Emma and Daniel’s Humanist Wedding at Inchcolm Abbey

I love this scene-setting shot of the three Forth Bridges, by Jonathon Fowler! When Daniel and Emma decided to get married on the Isle of Inchcolm, the new Forth Crossing bridge (far left) wasn’t quite finished, and I think everyone was looking forward to seeing what it looked like from the deck of the Maid of the Forth.

Getting married on an island presents quite a few practical problems. Getting the bride there at the same time as the rest of the wedding party is the first of them, so Emma and her family went aboard a good half hour before everyone else just to make sure that nobody saw the dress.

The Maid has made that trip many times since she was built in Bristol in 1989. A deceptively small vessel, she can accommodate 225 passengers as well as her crew of five. 

Emma, like all brides, got to sit up in the wheelhouse with the captain. I don’t think she really steered us over there, but I could be wrong!

 The guests were duly piped aboard and we made the short half-hour crossing to Inchcolm



By then the weather had changed for the better. That old line about Scotland having ‘four seasons in one day’ is only a cliche because it’s true!

Inchcolm Abbey was founded in the early 13th century by King David I and it’s still the best-preserved collection of monastic buildings in Scotland. If you think it looks a bit like the abbey on Iona, that’s because it does. Its name in Gaelic means ‘Columba’s Island’ which explains why it’s often called the ‘Iona of the East’.

Carved on the stonework at the entrance to the Abbey, if you look carefully, you may find this Latin inscription. “Stet domus haec donec fluctus formica marinos ebibat, et totum testudo perambulet orbem”,  which means, “May this house stand until an ant drains the flowing sea, and a tortoise walks around the whole world”.

The main body of the guests disembarked first, allowing Emma and her family to follow the piper from the pier to the kirk.




The wedding itself took place in what used to be the refectory, the room where the monks ate.

Daniel and Emma chose to marry on Inchcolm because they’d found their sea legs on the Firth of Forth, qualifying as Day Skippers at Port Edgar. As Daniel had also proposed to Emma on Sandray, another tiny Scottish Island, it made perfect sense to get married on another. 

Daniel’s sister Catherine gave us our first reading, a passage from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, (a story that is also set on a small island, Cephalonia, in the Ionian Sea).

I told the guests the story of Emma and Daniel which involved ‘bimbling’, Norwegian mountains, sheep and basking sharks.

Emma’s mum Kathleen gave us a lovely rendition of the Robert Burns classic, A Red, Red, Rose and then after talking about what marriage means to them, Emma and Daniel spoke their vows and exchanged rings.



I had a lovely surprise that day when I met Effie and David White, whose wedding I’d conducted at the Roxburghe Hotel back in 2012.

This was taken on my iPhone, so don’t blame Jonathon for the quality of this shot, (or the following images either!)



As you can see, by the time we had to head back to the pier, the sun had got his hat on.



On the return journey, Daniel and Emma had done a very clever thing, that I would recommend to any couple who choose to get married on Inchcolm. They asked everyone to bake something and bring it with them.

The cakes – and there were lots of them – were delicious, and most welcome. The round trip to the Abbey and back is about four hours, and while the Maid of the Forth does sell teas, coffees and snacks, they’re very happy if you want to bring your own.




Suitably refreshed, the piper once again led the wedding party along the promenade at South Queensferry all the way to the reception at another of my favourite venues, Orocco Pier.

Emma and Daniel sent me a lovely card the other day, and Jonathon Fowler was kind enough to share these great shots that really capture the mood of the day.

Just a note to say thank you for conducting our wedding ceremony nearly a year ago today. Thank you for your professional and expert delivery of our ceremony. We received so many compliments from family and friends, many of whom had never attended a humanist ceremony before, and expressed their appreciation of the unique and personal nature of the ceremony.





 We are grateful for the support you gave us in the preparation of our vows, and for making us both feel at ease on the day. Your delivery and encouragement made our wedding a ceremony that we will continue to cherish and we wish you continued success!



It is now just over a year since we were all together on Inchcolm, Emma and Daniel, but seeing these photographs and your kind words makes it feel as though it was just yesterday.

Thanks for the happy memories: may you create many, many more!

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