Our Wedding in Falkland
The Wedding of Peter Burman and Ross Burgess, in the Crichton Stuart Memorial Chapel, Falkland on Saturday 8 June 2019, at 3 p.m., conducted by Neil Anderson (Registered Humanist Celebrant, Humanist Society Scotland), music by the Agnew McAllister Duo: Aisling Agnew (flute) and Matthew McAllister (guitar).
2.00–2.30 p.m. – Guests gather in the Stables courtyard at the Falkland Centre for Stewardship. Ross and Peter greet and welcome them.
2.40 p.m. – The piper, Calum Watson, leads the procession, crosses the bridge by the Duck Pond over the Maspie Burn and winds up through woodland to the Crichton Stuart Memorial Chapel at the top. The guests then follow, with Ross and Peter coming last.
Music: the Agnew McAllister Duo play Hamnataing by Chris Stout as the Gathering Music.
The Agnew McAllister Duo’s own arrangement of the tune (named after a headland of the island of Mousa) by the Shetland fiddler Chris Stout.
While the Gathering Music is being played, the Gentlemen Ushers, Kenny Lumsden and René Nunn, welcome the guests into the Chapel, giving each of them a copy of the Order of Ceremony.
Celebrant: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome. I am sure I don’t have to remind you but, please ensure your mobile phones are switched off … or at least switched to flight mode as we prepare for take-off!
And so – may I ask you to be upstanding for Peter and Ross.
Music: The Agnew McAllister Duo play the Allegro from the Sonata No. 4 in G Major by Pietro Locatelli (1695–1764).
While this is playing, Ross and Peter process up to the Ceremonial Area to join Neil.
Celebrant: Good afternoon everyone. On behalf of Ross and Peter it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to Falkland and to the magnificent setting of the Crichton Stuart Memorial Chapel, on this the happiest of occasions.
My name is Neil Anderson – from the Scottish Charity, Humanist Society Scotland – and it is my privilege to have been invited by Peter and Ross to Falkland today to conduct their Wedding Ceremony, and I’m really delighted to be here with you all.
Today is a day of joy, and so as we gather together in a spirit of celebration please feel free to laugh … to cheer … to applaud … and maybe even shed a tear or two.
Many of you have travelled a fair distance to be here today – from Florida, Germany, the Basque Country and Sicily, from London and Yorkshire, and even from as far afield as the Palace of Falkland! – and we are so grateful to you all for taking the time and trouble to share this special occasion. Each and every one of you is an integral part of this day as you personally witness the commitment Peter and Ross are making to each other. To publicly declare their love in the presence of you all, their nearest and dearest friends and family, will be very special for them.
So, let me paint for you a picture of today’s events. After the wedding ceremony and the signing of the official paperwork, Ross and Peter will lead us back to the Stables courtyard to raise a glass, and there we will all mingle and chat while the Agnew McAllister Duo play for our delight and Suzanne Black takes photos of us all. Finally the Master of Ceremonies, John Smith, will summon everyone to take their seats for the wedding breakfast and ceilidh. So – you are in for a fabulous day….
Welcome by Ninian Stuart to his family's Memorial Chapel
Celebrant: So to begin today’s ceremony may I ask Ninian Stuart, a Steward of Falkland, and the Hereditary Keeper of the Royal Palace of Falkland, to share with us some reflections on this very special occasion.
Ninian: As one of the Stuarts of this place and as a Steward of the Estate, Peter and Ross have kindly asked me to say a few words.
So firstly a very warm welcome to all of you to Falkland and this beautiful unfinished chapel, this place apart in a landscape of stone, wood and water.
I’d like to draw upon each of those three elements as we celebrate Peter and Ross’s love for one another in this old place with the sky above us.
- It is beautiful that you’ve chosen this place to make your vows. This stone chapel is a place of memories, ceremonies and hopes. Stone (like a good relationship) takes time to build and stays solid amidst the storms of life. So may the solidity of stone be a blessing for all the days of your life
- Second, we’re surrounded by wood which represents regenerative growth and culture. You are truly both men of culture who love the beauty of life. May you each stay true to your natural form as trees in a forest embrace their connection with one another whilst finding their ways to the light.
