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 👇🏼
It’s Pride month and today marks the 25th Anniversary of Pride in Scotland. 25 years of supporting progressive change for the LGBTQI+ community.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m going to join in & have got some ideas. It’s our 27th wedding anniversary soon, so look out for our efforts.
I realise many of you may have will have questions about your upcoming ceremonies whether they be Wedding Ceremonies, Naming Ceremonies or Vow Renewals especially in the light of the announcement on 23rd March. For some you will find the decisions are out of your hands and for others you’ll feel confused By the inconsistent advice and the decisions that need to be made.
Please try not to worry. It’s important to stay calm so that preparations and decisions can be made that are right, and safe, for you, your family and friends.
A lot of what is going on is out-with our control and this feeling of lack of control can really exacerbate anxiety.
Please note: The National Records of Scotland, at present are not accepting applications for any marriage schedules. Therefore marriage ceremonies cannot be performed. Keep an eye here for marriage schedule updates.
Take a breath, pause and plan.
Try using an acronym like BRAIN to help get things into perspective:
Get together with your partner, consult wider family members, friends and even guests if you like, write these headings down and start listing, brain storming, just get everything out there using:
What are the Benefits of carrying on as planned? To you, to others.
What are the Risks? Think of your guests, ages, travel, numbers of guests, finances etc.
The Alternatives – talk to each other about all the available options. Have you spoken to your service providers about potential alternative dates , if not do so. Making a Plan B (& even C) is probably wise and may put your mind at rest.
What is your Instinct, your gut feeling? Tune in to it, trust it.
If you go through all of the above and just want to pause and change Nothing at the moment that’s fine too.
You can wait and see what unfolds and revisit your list, notes and discussion at anytime. Maybe starting again, adding and subtracting aspects previously considered and newly discovered or advised by Government. Reflect and re-schedule if necessary. If you want to discuss options for a Plan B date let me know.
You have each other, that is the main thing right now. Remember why you are planning all of this in the first place – because of love and trust.
What if you have to, or decide to, postpone your ceremony?
There will be no charge to reschedule the date of your ceremony. I have plenty flexibility this year and next. If I am not available then one of my Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrants colleagues may be. Pencil in a Plan B date as soon as possible.
Would you have to pay anything extra to change your date?
No, no extra charge to hold another date. Your deposit/fee would be transferred to the new date.
What if I, your Marriage Celebrant, become ill or have to cocoon at home at the time of your ceremony?
I have already discussed this with my Agnostic Scotland colleagues and we will endeavour to cover each other’s ceremonies in case of illness. Your back up Celebrant would have access to your final ceremony script and they would make contact with you to say hello and talk through anything with you prior to the ceremony.
We know that currently, with the support of the Registrars, we can obtain emergency discretion for a change of Celebrant, as long as that celebrant is a member of a recognised belief body, if required. We will stay in touch with the National Records of Scotland for further advice in regard to the effect of the pandemic on marriage ceremonies for 2020.
The National Records of Scotland, at present are not accepting applications for any marriage schedules. Therefore marriage ceremonies cannot be performed. Keep an eye here for marriage schedule updates.
For WHO advice re: social distancing and more click here and from NHS Scotland here
Whenever you hold your ceremony what if important guests can’t make it to your ceremony due to restrictions on numbers, travel restrictions or illness?
Have a cry – then get creative.
Film your ceremony
Live stream your ceremony
Use WhatsApp video call
Invite a Tribute/blessing from the guests who can’t make it
Suggest your guests pre-record an audio or film piece to add to your ceremony or speeches
You could represent the person using symbolism – wear something of theirs or something that you feel represents/includes them
Other wedding suppliers
Talk to them. Ask about back up plan and discuss options. Communication is key. This can help get things in perspective, help feelings of helplessness and anxiety and also allow you to feel and connect with the support that is out there.
What you can do to support yourself and keep safeand healthy
Eat well, get plenty sleep, stay at home, wash your hands, access your usual exercise regime, get fresh air, minimise Social Media – wash your hands – and ask for support and help. Talk things through with your nearest and dearest. Use BRAIN. Keep yourself informed with all the latest advice, health and otherwise, from Government. Reach out to others.
