It has been a year since our launch, only a year, but what a year!
There is some indication that the first known case of Covid 19 was around this time last year within a few days of holding our official launch party.
No one had any idea of the path 2020 would lead us on, with all its’ challenges, discomfort and complete breath taking destabilisation of everything
On our first birthday we want to take time to acknowledge, & feel gratitude, that the seed of an idea, planted in early 2019 continues to grow and flourish even through a pandemic.
As with all our amazing sector colleagues, it’s been a year of perpetual, dizzying, pivoting but for us it has also brought positivity and progress, yes, we have made progress. It may be slower than we planned but that has allowed an increasing confidence along with time and space to really connect with our values and intentions.
We now have a wonderfully diverse Steering Group, our vision for a Life Celebrancy training has expanded and evolved beautifully and we have all been supporting families and couples while co-creating & conducting ceremonies in times of ever changing restrictions and great discomfort. This has all underpinned with love and commitment while keeping everyone safe.
For us safety and well-being comes first and therefore our planned expansion as well as some of our collaborations and community projects have had to pause but that’s ok. The clouds will clear and we know that although we are in our infancy the roots of Agnostic Scotland which are constantly nurtured by three passionate, focussed Celebrants, are beginning to embed in the ceremony community and grow.
We all want to take a moment to thank our supporters and all those who have helped us, have faith in us & are walking the path with us.
Soulful Celebrant – Andrea Taylor
I’m so proud to be part of this open-minded, inclusive and non-judgemental association along with my incredible colleagues and dear friends @celebrantlinda and @soulful.celebrant. Over the past year, it’s been a huge honour to officiate ceremonies and offer an additional choice to families seeking to celebrate their life transitions in Scotland. Tonight we’re raising a glass to all the wonderful folk we’ve had the great pleasure of working with so far, and to everyone who has trusted us to lead personal ceremonies for them and their loved ones. Thank you also to all the celebrants who have expressed an interest in joining @agnosticscotland We’re hoping to widen our network just as soon as the global situation allows.
Edinburgh Celebrant – Onie Tibbitt
Our first year as a belief body has been amazing. We continue to grow, to adapt, to listen and learn and dream and plan.
I have a good track record for having the BEST colleagues and @edinburghcelebrant and @soulful.celebrant are the very definition of that. They are principled, open-hearted, committed, creative, inclusive, funny, soulful, wise and compassionate women. I love working with them, I love the mutual support, learning/teaching and accountability we work with. And I love what we are capable of as a team!
Happy birthday, team. And a massive thank you to all of our supporters – we are so excited about developing and growing in a way that builds and activates our community. And we have learned to do that in a responsive, steady way which allows true, inclusive connection to occur. Which is what it’s all about, at the end of the day.
Woop Woop!!! We conducted our first wedding after lockdown at the weekend. Easing out of lockdown and into teeny tiny wedding ceremonies feels so good.
At the weekend, after a year or so of planning and creating, Kirstin and Chris were married in the calm oasis of Lanrick Estate. Like many couples Kirstin and Chris had to change their original plans quite dramatically but during that process found that they were able to reconnect with what was important to them and also what their wedding day meant to them. We all kept a very close eye on the Scottish Government Route Map and were able to move quickly once restrictions began to lift.
Lanrick Estate prepared a beautiful space, a circle, for the ceremony. Before the ceremony started we all stood outside the circle and shared a few words on the symbolism. We recognised the huge changes going on in the world and the collective energy that that was creating. What we aimed to do was step into the circle and leave the rest of world outside just for a short time while we focussed on Kirstin and Chris and their love, their declarations and their vows. We stepped into their circle with reverence aware that when we stepped out we’d all be changed in some way.
Kirstin and Chris would be walking into the world as man and wife, into the next stage of life together, there would be deepening family connections and we’d all feel a little bit more love.
And so it was.
As celebrants we treat our work, and relationships, with all families and couples with the reverence they deserve. My favourite definition 👇🏼
rev·er·ence definition 1: an attitude or feeling of profound respect and awe mingled with love
We realise many of you may have questions about your upcoming ceremonies whether they be Wedding ceremony’s, Naming Ceremonies or Vow Renewals. Even more so now that venues are being told to close their doors. For some, you will find the decisions are being made for you and for others you’ll feel confused with inconsistent advice and choices.
