Diary of a Boho Bride – Kirra and Tim, Entry 1: Our Humanist Ceremony

diary of a boho bride

Today we are meeting up with Kirra and Tim as they talk to us about their wedding Ceremony.  Kirra and Tim have chosen to have a humanist ceremony and have also decided to write the whole hying themselves. Kirra has spent a lot of time researching wedding ceremony’s, readings, quotes and anything you can think of to make her wedding ceremony personal and individual to them as a couple. Today she talks us through her wedding plans so far and how she went about putting the ceremony together. You can read Kirra and Tim’s full introduction post HERE



I’ll pass the Blog over to Kirra………

So here we are fellow bridelings and fabulous people. Sitting comfortably with a cup of tea and Jaffa cake? I’m typing this one handed with a sleeping baby in my arms and couldn’t be happier although if all goes to plan you never know, our wedding might be up there too! Becoming a mum has been a mind-blowing experience and, as Tim said to me recently, it’s going to be really nice to be married at the end of Jamie’s first year in this world as it sort of makes the wedding not only about the commitment we wanted to make anyway, but also a reaffirmation of our relationship after the crazy first year of becoming parents. We got some special pics taken of us as a family in our tiny little flat when he was 12 weeks old and just got them back. It’s reminded me how important it is to get a fitting record of the special moments in life and they will be going right up on the wall with space for our wedding photos next to them!

Planning update…. We’ve got some of the biggies booked now: venue (Colehayes Park)

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We also have the lovely Nat from Jolly Good Wedding to help us with on-the-day wedding coordination, and big stripy tent (from the very nice Ashley Events In Cornwall. Much better for the budget than my initial dream of a tipi or Raj tent and a little bit different which I love), so everyone will at least have somewhere to celebrate rain or shine. Our plans for the woodland chillout area are growing ever wilder and more festival-ish and  my eBay stalking for tibetan prayer flags is working out nicely… we already have 200 for less than £10.

Our homemade Save The Date postcards arrived from Moo printers and Tim can confirm that I got ridiculously excited about holding the first tangible bit of completed weddingness in my hands. We made them from an instagrammed photo I took with my iPhone of some letter confetti on our living room table.

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I then designed the text on the other side with fantastic fonts for free from Dafont  after playing around with different combinations. The result is better than we even imagined so am feeling pretty chuffed! I bought some good quality envelopes and two East of India stamps from eBay and stamped the back of each envelope with “Time To Drink Champagne & Dance On The Table” in black and a lovely little flying swallow (because they mate for life) in silver, all done in the evenings after bubba goes to bed. As our first wedding DIY project it’s been loads of fun, very thrifty and it feels like the celebrations will start the moment people open those envelopes. Happy days!


The Quest For The Dress has started. I’m still getting my shape back post-pregnancy so it feels a little daunting & shall require some girly moral support and no doubt some sturdy spanx (!) but I am on a mission to find the slightly bohemian ‘out there’ floaty sexy dress my heart desires! So far almost every one I see that I like turns out to be either Ir De Bundo or Yolancris. We are even contemplating a girly trip to Madrid to visit the Raimon Bundo & Yolancris boutiques. Because their designs are so new to the UK there aren’t many designs from the collection here yet and the designs I love the most are from either 2011 or 2012. Sigh. You never know, it could happen… How does one say “sample sale” in Spanish?!

Anyway, what I wanted to chat to you the most about today was our ceremony and the what/why/how’s of creating your own Humanist ceremony. The process of writing it has become a special and more meaningful experience than I could have anticipated and want to share how we have gone about it all in case any of you out there are thinking of doing the same.


The Ceremony

If our various pleas to the gods of British weather work (!) we are hoping to get married outside, but there are various rules about that in the UK. Colehayes does have a gazebo that we can be  legally married under, but the realisation when looking at booking a registrar that we can shave about £300 off our budget if we have a humanist ceremony officiated by someone we know rather than having a registrar come to the venue sealed the deal for us. A homemade ceremony it is! To be honest I love the idea of being married by someone with a personal connection to us, so we have decided to write the whole ceremony ourselves and choose our own officiant to marry us at our venue and do the legal bit ourselves some time before the wedding (will help with wedding day nerves anyway I think). Of course these choices are personal to everyone, but for us and our personalities it feels right.

