A Look Back: Our Marriage Vows (Part 2)

Our first year of marriage promises reveal more about our personalities and our lives than our vows do, which is why I would love to write vows more similar to these for any future renewal. Our lives moved quickly and before long our focus was again turning, this time to how we wanted to raise our children. Having together broken down and rebuilt parts of each other’s souls before and after our wedding day, by asking the most profound and heart-wrenching questions, we emerged certain of our shared principles and priorities. What we wrote was a manifesto that summed up what it was to be a Catley-Richardson, the new family we had created by joining our names.

This is your life
Do what you love, and do it often
If you don’t like something change it
Question everything
Some opportunities only come once, seize them
Life is not a rehearsal
Enjoy the little things in life – one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things
When you eat, appreciate every last bite
Travel often –getting lost will help you find yourself
Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and new people
Do not lose faith in humanity
We are united in our differences
All emotions are beautiful
You are part of a family that loves you very much
Life is a precious thing so don’t burn it up start living it day by day
Live your dream and share your passion
Don’t make do, make happen
Strive, don’t settle
Live for love

The manifesto was inspired by Holstee, but I’ve always been keen to have words on the walls of my home, because the written word to me is one of if not the most beautiful, precious human art forms. I incorporated some of my favourite quotations, borrowed from various sources of inspiration in my life, and we came up with a few key statements of our own that were the lessons of our first years of marriage. The manifesto serves to remind us and our children of what we consider the most important truths to keep in mind every day as you live your life. Less than three years on, the manifesto needs updating and improving to better reflect our reality now, so it is a living document.

How far our relationship has come in those short three years. Bubbles and bubbles – referring to prosecco in the bath – has become even more of an us thing, in the bath that we chose in the house we own together, it’s the centrepiece of Jam Jar Spa day gifts from him, and the at least weekly debrief and destress tete-a-tetes. We have embraced the Cotswold country lifestyle and Ben plays cricket when he can. We are absolutely convinced of staycations and local holidaying. We try to live our lives to the full, squeezing as much in as we can at the weekends, keeping in touch with good friends, travelling to see them and family, improving our home and garden, being involved in the community, individually doing the things we love and both striving little by little to realise all of our hopes and ambitions. We love each other completely, without any part of ourselves reserved, unconditionally, for exactly who the other is, openly and freely. When I gave Ben my hand, I gave him my life to keep. And keep my life he does.

Part 1 of the story is here

A Look Back: Our Marriage Vows

Three years ago tomorrow, Ben and I said ‘I do’ in an incredibly simple garden ceremony half as long as the average ceremony I have been composing for couples over the past two and half years. I know I would compose a completely different ceremony for us if I could do it all again. But how different would our wedding vows be? And more importantly have we been living up to those vows? These are the promises we made to each other:

I promise to keep myself open to you,
To let you see through the window of my world,
Into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
I promise to trust you and honour you.
To laugh with you and cry with you.
I will love you faithfully,
Through the best and worst,
Through the difficult and the easy,
Completely and forever.
Come what may I promise I will always be there.
As I give you my hand to hold,
So I give you my life to keep.

Not long after we returned from our Honeymoon, we found and moved into a cottage in a village which opened up to us the lifestyle we enjoy today. That home and that village came to define our first year as husband and wife. It felt like our shared life started there. It was there that we really found who we were as a couple, and discovered our shared dream for our future. In our jubilation and to help us to cherish each other and our lives there we agreed further promises to live by day to day.

We pledge to have bubbles and bubbles at least once every two weeks and give thanks for our blessings
To explore on foot the village and surrounding countryside once a week – on Sundays if possible
To meet for a drink in the pub every Friday
To buy our meat from the local farm and to try the local oil
To go swimming in (nearby town) once a week
To have people over at least twice a month
To attempt to grow veg in the garden
To improve the lawn and garden
To go to (nearby towns) for shopping
To holiday close to home
To watch village cricket on Saturdays
To share the cooking and washing up
To always smile and greet fellow locals

