The case for same-sex marriage

Just because civil partnerships between same-sex couples are legal in England we tend to think that marriage has been legalised. It hasn’t. The English law states that marriage is only marriage if it is between one man and one woman. I do not see this only as an outrageous affront to same-sex couples, but as more generally sexist, and as a grave insult to the human rite of marriage. The idea that law may dictate who together enters into emotional, intellectual and physical unity pronounced and celebrated in a marriage ceremony is absurd. The only people fit to choose are those entering into this committment of love, sharing, and lifelong loyalty.

My views on marriage are humanist, that is to say that I view marriage as an expression of our humanity. I can not see marriage in a cynical way, expecting it to fail, or blame it for the church, the law, or society’s failings in its name. Marriage hasn’t had a perfect track record. Many marriages have failed. Marriage has been used as a weapon. It has been used to control and disempower. However, this history and these associations cannot taint the concept of marriage or the wholly natural impulse we have to join together under the banner of marriage.

http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmI am very aware that opinion is divided on the issue, and that not all same-sex couples wish to marry – instead preferring the quite separate option to ‘wed’ in a civil partnership. My case for the term marriage to be applied to all those wishing to express their intentions to share their lives with one or more particular partners is that there is no justifiable reason not to. Objections to certain types of relationships come from societal rather than human concerns. The only concerns worth our considering are limited to the sincerity and seriousness with which the partners in question are approaching marriage and making their commitments to each other. The question is not whether marriage is good for society, but whether marriage is good for personal happiness and fulfilled lives.

Civil partnerships and marriages may differ legally but within a humanist wedding ceremony they are treated with http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmexactly the same degree of respect and are looked on as having exactly the same status. What is more, I will most certainly refer to a same-sex partnership as a marriage if that is how the couple see their union. Even if the lived experience of marriage and civil partnership is the same, the symbolic distinction matters to me. Humanist wedding ceremonies are chosen for their symbolic significance, and while they can be used to mitigate the inequality of the legal situation, I would still like to see same-sex marriages given the legal status and recognition they deserve. Couples who feel unaffected by the distinction may not see this as an issue. Not everyone wants to fight to be allowed to marry, while to them marriage seems to be conforming to a repressive and outdated institution. Not everyone can see a reason for calling civil partnerships ‘marriages’, but I hope that every thinking person with a regard for human happiness can see no reason not to.

Click here to read about the British Humanist Association’s campaign for legal humanist weddings and legal same-sex marriage.

Making an Entrance!

Following on from yesterday’s post about the significance of holding onto something as you walk down the aisle, today I’m exploring options for making an entrance with a difference.

Who gives this woman…?

The overwhelming majority of Brides still choose to be given away by their Dads. For many Brides, their Father is the ideal person to escort them down the aisle. Long gone is the traditional meaning of being given away. Brides are no longer considered property (or burden) to be passed from man to man. Still, many of us feel that is important to be given away by our Fathers as a show of their blessing and approval of our marriage and choice of Groom.

There are many reasons why the Father may not be the obvious choice for this very important role. Some Fathers will be sadly absent. Other Brides may feel another member of their family played a more significant role, or is a more fitting escort on their wedding day. In choosing our escort(s) we should honour those who have brought us up, those who have shaped us, those who have been there for us and provided us with support and guidance. I personally wanted to honour my Mom as well as my Dad by asking her to walk me down the aisle. The idea being they hold an arm each. If the width of your aisle doesn’t allow for this, do as I did and ask your Mom to walk down the aisle with your Maid of Honour.

Mothers often fall into the conventional slot that is made for Mother-of-the-Bride, without thinking they can take part in wedding ceremonies in these kinds of ways. Just ask what each traditional element means to you, and invite whoever means most in that regard to be a part of the tradition. Traditions are created by regular people, and there is nothing but ourselves to stop us creating our very own new family traditions.

