Cupid was armed with his bow and arrow of love this week. With sales of red roses and chocolates at an all time high, everyone was feeling the love, even it would seem, our very own Parliament! The Humanist Society of Scotland received Parliament recognition as the first ever non-religious organisation to be prescribed under the 1977 Marriage Act on Tuesday this week - which was none other than St Valentines Day.
Our very own Rhona married Big G in a humanist ceremony, with a beautifully personalised service that encompassed both of their individual beliefs, and it was the lovely Jane Bechtel that announced them as husband and wife! We caught up with Jane to congratulate her on the Humanist Society's recent achievements and chat about her busy workdays and weekends. (and reminisce about Rhona and Big G's special day of course!)
1. What does a typical day at work look like for you?
I’m self employed and work from home, and most of my work is writing. As an HSS registered celebrant my time is spent roughly 20% at client meetings, 20% at ceremonies or travelling, and the rest at my computer writing.
When it comes to weddings I meet my couples in their homes or in cafes all over the countryside, and will meet couples two or three times before the ceremony itself…but it is usually great fun, as they are of course very excited about their upcoming wedding!
Last year I conducted about 100 ceremonies between weddings and funerals, as far north as Conon Bridge and as far south as Dunns, but also had the pleasure of doing some almost on my doorstep, with Murthly Castle my closest Venue, and the Byre at Inchyra and the Atholl Palace Hotel my most frequent visits.
I particularly love DIY weddings in back gardens and village halls. Most wedding ceremonies will have between 5 and 10 drafts, so that is a lot of e-mails!
Funeral ceremonies can be a harder part of our work, but it can also be extremely rewarding…the opportunity to make a really difficult time just a wee bit easier for folk, and maybe give voice to their memories and thoughts about a loved one is an great gift to be able to give, but it can take its toll too…
It's a big responsibility, and at times it can be very hard both in terms of coping with other folks sadness and keeping ourselves a wee bit separate form it, while still giving them what they need on the day.
I have been conducting funerals now for nearly 12 years in Perthshire, and have met so many fantastic families, and learned so much of the history and culture of the last 100 years in the area through their memories, stories and lives. I am taking a break from Funeral ceremonies at the moment, but have to say that I do miss it as well.
2. What signals the start of your weekend / days off?
I work most weekends, either with weddings or meetings – or writing the following week’s funeral - so in some ways you could say that cold weather signals the start of my days off, as most of my ‘time out’ happens in the winter!
However, no matter what my work demands I never work on a Thursday evening, as that is reserved for playing Ultimate Frisbee with Perth’s own Ultimate team, the Perth Dragons.
I first played the sport over in the States about 27 years ago now, and having a local team here this last few years has been fantastic fun, as well as physically pushing me to get fitter again…our age range is 16 to 50, and they are a fantastic crowd, and many have become great friends.
We play 6 to 8 on a Thursday, at Perth High School old Sports Hall in the winter, and on the pitches outside Bells in the summer.
Beginners & spectators are always welcome!
3. What makes for a perfect night in?
I’m a big reader, so a new book by the fire is always a winner…but I also have a bit of thing for superhero movies, and love all the Marvel films – and yes, I’m happy to watch them again and again!
4. What makes for a memorable day or night out?
I enjoy live music, and locally we have a great folk session on Wednesday night at the Bankfoot Inn, and I’m also near Dunkeld, which seems to have a session in every bar at some point in the week now!
I enjoy bigger gigs too of course, and the Theatre too, which is a bit of a family business for me, my mother being an actress.
5. Tell us about the weekend you’d love to live again?
I did some of the music festivals back in the day and loved them, and enjoyed some memorable Ultimate Frisbee tournament parties too, but these days I’m a wee bit less wild! I love wee people – especially as mine are all grown up now - and have several friends with kids that I love to spend time with, so a weekend trip to stay with friends who have family is a real delight!
6. And now your best ever day at work?
I think this might be the hardest question! I love all my weddings and my couples, and have also had the real joy of conducting weddings for several of my friends, which is always amazing…but I have also been an active part of the campaigning side of the HSS for as long as I have been a celebrant, in ceremonies, education and politics, and was involved in the early stages of the same sex marriage legislation in the Scottish Parliament…so the day I did my first legal same sex wedding was an amazing day for me on so many levels.
7. Any workday or weekend rituals?
I have a LOT of rituals: Much of my work on the day of a ceremony is about ‘belt and braces’: it’s a big part my job to make sure every eventuality that can mitigated for is covered…so spare copies and extra’s of everything from Handfasting ties to Quaich’s, and triple checking all the details…being crazy early in case there is a traffic jam…
…and when a ceremony is over…I usually head to the pool in Perth to wind down and ease the stress’s of the day…The make-up and suit that folk are used to seeing me wearing isn’t really me…and I get myself out of my Ceremony mindset with a swim or a work out and get back into my jeans!
8. What’s in the perfect day off breakfast?
I do like my food! For breakfast I’d have to say smoked bacon with cheesy scrambled eggs, and good wholewheat toast…and of course a good gallon of tea, which is pretty much on constant feed for me in the morning…
9. Any words of wisdom for us?
Material things may be nice to have, but friends & family are more important by a long way!
I’ve learned so much over the years from the couples and families that I work with, at both the highest and lowest points in their lives…but I think you can boil it all down to ‘people’ being the most important thing in life; caring for the ones you love; not wasting time or energy on those who bring you down; being there for others when you can; appreciating and thanking the folk that are there for you; spend time with the folk with whom you can really be yourself; and always make sure you make time for you.
Jane Bechtel is a Humanist Society Scotland Registered Celebrant. Find out more here >>>
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