Joe & Charly’s Humanist Wedding at Ednam House, Kelso

Like my weddings, this blog is somewhere my couples can express their thoughts about the whole process of getting married so I was delighted to get this from Joe and Charly, along with these lovely photos by Borders-based Rachel Cassie.

I met Tim Maguire 12 years ago when I was an intern with the late lamented Margo Macdonald MSP, and discovered that like her, he was also a former colleague of my parents. Good old nepotism eh?

Tim kindly accept the friend request of the overzealous 18 year old me, and we kept in touch through the years.

As part of this, he has shepherded us at some of the most joyous and some of the most difficult times in our lives.

He helped us write a naming ceremony to mark the birth of our daughter Norah AKA ‘The Bairn’.  He was an incredible rock following the death of my father during the height of the COVID pandemic, helping to guide us through not only through our grief to find some light, but also in navigating the immeasurable stresses of societal restrictions and the pain of not having the funeral we would have wanted for my father.  And last, but certainly not least, Tim  helped me and Charly (finally!) to get married.

Over the years of knowing Tim, I have come to appreciate his little phrases that help to normalise how different we all are as humans.  

My particular favourite related to the situation that Charly and I found ourselves in, already having a 3 year old child as we prepared to get  married.  Rather than give way to any pearl-clutching or preparations for a shotgun wedding, Tim disarmed the situation by  describing what we were doing as “reversing into marriage”. 

I rather liked that.  As we have all experienced over the last few years, life can be incredibly complex and indeed messy.  While Charly and I had booked our wedding well into the long grass to avoid any rescheduling of dates, it actually really helped us come to terms with what marriage meant.  

As Tim so wonderfully expresses in some of his wedding ceremony delivery, it can be hard to be mindful of what would be new about being married, when already we live together and have a child. Thus, most boxes are already ticked! 

Confession time.

I have not always understood what would be different about being married, often being of the “it’s just a piece of paper” mindset, particularly with aforementioned boxes being ticked. 

For Charly, it was the public spectacle of it all that was most intimidating. She often spoiled me with the romantic notion that if she could just do an online form complete with CAPTCHA and “mark all the pictures with traffic lights”, that would be far and away her preference.  

It was touch and go for a while as to whether we would have any guests at our wedding at all, apart from the obligatory witnesses. Certainly walking down the aisle was very much in question – and don’t even mention kissing the bride! 

As part of working with Tim, once you’ve worked out the legalities and payments etc, he very deftly sets you homework. “The LoveWork”, as it has become known, is a range of writing tasks that helps get you thinking about the story of your relationship.  

Tim, aka Mr Miyagi, then revealed how we had now written the bulk of our wedding ceremony without so much as a Bride or Groomzilla moment about “writing vows“.  

Admittedly, Charly and I found this process quite hard.  

We are quite straightforward, practical people – functional some may say.  And so delving into our back story was not an easy task, particularly as we have faced many challenges to get where we are now.  

However, Mr Maguire had another trick up his sleeve (my personal favourite), quoting the American satirist Tom Lehrer; “God gave you eyes – plagiarise!”

Once he’s read your LoveWork, Tim then kindly sends the ceremonies of some of his wedding alumni who have similar values, to give you different ideas on how to tell your story, and add further depth to your ceremony.  

On the big day itself, Tim kindly helped everybody be where they should, and attended to the future Mrs Somerville and our young daughter as they hid behind the curtain, awaiting their cue.  

Tim performs the ceremonies with such a rich warmth and humour, that you check yourself that you are in fact the people he is talking about.

Then you remember, he is reading our words and our story…  

I can’t begin to tell you the comfort that comes from this approach, and having the space to say what you’ve always wanted to say.  

For the vows, Tim always offers to discreetly hold your vow cards. However, I had to fess up that my eyesight really is quite terrible so I did the full comedy holding-of-card at arm’s length, complete with glasses wiggle.  

But again, Tim makes this feel so safe and easy, you feel you could almost be getting married in your living room. 

Following the ceremony we were inundated with comments and compliments saying how fabulous Tim was.

We of course agreed, but as Tim insists, that was because he’d been speaking our words. 

After Tim had headed off, our daughter ‘The Bairn’, scurried off with her betrothed and was caught planting a kiss on him by the poor boy’s Dad (sadly not by Rachel, our wonderful photographer!)  Tim has very graciously opened his calendar for the year 2042 and pencilled them in.  

I wanted to go into this detail because I think it’s really important to highlight that without Tim’s guidance and support, we likely would have had an incredibly small informal wedding with witnesses and that would have been it – job done. Instead, we had the most gorgeous day with 40 of our friends and family, our daughter walked Charly down the aisle and yes indeed – I did get to kiss the bride. 

When we first met to talk about our wedding, Tim told us that the comment he gets most often from guests is “that was the best wedding I’ve ever been to.”  

I had never quite appreciated the full depth of meaning behind this comment, but I do now.  My wife kindly notes that actually lots of weddings can be boring! But ours wasn’t, and don’t just take our word for it.  

Tim helped us craft our story which celebrated our successes, laughed at our mishaps, and got closure on our challenges.  He helped us capture the human condition, warts and all, guiding even awkward souls like us to understand why it is we want to get married. The entire process helped us refocus our relationship and how we ended up where we found ourselves.  

Many parents of young children will understand that life all becomes rather functional and the romance can often become more about who gets the hot cup of tea that morning. Indeed, the only sweeping off your feet is usually as a result of tripping over the same lego brick for the umpteenth time.

Some may look past the simplicity of the job title “celebrant”, but it is a title very much in the spirit of Ronseal, Tim helped us to celebrate our relationship.

We all have anxieties; whether that’s being in the spotlight on a wedding day, not getting the words right, will the mother’s behave themselves!? But Tim puts all that at ease, and we will be forever grateful to him for that.  

I shall finish with a quote from one of our daughter’s favourite books – The Scarecrow’s Wedding by Julia Donaldson :

“Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay

were scarecrows

(They scared lots of crows every day)

Harry loved Betty,

and Betty loved Harry.

So Harry said, ‘Betty my beauty, let’s marry!’

Let’s have a wedding,

the best wedding yet.

A wedding that no one

will ever forget.”

And we never will.

Best wishes Tim, from Joe, Charly & The Bairn.

I couldn’t have asked for a more comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of what it means to create your wedding in your own words, Joe and Charly – thank you so much! And thank you too, Rachel; you really captured everything that made this such a special day for all of us.

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