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.

Joy with the brakes on

Be happy, but not too happy.

Congratulations, but

That’s great, now what about...

Not to put the dampers on things but

Joy with the brakes on is a phenomenon that can plague both preparation for marriage and having a baby. You might recognise it in well-meaning warning comments designed to check you know what you’re getting yourself in for. Checking that you’ve thought it through. That you’re not rushing into something. That you’re ready and prepared for reality.What is well-meaning about these bubble bursting comments is that they are often based in care. Some people can’t help but worry on the behalf of others. Some can’t help but project their own cautiousness, regrets or misgivings onto a happy couple. Some can only express their urge to protect a happy couple from surprised disappointment by preparing them for the worst.

Entering marriage and parenthood are both, should be, life changing events. There’s the romance and magic of both. There’s also the lived experience of both which doesn’t always live up to the fuzzy disney happily-ever-after ideal. While we enter into these new beginnings full of love and hope and optimism we generally have our eyes open to the ups and downs that will no doubt come our way. Surely that is why we vow to love and support our partners in sickness and health, and for richer for poorer? In our wedding ceremonies we acknowledge the risks and increased responsibilities marriage can bring, through our vows. More importantly we call upon our guests not only to witness our joining but to pledge to support us in our marriage from that day forward.

If listening to the scare-mongers, those well-meaning warners is a rite of passage into marriage and parenthood do we feign appreciation, nodding and smiling politely or do we fight back? Clearly ‘ignorance is bliss’ would be the polar opposite view to take here, but not a very mature thing to enter a serious committment with your eyes closed. How about rose tinted glasses are nature’s way of propogating the species? What’s so bad about entering into these new life states with positivity and optimism anyway? I believe that negativity begets negativity and positivity begets positivity. Not that you can stop awful things happening by thinking happy thoughts, but that you will find whatever you are looking hardest for.

This explains why when the forewarned couple actually doesn’t complain about the baby crying, about the sleepless nights, about their kids bleeding them dry, or about being hen-pecked, under the thumb, their sex life becoming non-existent – the scare-mongers will cope with this challenge to their world view by insisting that it’s only a matter of time. That so far they’ve been lucky. That the baby must be a good baby. It can’t possibly be because the couple have worked hard to communicate well in their marriage, chosen to be completely honest with each other, are actually in love, or have chosen to parent in a way that makes them and their child happy.

Joy with the brakes on has no place within a Humanist ceremony because there is no place for a joy-sapping anti-human potential attitude in Humanism. Not all Humanist Celebrants are Humanists and so although you will find Celebrants whose natural styles embrace self-deprecating sarcasm, if you are looking for a ceremony that focuses on the harsh reality of marriage, or parenthood, sorry but I am not the Celebrant for you. I believe in unbridled passionately romantic love shining through my ceremonies above all else. If I don’t well up with at least one tear when I read your ceremony script back to myself, it’s not good enough.

We can all appreciate worriers in our circle of friends and family, but I think I can say on behalf of all engaged couples and expectant parents: Please… trust us, and let us, as adults should, learn from our own mistakes. Be happy full stop. Congratulations full stop.

Marriage: a name-changing event?

One of the things you’ll want to decide in the run up to your wedding day is what to do with your names.You don’t need to decide so that you can tell the Registrar what name to enter on your marriage certificate, because no married surname will be entered on the mariage certificate. A marriage certificate changes your legal marital status only and not your name at all. Your legal names will remain as they were before the ceremony, on your marriage certificate. You will want to decide on your names however, so that your Wedding Celebrant knows what to announce you as at the end of the ceremony. Your guests will want to write your new married surname on cards and cheques. It’s a really nice idea to let them know your intended surname on the wedding invitations.

It’s no longer just the Bride who must decide to keep or lose her maiden name. You both have several options, but what are they?

No change. If you love your surname, and don’t mind it differing from your partner’s, you can opt to keep your names as they are. I wanted our children to have the same name as both of us so we didn’t go down this route even though I love my maiden name.

You both take the Groom’s name. If the Bride isn’t that attached to her surname, and the couple want to go with the most traditional name option, the Groom can keep his name, and the Bride can take his.

You both take the Bride’s surname. If like us, one of you has a relatively common or boring name and the other has a name that means alot to the family, you can both take the Bride’s surname. A good alternative to the traditional option if you want to share your surname.

Double-barrelling. If your names are equally important to you or you want to emphasise the joining of two families and you two as individuals, consider double-barrelling. The order is up to you and you can hyphenate or not bother. We went with the order that rolled off the tongue best and had the nicest ring to it. I also got to keep the familiar transition from first names to surname instead of it being interupted by the other surname. Win for me! We went with the double-barrelling option despite it resulting in quite a long name. One compromise is that we will run out of space for our names on certain forms and we now have to be more considerate when naming our children, but it’s worth it for the other reasons.

