Celebrant Q&A with Raini Rowell

At the end of last year Elopement photographer Raini Rowell reached out to me with an idea of putting together a blog that she could share with the couples she works with. Raini is keen for couples to know all their options when it comes to marriage ceremonies and Celebrants in Scotland.
Some questions and prompts were kindly sent to me to ponder and I thought I’d share the answers here with you. Think of it was a way to get to know me, and my practice as an Agnsotic Scotland Celebrant, a little bit better.
Raini’s blog will be coming soon
Thank you Raini 🌙

What made you want to become an Agnostic Celebrant?

I didn’t set out to become an Agnostic Celebrant. I set out to become a Celebrant and actually I really feel the role, and title, of Agnostic Celebrant found me.


I am not religious but I would say that I have always had a level of, what you might call “modern spirituality”, and I feel that is still true today.

When I decided to train as a Celebrant I began to explore my own spirituality and norms, beliefs and values, a little further. This exploration confirmed to me that my way of thinking about individual belief was strongly agnostic and that our own thoughts, feelings and observations about god and spirituality, indeed about everything, are subjective and I really respect and value that.

A priority for me is to consider others and do no harm, so I feel it’s how I behave and how I treat others that’s important not what I believe or don’t believe. 

I chose to train as an Independent Celebrant offering what I would call an ‘agnostic’ choice to couples and families. 

Choice is the key word here for me. It became clear very quickly that there was a demand for this type of practice and ceremony.  There were many people who were looking for more nuanced ceremonies that were unique to them, their beliefs and values yet may embrace elements of faith, spirituality and ritual. 

Couples should be able to decide how they choose to mark the commitment they are making to each other through their marriage ceremony whether that’s religious or secular, mixed faith, traditional or unconventional. 

It wasn’t long before I came across two other Independent Celebrants who were working with a similar philosophy and practice so we began to  collaborate and created Agnostic Scotland. 

Now there is a additional option in Scotland for couples and families and a growing community of like minded Celebrants, individuals and families.


How would you describe an Agnostic ceremony for couples who have never heard of it?

It’s all about you. 

Both of you – as individuals and as a couple.

It’s not about what I believe or what the organisation believes. It’s non-dogmatic, open-minded and collaborative. 

Every element of the ceremony is woven with your own unique blend of hopes, beliefs and values, whether these include elements of faith-based, spiritual or non-religious ethos. All the words, rituals, music and maybe much loved traditions included are entirely your choice. 

My role is to hold space, inspire and guide as we co create your ceremony and then to hold space for you both on your wedding day, to not for you to just say and hear your chosen words, but to feel them in every part of your heart and body from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes.

Some of the couples I work with do wish to include or recognise an element of faith or faiths in their ceremony often this is in a bid to offer a beautiful embrace to their family, their upbringing or culture. Or all three!

What do you wish couples knew before choosing a celebrant? (any tips/pitfalls to avoid)

First of all, Humanist is not synonymous with Celebrant. This will help widen your search if you are looking for a Celebrant rather than a Humanist Celebrant specifically.

Secondly, and it links to number one, there is such a lot of choice for non religious legal marriage here in Scotland. 

It’s so important to me that couples are aware they have a choice. I would encourage couples to do their research, talk to people, search on the internet, social media, educate themselves and try to get an understanding of what the different choices and belief bodies are in Scotland. A Celebrant that was right for your sister may not be right for you.

In regard to legal marriage there are Civil Ceremonies with Registrars, there are different branches of Humanist Celebrants, are also Interfaith Ministers, Pagan Celebrants and since last year, Agnostic Scotland Celebrants.

There are also Independent Celebrants – many couples choose to have a wee ceremony and register their marriage with the Registrar, just as you would a birth, then have a non legal Ceremony led by an Independent Celebrant at another date.

It’s fantastic that there are so many options.

It is so important to choose the Celebrant and the practice that is right for you both.

My practice as a Celebrant is underpinned by developing relationships, supporting choice, collaboration and having fun.

What can a couple expect from an agnostic ceremony?  

No dogma, we don’t stand up for 5 minutes sharing our views on Agnosticism before your ceremony starts. It’s your ceremony. You’re free to create the ceremony you want for your marriage.

