Ying and Ao first contacted me just six weeks before their planned wedding celebration. They had already made their legal Marriage promises to one another in an intimate ceremony in China and were delighted to discover soon after that they will be welcoming a new member to their family. Their Edinburgh wedding was an opportunity to celebrate their love and commitment – and their exciting news – with their wider friends and family.
Their ceremony was simple, beautiful and relaxed. It took place at the gorgeous Carberry Tower in East Lothian on a beautiful, sunny day. We shared words in both English and Mandarin to honour Ao and Ying’s heritage and their love of Scotland.
Family is at the heart of Chinese culture and it was really important to both Ao and Ying that their families be included in their day. We heard funny, heartfelt, poignant words from their close friend and Ao’s uncle. And, as Ao and Ying’s parents were unable to make the journey from China, another close friend surprised them both with a message in Mandarin from their parents, which we had kept secret until the day.
We talked about love and family, Marriage and commitment. Ying and Ao shared personal vows and gifted each other a wedding ring.
They affirmed their Marriage Vows with a traditional Handfasting.
Ying and Ao, this cord is a symbol of the lives you have chosen to lead together. The cord is woven from a red ribbon, white ribbon and gold string. Red in Chinese culture represents luck, happiness and strength. White represents their pure love and heart, and the golden string represents prosperity and wisdom. These cords are intertwined to represent your hopes and blessings for your future.
Ao and Ying toasted their future with a shared sip of Irn Bru from their Quaich to honour their decision to make their home in Scotland.
It was such an honour to be part of this gorgeous, fun ceremony. Thank you, Ying and Ao, for trusting me to be your celebrant and for choosing to share these sweet details of your day with us all. Wishing you all the best for the future and all the exciting times ahead.
When I met with Shona and Nathan to plan their wedding ceremony, they told me they’d like a simple, beautiful, traditional ceremony in which they can both make their Marriage commitments to one another in the presence of their families and closest friends, the people most important to them. They also said they didn’t want a ceremony that was “too lovey dovey.”
Their ceremony took place at the gorgeous Carberry Tower in East Lothian. Their gathering was mixed faith, representing several different beliefs and denominations. It was my pleasure to lead a ceremony in which the shared and varied beliefs of all participating were welcome and respected.
We had a blast celebrating these two kind-hearted, fun-loving people who both share a great love of cats, good food and the same fab sense of humour.
We shared a bit about their story; from the moment Shona and Nathan first set eyes on each other – or to use Nathan’s words, since “Shona first interrogated him” – to the amazing journey they have been on together to their beautiful sunset engagement in Tenerife.
We all enjoyed a moment of peaceful reflection, in which everyone was invited to pause to consider the loving and binding commitments Shona and Nathan were choosing to make to each other and, if they wish, to send a prayer, blessing or well-wishing thought their way.
Shona and Nathan exchanged rings and emotional vows. Then they enjoyed their first married toast with a shared drink from the Quaich.
As Shona’s mum said after the ceremony, “it was perfect, inclusive and fun, so personal, and really got to the essence of Shona and Nathan’s relationship.” We even managed to conjure a couple of cats! Much to the delight of their family and friends, two cats sauntered across the garden behind the chapel just as I was wishing Shona and Nathan “a future filled with cats.”
Congratulations Shona and Nathan! I absolutely loved being your celebrant. Thank you for trusting me with your ceremony and for choosing to share these details of your day with us all.
Wishing you so much love and happiness for your future together (and all the cats you could wish for!)
“I promise to always be your most loyal friend, and at times your worst nightmare.
I promise to love you always no matter what tomorrow brings.”
“I promise to be here for you, and support you, whenever you need me – even when I think you’ve lost your mind.
I promise to try to make you smile everyday – even when Liverpool are losing.”