When we wrote our wedding vows we were still getting to know one another having only met 18 months earlier. What shines through our wedding ceremony and wedding day in general is our relief and elation that we had finally found one another, that we were more than soul mates, we were perfect for each other, and that we really wanted to marry each other and be together, in each other’s pockets, for the rest of our lives. Click to read the rest of the story

Ceremony Music: make or break tips

1. Choose someone reliable to be in charge of setting up and starting and stopping the music
2. Make this their one and only job so they are there when needed and there is no delay in music starting
3. Test any equipment well in advance, not just the morning of the wedding
4. Try out volume levels for entrance, exit and mid-ceremony music
5. The volume for the exit song needs to be louder than other ceremony music, get a few people to clap and cheer over it and turn it up even louder

6. Mid-ceremony music needs to be low enough to talk over and be heard if used during Celebrant speaking
7. Mid-ceremony music may need to be looped so test how smoothly your chosen song can be repeated
8. Instrumental music is best for mid-ceremony whether or not the Celebrant is speaking over it
9. If playing music to be sung over see tip no. 5
10. Choose rousing, exhilarating music for the exit song to best fit the relief and elation of the Bride and Groom

11. Never abruptly stop a piece of music, always fade out gradually
12. Leave your background playlist on right up to the second the entrance song is started to avoid an awkward silence which heightens tension and nerves and makes time go ever so slowly (see tip no.2)
13. Start the exit song the second the Bride and Groom kiss or the Celebrant has stopped speaking – whichever is sooner
14. Start the after ceremony music as soon as the exit song finishes
15. Don’t assume the person in charge of the music will think of these points even if they seem like common sense, don’t assume anything, write instructions, and rehearse!

Symbolic gifts for anniversaries

I haven’t come across a definitive list of the traditional gifts or symbols associated with different wedding anniversary milestones, but this is one I’m happy represents the British consensus quite well.

1st – Paper
2nd – Cotton
3rd – Leather
4th – Linen
5th – Wooden
6th – Iron
7th – Copper/Wool
8th – Bronze
9th – Pottery
10th – Tin
11th – Steel
12th – Silk
13th – Lace
14th – Ivory
15th – Crystal

Ben and I celebrate our third anniversary next week and I haven’t bought him anything, much less anything in leather. Like many couples we can rarely justify spending money on ourselves or each other. Afterall, we’ve got each other, and back massages are free! Yea we’re happy and don’t need gifts to remind us we are loved, but I do love to buy Ben gifts, even if there’s no occasion. He deserves little treats and surprises and it makes me so happy.

For our first anniversary we bought each other papercut design cards, papercut being an ‘us’ thing. Last year we didn’t exchange gifts but we decided to have another baby, who we bought plenty of things made of cotton. I love the idea of us buying ourselves a joint gift. Something for our bedroom or bathroom, something we’d use every day, for each anniversary. It’s ideal that the list of traditional anniversary gifts suggests objects of quality and craftsmanship. Anniversary gifts are among those gifts you’d like to cherish and hand down to your children. Objects that come to define your home and space and lifestyle. We value handmade pieces, prefer unique and unusual pieces, and I love anything with a past and a story.

Cotton: I bought Ben a Liberty print handkerchief for our wedding, a handkerchief he’ll keep and love forever. Leather: the year after we were married we bought an Italian leather super king-size bed, a bed that will last the rest of our lives, we share with our children. Linen: some nice dinner napkins would suit us as we use them every day. Wood: Maybe that year we’ll get round to making our bespoke coat and hat rack with mismatched hooks that reflect our personalities for each the family. Iron: A second fireside companion so each of the downstairs open fires has one each. Copper: copper bathtubs are pretty special and we’ll need a bath when we convert the attic into our master suite, however having just Ebay’d them gosh they’re expensive, I would love copper saucepans instead . Wool: we use throws and blankets a lot both in the snug and on the bed, a Cotswold wool blanket would be perfect.

