Posts Tagged ‘laugh’

A lovely thank you for a Humanist wedding

Friday, August 18th, 2017

A thank you is always welcome, soon or long after a ceremony. This lovely one arrived on 1 August 2017 (uploaded with permission of the bride):

Hi Joe,

I am almost embarrassed how long it has taken me to write this email to you. This is also the hardest thank you as I don’t know where to start and I don’t know how to put it into words just how amazing you made our wedding ceremony. I will give it my best shot though!

Our ceremony was by far our favourite part of our wedding day. It was everything we had dreamed of and more. A relaxed setting and a fun and welcoming atmosphere. Your ability to make people laugh, cry and feel at home still amazes us. The way you pick up on any mistake we or our readers had made and turned it around to make it funny and as if it was supposed to happen was what made the ceremony even more fun.

In our video, after the ceremony the guests are congratulating us, absolutely everyone who approached us made comments on how it was the best service ever, that was the best craic ever, such an emotional ceremony, that was great idea, that Joe lad is some craic, I want to do that for my wedding, I wish I had that for my wedding, I will never have a church ceremony after that…… The list goes on.

We had Thank You cards and endless texts and emails from our guests saying it was the best wedding they had ever been to and their favourite part was the ceremony, this to me says it all as when do you ever hear that? Normally people see the church part as the formal bit you need to get out of the way before you can start having fun, I myself dread going to the church part of a wedding!. As myself and James say, it wasn’t us that made it the best day ever, it was Joe Armstrong and Bellingham Castle. The only thing we done was make the two best decisions, to have Joe Armstrong as our celebrant and to have Bellingham Castle as our venue.

I remember on the day, making my way to the ceremony, forgetting I had to breathe, my mind panicking and feeling like I might just collapse, you came out and cracked a joke and from there I was relaxed and ready for the day!

So Joe, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for giving us the wedding we have always wanted.

– Grainne and James – Humanist wedding conducted at Bellingham Castle 15 April 2016

You can see a video of Grainne and James’s Humanist wedding below. For many more examples of unsolicited praise received for Humanist wedding ceremonies click here.

HUMANIST WEDDING CEREMONY of Grainne and James conducted by Joe Armstrong,  Friday, 15 April 2016, at Bellingham Castle, Co. Louth. Video edited by Liutauras Kepenis ( Email: 0857288202) and John Armstrong (

7 Tips for a Humanist Wedding

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015

Humanist weddings are very personal. They are relaxed. They are all about the couple and celebrating their loving commitment to each other.

A little appeal then if you are trying to get a celebrant for your wedding: please don’t send out an impersonal, global email to lots of celebrants that starts: ‘Hi there,’ or the equally impersonal ‘Hi,’

When you are on the receiving end of that you reasonably assume that this is a generic email sent to oodles of celebrants at the same time. And so, as a professional human being hard pressed for time, the temptation is to put that email to the end of the pile since the suspicion persists that it wasn’t really sent to you at all, but to everyone. And what’s sent to everyone isn’t really sent to anyone. And therefore as it wasn’t really sent to you, and others may already have replied, you might decide not to reply at all to what wasn’t sent to you in the first place!

So, tip number one: as Humanist weddings are very personal ceremonies which are all about you as a couple, it’s a basic courtesy to use the celebrant’s name instead of the generic and impersonal ‘Hi,’ or ‘Hi there’ in your first approach.

(Please note: some lovely people have first approached me with the ‘Hi’ or ‘Hi there’ and I’m glad I persisted beyond the initial iffy first impression.)

Tip number two: please put the date of your wedding and the venue and address of the venue in the subject line of your email. That way a celebrant can immediately see if he or she is available on that date, and they can see if the venue is too far away or within the area that they travel. For instance, almost all my weddings are in Meath, Dublin, Kildare, Westmeath, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth or Wicklow.

Also please don’t assume that the celebrant knows the location of your venue by its name alone. You may think everyone knows where Such-and-Such a country house or hotel is but the celebrant might not. So at least include its name and county. It’s also helpful to celebrants if you continue to use the date of your wedding in the subject line of subsequent emails to the celebrant. You are getting married on one date but the celebrant is conducting weddings on lots of dates and your wedding date is the key to opening the relevant file and, probably, getting a quicker response. It will save your celebrant – and you – time.

Tip number three: please do not change the name of the Word file of your wedding draft. When I send out your bespoke, customized first draft, the name of the file has the names of the couple, the venue, and the date of the wedding. All too often when it comes back it has been renamed ‘My wedding’. Just add your readings and music and your decisions about rituals etc to the file I send you but please do not rename that file.