The disadvantage is that it obviously takes a lot more planning, but the huge advantage of writing our own ceremony is that we get to really imbue the ritual of getting married with our own personalities. We get to say what we think about love, about marriage, about our promises to each other, about the role of our family & friends in our relationship, and our philosophy about life. There are no rules, we can say what we like, and it feels really nice to have sat down together and thought in depth about how we feel regarding all these elements of marriage and how best to express that to everyone there as well as each other.


These days in the UK getting married is less of an essential social convention for couples and more of a choice between two people in love to cement their commitment to each other by declaring their intent for it to be lifelong. We have been living together for years, have had a baby before getting married and to be honest that, to me, is the biggest commitment I could make to someone, so having essentially already bound our lives together the question has been how we can make the act of getting married as truly meaningful a ritual as it deserves to be. Our marriage is something we will create between us, so it feels meaningful that the ceremony joining us together is created by us as well.

It also feels important to create a ceremony that makes clear that this is the ‘next step’ for us as a couple because we have already told each other that this is forever more times than I can think of, so how do we make this time different, this time the most special and imbued with all the magical ritual we can muster? In thinking about all this it’s been lovely to read how others have gone about it, taking inspiration from Buddhist ceremonies, alternative ceremonies and some fabulously hippie ones (because let’s face it, I’m more than a bit of a hippie at heart!).


Starting to write the text felt daunting at first as a blank screen stared back at me, so I started by spending a few days googling ‘alternative wedding ceremony’, ‘writing your own humanist ceremony’, and every variation on that theme. It’s worth reading through lots of ceremonies for inspiration as it quickly becomes apparent what resonates with you and what you are comfortable saying. Although I’ve worked at lovely weddings that brought a little tear to my eye even when I didn’t know the couple, I have also played with my quartet for many weddings where the ceremony seemed sort of awkward and out of character because it either had lengthy sermons that were less about the couple and more about the views of the person saying them, or readings that were cliche, spoken like a chore and not a joy. Of course these choices are personal to everyone, and there is certainly something magical about a beautiful well thought-out church service, but since we get to choose what we hear and say, we are definitely structuring it so it is straight to the point and clear that joyfulness is the central element of what getting married should be about for us.


To that end the first thing we had to do was decide what we did and didn’t want to include in our marriage ceremony:

  •  Did we want any readings?
  • Did we want ‘audience participation’ and if so how much and in what form? Singing? Being part of the vows?
  • What aspects of spirituality, if any, did we want to include ie. hand blessing, symbolic gestures, prayer etc.
  • How formal did we want the text to be? Was this a chatty service or a formal ritualistic one?
  • Did we want to write our own vows and read them to each other on the day, or did we want to write them together and repeat them after the officiant OR just say “I do” to what someone else is saying?!

We found out what the standard sections of a humanist ceremony usually are (Opening Words, Marriage Address, Declaration of Intent, Ring Exchange etc), decided which ones we wanted to use and used those headings as a starting point for writing what we wanted to say. I ended up cutting and pasting together all the quotes about marriage and bits of ceremonies I found online that I liked and used them as inspiration to write what I thought we might both like to hear and say; modifying the text until it really felt personal to us and not copied from someone else. When it got to the point where I got all teary just from reading it through I knew it was definitely taking shape and started realising how special a thing getting married really is. We may have expressed our love for each other throughout our relationship, but this is different, it just is. This is putting it ALL out there… a true declaration of intent, formed with care and love and hope and that carries with it a potency of emotion that is truly special.


After getting really excited and writing it for a week or so, I showed the first draft to Tim and he said what he liked and didn’t like (happily he liked a lot of it!) so we changed some things and draft number 2 is now very much a joint effort. So far Tim is a bit like the President in much of our wedding planning: I write the memos and present them to him for his approval or veto (have been watching a lot of ‘West Wing’ since having a baby, sorry!). Since I’m a total geek about research and planning and he would much rather be presented with options to choose from, this arrangement is suiting us just fine so far!

