A Rather Damp Myres Castle with Nicola and Iain

Travelling up everything was fine and rosy, a bit overcast but it will be fine I thought to myself. As I parked I noticed that Nicola and Iain had decided to have the ceremony outside, underneath the beech tree. “So, we’re outside then Henry?” I asked, just for clarity. Henry is lucky person who owns Myres Castle – not as glamorous as it sounds as, at that moment, Henry was laying the chairs out for the guests. The swing band arrived and set up beneath the tree behind me.

The ceremony was ever so special and Nicola and Iain had chosen readings that I had not heard before like this, which Carol read:

“Once upon a time, a boy met a girl.

She gave him her hand and he held it tight.

Together, they set off down the unknown path in front of them.

Sometimes they walked slowly; sometimes at a quicker pace.

Sometimes they ran so fast it felt kind of like flying.

Whenever he lost his footing, she steadied him, and whenever she tripped, he helped her back up.

Whenever she grew weary, he’d carry her.

Sometimes they didn’t know which direction to go, but though they would occasionally lose their way, they never lost each other.

They wandered contentedly and lived happily, forever and always side by side.”

The highpoint of the cermony was when we sang a song, Stand By Me by Ben E King accompanied and lead by the swing band but by this point I could see Henry struggling up the path with an arm full of umbrellas.

There is inspiration everywhere for your own special vows and Nicola and Iain had taken theirs from the 2012 film The Vow and they were beautiful:


I vow to help you love life,

To always hold you with tenderness,

And to have the patience that love demands, to speak

When words are needed, and to share the silence when they are not

I promise to live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.



I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms,

Now and forever,

I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love

I vow to love you, and no matter what challenges might carry us apart,

We will always find a way back to each other

I declared them married, we signed the paperwork, I announced their grand exit.

And the rain stopped.

And the sun came out.

It was a wonderful and special ceremony and Nicola and Iain were good enough to send me this:

“We are so happy we found you to conduct our wedding ceremony. Not only did we think you did a fantastic job, many of our family and friends have commented on how great you were, and that you were a “class act”. You made everyone relax, and your quick thinking when the rain came on meant that nobody got soaked! We would recommend you to anyone looking for a Humanist Celebrant”



To The Hub on the High Street with Stephanie and Mark


Photos by Jonathon Fowler

Conducting a wedding at The Hub, the cafe at the heart of the Edinburgh Festival on the High Street just below the castle, is always a hoot. As we all wait patiently for the bride’s arrival, standing outside at the entrance, we are mobbed by tourists snapping away and standing beside the piper having their photographs taken. What a laugh. Steph was running a few moments late so the tourists had a field day and the crowd was so large that poor Steph couldn’t get out of the car.



Their’s was a lovely ceremony, so well constructed and put together it was a joy to deliver. They had family join them from Australia and so many friends from all around the country. We began by lighting a candle in memory of those who couldn’t join us and the highlight was when Steph and Mark read their promises:


Stephanie, asking you to marry me was the one of the easiest decisions I’ve made. I want to spend the rest of my life showing you why saying yes was the right answer. No matter what path life puts us on, we will take it together. I promise to love you and to respect you, to make you laugh and keep you safe. I promise to be the person you need, even if that’s not always who you want me to be. And finally I will try to be the best husband I can – who knows, I might even learn to put a washing on!

And Stephanie:

Mark, from 16 year old school kids to standing here today about to become your wife

I am so happy and proud of all that we have achieved

Today, tomorrow and forever

I promise to share in all of life’s decisions as your wife and best friend

I promise to respect you, care for you and keep you organised!

I promise to support you in the tough times and laugh with you in the happy times

But most of all I promise to love you for all the days of my life

Yep, not a dry eye in the house!


Steph sent me a thank you:

Thank you so much for the important role you played in our special day. We couldn’t have been happier with the ceremony and it is something we will cherish forever. You made the ceremony so personal to us and also gave us all a few laughs during it! You were so helpful in the planning process and gave us lots of ideas to use in the ceremony whilst also encouraging us to do what we wanted. Many guests have commented on how much they enjoyed the humanist ceremony and most importantly we loved it!