The French have a lovely tradition of the Mother of the Groom giving him away to the Bride. I think this act has the potential to have a powerful effect on all those involved. If, as all rituals should be, it is enacted with an appreciation of why it is being done. Marriage is undeniably a watershed moment where the key players in a newlywed couple’s lives change places forever. The wedding ceremony is the perfect opportunity for those key players, generally parents/guardians and spouses, to acknowledge this handover of power, and the resulting shift in priorities. A father’s daughter becomes a married woman. The most important person in her life becomes her husband rather than her father. A mother’s son becomes a married man. The most important person in his life becomes his wife rather than his mother. Love is not lessened and no less respect or regard is felt. This is simply what marriage requires. Acceptance of inevitable and necessary change is essential to family harmony.

http://thepunypundit.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/father-of-the-future-brides/

Going solo…

Many couples incorporate a unity ritual into the main wedding ceremony but don’t think to start the ceremony with one. If you are not escorted down the aisle but instead enter alone, this serves to highlight your togetherness at the front. If you both walk down the aisle alone one by one, this only heightens your individual nature before coming together in marriage. There is no reason why the Groom should wait for the Bride at the front rather than make an entrance himself. If it is possible to enter the room at the same time from opposite directions before walking down the aisle together, this can be very symbolic of couples who already feel unity before marriage whilst acknowledging that you are coming into the marriage from different places.

Your walk down the aisle can represent your final steps as an unmarried individual. Whilst your wedding ceremony will reflect your personality as a couple, and combine elements of your individual personalities, your entrance can be exclusively yours. Instead of choosing entrance music: a wedding march, or processional; instead choose your own personal theme tune. This goes for both halves of the couple. Choosing markedly different music from each other will show beautifully and effortlessly who you are separately and celebrate that fact as your guests recognise YOU in your music choice. The entrance music does not have to be classical. It can be a TV theme tune, a pop song, disco tune, opera, anything. Your individual songs can be cross faded or blended so that they are both separate and as one.

Taking your time…

Whatever music you choose and whoever you choose to enter with, it is important not to rush down the aisle. Walking through your guests should be savoured. Give yourself time to look at and smile at every row of guests. Soak it up and take your time. This is your wedding day and you want to remember Every. Last. Bit.

If you think you might rush on the day, choose music that will slow your steps down. Think of it as a dance. Match your steps to the beats of the song. Don’t feel self-conscious. All eyes are on you, but they should be! No one has anywhere else to be. They are all there for you.

Try not to look at your feet. If you’re worried about this, choose a dress that is ankle length or shorter.

And finally, practice with your escort if you are having one.

More than an aisle…

The first and only thought for an aisle, especially in outdoor ceremonies tends to be the red carpet. If you want carpet, choose a colour that complements the rest of the ceremony and the wedding. For something more personalised, you can get aisle runners that are specially printed with your initials or monogram.

Consider a thick carpet of petals, or outlining the aisle with candle holders, lanterns, petals, or other markers that tie in with your theme, such as seashells or driftwood.

Turn your aisle into a tunnel. Guests can be asked to blow bubbles towards you and upwards, making an arch for you to walk through. Alternatively, guests nearest the aisle could turn inwards and join hands above your head(s) as you walk past them.

http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2011/air-new-zealand-fit-to-fly-with-richard-simmons/

Things to do…

If you’re not holding a bouquet, your hands are free to do any number of things. Likewise, don’t feel that you have to simply walk forwards. If there’s something more active than walking that is an important part of who you are that would lend itself to an entrance, you should do it. Just to throw some examples out there: breakdancing, moonwalking, skipping, riding a horse, pogoing, performing magic tricks, combing your hair. It’s all about expressing yourself.

When you get to the front, consider your options. Who would you like to kiss or shake hands with? Would you like to take a bow? Would you like to pick your Bride up? Again, if it’s YOU, do it. Have the confidence to inject your personalities into these first minutes of the ceremony, and you’ll have set the mood wonderfully for the rest of the day.

Alternative Bouquet

I’ve written before about having fun choosing the perfect flowers for your wedding but what if you don’t want a traditional flower bouquet?

When I was planning my wedding, I didn’t want to do anything just because it’s the done thing. I decided against carrying a bouquet despite warnings from florists that I’d miss it (I didn’t) because I found the idea of handing it over to my sister when I reached the front clumsy and silly. I didn’t want the bouquet to end up as a table decoration. The tradition itself held no importance for me.

