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”



Napier University with Holly and Andrew

A new venue for me today as I married Holly and Andrew at the Napier University campus at Craiglockart and I must admit, I was impressed not only by the lovely building but also by the wonderful staff. Theirs was a traditional wedding, and they chose to have a Hand-Fasting as they exchanged their promises and vows. For their promises and commitments to one another they decided to use the words of another and who better than Bertrand Russell (well, it is attributed to Russell, but I do have my doubts):

Andrew, today I marry my friend,

The one I have laughed and cried with,

The one I have learned from and shared with,

The one I have chosen to support, encourage,

And give myself to, through all the days

Given us to share.

Today I marry the one I love.


Holly, I join my life with yours today

Without hesitation and with an open and trusting heart.

Whatever we may encounter,

Let us encounter it together.

This is my commitment,

To be the best husband I can be

But, at the end of the day, what does it matter who wrote these beautiful words. After they made their legal vows and I declared them married they then shared a Quaich using very special Whisky because during Andrew’s PhD he worked on a project that supplied barley grain to the Highland Park Distillery in Orkney, where he visited when he went to work on the island as part of his studies. But do you really need a good reason to share a great malt?

Return to Prestonfield Golf Club

If you have read my First Wedding blog then you will know about the trials and tribulations of performing a ceremony at Prestonfield Golf Club. Zoe, the bride in my first ceremony, is Karen’s niece and she and Derek were at Zoe’s wedding. They were so taken with the personal nature of the ceremony that they asked me to conduct their ceremony at the same venue. I had my doubts but, when Derek shared his ideas on how to improve the way we did things, I was all for it.

It was a gorgeous day with the sun beating down on Arthur’s Seat behind us and the golf course looking green and lush from the balcony windows.

Derek and Karen had both been married before and the really special thing about heir wedding was the way that all their kids were involved in the ceremony. Craig, Derek’s son was his best man, Stacy and Naomi both chose readings and presented them beautifully and Liann read the most personal and wonderful poem that was on a plaque that her late Gran Isa had. It does more to sum up the day than I ever can.

Our family is a circle of love and strength
With every birth and every union, the circle grows
Every joy shared adds more love, every crisis
faced together makes the circle stronger

Champagne was opened, photos were taken and it was evident that the party was about to begin. I understand it was some night but few can remember.

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.

Lucy and Nick’s Big Day in Biggar

The weather could have been better but the venue was still splendid. Set in the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders, The Cornhill House Hotel is modelled on a French chateau and obviously very popular with the locals. Nick’s family were from Canada and had flown in early to explore Scotland and hire kilts! A day and a wedding that was not without its challenges.

If you are from outside the European Community and you want to get married in Scotland you will need the correct visa when you enter or you will need to get permission to get married from the home Secretary. I explained this to Nick when we met in January but, what with the change of government and the usual bureaucracy, it took an age. Two weeks before the wedding I had a frantic Lucy on the phone asking what we should do as Nick’s permission hadn’t arrived yet. All the arrangements had been made, hotel paid for and Nick’s family had booked all their flights. Our only option was to make the wedding ceremony non-legal, but as close to real thing as we could make it, and they would have to have a civil ceremony when his permission came through. Thankfully, one week before the wedding, I had a phone call on my mobile from an ecstatic Lucy and the wedding could go ahead as planned. I suppose I should have been expecting the unexpected…

It was a dreich day, grey and raining heavily when I arrived at Cornhill House. I had dropped my wife, Wendy, off in Biggar to do some shopping (great pies!) confidently telling her that I would be about an hour and a half at the most. I did a walk through with Nick and his Best Men and waited for bride to arrive. It was at this point that the wedding organiser came through to the marquee and told me that there was a big accident on the M74 and that half the guests, and more importantly the piper, were going to be late. “No problem, I’m not going anywhere,” I lied, thinking that my wife would be struggling to fill her time in Biggar as it was. Forty five minutes later I heard the strangled strains of a set of pipes being warmed-up (is that what you do to bagpipes?) so I scraped Nick off the roof of the marquee – he was actually quite calm – the guests entered, the piper played and the bridal party entered. Lucy sent me a note:

“Brian Hawkins was our celebrant for our wedding this year. Brian elequently conveyed my husband and my feelings towards each other and marriage, both professionally and considerately. We were very impressed with the ceremony and his very approachable manner. lucy and nick”

The shops in Biggar all close after lunch on a Saturday and it was a despondent and very wet Wendy that I collected from the bus shelter one hour later than I promised.

Sue and Brendan, Carberry Tower, near Musselburgh

Sue and Brendan got married on the 29th of May 2010 on a glorious day in the countryside outside Musselburgh. I first met them on the 20th March 2010 and we talked through their ideas for their wedding. They wanted something quite relaxed but personal. I ask the couples I am to marry to do some homework for me, to think about what marriage means to them and about what they want from their marriage. This, together with a piece about “their story” becomes the heart of their unique and personal ceremony.

“We just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for conducting our wedding ceremony. You were unbelievably helpful from start to finish and we couldn’t have wished for a better person for our day. Everybody has commented on how lovely the ceremony was – a large part of which was down to your careful guidance and advice.

You made us feel relaxed about the day from the very first moment that we met you which was just what we were after. The encouragement along the way certainly helped and it’s the first piece of homework that I can remember enjoying completing for quite some time! Sorry we never got the chance to share a drink with you but it was all a whirlwind from the moment we left the chapel!

Good luck with all your future weddings – we know you’ll do a great job.”

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?”