An intimate family-only ceremony

On Sunday I was privileged to conduct a really intimate and moving ceremony. Mum and Dad are a wonderfully warm and friendly South London couple and their little girl is a bundle of smiley cuteness. The ceremony was held in the family’s back garden under a white waterproof canopy. The patio was elegantly decorated with white helium balloons, each with a handful of gold sequins inside. Similar sequins were scattered on the ground between the folding wooden chairs. The weather just about held off, with only a few spatters of rain during the ceremony.

 Mum holding her little girl, with Dad (in a pink shirt) and his family.

Mum holding her little girl, with Dad (in a pink shirt) and his family.

Both parents have religious relatives, so we were mindful of that in the script. I gave a short explanation of Humanism and we used the term ‘guideparents’ instead of godparents. On the day, the little girl’s Grandma approached me with a letter from her own mother who was unable to attend due to her health. The letter made repeated references to God and to blessings, it was also beautiful, heartfelt and wise. We found a place for it in the script near the beginning and Grandma read it out to everyone. It was the first point in the ceremony where several of the family were moved to tears. It was far from the last.

The readings were from Kahlil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’ and were chosen by the reader, one of the baby’s guidemothers. Gibran is a popular choice at Humanist ceremonies because of his combination of lyricism and optimism, and his rejection of the dogmatic and judgmental.

It’s hard to pick a high point for the ceremony because there were so many. The parents aren’t married, nor are they likely to marry, so their vows each included a passage about their love and commitment to each other as well as their child. If I’d been a guest, instead of officiating, I’d have been wiping my eyes with the rest of them.

There was also a role for the baby’s aunts, uncles and half-brother. They each took turns holding her and repeating after me a few words of love and welcome. It was a lovely way to include them all and worked brilliantly, partly because the little one at the centre of it all was, by that point, sound asleep. I think it’s good to see some of the more creative ways a script can be adapted for a family, so I’ve chosen this section of the script to finish the post.

 A delicious lemon and elderflower cake and a bunch of sunflowers. Gorgeous!

A delicious lemon and elderflower cake and a bunch of sunflowers. Gorgeous!

Maternal uncle:

[Baby], wherever you go, you will always have a place with us.

You are one of us and we welcome you.

Maternal aunt:

[Baby], you are one of us and we will always love you.

As you are one of us, we will always be here for you.

Half-brother:

[Baby], you are one of us and we will always support you.

As you are one of us, you will always belong with us.

Paternal uncle:

[Baby], you are loved, and we will always listen to you.

As you are loved, we will always encourage you.

Maternal aunt:

[Baby], you are our family, we are glad to meet you.

We are here for you, we will teach you, we will care for you.