Meshing. A way around a really long double-barrelled name for those couples who dare to break the mould is meshing the two surnames together in an order that works. Half the surnames and butt them together and see what works. For us it would have meant CATLEY + RICHARDSON … Catardson? Richardley? Catlerdson? Richley? You can see why we double-barrelled!

What’s the deal with Deed Poll (UK)?

Deed Poll is the only way to legally change your name, whatever you choose to call yourselves. In theory you could refer to yourselves socially as your new married surname without changing your name with your bank, without changing your passports, without notifying companies you use, of the name change. The important thing to remember is that your passport must match the name you are travelling under. Your passport does not need altering just because you have married. Only if your name has been changed must you change your passport. What this means for us is that if we travel abroad our trip will have to be booked in our unmarried names until we change the passports. Banks will generally change your name if you present your marriage certificate, contrary to what the Deed Poll website tells you. If you want everything to match your bank account name, then your passport will need changing at some stage. This can be done without Deed Poll too, although the cost of a new passport could put you off by itself. The DVLA will accept just your marriage certificate to change your name providing that a clear link can be seen between the names on your certificate and what you are trying to change your name to. If you are meshing your names, you might have more trouble than if you are double-barrelling. As far as I can tell, you can name your children after your chosen married surname on their birth certificate without ever having legally changed your own surnames to the surname you give your children. And finally, because children (even babies!) now need their own passports, having a different surname to yours will not complicate your passport situation.

Ms. or Mrs.

Ladies, it’s up to you. While Mrs is the traditional title for married women, Ms might be more appealing to you and still set your status apart from the pre-marriage Miss.

Monograms

The nice thing is, no matter what you decide to call yourselves after your wedding, you can use all of the initials from your names in a monogram which can be used throughout your wedding. Your wedding day is that unique cross over moment of past, present and future. You are at once celebrating your former singles lives, and so your former single surnames; and your new lives together and your new married surnames. Monograms elegantly combine one or more initial into a coherent symbol. So you could try combining the initials of your first names or your old surnames, or choose to use the initials from your new shared surname combined with your first name initials. If you like the idea of a monogram, there are lots of monogram generators online. Do use them, instead of giving up (like I did) when my freehand efforts failed to impress my own exacting standards. Monograms can feature on all your wedding stationary, favours, your cake, and even in your flowers and are a lovely symbolic expression of the meaning of marriage.

With this ring I thee wed

Your engagement ring will probably be the first wedding-related purchase you make as a couple, whether you or your partner choose and buy it or you do it together. The ring can be a first chance to prove how well you know each other, if you’ve particular tastes or expectations. Or it can be a haribo jelly ring, hula hoop, or ring-fashioned tin foil to fulfil the role of ‘ring’ and be all you need. The engagement ring can set the tone for the wedding to follow. Much like the invitations, your ring will give your guests an idea of what to expect from the wedding. Is it contemporary? Antique? Traditional? Restrained? Elaborate? They will be looking for clues!

The choice of engagement ring will probably have most bearing on your choice of wedding bands. Do you intend to keep wearing your engagement ring after the marriage? Will you keep it on the same finger or move it to the other hand? Will you want to wear it alongside your wedding ring on special occasions or keep it in a box to hand down to the next generation? If your partner will only wear silver coloured metals or only yellow coloured metals does this mean your wedding rings will now not match? Do you need to consider a multi coloured gold band to tie the three rings together?

Jewellery is pretty. We love the decadence of it. It is never needed. This makes it all the more desirable. Getting married gives you a great excuse to buy not one but two rings plus jewellery to wear on the day! But spare a thought for your other half. The Groom will generally get a nice new pair of cufflinks out of it – if he’s lucky. After our engagement I decided to buy my fiance a watch. Not just a functional watch, but one that was special. One that was a bit over the top., a bit ornate. One that really spoke to him and spoke to me of him. He adores it to this day and wears it every chance he gets (whenever not at work). It’s a ‘for best’ piece, and because it was frivilous, because I told him to choose whichever one he wanted, instead of weighing up pros and cons or thinking of the watch as a practical purchase, it’s basically his most prized possession. A true gift, a treat, not a concession.

When we were shopping for his wedding cufflinks we were so bored by the masses of jokey modern Groom offerings. We eventually came across a pair of cheeky vintage links. My top tip: don’t search under the Groom or Wedding category for cufflinks. Think about the kind of design or look that would work with your theme. While we’re talking about thinking outside the box, there’s no rule that you have to have wedding rings. If you’re not really a ring person why not go for something more you – jewellery or otherwise? The purpose of rings in the marriage ceremony is firstly to symbolise your first gifts to each other, so you could opt to exchange pretty much anything instead, eg. roses, garlands, tokens, coins. Secondly, rings symbolise infinity. This could mean to you your unending love, your unending support for one another through live, or your unending bond together in marriage. Rings symbolise these things because they are circles so have no end. You could replace rings with any other circular object, for example, a bracelet.