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!

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.

Iain and Emma – A Glorious Day at Balbirnie House

As I left all the guests gathered in the sunshine on a glorious afternoon in the gardens of Balbirnie House in Fife, I pondered upon how fortunate and privileged I am to be an important part of such a wonderful day. If I am honest I was also pondering about how nice it would be to have another glass of the wonderful champagne but I had to drive home.

Balbirnie House was a super venue and the staff just couldn’t do more. The wedding was quite formal, in the Hall, a long, high ceilinged room whose decor fitted perfectly with the Apollo String Quartet playing as guests arrived. I must admit Iain and Emma did it all just right and, with the help of the hotel staff, the whole ceremony went off without a hitch. Emma’s entrance to Pachelbel’s Canon in D made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end and she took it slowly, in measured paces, really living the moment. Too many of my brides seem to rush this moment and, whilst I can understand your desire to get to the front before the groom faints, it is your day and your moment to savour.

A day to remember and I hear that the quartet has even forgiven me for introducing them as “The Appalling Strings”. Honest guys, it was a mistake. Aye right! A link to their site is on the right.

Two Unusual Readings

Alex and Katie were married in the impressive and atmospheric Borthwick Castle, just off the A7 outside Dalkeith, in the heart of the Borders of Scotland (see my link). Photographs will follow I promise.

Though the setting was magnificent Alex and Katie wanted a ceremony that was informal and relaxed. Katie has decided not to have any bridesmaids and there were no ushers so the wedding felt more like a family party than a formal affair. We did not have the opportunity to rehearse the day before so I got there early and worked with the best man and Jo and Elisabeth who were delivering the readings. They had chosen two very unusual readings that I would like to share.The first was from that seminal text on weddings, “Goodbye and Thanks for the Fish” by the notable Humanist and author, the late Douglas Adams. The second reading was I Like You by Sandol Stoddart Warburg. Both readings are published on my Favourite Readings page.

My First Wedding

The training to become an authorized celebrant is extensive and covers not only the legal aspects and obligations of the role but also how to design the ceremony and the variety of rituals, vows, pledges that other, more experienced Celebrants have used in the five years we have been delivering legal weddings. I still vividly remember the stories of the outdoor weddings in howling gales and one in six inches of snow. But, on the day of my first wedding and a Registered Celebrant, it was the discussion about children at weddings that came back to me most powerfully.

John and Zoe Scally, as they now are, were to be married in the Clubhouse of the Prestonfield Golf Course on the 1st May 2010. I met John and Zoe and their three year-old son Zac and worked with them to design the ceremony they wanted on their special day. Being my first wedding I thought it wise to be as prepared as possible so I visited the Prestonfield Golf Club and it was amazing, with panoramic views over Arthur’s Seat and the eighteenth green sitting beneath. Being midweek during February the clubhouse was, of course, very quiet.

The day arrived and I got to the venue early but not before half of the guests who were already enjoying themselves at the bar, arranging tables, and, as far as I could ascertain, running a crèche. As promised they had closed the partition to separate the bar but behind that partition were, what sounded like, a hundred golfers all shouting at the top of their voices over a television showing the Hearts game. We got ourselves organised, I managed to calm John down, eventually tracked down the two of their elder children who were going to do the readings and found the one who was bearing the rings. Zoe entered and the place went wild, everyone on their feet, cameras flashing and then Hearts scored in the bar next door. I gestured wildly to the bar staff who managed to quieten things down, got some semblance of order in my half of the clubhouse and the ceremony started. Fortunately, in my other life, I am a management trainer and, in the early part of my career, I was voice coached by an actor so I know how to project my voice. I needed every ounce of that training, Cicero in the Forum would have been impressed.

We got the heart of the ceremony when the bride and groom make their declarations with many tears flowing and a few good laughs as well. Then came the crowning moment. As, for the first time as an authored Celebrant, I was making my first legal declaration, “As you have now both made a solemn and binding contract and by virtue of these declarations, made in my presence…” young Zac bolted forward from nowhere, grabbed his Mum’s wedding dress and shouted, at the top of his voice “Are you a Scally now?”