Happy Hogmanay, Everyone! Thank you to all the incredible individuals, families and communities I have been so lucky to work with this year. There is now a native sapling tree growing in a beautiful part of Scotland in honour of you all.
To start the New Year as I mean to go on, I have decided to support an important rewilding project run by Trees for Life in Glen Affric, Scotland. Rewilding action is something that is close to my heart so I feel soulful-happy to be gifting a tree for every ceremony I have conducted over the years, and will conduct going forward.
Every time a couple are married, exchange vows, or express their life commitment to one another I will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When babies are welcomed by family and friends, and formally given their chosen name 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.
To all the families I’ve had the joyful privilege of working with so far, I hope you will enjoy thinking of your tree sprouting happily and forming part of a stunning wild forest in Glen Affric as you journey through 2020. Take a peek at the grove here.
And to all the super-talented people I’ve met this year who work so hard behind-the-scenes to make ceremonies beautiful, and to those who capture that beauty on film and in photos, it’s been lovely to share time with you and I wish you a magical and rewarding 2020.
Earlier this Autumn, I had the pleasure of revisiting the gorgeous Carlowrie Castle, ancestral family home to the inspirational female Arctic explorer, Isobel Wylie Hutchison. The fun-loving wedding of travel-seekers, Kira and James, was a stunning and romantic blend of both Scottish and American traditions.
Sweet touches chosen by the bride and groom included an American-style line up of bridesmaids and groomsmen to each side of the couple…
A good deal of hilarity as we shared the story of how these two fab people got together…
Not a dry eye in the room as they surprised each other with the ‘secret’ reasons why they loved one another…
Before exchanging rings as a promise of their everlasting love…
An adaptation of the traditional handfasting where James and Kira chose a swathe of white lace to represent Kira’s family and a swatch of tartan to represent James’ family. These symbolic cloths were laid over their joined hands as they made their Marriage vows to one another…
Kira and James then quite literally tied the knot together and held it up for all to admire (a first for me!)…
And they sealed their Marriage declaration with a kiss…
Before enjoying a sweet Sharing of the Quaich ceremony with their favourite whisky…
And a gorgeous Chinese Love Poem read in both Cantonese and English by Kira’s mother and grandmother. Beautiful!
A wish for you two,
zhù nĭ men
May you respect each other like honored guests.
xīang jìng rú bīn
May you always see heart to heart.
xīn xīn xīang yìn
May fragrant flowers bloom and full moons shine over your life together.
huā hăo yuè yuán
May your joy and happiness be forevermore.
băi nián hăo hé
Chinese Love Poem
Congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs Maclean! I loved planning your ceremony with you and it was an honour to lead it. Wishing you many more magical adventures to come, boundless laughter and happily ever after.
Every now and then, you cross paths with people who are meant to be in your life. I feel this way about my two fellow Agnostic Scotland founders, Linda Keys and Andrea Taylor. I’d love to introduce them to you.
I first met Linda when she was expecting her eldest child and she attended a birth workshop I was running at KnotStressed Therapies. Linda is remarkable. She’s someone you remember – even years after a fleeting meeting. You can spend time with her for such a short time and feel like you’ve known her forever. I have already learnt an enormous amount from Linda in the year that we have been planning Agnostic Scotland. She is principled, generous, kind, confident and one of those rare people in life who brings out the best in everyone. I am more excited than I can say to see how our plans unfold and to be working with Linda on this journey.
Over the years in my work supporting families through pregnancy and chilbirth, I have heard Andrea’s name again and again. She is a wonderful and inspiring midwife, birth educator, yoga teacher and all-round-creative genius. From my first cup of tea in Andrea’s gorgeously decorated, plant-filled home it was obvious to me that we share a similar ethos in our approach and values. She is calm, heart-centred, wise, thoughtful and funny. Andrea has recently embarked on her journey as a Celebrant – although really she has been honouring life transitions for years, both in her own life and the lives of those around her. I feel deeply honoured to be working alongside her at Agnostic Scotland.
On 28th November 2019, after a year of planning, Linda, Andrea and I officially launched Agnostic Scotland, a not-for-profit organisation offering Wedding, Naming, Funeral and other Life-Transition Ceremonies. All three of us firmly believe that families should be able to decide how and where they choose to mark the momentous occasions in their lives, however big or small, religious or secular, traditional or unconventional. We are now able to offer these beautiful, people-centred ceremonies, including legally recognised Wedding Ceremonies, through Agnostic Scotland. It feels great as a celebrant to say “Yes! Let’s do what you want to do… it is your ceremony!”