Bronze: something for the garden. Pottery: maybe we’ll replace our crockery. I’ve been hankering after an Emma Bridgewater hearts milk jug forever. Tin: probably something else for the garden – when in doubt! Tin makes very cute hole-punched candle holders. Steel: We already have a nice cutlery set. I’m sure we’ll find something in one of the nice kitchen shops in Oxford or Witney. Silk: I’m struggling to think of silk items for the home, but I’d start by looking for silk cushion covers. Lace: Like linen, beautiful lace is always something I want to bring home with me from France. I think our Dining Room could pull off a lace table cloth without looking too geriatric. Ivory: Our kids will still be pretty young so we could finally get a piano (if we can make room for one) and it should still see some use as they grow up. Crystal: Instead of the obvious wine glasses, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to an expensive bottle of champagne! Scandalous!

20th – China
25th – Silver
30th – Pearl
35th – Coral
40th – Ruby
45th – Sapphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
65th – Blue Sapphire
70th – Platinum

I think it’s sensible to switch to five-yearly gifts of significance once you’ve been married 15 years, but I don’t agree that after a point, a grand gesture every ten years is more appropriate! Anything longer than 50 years of marriage, with so many couples marrying in their 30s rather than their 20s, is bloomin marvellous! All the more reason to celebrate the passing of another five years. If you are fortunate enough to get to 70 happy years together well then you already have more than money can buy – a wonderfully long lifetime of memories.

China: we already have quite a collection of china tea sets, which we plan to use in our tea garden when it’s open, so it would make sense to buy something special for the tea garden this year. The rest of the list is suggestive of jewellery. I know I will much rather buy one of our children a piece of jewellery made of the stones and metals symbolic of our years together as family keepsakes. After all back massages will still be free 🙂

These are a few of my favourite things (about a wedding ceremomy)

As a guest albeit one with the role of Celebrant to play, having an excuse to dress up, wear makeup and jewellery, coif my hair and sometimes even wear nail varnish!
The mad rush to get out the house and into the car with the husband and kids, even though we sometimes snap at each other in the chaos, it’s so us, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s an exciting start to the day!
Reading the script and being impressed with myself and thinking to myself, I’m really good at my job.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the hard work of the Bride and Groom and their family of helpers, before any of the guests arrive.
Quirky signs using puns of their names and witty personal touches the Bride and Groom have thought of, such as their cut out faces on a wedding bake off trophy.
Checking out and comparing the toilets.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Nervous Grooms, especially if I can make them laugh; and people wishing the Groom luck.
Hearing the reactions of guests to the décor; and guests taking lots of photographs.
Seeing the wedding rings. Hearing the entrance song.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the Bride’s face (not her dress) as she walks in and looks for the Groom’s face.
Grooms with huge smiles and tears in their eyes when they see the Bride.
The Bride and Groom exchanging a few words when they are reunited at the front (usually sharing how nervous/overwhelmed they are or hot/cold/tired and how good they both look).
These are a few of my favourite things.

The Bride smiling at me. Guests smiling and crying throughout the ceremony, especially gasps of delight.
The ring and vow exchange because it’s such a personal and tender moment between the Bride and Groom we get to witness.
The fact that the rings hardly ever fit easily and have to be forced on (and how keen they are that the ring WILL go on).
These are a few of my favourite things.

Declaring the Bride and Groom husband and wife and everyone cheering.
Seeing all the love for the Bride and Groom in the congratulation hugs and kisses and photographs.
The parents of the Bride and Groom thanking and kissing me.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Picture this

You’ve chosen your professional photographer and come up with a list of must-have shots and group poses. You’ve done your homework and know exactly the style of photography you want for your wedding and have given the photographer a long brief to that effect. You’ve even bought your wedding photo albums. You may have decided to hand out disposable cameras for your guests to take snaps throughout the reception. You’ve bought a nice guest book for friends and family to sign and a special pen to go with it.

STOP!

What about…

Wedding Photo Booth

A photo booth that produces strips of passport photos, unlimited and free of charge to your guests! It’s set up and managed for you. Most companies will provide props.

Needed: Try to get a recommendation for the company you use.

Pro:

  • You can leave the professionals to it, totally hassle free
  • Tremendous fun for your guests, particularly i) squeezing multiple people into the booth ii) time pressure between snaps iii) taking loads of snaps and getting creative with poses
  • The booths produce a copy for the guest and a copy for the guest book
  • Booth prints look cool on your fridge as well as in albums
  • Quality print outs
  • Great if you and your guests like dressing up/getting creative

Con:

  • Close up shots only
  • Limited number of people per shot
  • Crazy rush to change wig/specs/mask in between shots can result in lots of blurred ‘fail’ shots
  • You’re reliant on the props provided – not tailored to your theme
  • More expensive than the DIY option, extra expense if you choose to have a professional photographer aswell

DIY Wedding Photo Booth

The homespun version of the above.

