Alex & James’s Humanist Wedding at The Balmoral

Alex and James first met 10 years ago, when they were students in Aberdeen.

There was an instant connection in terms of values and interests, and they quickly became inseparable. They particularly loved going to concerts and art galleries, but they also spent a lot of time socialising, enjoying the student night life and cultivating a shared set of friends whom they hold dear to this day.

When they moved out of halls, they took the gamble that they could live together without driving each other up the wall. They won that bet, and they’ve lived together ever since.

After moving back to Edinburgh to start their careers, they got engaged in 2019, shortly before a trip to Vienna. James had been planning to propose at the Wiener Staatsoper but he got overexcited, and popped the question the evening before they departed. As the opera they were going to see was Madama Butterfly, (the tragic story of a particularly unhappy marriage), that was probably a blessing in disguise!

Alex and James gave a lot of thought to the meaning of marriage. As they said, “marriage is a project equally shared; it requires patience and compromise. A shared compassionate understanding of another person leads to a greater understanding of the human condition. Together, the couple can overcome adversity and a relationship formalised as a marriage is a steadfast source of resilience. Together, we can join in celebrating each other’s achievements; drawing mutual satisfaction from one another’s endeavours. It is a blessing to navigate life in the glow of friendship and love.”

We had three readings, from James’s sister, Milly, and her fellow bridesmaid, Gemma, and from Kat, who gave us this definition of love from martial arts hero, Bruce Lee!

“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.”

James and Alex were very relaxed about the whole process.

I really liked how they chose to get ready together, and they even did a pre-wedding shoot with their families before they even made their way to The Balmoral.

That’s something that my American couples often do, and it’s a great way to make the whole day less intimidating from the get go.

They chose to write their own personal vows which they spoke directly to one another, so I got out of the way.

And once they’d exchanged rings and I’d pronounced them married, I got the guests to stand and speak this blessing to speed them on their way.

May you have sails for the wind

And a roof for the rain

And drinks beside the fire

Laughter to cheer you

And those you love near you

And all that your hearts may desire

James sent me these thoughts after the wedding.

Everyone has been telling us how much they enjoyed the ceremony, and we really appreciated all of your help with it. The tree is a lovely idea too. Thanks for helping to make our day so special!

The whole process was intimidating to begin with but for logistical reasons primarily. In terms of making the decision to get married and seeing it through to the ceremony the decisions all seemed very easy!

I think perhaps a week before the wedding we were the most nervous as there was so much to orchestrate. However as we got in contact with suppliers and our plans came together both of us began to feel much more relaxed.

The day is a bit of a blur but my main memory of it was the novelty of the experience. It was slightly surreal to be experiencing a ceremony which has such an iconic place in our society. It was intense and emotional but in all the right ways.

Thanks again for all your help with the big day!

I loved this shot of ‘Toastmaster Bob’ by my old friend Karol Makula, who’s one of the hardest-working photographers in Scotland (and you can quote me!) Karol did his own blog of the day, where you can see many more candid shots too; check it out!

Thank you again, Alex and James, for allowing me to share your story. May you have many more amazing nights at the opera in the months and years to come!

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