Sometimes Plan B works out even better than Plan A. That was certainly true for Raynette and Joshua!
They’d planned on an outdoor wedding. In fact their script opened with this line: “The stage is set, under the boughs of a huge and ancient tree.” But of course, this is Scotland, and although it was June the weather was against us, so instead we ended up inside the wonderfully atmospheric Cambo House.
Joshua is a cultural anthropologist. I know; I had to look that up too, and I was delighted to discover that (among other things), cultural anthropologists are fascinated by the role and purpose of ritual. One of the main reasons I love conducting ceremonies is that each one is an opportunity to create meaning, so I was really looking forward to finding out what Joshua and Raynette chose to do.
In the script, Joshua envisaged himself emerging from the woodland, followed by his four groomspeople, Alastair, Alex, Helen & Oliver.
The guests would be sitting or standing in a circle around a central space, and the groomspeople would move to its centre, scattering flowers to create a ceremonial circle.
On the day, the idea worked beautifully, but with an additional twist.
Rather than a circle… they created a heart.
Marrying “in the round” as they say in the theatre is a lovely idea, in that it makes everyone in the audience equal; there is no front, and no hierarchy of view.
What it means, though, is that the couple standing in the centre have to be prepared to turn occasionally so that everyone gets ‘the best view’ at one point or another.
The bridal party were very international; four American bridesmaids flew in from the USA
and four English groomspeople made their way north of the border for this momentous occasion.
I was even more pleased that Joshua and Raynette chose to tell their own stories – very few couples feel able even to think of doing this, so I was very proud of them!
Two of their friends gave us readings; the first was that gorgeous poem by W.B. Yeats that finishes with the line “tread softly, for you tread on my dreams”,
and the second was the T.S. Elliot one that starts with “To whom I owe the leaping delight, That quickens my senses in our wakingtime“
Joshua and Raynette gave some real thought to the meaning of marriage.
I won’t quote everything they said, but I liked how Raynette spoke about bending, moulding, dreaming and exploring, while Joshua acknowledged how frightening it is to give yourself to one person, and how no single word can contain the want, need, desire, attachment, or unrequited ache of connection.
In summation, Joshua said, “And marriage also means a wedding where for one brief moment we tear away the shawl of privacy to celebrate us.” And Raynette replied, “Yes! And a wedding means a party and that means cocktails!”
The Quaich Ceremony is now a familiar part of contemporary marriage, but once again, Raynette and Joshua reinvented it and made it more fun – and more meaningful – than ever!
To demonstrate their conviction that doing things the hard way is often more gratifying, they made their ‘Wedding Breakfast Martini’ with marmalade made by Joshua’s parents – and shared the recipe so that everyone could make their own after the ceremony!
Before we reached the vows, the rings were passed around the guests in a ‘ring-warming’ and again, Joshua and Raynette made theirs unique. Most rings are made from a bar of metal that’s bent into shape and joined to form a circle. Theirs were made from liquid gold that had been poured into a mould to form a unique unbroken circle.
As you would expect, their vows were complementary rather than identical, and they chose to speak them directly to one another.
And then it was time to kiss…
I could write about how Raynette and Joshua made their ceremony their own for hours, but I think you’ve heard enough from me for now. These are the words they sent me along with these beautifully observed shots by Dylan of The Kitcheners.
Firstly, we would like to thank you for helping us create such an intimate and special ceremony.
We loved the process that you gave us to work through and the opportunity it gave us to engage with the love work and to question what the ceremony is and how it works and what impact this then has on both the couple and guests.
For two people who like planning, crafting and creating things together, your guidance in the gestation of our ceremony is hugely appreciated.
We also wanted to thank you for the masterful leading of a ceremony ‘in the round’. It was great to watch and the mix of casual and serious gave the atmosphere we had hoped for but didn’t know if it would be achieved.
If we’re being honest, the ceremony ended up being far better and more magical than either of us had hoped for, which was blissful and gratifying in equal measure – we know we chose the perfect celebrant for us.
We also love that you’ve planted a tree for us. The Scottish forests are very special to Joshua, having spent many of his university weekends mountain biking in them, and one of our first trips away together was to Loch Ness, so there is a pleasing circularity to such a location.
It was a real joy working with you, Raynette & Joshua – thank you for bringing so much thought, imagination and fun to the whole process.
I’m sure your ideas will spark many others, and I hope you like the idea that your ceremony may well inspire many other couples who are looking to create their own unique meaning in a humanist marriage some day!
Thanks again – and thanks too, to Dylan of the Kitcheners for these stunning shots!