Needed: A backdrop of sorts, picture frames in various sizes, cut out boards, props, chalk and blackboards, a camera, tables, chairs, instructions for guests

Pro:

  • Complete control – you can tailor it to your theme and your guests, you can personalise it
  • A relatively cheap alternative
  • You can set up your booth outside!
  • Flexibility – You could use a digital camera, a polaroid camera, or even disposable cameras
  • Polaroids look cool in frames or pinned to the fridge or kitchen noticeboard as well as in albums
  • You can fit as many people as you like in the shots
  • If you supply a chalk board for guest messages you won’t need a guest book at all

Con:

  • Someone has to take the photo (This could be a paid pro but it defeats the money-saving aspect. This could be whoever is free, but they might take bad photographs!)
  • Stress over/time spent buying props
  • Stress over/time spent setting the booth up
  • Stress over the camera going missing/breaking
  • While digital snaps can produce multiple printouts, you only get one polaroid so you’d have to stop your guests from taking them home!
  • If you don’t use a polaroid, you might wish you had spent a bit extra and got more professional looking pics

Caricature Artist

An artist who will mill around your guests informally and draw funny pictures of them. The drawings can form a photo/guest book of sorts.

Needed: Phone or internet and credit card to book with. Try to get a recommendation for the artist you use.

Pro:

  • Captures your guests personalities as well as their looks
  • A very different type of guest book to flick through in years to come
  • Could be right up your street and your guests could love it
  • Drawings can feel more personal than photographs
  • Doubles up as entertainment for your guests
  • Drawings can be framed and displayed on walls
  • No risk of expensive equipment breaking or going missing

Con:

  • Drawings take longer than photographs
  • The artist probably won’t get round all your guests
  • Single portraits only, no group shots
  • Only produces one copy and your guests are likely to want to take drawings home with them
  • Caricatures are not very flattering
  • It’s not everyone’s cup of tea

Picture Frame Decorating

An activity for younger guests. They can make their own frames for you to use with photos of them from your day.

Needed: Cardboard, scissors, glue, glitter, other craft supplies, on a table covered with an oil cloth (for spills)

Pro:

  • Keeps younger guests entertained
  • A lovely gift from them to you
  • Saves you having to buy lots of frames
  • Cheap and easy
  • Personal

Con:

  • Could be messy
  • You might want someone to ‘supervise’

English country garden wedding: stationary

One of my favourite and a very popular wedding theme: English country garden party/summer fete. This theme usually has an air of nostalgia. Key features include bunting, Pimms, informality, afternoon tea, hay bales, homemade favours.

I *tried* to make my own wedding invitations, but they looked rubbish. I ended up using a design from Tickled Pink and asked them to change various colours and font sizes to suit our wedding (and my perfectionism) perfectly. This was a bit of an extravagance, but they are gorgeous and I’m still so pleased with them. I really wanted to set the scene with our stationary, and I think we succeeded in letting our guests know the type of wedding we were planning and what they could expect. Here they are!

A year has passed so I’m wondering which stationary would I pick out if I was planning my wedding now?

I still love Tickled Pink. Their designs are crisp and impressive enough for special wedding stationary yet so down to earth and unpretentious. That’s a pretty hard balance to strike, but they get it right. Check out these super pretty designs which would all be great for an English garden theme:

Vintage Hearts

English Rose

Lace and Roses

Winter Wreath

Heart Invites has a new stationary collection called County Fayre. It combines lovely pink and green bunting with a fine green polka dot background. I’m not overly keen on the font which is a bit too modern in a wild wild west way for my tastes.

