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.
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’
I took a trip to the beautiful Binning Wood in East Lothian the other day and spent some time at the Memorial Wood.
The natural burial site is a 10 acres of towering Beech trees that sits within the historic 300 acre Binning Wood, East Lothian.
The memorial wood is in a wonderful location and is such a peaceful place where one feels welcome to linger and contemplate, consider and spend time with those at rest. Dotted with small inscribed memorial stones amongst the leaves, which subtly mark the graves you can lose yourself in this labyrinth allowing time to slow down, letting your mind gently still and your heart to fill with remembrance. It was a shared experience for us today, a group of midwives remembering and paying respects to a midwifery colleague who chose to be buried at Binning.
Spending time at Binning Memorial Wood got me thinking about how we are all reviewing our carbon footprint in different ways as we go through life but what about in death. Considering the impact a funeral might have on the environment is something many people are beginning to do. This environmental impact isn’t just about reducing the processes and activities we use for funerals in a bid to make them greener but in choosing natural burial we are also contributing to preserving flora and fauna and ensuring the land has a positive future.
When the area at Binning is full it will revert to natural woodland but will always remain a memorial wood, protected and preserved. This is another way that those who choose a woodland burial can ensure their commitment to the environment continues long after they have died.
Thank you celebrancy wedding world! You have inspired me to remember my own wedding day.
Like many couples planning to get married, the logistics of getting people together can become quite a headache. Our close families were spread all over the country, indeed the world. We were in the middle of building our own house and I was in the very early stages of pregnancy so organising a big wedding was really not a top priority for us. Our priority was us! There were many, many other reasons that we chose a very quiet wedding. One of them, heartbreakingly, was that one of my best friends was terminally ill in a hospice and couldn’t be with us. That was difficult.
So yes, when planning a wedding there are so many things to consider. It’s very hard not to be influenced by the other people in your life or who you invite into your life at this time. Well meaning thoughts and wishes are very likely not intended to put pressure on you as a couple I’m sure, but it can be felt that way. We decided we were in charge therefore we made the right choices for us.
So the verbal invite went out to family & friends and went something like:
‘Alex & I are getting married Wednesday 14th of May at 2pm, come along if you like’
14th May 2003.
I was 5 months pregnant and dressed in purple tye dye and velvet. It rained all day, I later heard that a rainy day is considered lucky for a wedding – if you live in India! I remember the Dalai Lama was visiting Samye Ling and there was snow in Eskdalemuir. People were camping around the monastery to see him. I thought of them in their snowy tents. A little Tibet in Scotland. My bouquet and Alex’s buttonhole was gifted and made by a florist friend on a tressel table in our half built house. On the day another friend borrowed a car and chauffeurs cap, tied a ribbon on the bonnet of the car and drove us around for the day. After bucks fizz in the morning a group of us went for a wedding lunch before the civil ceremony in Musselburgh. Once there at Brunton Hall lots more soggy friends and family turned up in wellies with dripping umbrellas. Afternoon tea in Haddington found us taking over a hotel conservatory with the rain lashing down outside but it was warm and happy inside and we lingered over drinks. Such a raggle taggle soggy bunch we were but it was a wonderfully relaxed & happy day. 26 years later that day is remembered with such joy.