Rebecca and Michael
Planning Rebecca and Michael’s ceremony with them was wonderful fun.Their wedding was an opportunity to bring together all their friends and family in one place to celebrate their six years together and to share in their love and happiness. It was a chance to give thanks to their loved ones for all the laughs and fun they’ve shared so far, and for everyone to get excited for all that the future will bring.
Their wedding took place in the historic Dundas Castle in South Queensferry. It was a glorious day and everyone they had hoped would be there had managed to join them, which felt especially poignant after the past two years of restrictions.
The spellbindingly atmospheric 15th century Auld Keep was the perfect setting. The room was bursting with love and laughter as we shared Michael and Rebecca’s story so far – how they both bonded over their similar outlook and shared sense of humour, how Becca challenged Mike to an arm wrestle on their first date (which she lost), and how despite this (or perhaps because of it) they quickly realised they really liked each other.
We heard about the adventures this travel-loving duo have shared, and their hopes and wishes for the future (including their plans to adopt a Pomsky puppy). I shared some secret thoughts that Mike and Becca had shared with me when I asked about their love and connection, prompting a great deal of happy tears and laughter. A friend recited an insightful poem she had written especially for them both for the day.
Then Rebecca and Michael made their personal vows to each other and gifted rings, before sealing their Marriage vows with a traditional Handfasting. They tied an Eternity Knot with two swathes of tartan representing their two families.
It was my privilege to declare Michael and Rebecca legally married to the cheers of their family and friends.
There is something timeless about witnessing a couple exchanging their enduring vows in a place so steeped in history. It was such an honour and a privilege to lead this fun, thoughtful, personal ceremony.
Congratulations to you both, Mike and Becca. Thank you for trusting me to be your celebrant, and thank you for choosing to share these beautiful details of your day with us all. Wishing you so much love for your future together.
Thank you to Derek Christie for sharing these stunning photos. It was great working with you again.
Incorporating a Handfasting ritual into your Marriage or Vow Renewal is a beautiful opportunity to add personal details to your ceremony. There are so many unique ways that a Handfasting ritual can add meaningful connection to you both.
Handfasting is a symbolic ritual that has its roots in ancient Celtic tradition. By binding your hands together, you are declaring your love and intention to share your lives together. A Handfasting binding represents the coming together of two individuals and two families.
Take a moment to reflect on your loving connection. Feel the warmth, respect and love that you have for each other fill your heart, as you hold each other’s hands.
As these ribbons are tied together, your lives – your pasts, presents and futures – become intertwined in thought, word and action. In binding your hands together, you are declaring your wish and intention to leave this place today with your lives bound together as one. After today, the two paths of your lives will come together as one, and two sets of hopes and desires for the future will be joined in commitment and intention.
It is up to you when you choose to include a Handfasting ritual in your ceremony. For some, the tying of the knot becomes an intention-setting declaration at the start of the ceremony, gathering loved ones into the space. Each person is invited to gift a ribbon with symbolic qualities or elements that you might wish to weave into your vows. This is also a lovely way to involve children.
The first four ribbons represent the four elements of Fire, Earth, Air and Water, which Ali and Ori believe are present in all of nature and in all of us, and whose energy determine and shape so much of our lives.
The next four ribbons represent Joy, Partnership, Communication and Trust – values and qualities which they hold particularly dear.
The ninth ribbon represents their past; their ancestors and their own personal histories, everything which has brought them to this place and this moment.
The tenth ribbon stands for all their friends and family, and the important role each one of you plays in their lives.
The eleventh ribbon stands for the unknown; the mystery and hidden secrets of life. And the final ribbon stands simply for love.
An extract from Aliya and Ori’s Marriage ceremony
For others, a Handfasting can be an affirmation of shared promises midway through the ceremony. If you wish, you could warm your wedding bands between your joined hands while making your shared promises, ready to exchange rings when you make your legally binding Marriage vows.
Do you promise to give each other the freedom you need to grow as individuals, to be inspired and to seize life?
