Posts Tagged ‘Humanist weddings’

What is a Humanist ceremony? Stephen Fry narrated BHA video

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

Joe Armstong on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonside Northernsound Radio 24 Aug 2016

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

Click this link to a short interview I did about Humanist weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals on the Joe Finnegan Show on Shannonsid Northernsound Radio on 24 August 2016

Marriage equality in Ireland achieved

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

2016-02-20 14.16.47
A picture tells the story better than 1,000 words.

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.

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.


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.

 

I feel like the luckiest man alive

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

When I was in my teens and an ardent believer and I wanted to be a priest, one of my good reasons for wanting to be a priest was to be with people at key moments in their lives – like birth, weddings and bereavement. I wanted to engage with the real needs of people.
After my nine years in religious life, when I walked away from not only my priestly path but, in time, from all religious beliefs, I assumed that gone was my dream of being with people at core turning points in their lives.
I spent five years as a teacher. And I was privileged to work at St Bonaventure’s comprehensive boys’ school at the heart of the East End of London, under the leadership of the now knighted Sir Michael Wilshaw, who was subsequently made head of the English schools’ inspectorate, OFSTED.
But I knew that remaining a teacher for the rest of my life wasn’t what I wanted to do, and so I left teaching after five years.
For the guts of the next 20 years I worked as a journalist, columnist and author, in a self-employed capacity, enjoying being my own boss and working from home. I spent the guts of three years during that time as a publisher too. And then I took time out to delve into my own story, how I shifted from belief to unbelief and I celebrated that story, or part of it, in my RTE Radio 1 documentary, From Belief to Unbeleif, and in an as yet unpublished manuscript of a memoir.
And then, earlier this year, I thought about becoming a Humanist celebrant. And that is why I feel like the luckiest man on earth. If, as a teenager, I wanted to be with people at key turning points in their lives, helping them to express sorrow and joy, laughter and tears, I have discovered that I can do that as a Humanist celebrant. And I could do so without having to pretend I believed in religious fantasies that lost any claim on my allegiance, acceptance or intelligence.
As a humanist celebrant there is no nonsense about ‘ontological change’ happening at ordination. I’m a regular human being just like everyone else. And I don’t have to pretend to have the ear of a deity! Or to know his will! Or to interpret his ‘revealed word’ accurately. I’ve outgrown all that nonsense. All that superstition. I know that we have only one life and that it can be a wonderful life, and that the birth of each child warrants celebration. And that the marriage of two people is usually a happy time, and that it’s OK for people to be sad at weddings too. And I have been privileged to facilitate funerals – celebrations of a life ended, at which I have witnessed laughter and tears, joy and sadness, classical music and hard rock!
Now in my fifties, I realize that being a Humanist celebrant uses the skills and talents I’ve been lucky enough to have: my original desire to be with people at key moments of their lives; my writing skills in drafting ceremonies that are meaningful and personal for the people concerned; my teaching skills of speaking and engaging with a group of people; my empathy and compassion and listening skills; and my gratitude for being able to do this work which I love.