The only stipulations are is that it is safe, respectful and does no harm


What makes having an Agnostic Celebrant different to other types of celebrants?

All of the above and I would add our awareness of inclusion, equity and our responsibility to couples and families as well as our creativity, our love of community and our attention to detail.


Are there any requirements/restrictions to be aware of? 

Lots of restrictions at the moment but we won’t go there….

As Officiants, when conducting a marriage ceremony there are some short sentences of legal declarations and pronouncements that must be included but they are beautiful and exciting. You’ll know them well.

Or a favourite part of the ceremony?

I always love ritual, any ritual. Hand fasting, sharing the Quaich or loving cup, bringing in the natural elements through ritual, anything the couple want to include. When couples choose to come to Scotland from overseas it’s so good to learn about, and include, marriage rituals from their culture too. 

At the moment I also love surprises. For example a couple may choose to include ‘5 things I love about you’. Here, the couple share 5 things, it can be more, that they love about their partner with me, only with me, and we may need to edit, tweak a little, but I find these usually align beautifully. During their ceremony they share these with each other.

Words of love spoken to, and heard by, each other for the first time during their wedding ceremony – oh my heart!

I really find it rather moving, and also fun, when the couple invite someone to read or recite poetry and that person writes the piece themselves. At a recent ceremony, of a couple who had been together for over 37 years, a very close friend who had travelled on the journey of their relationship and planning the secret wedding, wrote a poem and recited it beautifully. It was funny and fantastic and one of a kind.


What type of couples do you normally marry? Is there anything they have in common? 

Interesting question.

When I first thought about this I didn’t think there was a ‘type’ but now on reflection I feel is the couples I work with have considered an element of faith or spirituality for their ceremony, even if they are of no faith. They don’t want their officiant to have a dogma but they may want to give a nod to a faith or a spiritual element that they are aligned with through family, culture or their life’s journey.

Also I notice that many of the couples I work with are acutely aware of the carbon footprint of a wedding, sustainability, supporting small business and what is going on in the wider world in regard to cultural appropriation, equity and diversity.

As well as the above I find that couples I work with are very creative, they are keen on outdoor ceremonies, small, intimate ceremonies (not just due to restrictions) and they are very motivated to co-create their ceremony.


How do you treat elopements differently to bigger wedding ceremonies? (if at all)

I wouldn’t treat the process, co-creation and collaboration any differently but what I do find is, if the ceremony is really intimate, so just includes the couple and two witnesses, it doesn’t have to be quite as performative in the way a ceremony may tend to be when there is a larger group of guests. At a larger gathering some guests won’t know the nuances of the couples story or indeed only know one half of the couple. I feel intimate ceremonies have potential to be a more personal but fundamentally, it is about what the couple want. So whether it’s an elopement or a large gathering, ‘the love homework’ which is what I call the couples part of the work, the collaboration and the relationship I build with the couple guides us to creating the ceremony that is right for them.


Do you have any additional advice for couples eloping to Scotland from overseas?

First of all, though we’d love to see you, please wait until this pandemic is over and while you are waiting have a good look through the National Records Scotland website. It tells you everything you need to know and don’t hesitate to telephone them if you need clarification.  Take your time to find a local Elopement photographer/videographer or even an Elopement Planner. Look at instagram, it’s a rich resource, as well as websites. You want to find someone who knows Scotland, the lay of the land, the elements, the sunrises, sunsets, light levels and beasties.  Also consider using local florists, dressmakers, as well as intimate unique accommodation too. When you embrace Scotland and all it has to offer it will embrace you and your love forever

Do you have a favourite place you’ve married someone?

I don’t have a favourite place but I must say I love outdoor ceremonies amongst mountains, woodland and on the fantastic beaches (and again, not just because of Covid-19). As for indoor ceremonies I’m really excited when couples go for different spaces and places for ceremony such as a vintage double decker bus, a micro brewery, or places that are meaningful to them like a bookshop, their granny’s back garden or their allotment.

Loch Katrine

What do you think makes Scotland such a special place to marry? 