Traditionally, a Handfasting would take place when you make your legally binding Marriage Vows to one another (when you say your “I do!” or repeat-after-me vows), thereby symbolically ‘tying the knot’. If you choose this option, you might have exchanged rings earlier in the ceremony, perhaps when you make your personal vows to one another or after sharing some loving words with each other. The Handfasting ribbons – and the knots you tie – then become a symbolic keepsake of your Marriage declarations.
“As I give you my hand, so I give you my heart.”
There are so many options for tying the knot! There are loose knots and gift knots, eternity knots and wrap knots. There are knots where the celebrant (or a friend or family member) can tie the ribbons for you, or knots where you can tie your own dramatic knot.
Handfasting bindings can be made of tartan or lace, ribbons or cords. They can be handmade or shop bought, intricate or simple. They can be anything you wish them to be.
In one ceremony, the couple chose a ship’s rope as their Handfasting bindings to honour their love of the sea.
In another ceremony, the couple made Handfasting ribbons out of their festival gig wristbands to celebrate their love of music and gigging.
The words shared during a Handfasting ritual can be sculpted and shaped to reflect the personalities and interests of the two people exchanging promises. Some couples choose to include traditional Handfasting wording, even if they are not binding their hands with ribbons or cords.
Know that, as you have done throughout the time you have been together, so you will love each other from this day forward. Know that these will be the hands that you hold tomorrow, and the next day, and into the next decade.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours as you build your life together, the hands that will touch you with love and tenderness through the years, and the hands that will comfort you like no others’ can.
These are the hands that will hold you through grief, fear and hardship.
These are the hands that will wipe tears of joy and sorrow from your eyes, and will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will hold your family together, and that will give you strength when you need it.
These are the hands that, when life slows and the gift of old age comes upon you, will still be reaching for yours.
If you would like a Handfasting ritual in your ceremony, I will gladly help you decide what will work best for you. The type of Handfasting you choose and the words that we weave will always be a reflection of your personalities and your own loving connection.
Thank you to all the couples and photographers who generously gifted their photos for this post about Handfasting. I am so grateful to be able to share these gorgeous details with couples planning their own ceremonies. Thank you!
There’s beauty in simplicity. When Alice and MJ invited me to be their celebrant in August last year, true to their laid back natures, they were totally unfazed about planning their wedding in just a couple of months. We chatted in their cosy home by the sea with their sweet dog, Cora, asleep by the fire. It became clear very quickly that their day would be super mellow and gorgeous.
In Alice’s words, “We don’t like a fuss. Our wish is for a beautiful, simple ceremony where we can celebrate our love with our close family and friends.”
On a crisp, bright December day, MJ and Alice’s family friends and members of the school pipe band played as we all gathered under the impressively tall Christmas tree in the hall at Belhaven School, where Alice works. Alice and MJ walked up their wedding aisle together with Cora, in a symbolic gesture of the equality of their partnership and their shared love and support.
It was important to Alice and MJ that they choose an Agnostic ceremony; a ceremony that fully respected the shared and varied beliefs of everyone present. Alice was brought up Christian and MJ is non religious. Many members of their family have spiritual or faith-based beliefs. So, it was an honour to lead a ceremony that was inclusive and welcoming to all.
A close friend read a sweet reading from the Velveteen Rabbit and we all sang a lively rendition of Highland Cathedral to honour MJ and Alice’s Scottish heritage. I shared a few words about how the, at times, over-zealous matchmaking efforts of MJ and Alice’s friends eventually (and thankfully!) paid off when they introduced these two kind, unassuming people to each other on a skiing holiday in France. MJ and Alice hit off instantly bonding over shared interests and similar outlook on the world.
It’s clear that Alice and MJ complement each other brilliantly. Alice is typically late, MJ is punctual. Alice ski’s, MJ snowboards. Alice is, by her own admission, “a bit too relaxed about things” whereas MJ is “constantly wiping the new wooden worktop”. They care a lot for each other and have a similar sense of humour, really enjoying each other’s company while also spending time independently enjoying their own time and interests.