- Finally we’ve all just walked over the water of the Maspie Burn which represents the flow of life and threads of relationship which I hope will sustain you, as surely as this place and people wish to support you in the vows you’re about to make.
A Humanist Wedding
Celebrant: Thank you Ninian, on behalf of Peter and Ross, who will, I am sure, treasure those words into their future together.
As you will already have gathered today is not going to be a traditional wedding ceremony – it will be a unique celebration of Ross’s and Peter’s love for each other.
Peter and Ross decided to have a Scottish Humanist wedding ceremony because they appreciate the flexibility it gives them to hold a legal wedding while expressing their relationship in a way that is meaningful to them. They have designed or written much of this ceremony themselves so today is very much their creation.
Humanism is non-religious and is a positive life stance founded on a concern for humanity and the natural world. It is based on common sense, kindness and compassion towards others – it is also about accepting responsibility for our own lives and for the world around us.
Peter and Ross have decided to celebrate their relationship in a way that is personal and uniquely special to them, reflecting who they are as people and how they live their lives. I hope therefore that whatever your own personal beliefs, you will all feel happy and comfortable with the form and nature of this ceremony.
When I Heard at the Close of the Day
Read by Scott McIntosh, who lives in Falkland with his husband John
When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv’d with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow’d,
And else when I carous’d, or when my plans were accomplish’d, still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh’d, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
When I wander’d alone over the beach, and undressing bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast – and that night I was happy.
From Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, 1819–1892.
About Ross and Peter
Celebrant: As many of you will know Peter and Ross first met as young men in London in 1970 almost half a century ago. At that time ill-informed prejudice against gay people was so great that the relationship they had then had only recently been liberated from being ‘against the law’. The idea that they might have been able to commit themselves to one another in marriage would then have seemed like a cruel mirage.
After about a year, young and inexperienced as they were, they went their separate ways. Each had other relationships. Each had busy and satisfying professional careers. Peter blossomed in the world of architectural conservation, Ross in the field of IT. Both gave lectures, wrote books and articles. Both had many enriching opportunities. They also experienced sadness and loss, as we all do … and, happily, they never quite lost touch.
For the past year and a half they have come back together in love and friendship for one another, testing their vocation by living and sharing their still busy lives.
They have also set about sharing one another’s friendships – your presence here today symbolises the importance of friendship in all our lives. Today, in your presence, Ross and Peter will make a specific commitment to one another, to continue their life journeys together, however short or long that might be.
Both Ross and Peter have a deeply spiritual side to their nature which has been nourished in various ways throughout their respective life experiences. To have a Scottish Humanist wedding answers to many of their values and aspirations, which embrace compassion and respect for all living beings, the sustainability of Mother Earth, inclusivity for all human beings and creativity in all its diverse forms. They hope you will sense those values in the words and music which grace today’s ceremony … and what better time to have a song.
The Sprig of Thyme
Sung by Phil Thomas
Wunst I had a sprig of thyme,
it prospered by night and by day
till a false young man came acourtin’ te me,
and he stole all this thyme away.
The gardiner was standiddn by;
I bade him che-oose for me:
He chose me the lily and the violet and the pink,
but I really did refuse them all three.
Thyme it is the prettiest thing,
and time it e will grow on,
and time it’ll bring all things to an end
addend so doz my time grow on.
It’s very well drinkin’ ale
and it’s very well drinkin’ wine;
but it’s far better sittin’ by a young man’s side
that has won this heart of mine.
A Lincolnshire folk song collected by Percy Grainger.
From the Song of Solomon
Read by Ursula Fuhrer from Stuttgart
My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.
Song of Solomon 2: 10–13, 8: 6–7; the King James Version (1611) of this ancient Hebrew love poem. The ‘turtle’ is of course the turtle dove.