Oh my…. I am totally biased here because I am Scottish, it’s my home and I so love everything about the place, but I’d say:

the rich history 

and the mystery, 

the gloom, Scotland is a mood

the diverse landscape ….

oh my, the beaches … 

I have travelled a lot and compare beaches all the time

Scottish beaches are just stunning, 

the people, 

the nostalgia, 

the architecture,

the quality of the light, 

the dreich, 

the humour

the clear bright blue skies, 

the cities

and our passion

for companionship 

and LOVE

‘Like so many in 2020 our wedding plans were usurped, reshaped and moulded into something brand new.’

I am keen to share this testimonial, kindly written by K and C, here on my blog as again it highlights my Celebrancy practice and how we can all pivot together to create a ceremony, a celebration that is right for you. It may be micro but it can be magical x

Our original plan  had been a 100 person ceremony with family and friends followed by a weekend of celebrations, however, that was not to be. What replaced this original plan was something more intimate and special, as Andrea likes to call it a Micro Wedding where the focus moved from the celebration to the ceremony. With barely a couple of week’s notice we had to put our plan in motion. Andrea took all of this in her stride and at short notice was able to adapt and create a ceremony that was unique and memorable for us. 

Before the dreaded COVID-19 came into all of our lives, we had already started the process of planning our ceremony with Andrea. The creative tasks that she gave us really helped us to tap into how we wanted our ceremony to look and feel. From exercises for us to complete both separately and together to ideas of rituals or additions to our ceremony that would never have crossed our minds – it was clear from the start that our ceremony was going to be something that truly represented us and our story. Nothing was off the table when it came to how we wanted our ceremony to look and this really made it feel like our own, this was not just an adaptation of a wedding ceremony but a personal ritual that between us had been created solely for us. 

When we decided that an intimate, ‘micro’ celebration was what we wanted to move forward with, Andrea adapted beautifully and made herself available for us at any time to ensure we felt prepared and comfortable with our new ceremony plan. One thing that sets Andrea apart in her work is her insistence on getting to spend time with and know you – both together as a couple but also individually. This truly came into focus when we had only two weeks to finish preparing our ceremony. 

Andrea’s work is not only about the words that represent your union on the day, but also how you want the physical space to feel. The symbolic thought behind so many of Andrea’s ideas and thoughts make your ceremony feel even more special as there is meaning behind things that no one else there will see. An intimacy to the day that is reserved just for you. 

There is no other word to use for our day apart from magical and so much of this is down to Andrea’s input. We truly couldn’t have envisioned anyone else marry us. Thank you Andrea for your thoughtfulness, wisdom and most of all for being a part of our day. 

Lots of love

K&C xxx








“Andrea’s ceremony was so beautiful, it really made our day!”


I received this wonderful testimonial recently that shares thoughts, not just about conducting a beautiful wedding ceremony but also about relationship, collaboration and friendship during strange times. I am so pleased I can share Robbie and Audrey’s words on my celebrancy practice with you here.


We cannot recommend Andrea enough. 

When we originally got in touch with Andrea we didn’t know too much about Agnostic Scotland. Andrea took the time to explain to us what Agnostic Scotland stood for, and more importantly openly discussed with us whether it was right for us as a couple. 

Once we had agreed to have Andrea as our celebrant we arranged an initial face-to-face meeting in Glasgow. (The distant days before lockdown!). From the very start Andrea made us feel both calm, relaxed and welcome. 

We shared some of our story about how we met and our expectations for the wedding. Andrea was engaged and interested to hear our story, listening attentively and intrigued to hear how we fell in love. 


As the plans for our wedding developed, we met up with Andrea a few more times and shared more of our story and opened up about what was important to us as a  couple and our expectations of married life. We always looked forward to our meetings with Andrea. 

Just before lockdown kicked in Andrea also came out to visit our wedding venue in Glasgow. This was a wonderfully personal touch and it showed us how invested Andrea was in creating the most special ceremony that she could for us on our special day. 

Then lockdown started…..

Our wedding plans, originally having over 100 guests in June 2020, was no longer possible. 

We kept an ongoing dialogue with Andrea during this time over video calls, discussing our options. More importantly though, Andrea was always on hand to remind of us that we have each other and we were already in such a privileged position. 

We decided that we didn’t want to wait to get married, so we agreed to have a small ceremony on the 25th July 2020, in line with the Scottish Government guidelines.