In the presence of their dearest friends and family, Alice and MJ exchanged rings and Marriage Vows with a snoozing Cora by their feet. Then they shared a first married toast in their beautiful ceramic Quaich, made by another close friend.
After the ceremony, a relative of Alice’s came up to me and said “it was perfect. So Alice. So MJ. Simple, gorgeous and personal.”
As I left everyone was celebrating in the common room at Belhaven and I had such a warm feeling. It was a beautiful honour to be part of this gentle, loving ceremony.
Wishing you so much love and happiness, Alice and MJ, and all the long walks, cosy pub lunches, fresh powder snow and happiness you could wish for.
Thank you for choosing to share these sweet details of your day. Thank you to Alice and MJ’s uncle and cousin, Dougie and Naomi Walker, for the stunning photos.
One of the highlights of being a celebrant, along with spending time with so many very lovely people, is being able to lead ceremonies in incredible places.
Amy and Greg chose to make their Marriage Vows to one another in the historic 13th century Barnbougle Castle in South Queensferry. It’s a dramatic location. The formidable 13th century tower rises up where sea meets land, commanding sweeping views of the Firth of Forth.
When Greg and Amy first met with me to plan their ceremony, they asked me to create a simple, romantic, traditional ceremony that sang of their love and their stories. They wanted everyone attending to feel the joy of their connection and to enjoy every minute of the ceremony.
On the day, the atmosphere in the great hall was vibrant and heartfelt. Amy and Greg love to travel and have friends in countries all around the world. Many had been able to make the journey to join them and, for the first time in two years, they were all able to gather together.
Their ceremony was a perfect blend of poignant and joyful fun. We heard stories of Greg and Amy’s adventures across Turkmenistan, British Columbia, Ireland and Scotland. And how it was clear pretty early in their relationship that if Amy wanted to make it work with Greg she would need to learn to ski – to keep up with his first love (sorry, second love) the mountains.
We heard about their greatest adventure of all .. when Greg popped the question to Amy on (a rather shaky) bended knee in the small wicker basket of a hot air balloon at 1,000 feet above the snow-capped Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
We talked of love and marriage and what choosing to be together means to both Greg and Amy. They exchanged rings and Marriage Vows then celebrated their union with a shared drink from the Quaich to the cheers of their family and friends.
The whole event was brilliant and it was hard to resist being swept away by the timeless grandeur and elegance of the castle setting. Amy told me afterwards that her dad had noted in his father-of-the-bride speech that all weddings should follow the same approach as theirs. In his words, “it was perfect.” I couldn’t agree more – it really was beautiful.
Thank you so much for inviting me to be your celebrant, Amy and Greg. I’m delighted for you both. Thank you for choosing to share these sweet details with us all.
There’s something wonderful about getting married in the place where you’ve chosen to lay down your roots. And Andrew and Kate did just that. They held their “no fuss” Leith wedding at a creative community hub, The Biscuit Factory, just a few streets from their beautiful home. By working with local suppliers they also helped to fulfill their wish of making their day as sustainable and ethical as possible.
When I met with Kate and Andrew they told me they would like a simple ceremony and that, for them, their wedding was mostly a chance for everyone they know and love to come together to celebrate the joining of their two families. They also said they didn’t want to be mentioned much in their ceremony! In Kate’s words, “we can’t think of anything more embarrassing than hearing nice things about ourselves.”
So, we honoured these two unassuming, kind, funny, thoughtful people – without putting the spotlight on them too much – and it was wonderful!
We talked about love, family and togetherness. We shared what marriage means to them both, sang rousing songs and heard gorgeous poetry.
You’ll be mine, noo, an’ till the end o’ time,
ma bonnie lassie, I’ll tak the full guid o’ ye’
and gie it back, and gie it back tae ye:
a furst kiss, a lang promise, time’s gowden ring.
Extract of A Lang Promise by Jackie Kay
Andrew and Kate shared joint vows and exchanged rings.
