Lesli & Josh’s Humanist Elopement at Prestonfield House

The best things come in small packages – that’s the secret of an elopement.

Yes, it’s great to have a massive wedding with all of your friends present, but you don’t need a crowd to make your wedding the happiest day of your life.

Josh and Lesli live in Seattle – Go Seahawks! – but they decided to travel half way around the world to have a very intimate ceremony with only their closest family and friends.

That made their ceremony very different in several ways, and they did something I think every couple can learn from.

Humanist weddings have become very familiar here in Scotland. They now account for around a third of all marriages, and they tend to follow a very similar pattern.

They tell the couple’s story. They talk about the reasons they love one another and they define what marriage means to them.

I don’t for a moment mean to diminish the importance of doing these things, because they are all hard-won privileges.

Humanists had to campaign for more than twenty years to give couples the freedom to say what they want in their own words in their marriage ceremony, so naturally, that’s what most people choose to do.

But with the freedom to say what you want comes another freedom.

The freedom to not say what you don’t want.

It’s every bit as important, and that is precisely what Josh and Lesli did – in a very elegant way – and that is why I found myself saying this…

In the first place, they know you know their story, and in the second, they know you wouldn’t have travelled almost 9,000 miles to be with them today if you didn’t know in your hearts just how important this day is to them, so – rather than tell you their story – we’re going to focus instead on the essence of marriage, where two people make the ultimate promise to one another. 

Actually, I lie, because before they made their promises to one another, Lesli and Josh asked their guests to make some promises to them – and the folks watching back home got to join in via video link.

I call these promises ‘the Guest Vows‘ and they’re a powerful way to make your guests not only feel a part of your wedding, but an important part of your married life in the future.

Josh and Lesli spoke the traditional promises, repeat after me, and after they’d exchanged rings, given to them by Lesli’s maid of honour and Josh’s sister, I pronounced them married…

And got out of the way sharpish so Robbie could get the all-important ‘two-shot’!

That could have been that, but having travelled all that way, one thing Josh was very keen to do was to incorporate a Quaich Ceremony

The passing of the quaich is said to have been a part of Scots Marriage ceremonies since 1589, when King James the VI of Scotland married Anne of Denmark and gave her a quaich as a wedding gift, but its history is much older than that, and you can read some of my thoughts about that history – and how you can reinvent it – here

I used the words of the traditional toast: “Strike hands with me, the glasses brim, the dew is on the heather, for love is good and life is long, and two are best together.”

And then, before I sent them on their way, I asked the guests to join me in speaking one of my favourite blessings, which goes like this.

Lesli and Josh…

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!

It was lovely to know that everyone watching four and a half thousand miles away were able to speak to them directly afterwards.

And I know that Josh and Leslie loved it too.

As they said when they sent me these great photos by Robbie at Duke Studios

Everything was beautiful.

And we couldn’t have been happier with the ceremony and celebration that followed!

By the way, if you want to have an intimate ceremony, there really is nowhere quite like the Leather Room at Prestonfield House. Named after the panels of gilded leather that were brought all the way from Córdoba in the late 17th century, it’s one of the most beautiful spaces in the city and it’s been perfectly captured here by Robbie from Duke Studios.

So, thank you Josh and Lesli for thinking for yourselves. Thank you for creating such a powerful ceremony, and thank you for reminding me – and everyone else – that the freedom to say what you want includes the freedom to not say what you don’t want too!

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