Sam Ezra McYoung

The ceremony was an intimate affair with both of our immediate families attending. 

Andrea had listened carefully during all of our meetings, and had taken in all the aspects of our relationship from before we met to getting engaged and beyond. Not only that, she had taken time to speak to our family members to capture the nuances of our personalities. Her attention to detail was second to none and that came shining through in her ceremony. 

Sam Ezra McYoung

What Andrea delivered was truly special. Both Audrey and I felt that the ceremony truly captured who we are as a couple and she presented our story, our vows and future aspirations in the most truly beautiful way. 

Sam Ezra McYoung

As we embark on the next stages of our life as a married couple we will keep in touch with Andrea, as she was such a big part of the most special day of our lives. 

Robbie & Audrey Bowie Cameron, married 25th July 2020. 

Thank you to both of you for collaborating every step of the way, sharing your love story, and your love homework, with me – I will always feel so very privileged 🤍 Andrea

Mingling with Love

So grateful to be easing out of lockdown and easing back into wonderful teeny tiny weddings.

🤍

At the weekend, after a year or so of planning and creating, Kirstin and Chris were married in the calm oasis of Lanrick Estate.
Like many couples Kirstin and Chris had to change their original plans quite dramatically but during that process found that they were able to reconnect with what was important to them and also what their wedding day meant to them.
We all kept a very close eye on the Scottish Government Route Map and were able to move quickly once restrictions began to lift.

With physical distancing and current restrictions adhered to the staff at Lanrick Estate prepared a beautiful space, a circle, for the ceremony.
Before the ceremony started everyone stood outside the circle and we shared a few words on the symbolism. We recognised the huge changes going on in the world and the collective energy that that was creating. What we aimed to do was step into the circle and leave the rest of world outside just for a short time while we focussed on Kirstin and Chris and their love, their declarations and their vows. We stepped into their circle with reverence aware that when we stepped out we’d all be changed in some way.

Kirstin and Chris would be walking into the world as man and wife, into the next stage of life together, there would be deepening family connections and we’d all feel a little bit more love.


And so it was.

As celebrants I’m sure we all treat our work, and relationships with, families and couples with the reverence they deserve. My favourite definition 👇🏼

rev·er·ence
definition 1:an attitude or feeling of profound respect and awe mingled with love
http://www.wordsmyth.net

PRIDE


It’s Pride month and today marks the 25th Anniversary of Pride in Scotland. 25 years of supporting progressive change for the LGBTQI+ community.

Frazao Studio


As part of the Pride Edinburgh 2020 celebrations, we Celebrants at Agnostic Scotland had been planning to join forces with The Original Red Bus/Sam and Clunie Phipps on one of their wonderful vintage Routemasters. Together, we were looking forward to taking their ‘love bus’ around the city and celebrating with fellow Pride Festival goers. It would have been a beautiful day full of love, connection, pride and colour. 

Ben & Neil got married in Edinburgh just before lockdown


Given all that is going on in the world, we feel that now especially, is a time for love. Now is the time for us to do the work, recognise and lay down our prejudices and let go of fear. Now is the time for us to (virtually) hug our fellow humans, to open our hearts and minds. Now is the time to let people be who they are, and to rejoice in the glorious diversity of all.

Natalie Holt Photos


So, please do join us on the virtual ‘love bus’ for now – we’d love to welcome you on board as soon as we can and we’ll see you all on the new date for Pride Edinburgh, yet to be announced, in 2021.

Say it out loud …..

light at the end of the willow tunnel

Though we are still in lockdown here in Scotland there is a tiny wee light at the end of the tunnel with the publication of the Scottish Governments Route Map. To get to that light, to the other side of the tunnel, it is going to take quite a bit of navigation, risk assessment, good communication, empathy and kindness. Safety is a priority and this will add to worries and anxieties in regard to decision making around wedding days, guest, celebrations, ceremony choices and, even, the rituals a couple may wish to include in a ceremony. Having anxieties and worries is very much part of the normal human condition, totally normal, but they can be repetitive, with the same rhythms, cycles and patterns and this can wear you down. Of course, at the moment, all our regular worries and anxieties are amplified by the current situation, with plenty of new concerns thrown in. The discomfort I spoke of in an earlier blog is still with us all and will remain for a long, long time. It’s something I’m learning to live with and I’m sure you are too.

