your own,
That wherever you breathe will be my hearts home.
I promise, that whether with rags or with gold I am blessed
Your smile is the jewel I will treasure the best.

Do you think then, my love, we should marry – do you?”
“Yes” she said smiling “I do”.

Insane, but beautifully insane – Alaina at Linlithgow Palace


 The snow and ice had melted in the midst of the coldest winter on record when the day came for Alaina to arrive for her wedding at Linlithgow Palace – on horseback. It was the 2nd of March 2010 when I first met Alaina and David to talk about their wedding. “So,” I asked casually. “have you got anything special planned yet for the big day?” “Yes, I’m arriving on horseback.” Alaina replied. “On the 25th January? On horseback?” I think was my stunned reply.

Alaina arriving at the Burgh Halls
another excellent Linlithgow venue

But on the day it all went well. Alaina made her entrance and brought the traffic on Linlithgow High Street to a stop, and then the piper brought her up the street to the Palace. I know she had to quickly change when she dismounted but I didn’t inquire as to whether she had her long johns on under her beautiful dress – there was a bitter wind blowing.

The wedding was held in the undercroft, a lovely, intimate room perfect for a wedding with 50 or 60 guests and, as you can see, the photo opportunities in the Palace are just amazing. David and Alaina’s wedding ceremony was as unique as was the day and the story of how they first met was particularly amusing – so tears and laughter flowed in equal measure. Just as a wedding ceremony should be, or so I believe.

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.