I am so proud of what we have already achieved and can’t wait to develop our plans to provide affordable ceremonies across Scotland through our Agnostic Scotland Community Fund, to bring communities together through our donations-based Community Connection Gatherings, and to launch our Celebrant Training Programme and establish a network of fabulous, principled Agnostic Scotland Celebrants across the country. Watch this space!
We’ve been blown away by the positive reception to Agnostic Scotland, from interested individuals to clients and celebrants. Our Launch Ceremony on 28th November was a joyful, community-spirited event and we were delighted to welcome many friends, clients, fellow celebrants, photographers, wedding suppliers, councillors and funeral directors to the event. Thank you to all those who joined us. For those who missed it, feel free to have a read of our Launch Ceremony speeches on the Agnostic Scotland blog.
Linda, Andrea and I look forward to being in touch with you. Thank you so much for your interest and your support.
Photos by Laura Kate McLean – thanks so much! And thanks also to all the incredible people who volunteered their time and help on the launch night. We are so grateful! ❤️🌿
Petit coeur little heart we are where we are meant to be, you fit like a glove, skin to skin, heart to heart on a course flying free, now as three
[extract of a beautiful poem written for Bo by Bo’s mother]
All the uniquely personal elements in Bo’s soul-nourishing welcome-to-the-world ceremony today made my spirits soar. A special candle was passed from friend to friend as the beautiful Karine Polwart song, ‘Beo’, played. As each person held the light, they were invited to hold in their mind and hearts a loving thought for Bo and his parents. A song was sung to acoustic guitar and a poem recited with love – both written especially for Bo by close family friends.
Rose petals gathered from a bouquet that had been gifted to Bo’s parents on the day of his birth were shared among the gathering and gently showered around the little boy as his name was declared to the world.
A Native American ritual to greet the cardinal points, North-South-East-West, invited everyone present to set their own unique and personal intentions as they become Bo’s teachers, guides and mentors. Bo’s parents lead a gorgeous ritual to honour the Earth and all her elements and to request their protection for Bo as he grows.
And a glorious a capella song was sung by all, ‘To you we sing and happiness we bring to celebrate your birth, an angel here on Earth’. All centred around a gorgeous handmade blessing wreath to which everyone was welcome to attach their own written words of blessing for Bo throughout the day’s celebrations.
Bo’s wonderful doula, who was present at his birth, said to me after the ceremony, “If only we were all of us greeted into the world this way…” I couldn’t agree more ❤️
When you make your mark on the blossoming Cherry tree, Elsie’s parents invite you to hold in your mind and your heart, a positive thought for Elsie.
A gorgeous ritual at Elsie’s Naming Day celebrations last weekend. Her ceremony took place in a beautifully decorated marquee in the garden of the family home (Elsie’s siblings had been busy!). It was a fun and heartfelt morning. Elsie’s older sister was very brave and read a sweet poem, individual promises were made by Elsie’s parents and ‘Guide’ parents, and the whole gathering sang their hearts out to a fantastic acoustic rendition of ‘The Bare Necessities’ (thanks to the super talents of Elsie’s Dad and a family friend).
Welcome to the world, Elsie. I so enjoyed being your Naming Day Celebrant and meeting all the wonderful family and friends in your life. In the words of the sweet blessing shared during your ceremony:
May the sun bring you new energy by day, May the moon softly restore you by night, May the rain wash away your worries, And the breeze blow new strength into your being, And all the days of your life may you walk Gently through the world and know its beauty.
It’s been such a busy Summer! Looking back, Esther and John’s fabulous Life Commitment Celebration, on 31st August at their gorgeous home overlooking the Firth of Forth, was definitely a highlight. A uniquely special day entirely reflective of these two marvellous and – by their own admission – quirky souls.
Rather than opt for a traditional Wedding Ceremony, John and Esther chose to celebrate their existing relationship and the heart-fulfilling fact that they discovered their love for one another at a time in life when they least expected it. In their words, they opted for an ‘Uncivil Partnership’, or a Life Commitment Ceremony.
The ceremony was brimming with personal touches including an awesome rendition of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ by a close friend, and one of the most make-you-laugh-while-you-weep sharing of loving words I’ve had the privilege of witnessing (there was not a dry eye in the house).
A first for me was being able to say during the Handfasting, “and you have chosen to replace your Handfasting ribbons with a rope…” The fishing rope being an important symbol of their shared love and connection with the sea.
And the Sharing of the Quaich was personalised to include two beautiful brass pots of great emotional value to Esther.
