Monday, 31 January 2011

Lots of different wedding plans

Over the past couple of weeks I've met up with lots of different couples to start planning their weddings. It's always great to meet them for the first time, even if I've spoken on the phone or exchanged loads of emails. What never ceases to amaze me is that every single couple is different and that they all have their own specific vision of what their wedding day will be like.

It's my job to help them translate that vision into reality. There is no such thing as a standard ceremony and it certainly isn't the case that one size fits all. Every single couple has a unique story and a unique outlook on life and their ceremony should reflect these things.

I encourage couples to take as big a part as they are comfortable with in writing their own ceremony and some launch themselves into it with gusto which is great. Some prefer to just let me know what kind of things they want included and leave it all to me which is also great. It's all about the right ceremony for the right couple.

It's an incredible privilege to be asked to be involved in such a momentous and important day and I try to never lose sight of the fact that I am a guest at their wedding and that it is their day and not mine.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Wedding fayres, harps and cakes and more.....

Just back from a great day at a wedding exhibition at the Ramnee Hotel in Forres. My colleague George and I met lots of prospective brides and grooms who were really enthusiastic and genuinely interested in having a Humanist ceremony. A lot of the couples that we met had got engaged at Christmas or New Year and in one case they got engaged yesterday! This meant that they were at the early stages of planning and a lot of them were talking about weddings for 2012 and even beyond. At one stage people were actually waiting in line to speak to us - we had great fun hearing all of their stories and their ideas about what they want their wedding day to be like.

There were a fair few mums and dads there as well with their daughters/sons and it's always good to be able to explain to them what we are all about. Sometimes mums and dads are a bit unsure when the couple mention the possibility of a Humanist wedding - just because they may have never heard of it. When they meet us and realise that what we offer is very personal whilst being dignified and meaningful at the same time it puts their mind at rest a bit.

Where your table is at a wedding fayre is tremendously important. Today we were between Fiona Kyle who is a talented and inspirational harpist, and Joy Potter who makes fabulous celebration cakes and is based in Fochabers.

Fiona Kyle - Inspirational Harping
Couples often ask me about music for their wedding ceremony and my own personal favourite kind of music for a wedding is a harp (perhaps because I had a harp at my own wedding) Harp music is wonderfully romantic and soothing and can be played as people arrive in the background, for the bride to make her entrance and walk down the aisle, whilst we are signing the paperwork, for the couple to walk out together and as the fizz is served afterwards. It is incredibly versatile and has a beautiful Celtic influence which fits really well within a Scottish wedding. It's often an idea for the harp to play at the quieter more contemplative moments, and have a piper to pipe for the more celebratory parts of the ceremony like when the newly weds make their exit up the aisle.

I was chatting away with Fiona this afternoon and we got talking about the kind of music that she is asked to play. One lady was asking her about some Take That tunes which she played brilliantly but my favourite was Fiona's incredible version of 'Nothing Else Matters' by Metallica. I kid you not - Metallica on the harp and it's great. Go to Fiona's website and you'll find a recording there of her playing it. So, don't think that Harp = classical music, it so doesn't!

Of course one of the best bits about a wedding is the cake and all afternoon there was a steady stream of couples at the stand next door where Joy Potter was exhibiting her beautiful wedding cakes. Joy had a huge selection of pictures in her album as well as on her computer of all the cakes she has done in the past. She had three beautiful ones on display as well - something for all tastes. The proof of the pudding though is in the eating as they say and I can personally vouch for the deliciousness of Joy's cakes. I considered it my duty to taste the chocolate, the madeira and the fruit cake so that I was able to confidently recommend them and I'm happy to say that they were all equally scrumptious!

The other thing that I'll say is that I have seen some incredible prices quoted for wedding cakes - some into the many many hundreds of pounds. I was glad to see that Joy had some of her prices on display today and they seemed to me to be excellent value for such professionally made delicious cakes.

We were lucky to have Marie from Highland Occasions by Design opposite us. Marie runs a fantastic business offering venue dressing for your wedding so that means chair covers and sashes, stunning table centrepieces and lots lots more. There always seemed to be somebody at her stand and if the gorgeous centrepieces on display are anything to go by, she will do a great job transforming your venue for your big day. For those of you considering a wedding at a local village hall or similar venue then it could be a great option. You can have the convenience and affordability of a local hall without compromising on elegance and those little details that pull it all together.

Stunning contemporary centrepiece from Highland Occasions by design

It's great to do some networking at events like this and even better when the businesses that you meet are local, affordable and professional. I believe passionately that local is always better in many ways: it keeps the economy going, it supports local jobs and it means that we aren't all travelling hundreds of miles and burning lots of fuel to do it!

All in all it was a great day, lots of chat, lovely music and cake too..

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The thorny issue of money

The issue of money is one that many of us feel uncomfortable discussing, especially when we are discussing wedding ceremonies and arrangements so I thought that it might be worthwhile detailing my approach to the financial arrangements to avoid any misunderstanding or embarrassment.

The Humanist Society of Scotland sets the recommended fees for all ceremonies and up to date details of these can be found here. The current fee for weddings in 2011 is £275. On top of this we charge travelling expenses at 50 p per mile. These travelling expenses are charged for all travel in connection with the wedding so this includes travelling to meetings with the bride and groom in the run up to the wedding. It may sometimes happen that it is easier for me to take the train to get to a ceremony and if this was the case, I would come to an arrangement with the bride and groom as to the expenses incurred.

If a bride and groom wanted to meet with me before making a decision as to whether they wanted me to perform their ceremony, I wouldn't charge travelling expenses for this.

If the wedding is at a considerable distance from my home, it may be necessary for me to stay overnight and if this was the case, the cost for this would be borne by the bride and groom. The same goes for any expenses occurred to get to the venue such as tolls or ferry crossings. I am happy to work out how much the potential travelling expenses will be before a couple commit to make a booking. Travelling expenses can soon mount up and so I would be happy to try and find a celebrant who is closer if the travelling expenses become prohibitive.

If a couple want to have a rehearsal in the run up to the wedding, the HSS have set a recommended fee of £30 for this and there would be travelling expenses on top of this.

Once a couple have decided that they want to make a firm booking, I will ask them to pay a non refundable deposit of £50. The reason that I ask for a deposit is that once I have a booking for a specific time on a specific day then I will turn down other bookings which may clash with it. If a couple then change their mind for whatever reason, I may have turned down bookings and disappointed other couples.

The balance of the fee plus the travelling and any other expenses will be invoiced to the bride and groom a couple of weeks before the wedding. It is much appreciated if the balance can be paid in advance of the wedding day by cheque or bank transfer. If a couple do want to pay on the day - that's fine but my advice is to delegate the task to the best man or some other responsible person. The last thing that I am going to do having just declared that you are husband and wife is follow you down the aisle with my hand out asking for money! Not very dignified I'm sure you'll agree....

If there are any questions at all that you have to do with the money side of things, please don't hesitate to ask. It is much better to get these things sorted out in advance than to postpone dealing with them and causing offence or embarrassment.