Country Fayre Range

I’ve also found this beautiful hand-painted stationary available from Pip Pip Designs. Their range is small but gorgeously and quintessentially English. This is my favourite design of theirs:

Bunting Wedding Stationary

Victoria Whincup offers these delightful personalised invitations, hand-drawn and hand-painted through her Etsy shop. I particularly like this design, which feels organic, floaty and gives a great sense of relaxed informality. Do browse her adorable designs. Her style reminds me of Rob Ryan’s papercutwork which I love.

Pink Flowers

Giftwrappedandgorgeous bring you Kate Lewis Design Wedding Stationary. Her cake and bunting design is hand-finished with sequins and crystals but remains rustic with a bubbly, fun feel.

Applique Cake

For a more homemade look how about this from Tailored Wedding Plans.

Bunting Style Wedding Invitation

Vintage Brown Card Floral

Tailored Wedding Plans do great table plans too. This vintage glam look would have been great for my think pink wedding 🙂

Crystals, Pearls and Vintage Style Lace

Another fabulously pink invitation is available from Beautiful Day through Not On The High Street.com

This design might be my most favourite of all! It combines bunting, cake, roses, and a bit of glam. Love it! This just shows how researching outside of ‘wedding’ suppliers and websites can yield the very best results!

Shabby Chic Bunting Party Invitation

I search for things like this one of two ways. Type your search terms into Google Images and click into the websites belonging to the images you like best. Chances are if a company does a bunting design, they will do other designs that fit with the English country garden theme too. Or search for local companies who specialise in bespoke or hand-painted stationary. You can link through to great Stationers through the websites of other wedding suppliers who share the same type of ethos or niche focus.

Happy hunting stationary lovers!

Wedding cakes with a twist

Wedding Cake Traditions and Traditional Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes make fantastic centre pieces, and are chosen as much for their visual appeal as for how they taste! The classic multi-tiered affair became popular I believe in Victorian society after a cake designer took inspiration from St Bride’s Church in London. I wonder if the steeple itself took inspiration from the cute older tradition of piling cakes as high as possible to challenge the Bride and Groom to kiss over the top of the cakes? What a fun game! As with most wedding traditions, the couple could expect prosperity and fertility should they succeed in kissing over the cake tower! Nowadays the ritual associated with the special cake is the joint cutting of it and feeding it to one another by the newlyweds. These important first joint acts and exchanges as husband and wife symbolise the bodily and spiritual nourishment the couple have pledged to provide each other throughout their marriage.

http://www.1weddingsource.com/history.php

The luck imbued in the cake was treasured by couple and guests alike after the Wedding too. Ladies! If you sleep with a slice under your pillow you will dream of your future husband! While the convention of saving the top-tier of cake for the Christening of your first-born child has recently given way to saving the top-tier for your first Anniversary. But with fewer people opting for fruit cake and fewer cakes having tiers, the saving of cake to be eaten at the next big event looks set to become a thing of the past.

One delightful cake tradition that has sadly fallen out of fashion is to bake different charms into the cake, (“cake pulls”) so that when ribbons are pulled, your Bridesmaids receive different blessings depending on the charm revealed. A Heart: for love. A Clover: for luck. An Engagement Ring: you’ll be the next to wed.  An Anchor: adventure will come your way. A Flower: love is going to bloom. A Horseshoe: you are lucky in life. If you like the idea of the nostalgic bridal luck charms I discuss here, why not make this sweet tradition part of your wedding too?

http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?um=1&hl=en&safe=off&client=firefox-a&sa=N&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&biw=1280&bih=681&tbm=isch&tbnid=TH4MraMreDuawM:&imgrefurl=http://jewelrybyrhonda.com/webpages/cakecharmpics2.html&docid=_1fZyL9LYPf4IM&imgurl=http://jewelrybyrhonda.com/images/cakecharms/cakepullneworleans.jpg&w=541&h=343&ei=ayViT6__E8ab8QPl3sXmBw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=965&vpy=130&dur=515&hovh=149&hovw=201&tx=155&ty=90&sig=104008391997752555404&page=4&tbnh=149&tbnw=201&start=60&ndsp=20&ved=1t:429,r:14,s:60

Reinventing the Wedding ‘Cake

I like to deconstruct every element of the wedding so that it can be reimagined in a fresh, fun way which suits the couple and the wedding they dare to dream of. A wedding cake generally serves the following purposes:

  • It is a stunning centrepiece to the reception room
  • It is a tasty treat for guests to look forward to
  • It has to feed all your guests
  • If you want to cut it, it needs to be cuttable
  • It has to not spoil or melt as it stands on show for at least a few hours

Given this ‘cake’ criteria it is apparent that the cake need not be made of make at all. There are many reasons why you may not want a cake cake. If you are servings lots of cakes as part of an afternoon tea spread; if you dislike cake; if you want your food budget to go further; if you particularly like the look of towers or croquembouche; or particularly like another type of sweet treat.

