Archive for the ‘Humanist Celebrant’ Category

Humanist wedding I conducted featured on OneFabDay.com

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

I confess I’d never heard of OneFabDay.com when they emailed me to say that a Humanist wedding I had conducted had been featured. I checked out the site and the article and pics are rather nice…Fancy a gander? Click here.

Article in The Irish Times about an outdoor Humanist wedding I conducted

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Click here to see an article in The Irish Times about a Humanist wedding I recently conducted outdoors at The Millhouse Slane

Still loving conducting Humanist weddings

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

I still love conducting Humanist wedding ceremonies. Each one is different. Each couple is different. Every gathering of relatives and friends is different.

Ironically, it’s great when something goes wrong! Everyone relaxes and realizes the burden of it having to be ‘perfect’ is a myth. It’s always great once that first thing happens that puts people at their ease. A baby cries. A song goes wrong. A little ring bearer runs off with the rings. The parents can’t light a candle because the air conditioning keeps blowing the candles out. Someone has a fit of the giggles.

Once, at the very end of a ceremony, the bride was trying to say something to me but the music was loud and she was on the far side of a table and it was hard to catch what she was saying.

Eventually I heard her, ‘He didn’t kiss me!’

‘Stop the music!’ I cried. ‘The groom didn’t kiss the bride!’

And the music stopped and the audience watched and the groom kissed his bride and everyone cheered and clapped and roared with glee and the music resumed and the couple processed down the aisle and there was great merriment, excitement and fun.

And yes there was a little lad who blew out the candles and ran off with the wedding rings just before the exchange of rings. He was rugby tackled by his dad – well, OK, not rugby tackled – but brought back into the ceremony room, and the rings restored to the Best Man just in time.

And yes once a guest dropped the wedding rings early in a ceremony and they were a hair’s breadth from dropping down a gap between floor boards in an ancient stately home.

It’s great when the couple, especially the bride, relaxes and enjoys every moment; realizing that it isn’t about external things at all. It’s about living the moment, cherishing the important things, celebrating the love the couple share for each other and the commitment that they are making publicly to their partner. I think of the bride who decided, when I met her outside the chapel, that she’d be far more comfortable in her boots than her wedding shoes and decided to go up the aisle in the boots instead. She asked my view. I suggested comfort first. ‘I like your style,’ she said.

And once the bride is chilled out and relaxed and living the moment it’s much more likely that everyone else will enjoy themselves too.

Happily, I’ve encountered very, very, very few bridezillas! But, unlike the deities, they do exist – perhaps just one per hundred brides. You can spot them by the state of panic of the unfortunate groom, who might remove something beautiful a florist or decorator did because ‘she’ would see red. Or I’m told confidentially by the venue manager that they’re all on tenterhooks because of the unreasonable demands of the bride. Or the musicians might agree with a small last minute amendment I propose but they wouldn’t make the change because they’re terrified of Zilla, lest the improvement incur her displeasure. Or I spot something that I know won’t work for the ceremony, fix it and come back moments later only to see that someone playing watchman for the bride has changed it back to the way that I know won’t work.

The exceptions might make the good stories but the greatest stories are the ordinary, lovely, gorgeous, hopeful, committed couples who just want a personal ceremony that is about them and who want to show their families and friends their loving commitment to one another. They want to feel relaxed and they want their guests to enjoy their wedding. I think of all the couples that I have met, wonderful people, who have found love and hope and joy, and whose lives have joined together in a union of trust and encouraging mutual acceptance. And they want to celebrate that love by getting married.

Often they may have their children there and we include the children in the ceremony. Often the kids make the ceremony. We might have planned to stand for the vows but junior decides he’s crawling up on his mother’s lap and we adjust and do the vows sitting down. Or up come the kids to pour sand or tie ribbons or have candles lit for them.

I love my work – being with people at such important turning points in their lives.