I knew I wanted flowers on me somehow though, so I experimented with real flowers in my hair, but ended up finding the perfect vintage silk flower to wear instead. My Mom made me a wrist corsage to wear so I could have flowers on me all day, even when kissing, hugging, and dancing. It worked out just right for me. Still, I wish I had researched my options more thoroughly because I’ve come across some really exciting alternatives to the traditional bouquet. I’m sneakily making a mental note of my new faves for a Renewal of Vows I might get to have in… 49 years 😉

source: newherbgarden.info

The tradition of carrying a bunch of flowers down the aisle comes from the belief that herbs could ward off evil spirits. Before bouquets became the ‘in’ thing, Brides wore herbs in their hair for this purpose. If you want to retain this tradition you could ask your Flower Girls or Bridesmaids to scatter herbs in your path so that you release their aromas as you walk over them. I’m a big fan of herbs, and if you love cooking, why not use herbs in place or alongside flowers to reflect your tastes? Herbs look great and smell great so it’s a win, win. If you want to wear flowers instead of holding them, you can wear a wrist corsage or pin flowers onto your dress. You can wear a garland around your neck or present each other with garlands or flowers as part of the ceremony.

Another reason for carrying a bouquet down the aisle is so that you have something to toss over your shoulder to over-excited female wedding guests hoping to be given a sign that they’re next to wed! However, the original significance of the tradition is that the Bride’s clothing and by extension items belonging to her were considered good luck. Therefore Brides, feel free to choose an alternative to the bouquet as your lucky offering.

http://whatireadandwatched.blogspot.com/2011/06/muriels-wedding.html

Finally, you might be struggling to think of an alternative to the bouquet to keep your hands from fidgeting as you make your big entrance. Maybe you’ll feel less self-conscious with something to hide behind. Maybe people have told you Brides look silly without bouquets in their hands. Here I can help!

So what are the alternatives?

If you want a bouquet shape without the flowers, replace the offending flowers with:

  • Buttonshttp://www.iheartbuttons.co.uk/#
  • Silk butterflies
  • Lolly pops
  • Sea shells
  • Feathers
  • Christmas baubles
  • Beads
  • Crystals
  • Macaroons
  • Bonbons

If you just want something to hold onto:

  • Umbrella

    My dear Dad escorting me down the aisle

  • Parasol
  • Dog lead
  • Dog/Cat
  • Balloon string
  • Magic Wand
  • Fairy Wand
  • Purse
  • Fan
  • Lantern
  • (my personal favourite) The arm or hand of the person giving you away

Hen Night Hangover

I recently rewatched the movie the Hangover. I turned to my husband and said something like “…but that is THE destination though isn’t it. If you lived anywhere near there, you just would, wouldn’t you? It’s pretty hard to beat!…”

I was of course talking of Las Vegas. Sin City. The adult’s play ground. It’s like a much, much more glamourous and much, much more serious Fun House for adults many of us early 80s kids have wished someone would invent! More than anything I think Las Vegas is super cool. You can really fancy yourself in Las Vegas, you can take yourself seriously as a grown up, but have an absolute blast. You can be pampered, you can indulge, you can completely lose track of time. You can act like a big kid or you can go all classy and demure. Anything goes.

image from ioffer.com

But let’s face it, most British hen and stag dos cant stretch to that airfare + hotel tarifs + spending money! So where else could you go on your bachelor/bachelorette party as the Americans call them? It got me thinking of other super cool destinations for your party of a lifetime…

The first and largest hotel made of ice can be found in Swedish Lapland. A trip to Ice Hotel offers amazing experiences like taking in the stunning Northern Lights, snowmobiling and skiing, but it’s only open December – April. The mindboggling thought of sleeping in an ice bed in an ice room in an ice hotel actually sounds lovely! You get togged up in your sleeping bags and sleep on reindeer skins. They bring you a hot drink in bed in the morning. Then you warm through in the sauna and showers before breakfast.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/northernlights

Closer to home, Ice Bar London is a fabulous venue, with the bar itself and various lounges available for private hire. The bar is made entirely of ice, and is open year round. Dine here before sipping cocktails out of glasses made of ice! How fun! The Ice Hotel project is a must for art and architecture lovers. These party venues are art installations in themselves.