On the subject of readings and quotes to include in the ceremony, as it’s a humanist ceremony there are no biblical elements in there. There are many many great literary quotes to be found around the internet that people have included in their weddings. The choice was huge and so many gorgeous words have been written about love, relationships and marriage that it’s been tempting to include, frankly, way too many of them in our actual ceremony wording. After getting carried away in the first draft and popping quotes by everyone from Proust: “friends are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”, to Stephen King in there it started to look more like a literary smorgasbord and less and less like ‘us’. The thing is, whilst he wrote many poignant words, I’m not someone who reads Proust usually and after reading through our first draft we came to the conclusion that whilst there are a gazillion beautiful quotes out there, when it comes to the words that will be said to make us husband and wife, every one of them should have personal meaning to us. So, we’ve chilled out with the literary quote spree and chosen themes and writers that really resonate with us and hopefully enhance the words of the ceremony. When we really think about our life together, various songs, movies, books and writers immediately come to mind that are special to both of us and it feels natural to include them in our ceremony, from the serious to the more light-hearted. We both find the philosophy of Tao rings true with our own philosophy of Life The Universe and Everything, so (without giving too much away), we are definitely structuring it around words of Lao Tze. We also quote The Princess Bride all the time anyway so am sure a bit of that will find its way in somewhere. I wanted to put the whole “Mawwage! That bwessed awangement” speech in there, but our elderly guests definitely wouldn’t have a clue what was going on! Stay tuned to see if I can sneak it into the wedding somewhere!!


We’ve decided at the moment to not have readings during the ceremony as there were just too many great ones to choose from, so will instead type them all out onto pieces of paper and pin them up on pieces of twine hung between the trees in the woodland space next to the ceremony spot, creating a little ‘reflection zone’ where guests can read them at their own pace.

The question of music during the ceremony is also obviously a big one, as we are both musicians, both our families are musicians, the majority of our guests are musicians  and I spent my college years playing in a string quartet for wedding ceremonies, so what to have at our own big day is quite a decision! My love for wedding standards such as the beautiful Pachelbel Canon in D has been well & truly quashed by playing it tooooo many times since I was 16, although if any of you are looking for classical music it is one I really recommend. We don’t want to have any hymns or songs but will definitely be including space for music within the ceremony (otherwise it’s an awful lot of talking). Although we are both classical musicians we also play and love other types of music so whether to have all non-classical or a mixture of the two for the ceremony is something we haven’t quite worked out yet. I would love to walk down the aisle to a Sigur Ros song and we’ve even toyed with the idea of a wedding flashmob, but have also always loved a beautiful excerpt from Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and we have many talented musicians in our families & bridal party who might want to play. My parents are divorced and won’t have seen each other since I was 15, but both have separately suggested them playing a piece together for me at the wedding, which has been so lovely to hear and more than a little emotional for me.  Decisions, decisions, there will no doubt be many more ramblings about this subject leading up to the big day! The only thing we definitely have decided on music-wise is that we will lead everyone out of the ceremony to a New Orleans style dixieland procession. I can forsee this being somewhat of an eclectic music selection!!


It’s still very much a work in progress and I’m sure we will have many more versions of our ceremony written before our wedding day, but it is lovely to have made a start on it and I love reading through what we’ve written so far. Having the draft on my iphone means that every now and again I’ll read it on the train or something and sit there smiling because I am reminded of exactly what it is that we are promising each other by choosing to add this commitment to our relationship and how amazingly brilliant that is.

Many people have taken the time to post their entire ceremony wordings online and it was enormously helpful to us. Maybe after we say I Do we might pay it forward and do the same for future couples.

  • The main very VERY important tip I have for you today is to make sure you back up every version of what you write. After spending a few months writing this thing, my iPad decided to do something weird one day and randomly deleted the note with our entire Ceremony draft on it (I may have had a little meltdown at this point!). Luckily we had emailed it to ourselves a while ago, but still more recent changes were lost which was such a shame. Ah, it’s all part of the wedding planning adventure!!

I’d love to hear what you are all doing for your ceremonies. Are you writing your own vows? Are you reading vows to each other or getting the officiant to say it all? What readings and music are you choosing?


’til next time lovely people. Happy planning…  xxx



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    This post has been so useful for us Kirra! Thank you! We’re having a friend do our ceremony too, but haven’t really thought too much about it yet! All your advice and links have been brilliant and really made me realise how great an opportunity it is to be able to do it all ourselves, making it really personal to us.
    Oh and I lurve your save the dates! Genius.
    Happy planning!
    Kate xx


      Thanks Kate, really glad you’ve found it useful :) good luck with your wedding planning! xxx


    Wow such beautiful quotes. Will keep some to give to my wedding officiant as possible things when saying between our vows. Thanks.


    I have sat down today for the first time to start putting together a script for my humanist wedding next May and cannot emphasise enough how fabulous this post has been to read through. Thank you for sharing this.


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