Karen Dickson

Wedding & Civil Partnership and Naming & Welcoming Ceremonies


I have been conducting humanist ceremonies since 2012 after becoming interested in training as a celebrant after our humanist wedding. I find being a celebrant one of the most rewarding roles I have ever done and it is a real privilege to take ceremonies and make them so special for those involved. And its so much fun!

I live in Balerno in Edinburgh with my husband and our two little boys, Jack and Callum, but travel across the central belt for many of the beautiful wedding venues in Scotland. I took the opportunity to work part time in 2011 and manage a team of people who help unemployed and disadvantaged people back into work, whilst becoming a humanist celebrant at the same time. My background prior to becoming a celebrant has mainly been in welfare to work, key account management and corporate event speaking and presenting. I now work full time Monday to Friday so I only take on local weddings (Edinburgh/East Lothian) at the weekends.

I love dealing with people from all different backgrounds. I have travelled throughout Australia, America, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bali and throughout Europe. I spent a summer in Northern California working with kids from disadvantaged backgrounds in Camp America and 2 years living in Sydney in Australia and loved it. I love dealing with couples abroad.
In my free time when I'm not amusing my two boys I enjoy keeping fit, cooking and eating lots of yummy food, trying new restaurants and socialising with friends and family.

What humanism means to me.

I believe in treating everyone in society the way you want to be treated. It is about having respect, compassion and acceptance for those around you. Humanism provides a positive and fulfilling life stance for making the one life we have as worthwhile and enjoyable as possible. Its a very inclusive way to see the world and are ceremonies should feel the same for anyone who attends, regardless of their beliefs.

There is often no control over the events in our lives but we do have control how we respond, react and move on from these in a positive and fulfilling manner appropriate to our own feelings and celebrate life’s joys in a way that is meaningful and personal to us is important. Whether its celebrating the life of someone you have loved in a funeral, celebrating new arrivals in namings or celebrating love in weddings they should all be a true reflection of the people/couples/families involved.

Wedding & Civil Partnership Ceremonies

FULLY BOOKED 2021 and 2022 until 2020 couples are rearranged

I see my role as a wedding celebrant as enabling you to have the perfect ceremony for you and whether you know what that is at the start is not important. I will provide you with lots of ideas, advice, tips and examples. All of this is all done to suit you - there are lots of options and there is no right answer, its whatever is right for you. I have written and conducted over 300 wedding ceremonies but my approach would be the same regardless of if I had just conducted one - to listen to you and create the perfect wedding ceremony for you.

One of my favourite parts of being a wedding celebrant is when couples come to me and are unsure of what exactly they want, then we chat through all the ideas and they feel much more relaxed and then getting the email back from writing the script saying that they love it and they are so excited for their day!

At the beginning….
Although many couples wants to chat to a few celebrants before deciding as I work full time Monday to Friday I currently don't have capacity for this. Couples who book me do so mainly by recommendation or when they have seen me do a friend/families service. Completely appreciate this doesn't suit everyone but we have many wonderful celebrants who have more availability and would be able to chat to you if you prefer that way. I also mainly cover local weddings only on Saturdays and Sundays in Edinburgh/West Lothian currently.
Once you confirm the booking online I will send you lots of information and examples. The ceremony is all about you and what is right and meaningful for both of you and that is different for every couple. I try to remind couples that aside from a few legal declarations and the ceremony being humanist in content, the rest is entirely up to you. If there are other ceremonies you have been to that you liked, think about why and if there are specific reasons you wanted a humanist wedding in particular and I will make sure they are part of the ceremony. Also, think about whats right for you - some couples want to say write their own promises and read them on the day, for some couples this would fill them with dread and you should never be 'dreading' coming to a part in your ceremony. Some couples will have elaborate ceremonies with symbolic gestures and readings and guests involved and some will have none of these. You don't 'need' to have anything and all of these options are right for someone, you just choose what is right for you.

Some celebrants will get you to write quite a lot of the script yourself which you are welcome to do……….I don’t tend to do this very often as couples prefer to have my help and as I genuinely believe I couldn’t have written my own wedding ceremony 8 years ago as well as I could now. I also think you already probably have plenty to do with organising a wedding or as my husband says 'what are they paying you for if they write it themselves ;)'.

If you do want to be a bit involved I have a couple’s questionnaire that you fill out (again you absolutely don't have to do this if you don't want to) – this means much less work for you but it will mean that your ceremony is really personalised and it means that I can draft your promises and vows as if you have written them yourself. Of course if you want to be more or less involved you can be too, its entirely up to you.

Ideas and examples
For ideas and examples feel free visit my Facebook professional page or my blog (both links are at the foot of this page). Doing this job is a constant reminder of how important love is and how much happiness that relationship can bring not only to the two people involved but also to their family and friends. In a humanist wedding there is the opportunity to include family and friends whether it be through poems and readings or symbolic gestures such as wedding band warming, quaich and hand fasting (an ever increasing popular tradition of ‘tying the knot’). I've had dogs walking with brides down the aisle, very cute ring bearers, family handfastings involving kids, mums/dads/grannies/grandads as witnesses.

Kids - there are lots of ways to involve your/other kids in the ceremony whether it be readings, handing over the rings, handing over ribbons, being in the bridal party, scattering petals, announcing 'you may now kiss'. Having 2 young kids myself absolutely nothing phases me and, even though children can often be unpredictable, these are often the most beautiful and funny moments of weddings. The kiddies often join us at the front when they feel like it too. I love ceremonies that involve kids - its amazing to have them as part of your special day!

There are lots of choices throughout the ceremony - and it’s my job to make sure that your day is everything you dreamed it would be!