With my own wedding jewellery, I thought about what I’d like to wear every day after my wedding around my neck to remind me of the promises we had made. I had been coveting a chunky heart pendant for ages but not being able to afford a gold one, I fell in love with a Murano glass range and ordered some bespoke earrings to match. This way for very little money, I got a necklace and earrings I had designed myself, having chosen exactly the perfect beads and fittings to go with my dress and my wedding theme. I ordered brooches for the Moms and pendants for the Bridesmaids from the same jewellery maker so that everything was in Murano, but as individual as the girls I was buying for. I ended up wearing my other Nan’s pearl necklace on my wedding day instead of the pendant, but I wear my Murano wedding jewellery all the time. It was really nice to have things to keep wearing on the honeymoon that reminded me of the wedding. It was one of those things you don’t plan but then just really appreciate at the time.

As for my rings, well I wanted an old ring that resembled one I had admired on my late Nan’s finger. When she died, I inhereited the ring but discovered it was damaged and not worth repairing. We scoured Oxford for something similar or reminiscent, and finally found ‘the one’ in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, which meant a great deal to me, having a long line of ancestors from the city. Ben was very easy to please with a plain yellow gold band, but I wanted a design that symbolised our union and set about getting quotes for a bespoke ring with entwined threads of rose and yellow gold. Rose to symbolise me and the yellow to symbolise Ben. Our budget just didn’t stretch that far so I found a half diamond crossover design that would represent our differences and our joining well enough although I’d still love to get the ring of my dreams made some day. We had our rings engraved with words that meant the most to us. Ben’s ring says ‘Whole’ because he feels that our relationship has made him a whole man, ready for the rest of his life as his true self. It’s really nice that our words make sense when they are put together too. My ring says ‘Life’ because that is what I feel Ben gives me. The real start of my life, as a wife, we are a new family, setting out on a new adventure. By giving my heart and soul peace at finding him and knowing that he will always love me, Ben gives me the grounding to fully live and enjoy my life.

Jewellery and especially rings can be far more than just pretty. When it comes to your wedding, it’s up to you to take the opportunity to inject meaning into everything if you want to. There’s no reason why everything you choose to be a part of your day should not hold a special (and secret if you want) meaning to you and your beloved. How often do we get this chance? The world is your oyster. Happy shopping, and remember: the only limit to possibility is your imagination.

 

Weddings as they used to be

Going vintage is all the rage, but we’re not just going vintage because it’s pretty or because it’s cool. The wedding industry is vast. There are certain gate keepers and venues in particular love to tell brides what we must have, what we can’t have, what’s possible, and how much it will all cost us to do it their way. Most brides faced with the authority of the industry go with it, wanting to put on the perfect wedding for themselves and their guests. People expect certain things of weddings – a certain kind of dress, certain drinks, certain music, certain transport, certain grandeur and formality, certain entertainment, certain food, certain favours, certain dancing, certain schedule for the day. Planning a wedding is no mean feat.

But not all brides want the conventional wedding, which has become rather more about the after party than the ceremony itself. To me that reflects the pressure on the couple to make sure their guests have a great time, that everyone is pleased. What about the couple though, are they building in moments during the day to be alone together, to soak it up, to reflect, to spend that precious day on things that really mean the most to them as individuals and as a couple? OK for some brides and grooms the most important thing is pleasing their guests; is having a good drunken dance; they might be happy just to get through the day without any stress. That’s not good enough for me, your wedding day should be magical and memorable in those ways significant to you both, and to your family and friends.

So brides and bridegrooms to be, what do you want?! Think about what your ideal wedding would look like if you could remove all the conventional boundaries, rules, and obstacles. Think about what a wedding is really about, traditionally, culturally, at its essence. That should be your starting point. Build your wedding around those dreams. If that means looking for an unusual venue, having your dress made from scratch, reducing your guest list to only 20, serving cheese instead of cake, arriving on a bicycle, ending the wedding at 5pm, then do it. If that’s what you want, don’t let the expectations or narrow-mindedness of others stop you, no matter how much you love them. This day is about you. Dare to dream!

If you’re thinking of a vintage wedding consider holding the ceremony in a family back garden, at a village hall, in a tea room, on a farm, exchanging vows in a hot air balloon, on a narrow boat. As long as the venue is safe and dignified the choice is all yours, with humanist ceremonies.