It’s the most meaningful bit of the whole thing, so you need to get the ceremony right. Recent newlyweds tell Olivia Simpson how they did it, from writing their vows to selecting appropriate rituals
Nicky Spence and Dylan Perez, married by Jane Patmore, Interfaith celebrant
“We married at St Palladius Church at Drumtochty Castle on 1st January 2022 – forever to be known as New Year’s Gay!” laugh Nicky and Dylan. “We thought things had moved on, but sadly it’s still quite hard to find somebody to joyfully marry gay people in a church. Humanists aren’t keen to mention God, but it was important for us to include some spirituality (God-light, if you will), so we were thrilled when Jane, as an interfaith celebrant, was happy to prioritise what was important to us.”
The London-based couple did some online ‘speed-dates’ with celebrants and were impressed by how quickly Jane understood who they were and what mattered to them. The result was a ceremony that was perfectly tailored to them: “It was so ‘us’: touching, light at times, serious and special.”
With Jane’s guidance, Nicky and Dylan abandoned any traditions that didn’t feel right for them, leaving space for unique and emotional moments to be treasured. They loved the ritual of hand-fasting, so did it using Nicky’s tartan and a piece of Dylan’s mother’s wedding dress. “We also processed down the aisle together with our parents, even though some of them aren’t together any more. Walking the aisle as a joyfully disjointed clan got us right in the emotions.”
Lorna and James Firscht, married by Craig Flowers of Independent Humanist Ceremonies
On 28th December 2021, Lorna and James got married at Gleddoch Golf and Spa Resort in a ceremony that fused the bride’s Scottish heritage with the groom’s Jewish background. “We chose a humanist ceremony, as I am not religious and James is Jewish – it was the best option to bring in both our traditions but not be dominated by religion,” explains Lorna.
“We were referred to Craig Flowers at Independent Humanist Ceremonies. James and I both liked his manner: we didn’t want our wedding to be too stuffy and Craig was great at keeping it light-hearted and was happy to incorporate all the elements we were looking for in our wedding.
“Craig really helped us to have the kind of ceremony we wanted. We were married under a chuppah and, to incorporate my Celtic heritage, we put our own twist on a traditional ‘tying the knot’ ceremony. We used James’s tallit (a shawl that he had from his bar mitzvah) and a tartan from my family, and we tied these pieces together. James’s godfather also gave us a traditional Jewish blessing.”
The couple are full of praise for Craig’s organisational skills, and were impressed by the way he guided them and their guests through the day: “He was great at explaining everything to our family and friends so they could all follow what was going on,” says Lorna.
The ceremony concluded with one last cross-cultural flourish as Arkleston Piping played the newlyweds out with a rendition of ‘Hava Nagila’, the traditional Jewish celebration song, on the bagpipes!
Steph and Robert Boyle, married by Barbara Campbell, Interfaith celebrant
When Steph and Robert were planning their September 2021 wedding at the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel, they settled on an interfaith ceremony. This allowed the faith and spirituality that Steph had grown up with (and continues to enjoy in her life) to be recognised without dominating the day, since Robert does not believe in God.
Steph met with a couple of interfaith celebrants, ultimately deciding to go with Barbara Campbell. “I was looking to click with someone,” she reflects. “We didn’t find that with anyone until we met Barbara. She was warm and lovely and we really enjoyed talking to her. She matched our energy as a couple better than any other celebrant.”
In the months leading up to the wedding, Barbara was in contact often. “We went back and forth on vows and ceremony drafts until we got what we were happy with. I am a journalist, so I was particular about the ceremony and how it sounded, the story-telling aspect of it especially. So she probably put up with a few more amends than she usually would! It takes a special person to make each couple feel as though you’ve got to know them really well and offer such a personal service.”
Robert and Steph originally considered surprising each other with their vows on the day, but decided in the end to write them together, with help from Barbara: “She sent us a huge list of vows. We took a few elements from a couple of those and added in our own words too,” says the bride. “We both said the same vows to each other and it was so special. We wrote them together and we said them together. They’ll always be just ours.”
Barrie and Sarah Arthur, married by Mo Ackroyd of Fuze Ceremonies
Faced with having to postpone for a second time, Barrie and Sarah decided to marry in a short, informal ceremony in their garden last August, followed by a bigger bash complete with vow affirmation at Cornhill Castle in February just past.
Celebrant Mo Ackroyd, who had previously conducted a friend’s wedding, led proceedings on both occasions. “Neither of us is religious, so we wanted a secular ceremony that celebrated us and was fun,” says Sarah. “Mo’s approach was exactly what we wanted: she was attentive, laid-back and positive.”
Mo, she adds, went above and beyond to ensure the ceremony really felt like them. “We met her pre-Covid and had numerous Zoom calls, so she was able to get to know us as a couple – this showed on our big day. She also took the time to interact not just with us but with our kids too, as we wanted them to play a big part in the day. Mo spoke to our friends and family as well, and everyone commented on how good she was and how enjoyable the ceremony had been.”
The celebrant also helped the couple settle on which meaningful rituals to include. For the first, they had a sand ceremony; for the second, they reaffirmed their vows with an oathing stone.
Their top tip for when it comes to planning the ceremony is to be yourselves: “This will ensure your celebrant gets a feel for your personalities and understands you as a couple, which will in turn make your ceremony just perfect.”