The warming of the rings
Celebrant: As many of you know, Ross and Peter have complementary natures but have much in common – they both love travelling and visiting ancient buildings, gardens and historic landscapes … they both enjoy the finer things in life. They still lead very busy lives and they are both fully engaged in living life to the full. Above all they have very similar values, and it is clear to me that Ross and Peter are really suited to each other and are set to bring out the best in one another … and while in many ways they have very different personalities it is obvious that they love being in each other’s company.
Music is important for them both ... so we’re shortly going to hear some more music. But here is an opportunity for all of you to be involved … let me explain … Peter and Ross are going to exchange rings but first they would like you all to join with them in a symbolic ring warming – it is all quite simple, so don’t be alarmed!
The Gentlemen Ushers, Kenny and René, have the two rings and starting at the front they are going to ask you to pass the rings along the front row and then to the row behind and so on. When the rings reach the back we will reverse the process on the other side of the aisle ... don’t worry, René and Kenny will keep you right.
Please hold each ring for a moment as it comes to you. Peter and Ross would like their rings to symbolise not only their commitment to one another but also the love and support which they are receiving from each one of you.
So may I ask Kenny and René to prepare the rings – and for Aisling and Matthew to play for us.
Music: The Agnew McAllister Duo play Arioso by Johann Sebastian Bach.
After the rings have been circulated Kenny takes hold of the ring that Peter is giving to Ross and René takes hold of the ring that Ross is giving to Peter.
Celebrant: Here we are – on the cusp of a shared life together – and it is clear to us all that Ross and Peter have grown to understand, respect and love each other dearly. And today, before you all, they are publicly declaring that they wish to spend the rest of their lives together.
In a partnership of equals, each partner cares for the other through both the difficult times and the good times. They will share the laughter and tears, the joy and the sadness, as well as the companionship and tranquillity of simply being together.
And so, dear friends – we have now come to the most important part of the ceremony, when the vows of commitment will be exchanged. Let us reflect for a moment on the step which these two fine people are about to take together.
I am sure you will all join me in wishing for their union to grow in strength and their love to deepen throughout the coming months and years. May they know the great joy that comes from giving and sharing and may their hopes and dreams be realised.
So, having considered alone and together this marriage, I now ask you, Ross and you, Peter, are you ready for your vows of commitment?
Ross and Peter: Yes, we are.
Celebrant: Ross and Peter will now exchange rings and take their vows, and we will combine this with a handfasting. Some say that handfasting is an ancient Celtic marriage ritual but it occurs in many cultures throughout the world and is a symbolic way of showing that Peter and Ross are joined to one another; although historically the idea was for a temporary betrothal, Ross and Peter’s handfast will be for life.
Kenny – may we please now have the ring that Peter is giving to Ross?
Kenny hands Neil the ring.
Celebrant: And René – May we please now have the ring that Ross is giving to Peter?
René hands Neil the ring.
Celebrant: And Pam – may we now have the handfast ribbon?
Pam Ward (who made the handfast ribbon) hands it to Neil.
Celebrant: These wedding rings that we see are in the form of a perfect circle, a symbol of wholeness, strength, co-operation and harmony. The rings also symbolise eternity, with the handfast ribbon signifying the binding of Peter’s and Ross’s lives together.
Peter, would you now please pick up the rings and hold them in your right hand … and Ross, would you hold Peter’s right hand with your right hand and in doing so nestle the rings between your hands to warm them in anticipation of the rest of your lives together.
And now symbolically I bind you once for the love Peter has for Ross … twice for the love Ross has for Peter … and a third time for the love that everyone here has for you both.
Celebrant: Ross and Peter are now going to declare their pledges and vows before you all, while they remain handfasted together.
Ross: I, Ross Christopher Burgess, do take thee, Peter Ashley Thomas Insull Burman, to be my wedded husband, the dear companion of my days, for as long as we are given to be with one another: for better for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health.
