Monday 12 July 2021

Opposite Sex Civil Partnerships are here - at last!


It was the first of May 2009 that I had the terrifying privilege of submitting the response of the Humanist Society of Scotland (as we were then) to Petition PE1239 to the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament – the Petition submitted by Nick Henderson, on behalf of LGBT Network.

The subject of petition was Same Sex Marriage in Scotland.

I was on the Ceremonies Committee at that point – as well as working as a celebrant – and relished taking on the research for and drafting of our response.

I spoke to everyone: colleagues, lawyers, politicians, journalists, gay folk, straight folk and ministers of religion. I read hate speech articles and interpretations of religious tracts, and learned far more of the shocking history of the fight for rights LGBT+ people, not just in the UK but around the world.

With far too much material and no clue where to start, I was now more determined than ever that I had to do everything I could to make this happen.

So, my priority focused on why the Humanist Society Scotland should put everything we had (money, time, volunteers, energy) behind the campaign to drive this forward - if it should get to a parliamentary vote.

I had to let all my research, academic & emotional engagement in the cause go - and think law, which is not my strong point, but I could write about  equality.


This sits at the heart of the Humanist approach to life, as well as in its head, as the Amsterdam Declaration of 2002 states:

Humanism supports democracy and human rights.

Humanism aims at the fullest possible development of every human being.

It holds that democracy and human development are matters of right.

The principles of democracy and human rights can be applied to many human relationships and are not restricted to methods of government.

So despite my utter inability to understand intolerance, I had to set aside the complexities of history, and find my way to a clear unbiased statement:

We would encourage the Scottish Parliament to address the current disparity in the Law in the rights of same sex and different sex couples in their freedom to express their commitment to each other within the ceremonial side of their union.

Humanists think that all people have the right to emotional expression. In this context we feel that restricting an individual or couples right to express themselves within their Civil Ceremony denies them this freedom to express their values, creativity and emotional commitment, at one of the most important moments of their lives.

In addition, we would wish to see Civil Partnerships made available to mixed sex couples, who do not feel that a ‘marriage’ in the traditional sense is appropriate to their commitment ceremony or relationship.

I cried all evening when HSS Celebrant Ross Wright married Joe and Malcy on Hogmanay in 2015, and again when I said ‘You may kiss the Bride’ to the first pair of brides I was honoured to be able to marry in May 2015 (a phrase I refused to use for anyone until I could say it to everyone) the celebration of the first Civil Partnership of an opposite sex couple in Scotland is a important step toward genuine equality for everyone who chooses to celebrate their commitment to each other.

I am very very proud that - with this last stage of a 12 year project about to be concluded – I was able to make that first formal submission on behalf of the HSS, even if I’ve not been involved personally since it reached the legal stages.

I am delighted that the equality aspects that ran so deep in the original Same Sex Marriage Bill have been followed through by so many dedicated people, when much of the media concentration was on those first amazing Same Sex Wedding Ceremonies.

For a humanist, there is not much that tops a public, legal declaration that we are all equal, be that in our political, employment, educational or human rights, and levelling the privilege of Civil Partnerships to include opposite sex couples is another step toward true equality.

Thank you all.

Monday 28 December 2020

What is a Humanist?

Early in 2020 the Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) received funding from Young Humanists International to create a short animation that explored that very question...

...and with the help of young Scottish humanists and the expertise of the animators at DaySix, they came up with a pretty good answer! 

Definitely worth a couple of minutes of your time to watch it - so you can give your guests the breakdown when they ask... and of course, if you use social media share far and wide!

Monday 2 November 2020

When Weddings Move...

 Kirsten & Mark 10.10.20


Mark & Kirsten had originally picked an excellent date & unique venue out in the wilds of Perthshire at Fortingall Village Hall for their celebrations...but as with many things this year, everything kept changing. 

But at the end of all the to-ing and fro-ing they decided that the important thing was to actually get themselves married, and with that settled - and a teeny tiny gathering the only option at the time - a wedding MUCH closer to home in a place that was deeply meaningful to them was the obvious answer. 

We gathered in the sun on the Pentland Hills up above Swanston, after an easy 15 minute walk - or in Gran June's case, as hurl in a golf buggy

It was frankly blissful to be out there, windy, sunny and autumnal, with the amazing view north over the Firth of Forth.

The ceremony was simple & heartfelt, with readers from either end of the guests age range, and the occasional bemused passers by snapping a picture.

Mark & Kirsten have also planned a hooly for next year up at Fortingall as they originally planned, and they will get the frock & kilt out again, and relive some of the memories of the 'real' wedding, while celebrating their first anniversary with a wider group of their kith & kin.

If circumstances allow, I will be there too, and lead a second ceremony where we can have the readings again, and they can exchange their weddings rings and vows once more, and celebrate in a way closer to the Scottish tradition of Weddings - and to what they had originally imagined.

WARNING. I'm going to be corny now: 

It wasn't what they planned. It wasn't what they had imagined. But it was perfect. and it was perfect not because of where we were, or who was there or not there, or what I said, or what they said.

It was perfect because Mark & Kirsten love each other and got married to one another.

...and next years ceremony will be perfect too - because they will be even MORE married to each other.


"Hi Jane,
We got back yesterday from a wonderful week-long break starting in Torridon and ending in a cabin with a hot tub near Nairn. We got lucky with the weather (again!) and managed to bag our first 3 Munro's as husband and wife!