Will you both be there for each other, not out of dependence but out of love, building on your long friendship, your similarities and your differences?
Then they affirmed their love to each other with a traditional Handfasting. Each of their mums presented the Handfasting cords that would symbolise the intertwining of their lives; Morrison tartan for Andrew’s family, and a silk scarf for Kate’s family.
They toasted their union with the sharing of the Quaich, with their dads presenting the Quaich and whisky. Their first wedding toast was a sip of Balvenie, reminding Andrew and Kate of the time they celebrated climbing their first munro together with a dram of Balvenie – and Andrew had discovered he liked whisky, after all.
The groomsmen then handed out miniature whiskies and mocktails to all the guests and we toasted Kate and Andrew as they walked into their future together.
Congratulations Kate and Andrew! I wish you so much happiness and adventure in your lives together. It was a great honour being your celebrant. Thank you for sharing these sweet details of your day.
It’s always a pleasure to lead a ceremony close to home. Kim and Chris chose to celebrate their Marriage with an intimate gathering of their close family and friends at the village hall near their countryside home in East Saltoun, East Lothian (less than five miles from where I live).
They had both said before their wedding day that they were a wee bit nervous at the prospect of being the centre of attention. They needn’t have worried; their ceremony was relaxed, fun and incredibly personal.
We started with some beautiful words that Chris and Kim’s further afield friends had shared with me in secret when planning the ceremony. This helped put them both at ease as we all laughed and shed happy tears at their funny, insightful thoughts. Not least, how it was clear that Chris was a keeper, after two close friends of Kim’s had seen his ability over the festive season to handle single malt and oversized Christmas trees!
We heard the funny-sweet story of how Chris and Kim met at a friends wedding and how, within eight months of meeting, they decided it was “for real”. Chris then persuaded Kim to leave her Manchester home to join him in East Lothian with the promise that there were no spiders in Scotland … something Kim soon found to be a clear misrepresentation!
During their ceremony, Kim and Chris exchanged personal joint vows and rings before making their Marriage Vows to one another. Kim’s mother gave a heartfelt reading: James Dillet Freeman’s Blessings for a Marriage.
May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.
May you always need one another – not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness.
A mountain needs a valley to be complete; the valley does not make the mountain less, but more; and the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it.
So let it be with you and you.
Extract of James Dillet Freeman’s Blessings for a Marriage
Kim and Chris made their first toast together as a married couple with a shared drink from the Quaich … single malt whisky, of course … before walking down the aisle and into their future together to the ebullient cheers of their family and friends.
Huge congratulations to you both, Chris and Kim. It was a great pleasure and honour to lead your ceremony for you. Thank you for sharing these lovely details of your day.
The privacy and simplicity of Lizzie and Nicky’s wedding ceremony was intentional. Their wish was to have a wedding adventure that gave them the freedom to honour the important and, at times, challenging journey that had brought them to be where they are in their lives today. They wanted to walk and share stories, sing and read poetry, be both silly and sincere. To connect with the true essence of love and commitment at the heart of their Marriage commitments.
With two of their closest friends as witnesses they chose to mark the beginning of their long and beautiful journey as a married couple with a ceremony that unfolded along a walk up one of Scotland’s stunning Munros.
Being in nature is perfect. Here we are invited to respond to the shifting moods of the world around us, to be authentic and free. Today’s walk up the mountain is about you both being able to be fully yourselves. It’s about sharing truths and being honest and open, allowing emotion to flow and taking time to contemplate whatever is needed. It’s about all of us coming together to share in this intimacy, compassion and connection to support you both as you step into your future together.
We set off in the pouring rain, both brides-to-be laughing that despite the stormy forecast, they had risen early to iron their wedding dresses. As we approached the gate to take us onto the mountain path, I opened the ceremony and shared some secret words from Nicky’s parents.