Peter: I, Peter Ashley Thomas Insull Burman, do take thee, Ross Christopher Burgess, to be my wedded husband, the dear companion of my days, for as long as we are given to be with one another: for better for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health.
Celebrant: Peter and Ross, you have bound yourselves together by the vows that you have taken – may that bond of love never come undone through either the joys or the storms of life and may you dance through the continuing journey of your days hand in hand – as you are now – mind with mind … and heart to heart.
And so Ross I now ask you – do you Ross Christopher Burgess take Peter Ashley Thomas Insull Burman to be your lawful wedded husband?
Ross: I do.
Celebrant: And Peter – Do you Peter Ashley Thomas Insull Burman take Ross Christopher Burgess to be your lawful wedded husband?
Peter: I do.
The exchange of rings
Celebrant: And now as I unwrap the handfast ribbon … I ask you each to take the ring which you are giving to your husband, as a token and reminder of this day and of the solemn act of joining your lives together.
Ross, will you please place the ring on Peter’s finger, and repeat your legal declarations after me:
Ross: Peter, as a sign and symbol of my commitment to you., I place this ring upon your finger. Accept it, and with it me, and my love for you.
Peter: Ross, I do gladly accept your ring, and your love, and I accept you as my lawful wedded husband.
Celebrant: Peter, will you please place the ring on Ross’s finger, and repeat your legal declarations after me:
Peter: Ross, as a sign and symbol of my commitment to you., I place this ring upon your finger. Accept it, and with it me, and my love for you.
Ross: Peter, I do gladly accept your ring, and your love, and I accept you as my lawful wedded husband.
Celebrant: So – by virtue of the declarations which you have made before me … in the presence of all these witnesses … and by virtue of the powers vested in me, Neil Anderson, by the Registrar General of Scotland, I am delighted to declare that you Ross and you Peter are now legally married to one another, and I therefore pronounce you – Husband and Husband!
Signing the Marriage Schedule
Celebrant:We’re now going to take a couple of minutes while Ross and Peter and their witnesses, Marietta Crichton Stuart and Ann Scott, sign the Marriage Schedule, so please relax and take a few moments for peaceful reflection while we listen to Matthew.
Music: Matthew McAllister plays ‘Farewell to Stromness’.
Matthew McAllister’s own arrangement for
of Peter Maxwell Davies’s haunting tune.
While this is playing, Peter and Ross sign the Marriage Schedule, and Marietta and Ann sign as their witnesses.
Celebrant: Dear friends, I now invite you all to join together in a communal acclamation to Ross and Peter, as set out in your Order of Ceremony.
All say: Peter and Ross, we acknowledge you as husband-and-husband according to the vows you have made to one other.
We offer you our affirmation and support.
We thank you for your friendship, for the opportunity to be together today, and for the opportunity to share in this landmark moment in your lives.
We bless you, we affirm you, we give you our love.
Celebrant: Thank you everyone – and now may I invite Phil Thomas to sing for us an unaccompanied setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams of William Blake’s ‘The Shepherd’ … an image of security, trust and – ultimately – of stewardship.
Sung by Phil Thomas
How sweet is the Shepherd’s sweet lot
From the morn to the evening he strays;
He shall follow his sheep all the day,
And his tongue shall be filled with praise.
For he hears the lamb’s innocent call,
And he hears the ewe’s tender reply;
He is watchful while they are in peace,
For they know when their Shepherd is nigh.
An unaccompanied setting by Ralph Vaughan Williams
of William Blake’s ‘The Shepherd’ – an image of
security, trust and – ultimately – of stewardship.
Celebrant: We are now nearing the end of the formal marriage ceremony.
In a few moments Ross and Peter will walk together down the aisle – please follow them out and make your way in procession through the park down to the Stables for the Reception.
So dear friends, it just remains for me to ask you to please be upstanding – And for me to say – it is my privilege and great pleasure to present to you: Ross and Peter – our newly married couple.
The Piper plays for the wedding party exit and procession.