Just One Breath

An American girl in Scotland, figuring things out one step at a time

Wrap your head around this… A minister’s daughter having a Civil Wedding.


I am the daughter of not one but two ministers and I am having a Civil Wedding Service. Huh? I know! It somehow seems wrong. It took me months and months to wrap my head around this as well, you will catch up. I will give you a snapshot into my thought process while you think about that.

When I decided to move to Scotland to be with Jamie we knew this arrangement would not come easily, something was going to have to be sacrificed. We looked into the options and the main thing we were looking for was speed. How could we be together as quickly as possible?

Option 1: Get a job.

If I had been able to get a job before I came to Scotland this would have been ideal, but it quickly became apparent this was not a realistic option. I looked thoroughly and found it to be very difficult to get a job in the UK even though I have 2 degrees and years of experience in my field. There is a point system that makes you eligible to get a job in the UK and no matter how I calculated things, I was 5 points shy. 5 points! If I wanted to get to Glasgow and be free to be with Jamie and do things in our own time, I would need a sponsor. A sponsor is a job that would agree to employ me before I came over so that I would not be a burden on the system. Getting a job was not looking like it would be something that could be done just like that, I did look at jobs, it would take a lot of time and we had waited long enough to be together. This option…not an option.

Option 2: Tourist visa.

If I came over on a tourist visa I had more time , 12 months, but I was not allowed to work, go to school or get this… get engaged! (When we started looking into me coming over we were not engaged yet.) Wow! That wasn’t going to work either.

Option 3: Fiance Visa.

The best option for us was to go for the fiance visa. The process of getting that together, well… that is another story. The Fiance Visa would give us 6 months to get married after I arrived in Scotland but I was not allowed to work, go to school or claim public funds (welfare) during this time. After we are married I can legally get a job once I have the marriage visa approved. So the sacrifice… me not working for 6 months or more. Me not work?! But it had to be done. We would be living and paying bills on one salary and whatever I could scrounge up before I came over. It was a plan…sort of. Getting married ASAP was never a problem for us, we knew we loved each other above everything, but how to do it in Scotland and within 6 months that was the real issue here.

We had heard of a civil service but neither one of us knew what that entailed, sometimes we still don’t. I looked around for a Registrar who could marry us in a small service with just a few witnesses. Already I was having issues with the idea of not having my parents officiate so I needed to look at it as business needing to be tended to, like getting a dentist or a doctor. Jamie and I agreed this would be the best option and looked at it as a step in the process of finally being together. We would have a bigger wedding that I had always dreamed of, next year at home in my church with my parents officiating.

While looking for a venue and an officiant I came across the Park Circus Registry. Have a look for yourself. It is a beautiful venue and I thought it would be perfect. I lived up on Park Terrace when I came to Glasgow University so the Circus was a sentimental part of my time in Scotland. I called and asked about dates and prices then needed to talk to Jamie about things. We decided to go ahead and set a preliminary date for the service. It will be August 13, 2011 and we will be in the Avon Suite.

The Avon Suite at 22 Park Circus. This is the room we will be married in. The picture doesn't do it justice.

We arranged to have two couples with us. One couple were his friends and one couple were my friends. It was perfect, intimate, simple, no muss no fuss so we thought. One afternoon my Mom called me on Skype and said they wanted to come to the “Wedding”. I hadn’t called it this. I could not call getting married to my best friend, my soulmate, in a room with a stranger making us say “there is no legal impediment to marrying you” a wedding. I just couldn’t. It was a service and a means to an eventual end. Jamie knew absolutely how I struggled with this. It hurt me to have been raised by a minister (my father) in a religious environment and not to be able to have him actually marry me. Add to that the fact that my mother was now a minister too and they could have nothing to do with the service, this really killed me. I wanted them to come. I never expected them to be able to be there so I was thrilled. I asked the registrar about ways around them being able to participate but there can be absolutely NO religious content at all and everything we want to add to the service is scrutinized then approved or disapproved. How is it possible to be elated and heartbroken at the same time? I am not sure, but I was both. To say that I cried a river of tears will not touch it

I spent hours talking to my parents, Jamie, friends and other family members about my feelings and began to look at the Civil service as something that needed to be done regardless. I loved this man and I wanted to marry him. We can still have the religious service next year that we planned on and my parents can say a prayer after we leave the venue. We expanded the guest list to 15 people, all family even if not related by blood. It didn’t feel right to not have all the important people that were able to be with us, not be involved.

We wrote a list of things that needed to be done so I could have some structure. I really needed to get my head wrapped around what I needed to do. The to do list looked like this:

  • Book Park Circus
  • Turn in paperwork
  • Get Dress
  • Shoes and accessories
  • Get Jamie a Suit
  • cake?
  • flowers?
  • Vows?
  • Guest list
  • Breakfast Venue

As we worked through the list together every step of the way, things did become easier. We decided after a meeting with the registration office, we will accept that we can not change the awful impersonal vows that we are legally obligated to say. We are finding ways to get some traditional vows into the service that have no religious wording to them. We will have my parents participate in the occasion but at the restaurant not Park Circus. We are not having a cake, we are having cupcakes that will be lovingly made by a dear friend. It will be an intimate affair and it will be ours. We have not done anything traditionally throughout our entire friendship/relationship, why start now? We will do this the way that is right for us. Slowly but surely, with love and compassion from all parties involved  the “service” became something different, the service became our Wedding.  x heather


  1. Hi there

    I just read this and it was so nice. I have just phoned up park circus on Friday and provisionally booked the Avon Suite for my wedding next June and just wondered if you did get married here and how you found it?


    • Hi Ashley,
      Thanks for the comment.
      We did have the service here. It was really pretty and the registrar was very nice. We made it more personal by having my parents participate in the ring exchange vows. We wrote our own and had them be the ones that read them to us. We also made a cd to be played before the service and through special parts but the volume was so low that it really wasn’t noticed. I would advise you not to stress out about including sentimental songs unless you will be able to have a family member keep an eye on the volume and tell the registrar to have the volume a little higher. Other than that, it was really nice and simple and went off without any issues.
      Good luck with your big day!

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