Charli & Phil’s Humanist Wedding at The Biscuit Factory

Imagination, creativity and self-expression; that’s what humanist weddings are all about, and Phil and Charli’s ceremony ticked all those boxes for me!

I’d never been to The Biscuit Factory before, and I loved its retro NY Loft vibe.

Phil was looking very cool when I arrived – as were his five groomsmen (of whom more later).

The placement was very clever too; theatre style, with the guests on both sides of a catwalk, so it was almost as much of a fashion show and piece of theatre as it was a wedding.

Meanwhile, Charli and her dad were making their way from The Shore in a fabulous vintage 7.5 litre Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

It was a silk and satin, velvet and lace kind of day…

That poem, printed on silk, is ‘Scaffolding’ by the late great Northern Irish poet, Seamus Heaney.

Because it was a very ‘Scots-irish’ wedding. Charli’s brother Jay played her down the aisle…

And once the wedding party had finally entered, the ceremony proper began, with – of course – a reading of ‘Scaffolding’ by her cousin, Liane.

Phil and Charli really embraced the idea of making their wedding inclusive and engaging, so rather than asking me to tell their stories, they delegated that task to their mums, Florence and Donna, who told a story that started in Dundee and went on to include Armagh, Tranent, Qatar and Hong Kong!

The Wedding Party were next to get involved. Charli and Phil decided to play ‘He Said/She Said’, which was an absolute riot!

Big thanks to Jamie, Pete, Paddy, Avril, Alana and Kate for leading us through that section…

Then Phil and Charli did something else that broke the mould.

They didn’t make conventional personal vows.

Instead, I explained on their behalf why they love one another and what they want to achieve in their married life.

One of the inspirations they shared was the love they could see in their grandparents’ marriages, and they invited Charli’s granddad Douglas to share a few insights of his own into how to keep love alive in a long marriage.

You’ll be relieved to know that Charli and Phil did eventually make some promises to one another, but once again, they did so in a very imaginative way.

Neil, Toddy, Aaron and Jackie asked them a series of questions involving – among other things – hoovers, breadcrumbs and keys, to which they gave answers of their choice…

While Jed, The Mate of Honour, read us “To Love Is Not to Possess,” by James Kavanaugh, the wedding bands were passed around the guests in a ring warming ceremony.

Then – and only then – did Phil and Charli exchange rings, as they spoke a declaration of love together.

Once the formalities were taken care of, there was one last very symbolic gesture, that brought Ulster and Scotland very much together – the sharing of a dram of Bushmills from a quaich.

Phil’s dad, Mervyn, poured the whiskey while Charli’s dad James held the quaich – and made sure that it was properly emptied!

It was a fabulous, fun-filled ceremony, which is why I was very surprised by what Charli said when I asked her afterwards if she’d enjoyed it.

She said, “No!”

It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when Charli and Phil sent me a lovely card that I learned why – she’d been SO NERVOUS! – but I’m glad that they told me that once the ceremony was over, she was able to relax and really enjoy it.

Along with these spectacular shots from my old friend Marc Millar, Charli & Phil sent me these lovely words.

“We just wanted to say a huge thank you for being part of our wedding day and for bringing our ceremony to life with confidence, class and distinction.

We just love how unique it was, and we have had countless comments from our guest the echo the same message – we don’t think anyone had ever been to a ceremony quite like it!

Thank you for being so flexible with us and for allowing us to let our weirdness and creativity flow.

We couldn’t have asked for a better humanist – you were class! 

Lots of love, Charli and Phil”

The pleasure was mine, guys, but honestly, in all the weddings I have conducted, I’ve never once had a bride give me the answer you did! I was really worried in case I’d done something terrible, so I am just relieved to know that it was just your nerves speaking! Now you can look back on your big day, I hope you realise what an amazing, imaginative and original ceremony you created, and be proud of it!

Thank you again for choosing me as your celebrant, and thank you too, to Marc Miller – I really love how he caught the atmosphere in the room and of the whole day!

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