Worry Dolls

I was reflecting recently on what I find helpful when I am faced with increased worries or anxieties and I began to remember all the ways I used to, and still, support my daughters when they experienced stress or anxieties. One of the things I did when they were primary school age was give them Worry Dolls. The Guatemalan or Mexican dolls are confidantes of sorts. Thought to be based on a Mayan legend about a princess who received a special gift from a sun god that allowed her to solve any problem a human could worry about. The tiny dolls represent the princess. At the end of the day before bed you share your worry with the doll and then pop it under your pillow. The doll worries about your problem instead of you so you can get a good nights sleep. Perfect!
It’s actually a really tender and beautiful tradition or ritual that can be deeply soothing. It’s basically a chance to say your worries out loud – to the dolls – and in turn they, to an extent, give you the wisdom to acknowledge, and the power to eliminate, your worries.

It could be interpreted as a powerful ritual that gives you a choice. You can choose to transfer your worries, hand them over, share them. This ritual can help you realise that you have the power and choice to do that.
Externalising the problem makes it seem less intimidating and much more manageable as a result. If you share it with the doll you may then feel you can share it with your loved one, family or friends. A problem shared is a problem halved as the old proverb goes.

Guatemalan Wedding Worry Dolls

I came across a Worry Doll App recently which is so sweet. I also found some wedding worry dolls in Edinburgh recently, perfect for couples preparing and planning to get married, especially in the time of corona. I love this gang of couples. If I’m your celebrant watch out for a wee wedding worry doll couple winging their way to you soon to help voice your anxieties, share your worries and maybe even get a good nights sleep.

All things seem possible in May

We have spent the whole of April in lockdown. In the scheme of our lives it’s a teeny, tiny fraction but the impact on everything in our lives, about our lives, and our future, is huge. While we may feel in limbo, stuck and fed up waiting for life to begin, the Earth keeps turning and the wheel of the year keeps revolving.

So as we say farewell to April and move into May we are half way between the spring equinox and summer solstice. This is a time where we can, instinctively, feel more energetic, outgoing, creative and active. We have more daylight and warmer weather but in reality, at the moment, we probably feel exhausted by the lack of activity, the stress and the emotional labour of getting through every day. This is also normally a time where we get out and about more, enjoy feeling more relaxed due to connections with the natural world and other people but due to the pandemic and restrictions in place we may feel in constant low level survival mode. Life in lockdown does seem to have heightened many peoples awareness of the wonders of spring blossom, sunrises and sunsets at the moment though which is wonderful. Does the sky seem bluer to you? There is a vibrancy and an energy in nature just now that seems in direct contrast with what we are experiencing on the ground. Or are we just seeing everything with fresh eyes due to our situation? In Edinburgh spring, and the weather, in lockdown has been amazing!



This week I’ve been beginning to put ceremonies together for the couples I am working with based on the stories and conversations that we have gathered so far but it’s hard to connect with anything right now in any meaningful way due to anxieties and distractions. For me, when I create ceremony, my head and my heart has got to be in the right space. Just as when a couple gather together to share their story for their ceremony they have to be in the right headspace. Stress can kill the mood, and creativity.

So as we move into May tomorrow we find Beltane, a celebration of the forces of nature. This festival basically celebrates moving into Summer and the growing season but it also celebrates union. It is a time for recognising love and friendship but also for firing up energy while staying grounded.
I want to use this wee festival to get me off the corona coaster and try to create some positive energy and fire up some creativity even if it’s just for a few hours or a few minutes.
Tonight we are having a garden getaway, the tent is up, we’ll light a fire just after 7pm and at sunrise tomorrow I’ll go for a swim then teach a 7.30am May Day inspired yoga class.

“May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive”

Fennel Hudson

The Beltane Fire Society have put together BOnfire – Beltane At Home and it’s a lovely programme of suggestions of activities and ideas inspired by the fire festival and you can do as much or as little as you like, online or offline.

WanderWomenScotland is also inviting people to get up at sunrise (5.28am BST) and welcome May their way.