We absolutely loved every minute of our wedding day and both agree that the ceremony was the highlight. Although we both started out imagining a big party, our forced change of plans now feel like a blessing in disguise as the intimate ceremony just felt so personal and perfect. So, thanks for all your effort in helping make it so special!"
 Picture below by Carley Buick Photography

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Covid Chronicles; The Postponed Wedding

                                                            Jane Bechtel
                                                                                    Humanist Celebrant
Humanist Society Scotland


Obviously, my working life mostly revolves around wedding couples.
I meet them and hear their stories, find out who they are; who their families and friends are, and how they imagine their wedding day will feel.

This may be as much as two years before their chosen date.
A date chosen so all their family can be there, from other countries, continents, deployments or shifts.

A date that might mark the anniversary of sadly passed but much loved grandparents, whose wedding bands this young couple will exchange 60 years to the day since they were last used to embody new marriage vows pledged between young lovers.

A date where their carefully chosen local venue, favourite band, photographer, piper, caterer and celebrant are all free, all excitedly booked, all prep'ed, able and willing to make this pivotal day in their lives as special and as representative of who they are as a couple, as we possibly can.

A date on which they can not now get married.

For guests a wedding is coming together, celebrating life, love, family & friends. Shared joy in the love that two people - we love - have found.
Fun & chat, too much drink & food, an excuse to buy a frock, get our hair done up - or let it down...and maybe for some guests moving a wedding it is not much more than the unfortunate postponement of a party when there are far more important things to think about.

But for many couples it is much more than a party that they have lost this year.

My couples tell me about not only how their wedding will be, but what they are looking forward to in the life and marriage that will follow that day, a day they are so excited about and that they just cannot wait for.

They have thought long and hard about what is important to them not just on that day, but in the future too, and written their vows accordingly. They have considered how to include their children or parents in their ceremony. They have poured over plans and saved their money, been measured for outfits, and had a countdown clock on their fridge for the ‘Big Day’...a big day that will not now be as they imagined.

A much anticipated marker of the joy in their lives has shifted and is forever changed. A date now marked by stress over whether or not it can go ahead? and if they do move it – when will be safe? Might it have to move again?

…and saddest of all, will there be guests who will now never get to share that long imagined moment with them, and whose absence may change everything about how they will feel about their Wedding Day. 
The original day & their new one.

I cried a little on the 9th of May. 
The couple I should have been marrying that afternoon shared a film with me compiled of clips from all their friends and family, to remind them that they are loved - and by more than just each other - and that the loss they were feeling that day was not forgotten or unimportant, no matter what else might be going on in the world.

Such warmth in that gesture. Such kindness in acknowledging that while others might be in more difficult circumstances, that does not make your feelings about your now strangely empty day any less valid.

None of us truly know how folk are dealing with what is happening in their lives, especially just now, so be kind whenever the opportunity arises.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Midsummer Woodland Wedding at Murthly

Both these fantastic pictures by Anna Urban

Lovely reminder just appeared from this time last year,of this stunning international occasion held for Mila & Christie up in the woods beside Murthly Castle.

The whole event was set to reflect their national colours - including me!
The ceremony was in two languages throughout, with colour coded Orders of Ceremony containing translations of most of the words spoken, so that neither the Portuguese or the English speakers would miss any of the ceremony, should that bit be delivered in the other tongue.

It took a lot of work from Mila to get that all accomplished, but I think if you had asked either of their grandmothers on the day, they would have told you it was well worth the effort!

Whole article and lots more photos in the 'Love my Dress' website can be seen here:  Love My Dress

Monday 8 April 2019

Harriet & James at the Atholl Palace Hotel


Hi Jane,
I hope you are well...It honestly doesn't seem four months since the wedding!

We cannot thank you enough for helping us plan and deliver the most personal and beautiful ceremony...We have had so many compliments from our family and friends about how fantastic you were and we completely agree.
Our aim for the day was to celebrate our marriage with everyone we love but most importantly to have fun! 
We definitely managed that and a few of our photographs really capture the fun side too which I think you will appreciate!!
We could not have asked for someone more engaging, fun and kind to play such an important part in our day. 
With huge thanks and best wishes,
Harriet and James


Hi Guys, Lovely to hear from you, and Lovely photos - thank you so much for sending them through.  I can't quite believe that it's been four months yet either...

I'm very grateful too for your kind words. well as a bit 'Aw Shucks'...😏

It was properly fun to work with you both, and that came through on the day I think - along with a good bit your own characters in the stories and tone we went with. 
It definitly shows in the pictures too - and I suspect the party & speeches were headed down the same line!!

I would like to say thank you (again!) though, not just for choosing to work with me (and letting me put this on my blog!) but for really getting involved in getting the ceremony right. 

I can only give back what I’m given - if that makes sense? - so to get it right, it really needed you both to engage and put your own stamp on it…
I really think it was worth the effort though, and you did fab work - as well as making my job a LOT easier!!
Hugs and best wishes to you both, and no doubt see you soon-ish somewhere!

Xxx     Jane

Friday 8 March 2019

Handfast Demonstration

Got together with my local colleagues the other week, and we all made new information and introduction films, with the cheerful, able and capable help of David Gillan the videographer ...that's him on the bottom left of my team selfie!

I suspect you'll find many of these fabby films on Facebook if you go hunting for Humanist Society Scotland Celebrants...but as I don't use Facebook for my work at all - you get to see my handfasting demonstration below.

I did another film just before the holidays with Dave too (which is the one you probably just saw on my HSS Profile) and though I do find speaking to camera super awkward, it gave me the confidence to just be myself and go for it with the handfasting one...and while neither are by any means perfect or particularly polished - they really are me just being my celebrant self, which I like! (there can be slightly more swearing when I'm being my non celebrant self!)

Here is a photo of the final infinity knot / eternity symbol - odd colours I know, but it means that you can properly see what each strand does. Hope this was helpfull!