The Couple from Scotland

Photo by inarik / 123RF

These days I still get quite a few inquiries about officiating at weddings, but back in 2012 I was the only humanist celebrant in Boston. One day I got an email from a couple named Alan Craven and Lesley McClory asking if I might be available to perform a wedding ceremony for them in October. I soon discovered that this was not a routine request, as Alan and Lesley lived in Edinburgh, Scotland.

They explained that they had decided to elope to Boston and surprise their family. They seemed to have it pretty well figured out but for the fact that they had never been in Boston before and needed a little help with the plans. What ensued was a few months of emailing to decide where to have the ceremony and how to cope with the various laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, something which is not for the faint of heart. They let me know that they would spend a few days in Boston the week prior to find the perfect location and they did, in the gorgeous Public Garden with the leaves in all of their autumn glory. They even chose a precise spot beside the pond. They asked about how to handle the legalities of obtaining a license and also if I might be able to recommend a photographer. I called my friend who was a staff photographer for Boston University where I taught at the time and gave them explicit instruction about where to go to get all the papers. We even got together a few days prior to have a look at one another, something I always do. The idea of marrying two people who you’ve met only ten minutes before the wedding has never felt right to me.

The wedding was to be at 1:00 in the afternoon on a day when I was teaching at Boston University’s School of Dental Medicine, but it would be during my lunch break. I spent the morning showing students how to make crowns on teeth, explaining that I had to dash off to perform a wedding, and raced home to change into my suit. My wife Karen and I jumped into a cab. I was a little anxious about whether I would be able find them in the Public Garden and had tried to explain an entrance on Arlington Street where we could meet one another. I was there a bit ahead of time and you can imagine my surprise when I spotted them walking through the gate, Lesley in a beautiful wedding dress and heels, and Alan fully decked out in a kilt with all the Scottish trimmings. They looked great.

I read the vows and asked Alan for the rings, which he had safely stowed in a small leather pouch under his belt, and we all had a good laugh when it took him a few very long minutes to retrieve them. It was just the photographer, Karen and I, and Alan and Lesley so you can imagine my delight when I pronounced them husband and wife, invited the groom to kiss his bride and heard the sudden applause of about fifty people who had stopped to watch the proceedings. I had also been contacted by their family in Scotland, who had gotten wind of what was about to take place, and read a special message from them. Alan and Lesley were thrilled to hear it. Everything went splendidly and I jumped back into another taxi and went back to the dental school. I can’t imagine not feeling honored and delighted to take part in such an important day in the lives of two people. How could one ever tire of such a thing?

The Cravens sent me a nice note and photos as well. They wrote to me again on the occasion of their one year anniversary. Then, in August of this year, they sent a photo that I was very pleased to receive. It was of their new son Callum. They jokingly asked if I would come to Edinburgh to do a humanist naming ceremony, something I had not done before. I wish I could have seen their faces when I told them that I would, in fact, be in Edinburgh the first week of October in the course of a book tour to celebrate the publication in Ireland of my eighth collection of poetry, and that I would be glad to do the ceremony.

They gathered their family together in a nice Italian restaurant right in the heart of Edinburgh, and I got to meet all the people who wished they had been at the wedding. And then young Callum David Martin Craven, in his mother’s arms, father beaming, assumed his name officially. I wondered if it might be the very first American humanist celebrant naming ceremony ever performed in Scotland, maybe in Europe, maybe even outside of the United States. Any one of those facts would also make young Callum a historical figure as well. He was more interested in eating. I told his parents that should I still be part of this mortal realm when the time came, I would be pleased to perform his wedding one day. If he can manage it by age twenty-five, I will be eighty-two. Right now my calendar for 2039 is clear. I suppose that will also be more than sufficient reason for me to start taking better care of myself!

The Cravens are married in Boston, MA by Humanist Celebrant Daniel Thomas Moran The Cravens are married in Boston, MA by Humanist Celebrant Daniel Thomas Moran

The Craven family with Humanist Celebrant Daniel Thomas Moran The Craven family with Humanist Celebrant Daniel Thomas Moran

Alan Craven and Lesley McClory The Cravens on their wedding day in Boston