Am I keeping myself safe?
Yes, I am. I love hugs, kisses and shaking hands but am saving that for a later date. I’m washing my hands, staying at home, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and fresh air, washing my hands and leaning into my Celebrant community for support. I am keeping myself up to date with all the latest advice too from the Government and the Ceremony sector. It must be acknowledge that keeping myself safe may also mean my advice to you would be to postpone or go ahead but with only you two and immediate family members maintaining suitable distance. This is something I will discuss with each couple.
I am also acutely aware of the need to support other Celebrants and small businesses at this time as well as my local community, neighbours and friends.
Reflect and reschedule if need be – don’t cancel LOVE If you do decide to postpone let’s think of a way you can celebrate or mark your original date. Make an event, a ritual for just the two of you, make it positive and that way it will become part of your story, part of your ceremony and part of your wedding day.
I walk through Craigmillar Castle Park regularly and I love it. The woodland paths and parkland around Craigmillar Castle are peaceful and magical with a quiet sense of the history and spirit that it is steeped in.
The castle itself, dating back to the early 14th century, sits radiant atop a rocky 9 metre precipice and retains the peaceful air of the rural retreat it was known as in 1560’s when Edinburgh nobility, and even Mary Queen of Scots, sought haven here.
Known as Edinburgh’s ‘other castle’ it is thought by some to be the best example of a medieval castle surviving in Scotland. The Preston family, and successive generations built, and then added onto, the Tower House until it was sold to Sir John Gilmour in the 17th century.
In this beautifully preserved, ruined stronghold we find an amalgam of architectural styles soaked in a long history.
I have visited this castle many times and my children have fond memories of exploring the many winding staircases leading to a variety of chambers and halls, clambering to the top of the tower, having birthday picnics in the grounds and running between the two yew trees that frame the entrance to the courtyard. It is thought that the trees were planted in honour of Mary, during one of her residencies.
From the top of the tower you can take in wonderful views of Edinburgh’s Old Town skyline, the Pentland Hills, the Firth of Forth and over to Fife. Also you can see the area that became known as Petite France (Little France) named by locals after Mary Queen of Scots’ mainly French entourage, who would camp half a mile away in the valley below the castle when she was in residence. The fact that locals gave the area this name may highlight how frequent and lengthy her visits were.
Directly across from Craigmillar Castle you can see it’s big cousin, Edinburgh Castle. I heard a lot of stories about the Scottish Queen as a child and I still like to imagine Mary, Queen of Scots and her courtiers travelling through the then rural landscape of fields, woods and parkland between the two castles on horseback, in carriages and on foot.
This site has such a rich history yet it is the least visited tourist site in Edinburgh. This does make me sad but I also recognise that when it comes to ceremony, this tranquil, unhurried space offers such wonderful potential to couples and families. Intimate ceremony and ritual can be created which embraces the calm, quiet mood while weaving the history of the castle and the story of the couple or family together.
With permission very small ceremonies or elopements could take place anywhere in the grounds but The Great Hall can host a ceremony for around 60 people. It is a majestic, yet somewhat intimate space accessed via a spiral staircase. The hall, in all its stone and vaulted ceiling glory, can be softened with a red carpet and candlelight but today, that wasn’t needed because what caught my attention was the quality of the luminous winter light that shone into the hall.
That soft, ambrosial light that winter brings to Scotland followed us throughout our visit today just as the friendly resident cat did.
Last year my colleagues at Agnostic Scotland and I discussed an idea to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest which is a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and began to donate trees. The Agnostic Scotland digital grove has now been populated with 60 trees. You can have a look here & learn about the native species that are planted on our behalf.
Our plan is that our grove will be planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we, as Agnostic Scotland Celebrants, conduct.
As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to support people as they navigate important transitions in their lives and planting trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.
Therefore, from now on when communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual I will plant a tree in support. Every time I have the honour of working with a couple who are getting married, exchanging vows or expressing their life commitment to one another I will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When blessingways and naming ceremonies welcome new babies I will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died I will plant a tree in their memory.
For those of you who I have connected with recently or am working with currently I have donated trees to thank and honour you. I feel quite a buzz thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.
‘the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’