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. 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 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.


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.


Floriography or the philosophy of flowers

For an atheist I’m really quite superstitious. Symbolism and meaning is really important to me, so when it comes to wedding flowers, I’m interested in the Victorian tradition of floriography. Say it with flowers, literally.

The ultimate romantic wedding flowers are*:

  • Alyssum = worth beyond beauty
  • Ambrosia & Jerusalem oak & Jonquil = your love is reciprocated
  • Arbutus = thee only do I love
  • Arum & Balsam & Dragon Root = ardour
  • Aster = symbol of love
  • Balloon flower = endless love
  • Camillia (red) = unpretended excellence, you’re a flame in my heart
  • Camillia (white) = you’re adorable, perfected loveliness
  • Carnation (white) = pure love, adoration
  • Cedar = I live but for thee
  • Chrysanthemum (red) = I love you
  • Forgt me not = true love
  • Globe (Amaranth) = unfading love
  • Gloxinia = love at first sight
  • Honeysuckle (coral) = I love you
  • Iris (yellow) =passion
  • Ivy = wedded love
  • Indian jasmine & Ipomaca & Scarlet Ipomoea = attachment
  • Lemon leaves = everlasting love
  • Linden tree = matrimony
  • Lungwort = thou art my life
  • Orange blossom = marriage, eternal love
  • Orchid = love
  • Peony = happy marriage
  • Phlox = our souls are united
  • Primrose = I cant live without you
  • Prince’s feather = unfading love
  • Rose (red) = I love you, desire
  • Rose (white and red) = unity
  • Rose-of-sharon = consumed by love
  • Roses (assorted colours) = you’re everything to me
  • Thornapple = I dreamed of thee
  • Tulip = love and passion
  • Tulip (red) = declaration of love
  • Windflower = sincerity, symbol of love
  • Zephr flower = symbol of love

The ultimate friendship wedding flowers are*:

  • Acacia (rose or white) = elegance, friendship
  • Chrysanthemum = you’re a wonderful friend
  • Freesia = innocence, trust, friendship
  • Geranium (oak leaved) = true friendship
  • Iris = faith, valour, wisdom, friendship
  • Ivy = fidelity, wedded love, friendship, affection
  • Rose (yellow) = friendship, joy, gladness

The ultimate practical wedding flowers are*:

  • Allium = unity, humility, patience
  • Alstroemeria = devotion, wealth, prosperity, fortune
  • Apple blossom = better things to come, good fortune
  • Aster (china) & Veronica = fidelity
  • Bird of paradise = faithfulness
  • Black byront, lady’s seal = be my support
  • Bluebell & Zinnia (scarlet) = humility, constancy
  • Broom = humility, neatness
  • Cactus & Eremurus = endurance
  • Cattail = peace, prosperity
  • Dogwood = durability
  • Flax = domestic symbol
  • Flowering almond & Hawthorn & Mum & Snowdrop = hope
  • Heliotrope = devotion, faithfulness
  • Holly = domestic happiness, foresight
  • Hyacinth (blue) = constancy
  • Lavender = loyalty, love, devotion
  • Lemon blossom = fidelity in love
  • Mezereon = desire to please
  • Myrtle = love, home, duty
  • Poppy (yellow) = wealth, success
  • Tiger lily = prosperity
  • Violet = faithfulness, modesty
  • Violet (blue) =I’ll always be true
  • Wallflower = fidelity in adversity

You might also like to consider flowers meaning beauty and flowers meaning joy; differt cultural meanings for flowers; and using flower meanings in the wording of your vows.

My favourite meanings:

  • Venus fly trap = caught at last
  • Violet (white) = let’s take a chance
  • Viscaria = will you dance with me?

*according to Other dictionaries may provide slightly different meanings so if you find a flower you like, just google ([flower name] meaning)