I first met Jen and Stuart where they were taking the photos for Dave and Effie’s’s wedding at the Roxburghe Hotel, so I was delighted when they asked me to conduct theirs too.
Jen is from Surrey, where Humanist marriage is virtually unknown, so even before we met, she had to allay a few concerns. As she wrote, My English family and friends are still pretty baffled by the concept of Humanism, but I think I have finally successfully persuaded them it does not mean tie dye, humous or naked jumping over fires with your hands tied together, and more importantly, that our marriage will be legal in England and we won’t require a second ceremony to cross the border. Your blog has been a lifesaver to explain to everyone, so thank you for that. I’m very convinced my mum is now going to love you! They made it clear from the start they wanted something ‘home grown’, so they couldn’t have chosen a better venue for that than Tyninghame Village Hall. Everyone who chooses to work with me has to put a bit of work into creating their ceremony, but Stuart and Jen really knocked me out because they didn’t just write their script, they actually hand-made each other’s wedding rings from two strips of gold!
All brides plan their wedding down to the last detail, but Jen’s was charmingly different from most. In her schedule she wrote Jen arrives at the kitchen door with bridal party (and has a quick cup of tea)
They made their guests very much a part of the day. As they wrote to me afterwards,
Stuart and I have made the cake or done the photography for quite a few friends as their wedding present, and although it’s sometimes stressful because we’re only amateurs, we’ve always really enjoyed creating a part of someone’s big day. For our own wedding, we really wanted a home grown relaxed wedding that all the guests felt a part of and ownership of.
So lots of friends helped bring our day together. For example, a friend of mine made the bride and bridesmaid jewellery out of seaglass we had collected on the beach. Another friend with a pulled pork BBQ business did our catering. Friends and family sewed, baked, grew flowers etc and on the day they were incredible for simply making everything happen between them all.
Our ethos of keeping things local, supporting small businesses and making from scratch was a big driver in us making the rings, and using the village halls. For us, that had more meaning than something big and shiny. Our photographer was Patricia Rueda who’s the sister in law of friends who were guests, and she does wedding photography alongside her fashion and documentary work. We chose her because we liked what she did, and she was warm, friendly, personable and she had exactly the feel we were looking for
The ceremony was very engaging. The first thing we did together was give a rousing rendition of Mhairi’s wedding, accompanied by the ‘Airs & Graces’ string trio.
As part of the homework, I asked Jen and Stuart to share their story with me and I quickly realised they make a great writer and art director combination. Their stories made me both laugh out loud and shed a tiny manly tear. But rather than have me tell their story, they asked their friend Kate to write her own version which she delivered brilliantly, and just as they predicted, it reduced her to tears too.
Jen’s Granddad Jack and his wife Maureen celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary a few weeks before the wedding, so he gave a few words of advice for a long and happy marriage.
As we signed the Marriage Schedule, their friends Chris, Ali, and Elly sang a song called I’m Yours
Then as a final symbolic gesture, Jen and Stuart drank from a quaich, which is a Scots word for a very special loving cup.
Quaichs have been a part of Scottish weddings since King James the VI of Scotland married Anne of Denmark in 1589, and Jen and Stuart’s one was brimming with Kilchoman Whisky which comes from Islay, an island that’s very special to them and to Stuart’s family. As you might expect from a couple as thoughtful as they are, Stuart and Jen wrote me this lovely letter. We wanted to write to you and thank you for conducting such a lovely ceremony for us at Tyninghame Village Hall last week. Your warmth and personality shone through to help us welcome all our guests and make us all feel so relaxed and comfortable. I felt so calm and happy from the moment I walked into the hall and although felt I needed to take the ceremony seriously, it was so much fun to be a part of it I simply couldn’t stop smiling (and crying!) throughout.
All the frantic running around in planning and in the last few days came together in a beautiful perfect day. We really valued the guidance you gave us both in planning and on the day itself, helping us created a ceremony so full of joy, laughter and happiness. It was so important to us that our ceremony reflected us, and yet also included our friends and relatives of faith, and our older relatives who hadn’t encountered a humanist event before.
I received a wee note from my grandma today, and in it she wrote ‘Thank you for a lovely day, both your granddad and I agreed it was the best wedding we had been to, the service was so personal and beautiful, and the weather helped – you certainly have a day to remember and you worked so hard to make it a success’. That’s high praise indeed from an octogenarian – she’s been to a lot of weddings!!
Thank you, Stuart and Jenny for creating such a moving and thoughtful ceremony for all of us. It was a delight!
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