Cheese

Myself and my husband went for a cheese tower draped with tomatoes, figs, and grapes instead of a cake cake. A) I love cheese, and it just seemed so fitting B) we didn’t have a traditional wedding breakfast but afternoon tea, so we needed savoury not more sweet! C) the cheese tower still had the shape of a wedding cake, and the three tiers could still be cut by us.

Pie

Pork, chicken, vegetable… theoretically you could make a tower of pies, with any firm filling. A fruit pie would soon turn to messy mush, but savoury pies provide an easy to slice, tasty and substantial alternative. A practical option with the oooooooo! factor.

Chocolatehttp://www.choccywoccydoodah.com/product/0363/Three+Tier+Vortex

If money had been no object? Choccywoccydoodah, and not just because they have a funky name. These chocolate sensations do look quite tricky to cut and are ‘only’ chocolate coated. But what a coating. These cake cakes are all about the chocolate and the sculpture created. If you were going to choose a cake cake, this company offers the most delectable choice of sponges as opposed to the usual vanilla, chocolate, lemon or carrot.

Don’t Tell The Bride does have its moments. A creative Groom designed his own chocolate box wedding cake which instead of a cake and fruit filled chocolate box tower cake you can order from Patisserie Valerie or Druckers (YUM!) he went further and revealed to his Bride a chocolate made chocolate box with individual chocolates inside it! Marvellous! I wonder if Thorntons do these.

Towers

Pile fudge, l, or profiteroles high to make a wedding cake shaped tower. There are no tiers and it might be impossible to slice but who cares when you can dive in and start scoffing these morish morsels!? Cupcake towers have become uber popular lately. It’s cake already individually portioned so saves all that cutting and holding the crumbley slice over a napkin while you eat it, but it’s still cake. Bitesized confectionary or patisserie somehow seems more decadent. I also love that while the individual pieces of yum are easily plucked one by one, they can be laced together with streamers of chocolate, so that the ‘cake’ is one.

Twistshttp://www.marthastewartweddings.com/226890/gateaux-de-mariage-croquembouche

I think what makes tiered cakes so pretty is the diagonal dressing with flowers or other decoration, so that the tower takes on a twisted effect appearance. Towers can easily be given a twist by stacking slightly asymmetrically. My advice with every aspect of your wedding is to think about what suits YOUR wedding best. So if you are having an early wedding and want to serve brunch, how about a sweet breakfast pastry tower – almond and chocolate croissants, Danish pastries, cinnamon swirls. For an evening do how about an after dinner coffee and mint theme or cocktail theme? For weddings in the tropics, baked Alaska; and for winter weddings serve your cake hot, flambe and carve the sponge and serve with custard?

For a metaphorical twist, there are cakes with a super surprise inside. Yes this could be a full-blown person, but think along the lines of the bridal good luck charms, and perhaps you could hide sweets, chocolate money, lottery tickets, easter eggs, kinder eggs! inside a regular looking sponge cake.

Fountains

If you don’t care about the cake being sliceable, but want maximum tower centrepiece effect, why not consider (guilty pleasures of mine) chocolate and/or champagne fountains? I adore the concept of these edible fountains. They really encapsulate the spirit of sharing and diving in I associate with the wedding cake. An added bonus is that unlike the other options, as they are devoured, they do not lose their shape or illusion of plenty. Who wants to choose between chocolate and champagne? If I could plan my wedding over again, I’d have one of each.

~

Our cake 🙂

Cutting our mini cheese tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben getting a mouthful

A cracking cracker

 

 

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.