Network Leads to Network

April 3rd, 2014

by Dee Philips

After a divorce left me a single mum with three children, I felt isolated, and often used the internet as a medium for connecting with friends. During this time I often went into organised chat rooms where people would banter back and forth. There was one person who I got on particularly well with, and this banter expanded into exchange of emails, then exchange of photographs, phone calls, and eventually a meeting.

On our first date we were playing a silly game which involved sharing information, e.g. favourite ice cream, favourite place. I decided this was our first date so told my date (now husband) that I wouldn’t share my favourite place with him, as a girl has to keep a bit of mystery about her. He made a deal with me that if our favourite places were the same we would go there that night. After several hours of coaxing, we both wrote our place on a beermat  -ahe won!.

That favourite place was Tenby, and after the pub closed at 11.30pm, we ended up driving 100 miles to Tenby.  We sat on the harbour the whole night, until the sun rose, talking and finding similarities and differences in our life histories, which brought us closer together. Our relationship flourished, and Nick became a constant in not only my life, but the lives of my daughters, who were 12, 8 and 7 years old.

When he eventually proposed, four years after our initial first date in Tenby, there was only one place we could choose to get married: back on Tenby Harbour where we spent that first special night. But we immediately met with legal obstacles. I had been married before in a civil ceremony. Neither of us had any religious beliefs. In fact, I had always labelled myself as a Humanist. I was introduced to Lisbeth Johns, who ended up being our celebrant for our wedding in Tenby, in a bandstand on Castle Hill above the harbour, on a blustery June day.


So why did we choose a Humanist ceremony?

Well, there were several factors. Having a Humanist ceremony enabled us to express our story and share our story with our family and friends, and more importantly, with the three daughters who my husband took on as a Pot Noodle family.

My daughters have a strong attachment to their stepfather, and we weren’t just getting married as a couple – we were joining two families, and two different cultures, as our backgrounds were very different. So it was important that the wedding ceremony captured all of these things.

We left our wedding ceremony open to contributions from others, and on the day we were surprised and emotional when my three daughters wrote a poem especially for ‘Steppy’ about their relationship with him, and his involvement with them as a stepfather.

A friend also surprised us when she read out a poem impromptu for us that she had written.

The ceremony was deeply emotional and very personal. In fact, there wasn’t a dry eye among the guests.

We both wrote our vows secretly, and did not share them until the day. This enabled us to share our innermost feelings, thoughts and commitments to each other in the presence of our family, and for this to be not just a tick box, or a series of sentences that were pulled together from a tick sheet, but a true reflection of who we are as people, and what we wished to bring to our marriage.

My husband and I married in 2004 and on the day our celebrant said that one day she thought I would come on board and do the same. At that time I laughed at her, because it was the furthest thing from my mind, with a young family, new husband, a house and a full time nursing job. However, in 2005 I thought about it again, had an interview and was accepted, but my busy life still prevented me from pursuing it.


And then…..

In 2010 a twist of fate with both Nick and me losing our jobs enabled me to commit to becoming a celebrant. I pride myself on the fact that I am not only a Humanist, but I have also had a Humanist wedding that I can truly say was deeply emotional and individually personalised. The icing on the cake was that we had our ceremony and exchanged our vows in the place that was the most special place in the world to us.

I would like to add that when a BHA celebrant gives themselves to a ceremony, they are not only performing a service, they are becoming professionally attached to the individuals they are working with, and they are not only writing and delivering, but they are giving the core conditions of respect, empathy, genuineness and acceptance of difference, no matter what another person’s beliefs are.

My youngest daughter now 21 is getting married in 2015. After much deliberation about a civil ceremony, and looking at the standard text offered, and the limited capacity to include rituals and individual elements, she came to me and asked me if I could ask one of my colleagues to conduct her Humanist wedding.