Pictures of Humanist Wedding conducted by Joe Armstrong

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

For lovely pictures of a Humanist wedding I recently conducted for Lisa and Ciaran in Dundalk, County Louth, click here.

That’s Humanism: Four animated videos about Humanism narrated by Stephen Fry

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

The British Humanist Association has broadcast four excellent and very short videos narrated by Stephen Fry which answer commonly asked questions. You can watch all four here

How do we know what is true?

What should we think about death?

What makes something right or wrong?

How can I be happy?

For more details about Humanism and lots of links to find out more, click here.

What people like about Humanist weddings

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Taking a look at unsolicited feedback that we have received after conducting Humanist wedding ceremonies, here is a list of some of the things people liked about them:

In no particular order, Humanist wedding ceremonies are…

  • personal
  • about the couple
  • inclusive
  • beautiful
  • intimate
  • special
  • moving and touching
  • enjoyable
  • non-religious
  • relaxed, easy going and full of happiness
  • balanced by laughter and solemnity
  • designed by the couple and celebrant

Humanist ceremonies:

  • involve family and friends
  • often include simple participation by the couple’s parents
  • often include any children of the couple
  • meet and often exceed a couple’s expectations, hopes and dreams
  • include the couple’s choice of rituals, like candles, sand, handfasting, and rose ceremonies


Five tips for planning your Humanist wedding ceremony

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

I have been so busy over the summer that the only additions I have made to my website were uploading unsolicited feedback that I have received for Humanist ceremonies that I have conducted (see ‘Unsolicited feedback’ tabs for weddings and funerals on right of my Home page).

I continue to enjoy conducting Humanist ceremonies. Each one is different. It is a privilege to be with people at key turning points in their lives – births, weddings and funerals – celebrations of a life well lived.

Such is the demand for our services that we often have to turn down requests to officiate at ceremonies. We frequently get several requests for ceremonies to be conducted on the same day. That is normally impossible so the people who book us first get the booking.

Five tips if you are planning your Humanist wedding ceremony:

  • Make sure that your venue is open to the public. Some venues sell their services on the basis that they are ‘exclusive’ or ‘private’. Well, sorry, folks but you cannot legally get married at such a venue. There cannot be signs up saying ‘Private Function’ or ‘No access to the public’ or anything like that. In fact, for your wedding to be legal, the public must have unrestricted access. Surprisingly, some venues appear not to be aware of this. Any member of the public has the right to pry  at your wedding – and if they can’t, your wedding isn’t legal!
  • When contacting a celebrant, let him or her know:
    • the date of your wedding
    • names of bride and groom
    • your phone number(s) and email address(es)
    • the full name and location of your venue
  • Do you really want a Humanist wedding? Humanist weddings are for non-religious people. They do not involve readings from ‘holy books’ and they don’t involve hymns or ‘holy’ or religious songs. They are secular ceremonies for people who think for themselves and who do not let other people do their thinking for them. There are magnificent secular readings and poems and prose about love, friendship, commitment and marriage. I encourage my couples to choose about four such readings to  include as part of their wedding ceremony. And it’s a lovely way to involve some of your guests, who are usually delighted that you asked them to participate in your ceremony
  • In approaching a celebrant, you do not need to have planned your ceremony in advance. The celebrant will already have quite a bit of experience about what works and what does not work in ceremonies. There is no need to reinvent the wheel for every ceremony. When I meet couples, I guide them through my template and then the couple make choices along the way for what they want to include or exclude. But please also remember that the celebrant is not a parrot of the couple. We also think for ourselves and are people of integrity. Generally, I decide what I shall say at ceremonies and usually people like what I say.
  • I always encourage couples to have live music at their wedding. Sometimes couples haven’t thought about this. They might have musicians booked for later in the evening but they forgot about live music for their wedding ceremony. Music settles people. Many musicians do not charge much to play or sing five or more songs or pieces of music at your marriage ceremony. Do please think about it. You will remember the music long after you have forgotten the words. And live music is almost always better than recorded. What’s more, often some of your guests will be musical and they could provide some or all of your music as you walk through the threshold to married life.