Please try not to worry. It’s important to stay calm so that preparations and decisions can be made that are right, and safe, for you and your family and friends.
A lot of what is going on is out-with our control and this feeling of lack of control can exacerbate anxiety.
Take a breath, pause and plan.
Try use an acronym like BRAIN to help get things into perspective:
Get together with your partner, discuss with wider family members and even close friends and guests. Do some serious WedMin and write these headings down and brainstorm, list, get everything out there.
What are the Benefits of carrying on as planned? For you and for others.
What are the Risks? Think of your family and guests, ages, travel, number of guests, finances etc
The Alternatives – what are they? Talk to each other about all the available options. Have you spoken to your service providers about potential alternatives, if not, do.
What is your Instinct, your gut feeling? Tune in and trust.
What if you decide to do Nothing different right now?
If you go through all of the above and decide to change nothing at the moment, that’s fine. Sit with it for a bit and return to the discussion. You can wait to see what else unfolds and revisit your list, notes and conversations at anytime. Maybe start again adding and subtracting aspects previously considered, newly discovered and advised by Government. Reflect and reschedule if necessary. If you’re ceremony is with one of us at Agnostic Scotland and you want to discuss options for a Plan B date. Get in touch.
You have each other and that is the main thing especially right now. Remember why you are planning all of this in the first place – because of love and trust.
What if you decide to, or have to, postpone your ceremony? There will be no charge to reschedule the date of your ceremony. If your celebrant is not available then one of our Agnostic Scotland Life Celebrants may be. Pencil in a Plan B date as soon as possible.
Would you have to pay anything extra to change your date? There is no extra charge to hold another date. Your deposit/fee would be transferred to the new date.
What if your Celebrant becomes ill or has to cocoon at home at the time of your ceremony? At Agnostic Scotland we have discussed how to cover ceremonies in case of illness. Your back up Celebrant would have access to your final ceremony script and they would make contact with you to say hello and talk through anything with you prior to the ceremony. We know that currently, with the support of the Registrars, we can obtain emergency discretion for a change of Celebrant, as long as that Celebrant is a member of a recognised belief body, if required due to illness. We have also reached out to the National Records of Scotland for further advice in this ever changing situation.
Current Guidelines The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for registrars. You can check here. You will probably know that in England (where Celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal people required which is 5. The National Records of Scotland are currently drawing up guidelines for their own registrars. Keep an eye here for updates. You will know that in England (where celebrants cannot legally conduct marriage ceremonies) Church wedding ceremonies are currently limited to the minimal number of people required which is 5. Civil ceremonies, which are carried out by a registrar, are to be judged on a case by case basis. The Church of Scotland have issued guidance saying only close family should attend weddings, but they did not state a number. In regard to civil ceremonies in Scotland it seems to depend on the registrars, and of course, the venue. After many venues being ‘told’ to close yesterday you may need to talk to your venue. At the moment the government cannot instruct ‘organisers’ to cancel events but hopes organisers will follow advice to support our public services in responding to Covid – 19. Legislation may change this so keep up to date. For WHO advice re: social distancing and more click here and from NHS Scotland here
What if important guests can’t make it to your ceremony due to number restrictions, travel restrictions or illness?
Have a cry then get creative. Film the ceremony Live stream the ceremony WhatsApp video call Tribute/blessing from the guests who can’t make it They could pre record an audio or film piece to add to the ceremony or during speeches Represent the person using symbolism – wearing something of theirs or something that you feel represents/includes them
Other wedding suppliers Talk to them. Ask about a back up plan and discuss options. Communication is key. This can get things in perspective, help feelings of helplessness and anxiety. It also allows you to feel and connect with the support that is out there.
What you can do to keep yourself safe and support your community. Eat well, get plenty sleep, access your usual exercise regime, get fresh air, minimise Social Media – wash your hands – and ask for support and help. Talk things through with your nearest and dearest. Use BRAIN. Keep yourself informed with all the latest Government guidance and advice, health, and otherwise. Reach out to others. Support your suppliers who are likely small businesses by postponing not cancelling.