What an honour to be part of this wholesome, life-affirming and joyful day. I wish you both all the happiness and love, Esther and John. Thank you so much for inviting me to be your Celebrant. I loved being a part of your day.
Knowing another is endless. The thing to be known grows with the knowing.
Heartfelt congratulations to the two high school sweethearts from the Netherlands who, after ten years together, sealed their wedding vows to each other on Wednesday in the heart of the timeless and dramatic Coigach-Assynt mountains.
In a beautiful, private elopement ceremony with their parents as witnesses, the couple exchanged rings and made their promises to each other on the banks of Loch Lurgainn. The elemental Scottish weather only added to the breathtakingly atmospheric setting and the poignancy of the ceremony. Tears and laughter, love and friendship…
Congratulations to you both. I am delighted for you and feel so grateful to have been a part of your intimate ceremony. I wish you all the very best and can’t wait to hear more as your next adventures unfold.
Photo of the couple by the expert elopement photographer partnership, ‘We are Elopers’. Sean Bell and Justyna Maria – it was also super to see you both again.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away… roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from your branches you find that you are one tree and not two.
[an extract from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières]
Sometimes it’s the things that don’t go to plan that make a celebration even more enjoyable and poignant… a delayed pianist only added to the camaraderie among friends and family at David and Jane’s Wedding Ceremony in May on the stunning coast of Dumfries & Galloway. Singing their hearts out to the beautiful hymn (and Rugby Union World Cup anthem), ‘I Vow to Thee My Country’, with Auntie Dot improvising on the piano was a fabulous way to begin a perfect day of friendship, love, gratitude and laughter.
In glorious sunshine overlooking take-your-breath-away sea views, David and Jane made their promises to each other by exchanging rings and then sealing their vows with a beautiful Handfasting Ceremony. A union bringing together not only two of the most super kind and easy going people you will ever meet but also two countries – South Africa and Scotland.
The ceremony was a sweet mix of hymns, readings and a thoughtful blessing from David’s Uncle Pete, a South African Pastor.
Massive congratulations, Jane and David. It was such a pleasure to be your celebrant and meet all your excellent friends and family. Thank you!
Great also to meet Vicki, Julie and the fab team at the beautiful GG’s Yard and witness photo-ace Duncan Ireland doing great work 🙏🏻
“If I don’t see you no more in this world, I’ll see you in the next one. Don’t be late.”
Jimi Hendrix, Voodoo Child (Slight Return) from Electric Ladyland, the Jimi Hendrix Experience
The sheer outpouring of love and affection for the man whose funeral I conducted last week was a wonderful thing to witness. Emails from his family and friends all around the world flew into my inbox celebrating his life and recalling poignant and funny memories.
It was my great honour to spend time with this brilliant, kind-hearted, and quick-witted man in the weeks prior to his death. He taught me so much in those few meetings … about gratitude and peaceful acceptance, about remaining strong and open-minded in the face of the unknown, about lifting the mood of those around you despite all you are experiencing, and about understanding that what really matters is the legacy of love we leave behind.
A huge music aficionado and lifelong fan of Jimi Hendrix, he was especially meticulous in the musical planning for his ceremony. He was a believer, of sorts, taking comfort in the view that the spirit or soul continues into the afterlife and finding peace in the great cycle of nature and the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation.
The pews in the Main Chapel at Mortonhall Crematorium were filled with his family and friends, rainbow light streamed in through the stained glass windows, and the ceremony itself was an emotional, heartfelt and melody-filled tribute to a man who clearly filled the hearts of many who knew him. My love goes out to his family and friends.
Thanks to Georg_Wietschorke for the use of his sweet photo.
“Take your hearts with you wherever you go,” said their teacher. “Nurture them as a mother nurtures her newborn baby. For when you want to give of yourself fully, your heart is the only true gift you will have.”
Extract from Love Monkey by Edward Monkton
Connie and Rich’s Wedding Ceremony on Saturday at the magnificent countryside hotel at Gleneagles was gorgeous. On a beautiful, blustery, rainbow-blessed day, in a ceremony filled with laughter, tears, love and tenderness, they exchanged vows and rings, sealed promises with a handfasting – with the help of their little boy – and celebrated their togetherness with the Sharing of the Quaich, to a blessing wonderfully read by their young daughter.
Heartfelt congratulations to you both, Connie and Rich. Wishing you and your beautiful family many more fabulous adventures to come.
It was also super to meet photo-wizard Anna Moffat Photography whizzing about the ceremony capturing the beautiful moments.