Outdoor wedding ceremonies legal

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

From the Irish Government News Service:
Department of Social Protection confirms that civil marriages may be solemnised outdoors in a place open to the public
Tánaiste – “The option of an outdoor wedding will be welcome news for couples who wish to celebrate their wedding day in a way that is most meaningful to them”

The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., has today (15th July 2014) confirmed that marriages can be solemnised outdoors in a place that is open to the public.
The notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages are governed by Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. Section 51(2) (c) of the Act provides that a registered solemniser “…shall not solemnise a marriage unless the solemnisation takes place in a place that is open to the public”. The Tánaiste said: “There has recently been some uncertainty about the definition of ‘a place that is open to the public’, and in order to clarify the matter, my Department sought advice from the Attorney General. This legal advice has clarified that the definition does include outdoor venues. This will be welcome news for couples wishing to celebrate their wedding day in a way that is most meaningful to them.”
In order to protect both parties to the marriage, the outdoor venue should be readily accessible to the public to avoid the possibility of coercion, fraud or lack of capacity on the part of a party to a marriage, to prevent marriages taking place in secret, and to provide an opportunity for objections.
The Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection published the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 on 10 July, 2014 and she will bring forward a Committee Stage amendment to this Bill in the Autumn to further clarify what constitutes an outdoor marriage to ensure that the public policy objective of the provisions of section 51 of the 2004 Act remain intact.
The Tánaiste concluded: “I have just published the Civil Registration (Amendment) Bill 2014 and I will be bringing forward a Committee Stage amendment to this Bill in the Autumn to further clarify what constitutes an outdoor marriage in a place that is open to the public to ensure that the public policy objectives regarding the solemnisation of marriage are upheld. I believe that solemnisers will take a common sense approach to this determination and ensure that the outdoor venues selected are readily accessible to the public.”
Source: MerrionStreet.ie Irish Government News Service

Joe Armstrong represents Humanists at National Famine Commmemoration 2014

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Joe and Ruth Armstrong after the National Famine Commemoration 2014

I was honoured to be asked to represent the Humanist Association of Ireland at the National Famine Commemoration at Strokestown House, Roscommon, on Sunday 11 May.
My three-minute reflection was made 1 hour 5 minutes into the ceremony, immediately before Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s speech. You can hear it on this RTE link

for 21 days from 11 May 2014: http://www.rte.ie/player/ie/show/10281979/
Here is my reflection:

Words of Joe Armstrong, Humanist chaplain and celebrant

Famine. Famine. Can I imagine it?
Famine. Either a feast or a famine.
Feasts I know. But famine?
Work drying up, the closest I know. Money tight. Or doing a fast, perhaps.
But famine. Famine!
Hunger. I’ve been peckish for a meal. But everyday persistent aching hunger?
Hunger. Countrywide hunger. A nation on its knees.
Beggared. The shame of hunger. Unasked for. Not chosen.
Crops fail. Shock. Fear. Courage! We are strong.
Crops fail again. And again.
Soup kitchens. Food parcels. No money for rent.
Disaster.
Bodies shrink. Tall emaciated figures on Custom House Quay in Dublin: our ancestors.
Children dead. Relatives dead. Neighbours dead.
The boat to England, America, anywhere away from this godforsaken land of hunger and famine.
Famine.
Can we imagine it?

Joe Armstrong on iWitness on RTE 1 television, 17 Jan 2014

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

If you have a minute to spare, here’s the link to my 60-second appearance talking about humanist wedding ceremonies on the iWitness slot on RTE 1 television on 17 January 2014. Can you spot two famous political faces among the guests?

iWitness, January 17, 2014, Joe Armstrong on RTE 1 television

If the link doesn’t work, try http://www.rte.ie/tv/iwitness/ and look for 17 January, 2014. Or try here.