Staying with London – think big! If you have the budget, you can hire any number of places to hold your party including museums, performing arts venues, and royal palaces! If you’re hiring a venue like this for your wedding, it’s a nice excuse to try it out with just the girls (or boys)! Whatever you do, DO NOT search for “hen/stag party venue” and click on one of the many event management sites that hire venues as part of a hen/stag package. It might be easy but you pay for the ease of a package. If you go down the private hire route you’ll get a better deal, and your event will be tailor made to your requirements. How about chocolate tasting in a private capsule for 20 of your closest friends, on the London Eye?

http://www.virginballoonflights.co.uk/blog/when-is-an-envelope-not-an-envelope/

Now think bigger than London. Is a hot air balloon ride something you’ve always wanted to do? A basket can hold 16 guests! Choose to fly over the place you got engaged, your old school and stomping ground, magnificent castles or beautiful countryside. Now think boat party. River boats are cool, but how about a yacht on the Solent? Or off the Devonshire coastline? Onboard jacuzzi and sunbathing, a dip in the sea, dolphin spotting, BBQ, and of course oodles of champagne. What more could we want?

Your hen or stag do can be anything you want it to be. As with weddings, they should not be generic and impersonal but reflect who you are and what you love. Get creative and go all out. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend some high class, quality time with the girls/boys and to make lifelong memories. You probably wont be organising your own shindig but that doesn’t mean you can’t drop big hints. Just send your Best Men and Ladies over to my blog, or email them a few links to check out. 😉

Lucky in Love

I’m not sure whether bridal charm of choice depends more on where you grow up, or family tradition. All I know is that I was adamant that on my wedding day I REALLY wanted a horseshoe. I don’t think I hinted to anyone that I was expecting/hoping for at least one trinket to dangle off my wrist, but boy did my family come through!

I hadn’t even considered how much I wanted wooden spoons until I was handed two. One had been lovingly handpainted by my sister and the other was fit for a Princess, white and glittery. From my Dad came the biggest, tackiest silver plastic horseshoe he could find. Good old Dad. From my Mom a much more restrained, gorgeous tiny gold horseshoe, and from my Uncle and Aunt a larger gold horseshoe embossed with hearts. Cousins on my new husband’s side gave me more modern interpretations of these good luck charms – wooden hearts on rope and letters on wire.

These good luck charms meant the world to me. I’m an old fashioned gal, and I know being adorned with a variety of clashing, clunking wrist furniture would not please every bride. For me though, the humblest wooden spoon filled me with an overwhelming sense of being loved. These offerings conveyed the sincerest of wishes for our marriage. They will be on show in my house always, as I will treasure them always.

Most of us know the rhyme ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ but did you know there’s more? ‘A silver sixpence in your shoe’ is apparently part of the same ryhme. Traditionally, the Father of the Bride provides the sixpence for his daughter to wear in her shoe as she walks down the aisle. How lovely, I wish we had known that.

Horseshoes are said to be lucky for a number of superstitious reasons. As well as being said to ward off witches, and the devil himself, the metal iron is said to be lucky as is the very shape of the shoe, representing a crescent moon.

Wooden love spoons were made by men in Wales while courting. The spoons would be carved intricately to show the depth of feeling the hopeful gent held for the lady.

The four leaf clover doesn’t seem particularly associated with wedding luck, but is considered lucky because of its rarity. They carry lovely symbolism, with their leaves meaning in turn: faith, hope, love and luck. Very apt for a wedding then.

We wish newlyweds luck with our words and gifts without really believing that any amount of luck can really make for a successful marriage. Still, it is a caring sentiment to wish the happy couple the smoothest transition into their new lives together; to wish them no untoward misfortune as they make their way together as husband and wife; to wish them patience and resolve in times of difficulty. We wish Brides and Grooms luck in marriage, not luck in love, because they have already had that in finding in each other.