Are the Agnostic Scotland Celebrants keeping themselves safe? Yes, we are! We love hugs, kisses and shaking hands but are saving that for a later date. We’re washing our hands, eating well, getting plenty of sleep and leaning into our Celebrant community for support. We are keeping ourselves up to date with all the latest advice from the Government and the Ceremony Sector. It must be acknowledge that keeping ourselves safe may also mean our advice to you would be to postpone your ceremony or go ahead but with only immediate family members, maintaining suitable distance. This is something we will discuss with each couple. We are also acutely aware of the need to support other Celebrants and small businesses at this time as well as our families, friends, neighbours and local community.
Reflect and reschedule if need be – don’t cancel L O V E
If you do decide to postpone take time to consider how you will spend the day that you were going to get married. Make an event of it, a ritual, for just the two of you, make it positive and make it part of your story, part of your ceremony and part of your wedding day when it comes.
Last year we decided to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest, a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and have begun to donate trees. Our grove has now been populated with 60 native trees and you can have a look here
Our Agnostic Scotland grove is being planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we conduct. Every time a couple are married, exchange vows or express their life commitment to one another we will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When babies are welcomed by family and friends we will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died we will plant a tree in their memory. When communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual we will plant a tree in support.
As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to help individuals and families navigate important transitions in their lives and planting a trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.
For those of you who we have connected with recently or are working with currently we have donated trees to thank and honour you. We hope you enjoy thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.
My name is Andrea and I am one of the founders of Agnostic Scotland. I am a midwife and an Agnostic Celebrant. Over the last few years, while weaving the threads of both practices through my life, I have discovered so many parallels. One of the comparable areas, that I couldn’t help noticing quite quickly, is language and specifically the use of the word my.
Definition of my – of or relating to me or myself especially as possessor, agent, object of an action or familiar person
In early 2018 the British Medical Journal published a blog which explored language used in maternity care. The authors put together an alternative language guide for midwives and medical staff and, of course, the media picked up on this with headlines in UK newspapers stating that midwives were “BANNED” (sic) from using certain terms because they could be disrespectful to women. Well, as you know, you can’t ban people from using certain words and language but you can inspire people to reflect on their communication and the words and language they use. This discussion is not new to the maternity services. Midwifery language and communication has been researched and written about repeatedly. There is still one specific area we can’t quite agree on though – what we call the women we care for.
Patients – could be disempowering, the majority of pregnant women are not sick but well and healthy, they just happen to be pregnant. Ladies – is thought of as patronising. Clients – more suited to hairdressers and therapists. I have even heard midwives call women ‘birds’, or sometimes just ‘Room 8’ or whatever room/bed number the midwife is assigned to.
Personally, I call a woman I care for by her name.
For me what is even more irksome is when midwives talk about ‘my lady’ or ‘my woman’. The woman doesn’t belong to anyone and this kind of language is paternalistic. How we frame things, how we say things influences how we practice, what we do and ultimately how we treat people.
I have noticed a similarity in the wedding sector with celebrants, photographers and other ceremony suppliers often talking about ‘my couple’. Even though this is likely unconscious, and very well intended, it is the kind of language that has the ability to disempower and can influence a relationship.
The individuals that make up a couple don’t belong to anyone.
In our work and practice as celebrants we are not owners of the two people who, may function socially as a unit, but are individual autonomous adults and decision makers. We must promote working in partnership and recognise we are not owners but facilitators. Our language should regard and respect the current social norms, expectations and rights of the people we work with.
I know that in the past I have slipped into the negative terminology that dominates the culture I work in & failed to appreciate the impact my words have had, but after many years working with women, couples and families I feel I know I have made a shift and on the whole I am now mindful of the language I use. That shift came with self-awareness, reflection and a fundamental belief in respecting individuals, choice and equality.
Why not start reflecting on the language you use, the words you utter and type, make a shift if need be. When we are authentic and grounded in our practice it is not difficult to make the language we use about, and around, couples and families appropriate and respectful.
Changing the way we think can change our words and changing our words can change our way of thinking.