The Meeting
In terms of practicalities, once you have secured the booking I usually meet you about 3 -4 months before the big day to make sure you are also on track with your legal paperwork. We will have about an hour meeting and chat through everything you would like/not like in the ceremony, and we often have a good chat and a giggle too. I would then send you your personalised wedding script within 2 weeks of our final meeting and a month before the special day you let me know any changes. Then all you have to do is relax and enjoy all the excitement in the run up to the big day!

The week of your wedding
The week of your wedding I will send you an email to confirm everything -times etc and remind you to pick up the legal paperwork (this is still your responsibility but a wee reminder always helps).

On the day
On the day I am at the venue 30- 45 minutes before the ceremony (I'm usually at the venue way before then as I am a mega over organiser) to make sure everything is correctly set up for the ceremony and that the legal paperwork is in place. This time just before the ceremony often involves keeping brides and grooms, bridesmaids, groomsmaids, best men, ushers calm and organised until the ceremony starts. Oddly enough this is one of my favourite parts because it sets the tone for the ceremony - I want you to be as relaxed and happy as you can be before we start (can't promise you wont get a wee flutter of nerves 5 minutes before but that's completely natural) Then 5 minutes before we start I pop out to see the bride/groom waiting to enter and check we are ready to go!

What I love most about conducting weddings
It’s such an amazing day to be part of it’s hard to think of a favourite part but I love telling the story of how the couple met (however romantic or funny) and what took them up to this day – the parts where you can see the guests smiling thinking ‘ yes I remember that’ and making them feel part of your story and your special day is a real pleasure. I also love reading out the things that you have written about what you love about each other and the vows and promises that are personal to you. And the funny bits of what gets on your nerves about the other - they usually get a good giggle too. And of course the best bit by far......declaring you married!!!!!

My advice to you
Plan your wedding like no one else is coming – think of the things that are special to you and that way you will get it completely right. Enjoy every minute, the day goes so fast! Take 10 minutes on your own as a couple during the day to stop and take it all in. I love the moment where the groom sees the bride for the first time– no matter how relaxed they seem beforehand joking around with their best man, this moment always gets them.

My favourite piece of wedding poetry
Poetry is very much a personal choice and I have heard some great choices at many weddings, made even more special by the person who reads it. One of my favourites recently is the one below

On Your Wedding Day by an unknown author –
Today is a day you will always remember
The greatest in anyone's life
You'll start off the day just two people in love
And end it as Husband and Wife (can be adapted for same sex marriage)
It's a brand new beginning the start of a journey
With moments to cherish and treasure
And although there'll be times when you both disagree
These will surely be outweighed by pleasure
You'll have heard many words of advice in the past
When the secrets of marriage were spoken
But you know that the answers lie hidden inside
Where the bond of true love lies unbroken
So live happy forever as lovers and friends
It's the dawn of a new life for you
As you stand there together with love in your eyes
From the moment you whisper 'I do'
And with luck, all your hopes, and your dreams can be real
May success find it's way to your hearts
Tomorrow can bring you the greatest of joys
But today is the day it all starts

And also I love this quote by Bob Marley – He/She’s not perfect
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”

My favourite piece of wedding music
There are so many beautiful wedding and love songs it’s difficult to choose but one that surprised me but was lovely was a couple who chose the theme tune for Forrest Gump by Alan Silvestri for walking down the aisle. And also Tim McMorris Overwhelmed. Of course, Christina Perri A thousand Years is a lovely one too.

In summary, being involved in the both the run up and the events on one of the biggest days of your life is just amazing - I really do have the best job in the world - whats not to love! Feel free to check out my reviews on Facebook and email me with any questions and together we can make sure your ceremony is a true reflection of who you are as a couple and make your day amazing!

Naming & Welcoming Ceremonies

******FULLY BOOKED FOR 2020 AND 2021 *******

Having 2 young children I loved the idea of a humanist naming day. More and more families are looking or an alternative to christenings and religious ceremonies and namings are a great way of celebrating a new life. It gives the child their official introduction to the world, whilst also bringing together all those people important to them. It is always interesting to find out why couples have selected certain people to be guide parents (non religious god parents) and learn all about the character of their child, however old or young. You can involve whoever you want grandparents, aunties cousins, friends.....

I help with the writing of the ceremony including all of your memories with also suggestions of activities, songs, poems etc that can all be included. And obviously taking the ceremony and helping manage this on the day.

What people have said about my ceremonies:
"Karen, what can I say! You did the most beautiful service ever. It was just fantastic! Everyone commented on it. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into making her naming day so special."
"What a lovely occasion - you made us all laugh and smile and even though our wee one is only 6 months old you captured all our memories so far just beautifully."

Funeral Ceremonies


It is a huge privilege to be invited by families to share their memories and put together a ceremony that is unique and reflects the person they knew and loved. It is always a sad time losing a loved one but hearing and sharing happy memories is a good experience. As humanists we focus on celebrating ‘the life lived’ and we find that everyone can relate to our ceremonies. Although a funeral is a sad occasion, it is also nice to see people laughing at a happy memory and realising that it’s OK to do so.

Conducting humanist funerals gives me a huge sense of satisfaction in helping and ensuring families feel they have given their loved ones an appropriate and meaningful goodbye.

What people have said about my ceremonies:
"Thank you for such a meaningful and personal service. You got him just right and it was lovely to see people smiling and remembering the good times."

"You got her just right. I cant believe from the information we gave you you came up with such a heartfelt and personal ceremony for our family. Thank you."

*Please note my currently availability for funerals is Saturday morning only

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