One big step for Alan and Kelly

Kelly & Alan’s Humanist Wedding Blessing in a Castle in Fife

5,000 miles: that’s how far away Kelly and Alan were when we first spoke over Skype. It takes courage to organise a wedding at that distance, and confidence to invite your friends to make that journey with you, but that’s the kind of people they are.

They relished the prospect of creating their ceremony in their own words and they really embraced the process. Even though it’s not available in the US right now, they bought my book, and every element of their script had been duly weighed, considered and originally expressed – including the introduction, which ended with this line. ‘Kelly and Alan ask for you to leave a Yelp review afterwards, and if I’m under 4.5 stars, they’ll make sure to go with the Catholics for their next wedding!’

Perhaps because everyone had travelled so far, it was a particularly relaxed kind of day, so much so that Alan and Kelly did a lot of their formal photography before I arrived: I thought that was a great idea.

The ceremony began with the entrance of the wedding party: the mothers of the bride & groom came in on the arms of their sons, followed by the fathers and then the happy couple themselves. I thought that was pretty cool. You’ll note that nobody was standing – sometimes that’s a good idea because it means the photographer – in this case the talented Andrew Wield – gets a wider field of vision.

Kelly and Alan had intended theirs to be a legal wedding, but they forgot to submit their paperwork to the local registrar in time. Now for most people, that would be a cause of great tension, but perhaps because they’re Californian, they took it in their stride. Here’s how I explained it.

Marriage can be hard to characterise. One the one hand it is a legal contract, but on the other, it is a moral promise, and while the legal contract is important, it is in the moral promise that Kelly and Alan believe the true meaning of marriage is to be found. Although they had intended to have a legally binding ceremony today, events overtook them, so the legal paperwork will be completed in a courthouse in California upon their return. 

I also liked their style when they talked about why I was conducting the ceremony. ‘ Why am I here reading this? Alan and Kelly both tend to tear up when they try to say anything too sincere (and some of you may know what I’m talking about). ‘

While most couples tell their story from their shared perspective, I liked that Kelly allowed Alan to remember their relationship, and tell that story from his own point of view.

Because I couldn’t remember the details, I’ve spent this afternoon scrolling back through our text messages.  Which was harder than I expected, since iPhones only allow you to scroll back a bit at a time and then pause for loading.  I went back to our first text message on November 2 2015.  We texted for 5 days before our first date on the 7th.   We set up more dates.  We had times when we went to DC for concerts (normally with Bobby).   We took pictures from our vacations.  I learned about public defence and the legal system.  There were pictures and weddings we went to without each other.  There were pictures of cute animals, bizarre news articles, and obese cats.

They didn’t just speak to each other: they talked to their friends too.

You’ve seen us struggle. You’ve seen us cry. You’ve seen us grow. And hopefully, with your love, you’ve seen us overcome and become better than we believed we could ever be.  Though many of you live far from Los Angeles, you are never far from our hearts, and when we say that we talk about spending the rest of our lives together, know we want to spend them with you too.

After passing the rings through the hands of all the guests, (what we call ‘a ring-warming ceremony’), I invited Rose and Brian to come up and give us a reading.

And then Kelly and Alan thanked their families and talked about how they felt to be joining each other’s clans.

They talked about their family histories, and the struggles they’d experienced. They remembered their ancestors, and then they shared a first drink from a quaich that had been in Kelly’s family for many years.

After a moment for quiet contemplation, it was time for the vows, and I asked the guests to make promises to Kelly and Alan before they made their own very personal ones to each other.

They didn’t do them all at one time. Instead they exchanged promises one after another – I call that ‘The Poker Promise’ because it’s kind of ‘I see you and I’ll raise you…’

Naturally, they chose the most important people to give them their rings: their moms (see what I did there?). The emotion in the great hall of the castle was almost tangible.

A few months have gone by since that day, but it lives large in my memory because Kelly and Alan brought so much of themselves to it, and I was delighted when they sent me these great photos and the following kind words.

Regarding the day of the wedding, we felt like it was a pretty magical time.  The day itself seems to go by so quickly, so that the bulk of it ends up existing as a memory that we create for ourselves to think about during more difficult times, and so the things that stick out in retrospect become more important.  We’ve had the chance to go over our photos and look through them, and while the reception was fun and seeing and talking with people was wonderful (though not enough time to spend with all our friends), by far the most significant part both from our perspective and from what other people told us ended up being the ceremony. 

I guess the party aspect was the best party of our lives, but what made it special was the ability to share our story and our feelings with everyone in a sincere manner, an opportunity that sadly doesn’t come around often.  Writing the ceremony was difficult, but important on both an introspective as well as expressive manner (I feel like my dad and I understand each other a little bit better after it).  We’d like to thank you for challenging us to make the ceremony in a meaningful way, and being there to present in a way that everyone resonated with.

Thank you so much, Alan and Kelly – as you now know, this is a process that’s a bit like life itself. You get back what you give out, and I can see exactly why your family and friends loved the ceremony so much. You were generous with yourselves, and you thought about every aspect to make their experience almost as powerful and engaging as your own. I’m very proud of what you did, and just glad to have been a part of it! Thanks again to everyone who helped make it so great, not least Andrew Wield, for these great shots!

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