Stay safe and well x

Who am I during COVID-19?

Over the last year I have been considering the concept of identity as I have been moving away from my role as a midwife into new roles as a Celebrant and Yoga teacher. Taking on different roles can cause a blurring of boundaries and it was only when I spent time on a Celebrant retreat that I could dive deep and look at what I needed for internal shifts to take place and see that these three roles were not separate but connected and aligned together through my passion for relationships, human connection and spirituality.
This move was something I had planned and worked towards over two to three years and when I arrived and recognised I had achieved my aim, instead of patting myself on the back and acknowledging I had followed the path I had set out for myself I began to feel somewhat lost as this change took me from a world of familiarity and confidence with a strong identity into a time of transition, fear and lack of self belief.
It was good to have some clarity after the retreat, it was an alignment of moments, and it gave me the confidence and freedom to begin to be creative and stand in my strength in all three roles.

Tree Pose

Then along came the COVID-19 pandemic and like many of us my identity has changed again. Everyone’s world has changed, and even if roles stay the same, the responsibilities and actions within these roles have changed. Parents have become teachers, everyone is online, people becoming temporarily or permanently unemployed, couples remain engaged instead of married, retired NHS workers return to roles they said farewell to and families change enormously, losing loved ones without saying I love you and goodbye.

I was just beginning to build up my funeral celebrancy practice when social distancing measures were put in place and pregnant women were included in the high risk category and so I decided at that time, weeks before lockdown, to pause my funeral celebrancy practice and step back into my midwifery practice and also teach my yoga for pregnancy classes online. It did not seem right to be moving between the two roles due to the increasing risks.
The way funerals are being conducted now has changed dramatically and the situation is evolving on a daily basis.

Before donning PPE

As our roles and identities are turned around and upside down we may choose to take a little time to reflect on who we want to be during this time, recognising that we have had little choice in the decisions and the changes that we have had to make. On the whole we are choosing to comply with the decisions and changes for the greater good but we can still be angry, depressed and find difficulty in accepting the situation we find ourselves in. As David Kessler states here, this is a time of ‘different griefs’ and great discomfort.
I came across this info graphic, based on the comfort zone – growth zone model, recently that reminded me of models or cycles of reflection. To me these are layers of overlapping circles without a linear trajectory, we do not move in one way from fear to growth or action. We move back and forward between the zones hourly, daily, weekly just like Kübler-Ross’ Five Stages of Loss …. and that’s ok, that’s very normal right now.

As Kessler reminds us ‘this is a temporary state’ which we may go on to find ‘meaning’ in. He discusses this sixth stage of grief after he experienced grief for himself and did not want to stop at acceptance.

I don’t know about you but I am not even at acceptance right now. It’s just one day at a time for me, trying to be patient, holding space for others and acknowledging I am surviving, maybe even thriving in some ways, but not in others. I may feel I know who I want to be but who knows who I will be after Covid-19.

Stay safe and well x

They can’t cancel spring ….

By David Hockney

David Hockney


No, they can’t David, thank goodness 🌼 but sadly, masses of other events, special days and holidays have been postponed or cancelled


So are you still going to be engaged & quarantined instead of married and partying on your original wedding date? It’s not only weddings that are having to be postponed. Music festivals, marches and arts events are all cancelled. What about that special anniversary vow renewal, your baby naming or even your birthday celebration coming up – if things have had to be cancelled or postponed due to The Big C & lockdown please do take time to consider how you can mark it in some way 🙏🏼 It may be a detour or take a longer path to get where you want to be but you will get there. Why not be creative & offer yourself a little respite from the craziness, make memories & have a bit of fun.

Jasmin Joan


Get creative with a ceremony or ritual that is meaningful to you or how about joining in @tussenkunstenquarantaine with some home art recreating famous paintings with household items.

Marnix Verkade



Check out their grid. You’ll get the idea. You might have a favourite work of art you could recreate or keep an eye on @paintings.daily for inspo. Gift yourself and others a little bit of respite from this ever evolving corona storm. You never know these could turn into your invites for your celebrations.

Anna Bronza


I’m going to join in & have got some ideas. It’s our 27th wedding anniversary soon, so look out for our efforts.