Tip number four: please understand that, especially in high wedding season like the summertime and Christmas that your celebrant can be inundated with phone calls and emails. None of us can afford secretaries so, especially if one is conducting several consecutive ceremonies, it gets really difficult to keep on top of emails. So please be patient. Your celebrant will reply eventually but it may take longer than you’d like. (Unless you’ve sent out that global email ‘Hi there,’ to all and sundry and so he might not reply at all…)

Tip number five: read a bit about the celebrant, especially the most basic things like the areas of the country that they cover. If, in their profile, they say they only cover Dublin, you are probably wasting yours and the celebrant’s time asking them to conduct a wedding in Donegal or Kerry. Please understand too that it can be risky for a celebrant to commit to doing a distant wedding. Hours of travelling that might be better spent tackling that backlog of emails and the risk of the car breaking down. I have to ask myself: how much would it cost me if I had to hire or hail a taxi to get there…and back!

Tip number six: let the celebrant be the celebrant. Sometimes a bride or groom finds it hard to let go and let the celebrant do his or her thing. But once the planning has been done, that’s the very best thing that the bride and groom can do. Accept that no ceremony is ever perfect. Realize that it’s often the mistakes that make a ceremony. Let go. Enjoy the ceremony. Be happy to giggle or cry or laugh or clap. Or do all of these things! Be you. Forget what anyone else thinks. It’s your wedding – not theirs. Once the bride and groom enjoys the day, everyone else will too.

Tip number seven: your wedding is just one day in your marriage. Marriage is something you work at every day. Something that is never static. Sure, your wedding day is important. It is a milestone, a turning point. But it remains just one day in your life, a day when you publicly express your committed love to one another. Prepare for your wedding, sure. But better still to prepare for your lives together. A life of growth. A life of truth. A life of intimacy. A life of mutual challenge. A life of mutual and loving self-acceptance.

Once you accept that you wedding doesn’t have to be perfect, you are far more likely to accept that neither you nor your spouse has to be perfect either – and so you’ll enjoy a far happier and wholesome relationship that is far more likely to last!

The big Five-O

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

AS the big Five-O looms and gets closer and closer – the half-century – I cannot believe the computation of years. How could it be? Eighteen years living at home, a student until my late twenties, five years’ teaching, seventeen years working as a writer,  journalist and editor. Meeting my wife, the love of my life; fathering our children – the eldest now as tall (or could he be taller?) as me. The house built, the books written, the trees planted. The jobs done: Irish Times columnist, managing editor for Ireland of a publishers, chair of Irish PEN. The high points, the low points; the joys and the sorrows.

Our life tasks change. Time is more precious. Love alone makes sense of it all.

I’ve finished my memoir. Hardest thing I’ve ever written. And it was like a different person writing it, looking back at a younger self. I’ve the distance of age now to laugh at the young man’s follies and delusions. But it was so difficult going back there, revisiting insights, transitions, decisions delayed, decisions taken. Fear and risk at play in me.

Looking back, I saw the patterns, the traps, the seeming security and the terror of taking a risk confident only in my raw gut and trusting it, and outgrowing the need for others to agree or confirm or verify.

I’m writing a play. And I’ve written a short story.

What would I do if I’d only a year to live? Or a month? Or one day? I know I’d spend some of it writing.

Leaving safety

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Taking a risk is what keeps us alive. Leaping – leaving behind the familiar – may not come natural to us. But a wise guy I know told me that he never met anyone who regretted making life-changing decisions such as moving from one job to another, one career to another, when it was only fear which kept them where they were.

I am fascinated by the process of decision-making in such situations. What keeps someone in an unsatisfying situation for years? The fear of making a mistake? The fear of the unknown? The fear that faraway hills are green and they will be just as dissatisfied elsewhere? It can be easier to stay and complain than to take the leap of faith in oneself, take responsibility for one’s own life and head into the unknown. It can be hard to believe that security is only real when it relies on oneself. Giving up the security of a role, income, etc. often leads to excitement, adventure, an expansion of consciousness and a life better lived.

‘Time, gentlemen, time’  as they may cry in pubs when it is time to clear the premises. Knowing the time to go, to move on, to leap into the dark.

Having lept, of course, things will not necessarily fall into place right away. You have left behind one synthesis for another – but the other may still be barely born. Financially you may take a hit – after all isn’t it that which so often keeps us in dissatisfying situations to begin with. But remember your resolution: if you only had a short time to live, you wouldn’t have spent it doing what you were doing. So do now what you want to do, see, explore, be, achieve before you die. Today is the day for that.

You have stepped up to the plate. You have risked failure. Whether you succeed or not doesn’t matter in the end. What matters is that you are alive. You have leapt. You have trusted yourself and the universe.

Creation can be a messy thing. Form takes a while to take shape. The world wasn’t built in a day. But create. Create something true and beautiful and worthwhile and fun. Dance. Express. Sing. Write. Focus on what you want. We’ll be pushing up daisies sooner than we think. Laugh. Detach. Be thankful.