Niamh & Shadi’s Humanist Wedding at Carlowrie Castle

Promises, promises…

What’s important to you about your marriage ceremony – the legal contract, or the moral promise? If that seems like an odd question it’s because it’s one I’ve been asking myself a lot recently.

I loved how Niamh came in with her mum and dad

When Humanist marriage became legal in Scotland in 2005, that legal contract was really important because it meant that after more than twenty years of campaigning, the Scottish Government had finally accepted the Humanist argument that the way to reinvigorate the institution of marriage was to give couples the freedom to say why they were getting married and what they were promising in their own words.

Yes, it is indeed the Pickled Piper himself!

It clearly worked. Almost 19 years later, humanists now conduct around a third of all legal marriages in Scotland, but – as Shadi and Niamh’s ceremony shows – a marriage doesn’t need to be legal to be meaningful.

Shadi wrapping Niamh in his keffiyeh

They’re not from these parts, as you may have guessed from their names. They live in Sydney, but when they looked at what was involved in having a legal wedding here in the UK, they decided to do that bit at home, with Niamh’s bridesman Adam, and Shadi’s groomsman Matt as witnesses.

An especially diligent scattering of rose petals…

But – as I said in their words –“although our ceremony is not legally binding, it’s all about the moral promise that we are making to one another, and that is why we regard today as the real celebration of our marriage, because here we are, standing in front of you, our closest family and friends, to make our vows  to one another.”

Niamh & Shadi love to travel. Instagram shows me that they’re still out there, exploring the world, but they first met back in 2015 when friends separately invited them on trips to Southeast Asia. They almost didn’t meet because someone who will remain nameless slept in and missed his taxi, but fate intervened and they got to say their first hellos in Hanoi…

Shadi’s sister, Sally, read “What Is Love?”

Niamh said to Shadi, “so you’re from New Zealand? That’s cool”. Shadi asked if Niamh was Irish and when she confirmed she was in fact Scottish he asked, “ohh, have you had haggis?” Niamh told him she loves haggis pakora, and if you ever doubted that Scotland was multicultural, that’s all the proof you’ll ever need… and talking of multicultural, Shadi’s family are Palestinian – hence the distinctive keffiyeh he’s wearing over his shoulder where a Scotsman might wear a plaid.

Darcey giving her own version of “Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog”, by Taylor Mali 

Covid brought a stop to their travels, but they spent lockdown watching movies, going on long coastal walks, and finishing their separate master’s degrees, but as soon as the borders opened, they booked a trip to Hawaii, New York, and Scotland which led them where else but to the award-winning Carlowrie Castle

Niamh & Shadi kept their vows a secret until the day…
And after they exchanged rings, I reaffirmed their marriage
Where’s the obligatory kiss? I hear you ask…
There you go!

After their wedding, they were of course off on their travels once more but not before sending me these lovely words – and these fabulous photographs from the talented Elliot Caunce.

Our initial Zoom call gave us a lot to think about and left us really focusing on the ceremony as the heart of our wedding day. It made us contemplate what marriage really meant to us, both as individuals and as a couple. 

We already knew we loved each other, but it was really something special to think about and write down the main things that we not only love about each other, but that made us want to spend our lives together. We are so grateful for the LoveWork project you set us, and for your guidance throughout the writing of our ceremony. 

Although we were planning our wedding from the other side of the world, you were always responsive, supportive, and encouraged our creativity. Thank you so much for being such an integral part of our wedding day!

It was a delight, Niamh & Shadi! Keep on travelling, keep on loving one another, and keep in touch! Thanks of course to Elliot Caunce for these great shot!

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