The rain began to ease and the clouds rolled back to reveal the twin peaks of Ben More and Stob Binnein. We paused by a rock overlooking the valley. Nicky sang a sweet song about her favourite pair of shoes – an ode to her younger self, the importance of friendship, and a reminder of the small but important things in life. Lizzie read a poem about the boisterous fun and happy times spent with her closest childhood friend.
The two river crossings on the journey up to Stob Binnein provided the perfect, symbolic setting for Lizzie and Nicky to exchange stories about their own life crossings, times when their paths had unknowingly intersected many years earlier. And, when suitably out of breath after a very steep climb (and chasing a rucksack that rolled most of the way back down the hill), we held space for Nicky and Lizzie to talk openly about the challenges they have faced in their own personal journeys to be true to themselves and find each other. Their good friends led a gorgeous ritual for letting go on the bealach between the two peaks, and gave a beautiful reading.
We sheltered from the wind by a boulder shrouded in mist as Nicky and Lizzie spoke of their deep gratitude for their family life and shared a gorgeous poem written by Lizzie’s son.
As we approached the pinnacle of Stob Binnein, the wind stilled and a brilliant sunlit cloud wrapped us in a wonderful calm. Lizzie and Nicky exchanged personal vows and rings declared their Marriage Vows to one another. It was my honour to read a beautiful poem by Lizzie and declare them legally married.
A Time for Love
There is a time for love,
a time when her net thrown wide
catches a shining beauty,
after all the patient hours of waiting.
There is a time for love,
a time when she clears the brambles
and picks the ripest fruit,
after all the stumbling and scrambling.
There is a time for love,
a time when the crashing waves calm
and the boat sails to shore,
after all the days without direction.
There is a time for love,
a time when love settles like a bird,
silently, as if from nowhere,
a peaceful offering, when home arrives.
The wind picked up as we returned to the bealach, just in time to reveal the sweeping majestic views as we shared cake and prosecco. Then we released thousands of dandelion seeds onto the wind as just-married blessings for them both.
Heartfelt congratulations and so much love to you both, Lizzie and Nicky. I loved being part of your soulful, fun, epic wedding. Thank you for choosing to share these gorgeous details with us all.
When I first met with Hollie and Shaz, they told me that they would like a ceremony that was “simple, beautiful, relaxed, and nothing too ‘lovey-dovey.” Hollie even admitted that she had been googling ‘non-gushy weddings’ just before our meeting. Importantly, they wanted their ceremony to be inclusive and respectful of the shared and varied beliefs among their close friends and family.
Their Marriage ceremony in the candlelit ballroom at the Ghillie Dhu was a celebration of their many years together and their great friendship. It was about affirming what they already have and making a lifelong commitment to be with each other.
Their ceremony was romantic, elegant, beautiful and funny. I shared some sweet, joyful (not-too-gushy) words about how Hollie and Shaz first fell into life and love together, including some of the entertaining and poignant secret thoughts Shaz and Hollie had shared with me when I asked about their love and connection. Hollie’s brother and a close friend gave gorgeous readings of Union by Robert Fulghum and song lyrics by Bob Marley.
The Arta String Quartet gave a soaring rendition of Love is like a red red rose by Rabbie Burns – Hollie’s dad’s favourite song. A chance for us all to pause and enjoy the moment before their vows and, for those who wished to, to make a prayer, blessing or well-wishing thought for Hollie and Shaz.
Shaz and Hollie exchanged rings and made their Marriage Vows to each other and it was my honour to declare them legally married to the cheers of their family and friends.
After the ceremony, some of Shaz and Hollie’s friends came up to me to say it was the loveliest ceremony they had ever experienced. I couldn’t agree more … it really was magical.
So much love to you both, Hollie and Shaz. I’m so happy for you that, after so many rescheduled dates, you were finally able to go ahead with your beautiful celebration. Thank you for inviting me to be your celebrant and for sharing these gorgeous details of your day. It’s been my absolute pleasure getting to know you both. Congratulations!