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Celebrant profile:

Senga Ishaq

Ceremonies performed: Weddings, Naming Ceremonies, Funerals

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Born in Dennistoun in Glasgow, I have lived in Fife, West Lothian and East Kilbride, during my working career, 27 years with HSBC Bank. These days, I live in a rural area in the Clyde Valley, with lots of space for my gorgeous Cocker Spaniels, Harris & Lewis to run around. I now concentrate solely on my Celebrant work through the Humanist Society of Scotland. This gives me the time to commit, to make sure I do the best job I can in supporting people, where I am able to help, and at a time that is convenient to them. Scroll down for more info ...

What “Humanism” means to me:
It’s about respecting and caring for your fellow human being in all circumstances, and enjoying life to the full, without causing any hurt to others. I respect everyone’s right to have a religious belief, or not to. I once saw a quote which I love ... "Humanists do the right thing, even though they know no-one's watching" ... to me that sums it up in a nutshell.

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Wedding & Civil Partnership Ceremonies

My approach to weddings:
The most important thing to me is that the Couple to be married are relaxed and comfortable in the knowledge that they have their own perfect ceremony planned in the way they want it to be and it that it will all work out the way they want it to on the day. Whatever that may be ! - I don’t do stress, and firmly believe that no-one should - at a wedding, it should be a relaxed and happy event.
Stressing out is never a good thing for us human beings, and certainly not on your wedding day!
I love the first meeting and chat, usually over a relaxed cup of coffee/tea, getting to know and understand them and what they will want in their ceremony. Discussing the many ideas they may have, and options they may not have thought about! And helping them to choose the words they will say in their vows to each other, or poetry, or symbolic gestures. I have lots of previous examples as a guide to start us off.
When I arrive on the day, I’d have a chat with the co-ordinator at your venue - I like to check everything is how you told me you wanted it to be (before you get there!) I’d have a chat your photographer/videographer to make sure that during the ceremony they will get access to the best pics for you. If you are having live musicians, I like to chat with them too, so we can have cues between us for when they are to start/finish their pieces, during the ceremony. Also catch up with any guests who may be reading a poem on the day and put them at their ease.
My aim is to be a final check for you that all is in place and all will go smoothly and look completely relaxed and unplanned in fact!

What I love about conducting weddings:
All of it !! From that first meeting, to in-between e-mails or phone chats. I love putting the whole thing together, and writing the script for your own personal ceremony with each one unique. I love hearing the story of your journey as a couple, and then enjoy weaving that story into your ceremony. Humanist ceremonies are such a joy as they are so personal. To the day itself - when I love seeing all the guests arrive in their finery - the Best Man, often jittering about his speech to come. The couple themselves looking amazing on their special day… Being reminded again, about what love is all about – when I see the couple look at each other and exchange their vows. The happy faces in the room – often the tears of joy ! Oh all of it… I love it all !!

My advice to you:
You two are the most important people - to each other (and not only on this day!) – so take time for each other. Plan a little bit of sneaky time into your day – where you two can just be together – away from the crowd.

My favourite wedding poetry:
Poetry is very personal and needs to be something you would like to hear, but also needs to be suited to the person reading it. If it’s a person with a sense of humour then humorous poetry works well – If it’s a serious or romantic type reading it, then it’s best if the poetry fits that personality.
I love both, so I’ve picked a little portion to quote from one humorous and one romantic…

(by W H Auden)
Does it look like a pair of pyjamas,
Or the ham in a temperance hotel?
Does its odour remind one of llamas,
Or has it a comforting smell?
Is it prickly to touch as a hedge is,
Or soft as eiderdown fluff?
Is it sharp or quite round at the edges?
O tell me the truth about love.
When it comes, will it come without warning
- Just as I’m picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love.

(this by an Unknown Author)
Finally, I have found a place into which I fit,
Perfectly, safely and securely, with no doubts, no fears, no sadness, no tears.
This place is filled with happiness and laughter,
Yet it is spacious enough to allow me to move around,
To live life and to be myself.
This wonderful place, which I never believed really existed,
I have found. Finally - in your arms, in your heart, in your love.

Most Romantic Location:
Inchmahome Priory – The guests were ferried on small boats (12 per crossing) across the lake to an island where the roofless priory stood. An open side faced the lake with a breathtaking view. The final boat brought the wedding party across to the edge of the island, where a piper waited, to pipe them ashore and into the Priory…

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Naming & Welcoming Ceremonies

My approach to Naming & Welcoming Ceremonies:
The most important thing is for everyone to be relaxed and enjoy themselves on the day. This is a celebration of this wonderful new addition to your family. I love meeting the parents and finding out how special this wee one is to them, and how they fit in to their whole family circle, and all the special people in their little lives already.
Finding out why their name was chosen and all about the character they have already developed, sometimes in a very short space of time !
Chatting over all the many options that you could include in your ceremony – the many symbolic gestures you could choose, what sorts of things you would like to happen, and whether some other family members may want to be involved in reading a poem etc.
Finding out all about the person or people, you have chosen as mentor(s), guideparent(s) or whatever you prefer to call them – and why you feel these people would be good at that role.
We can choose together the promises that you, and those special people you chose, will want to make to the child and how you would like them said.

What I love about conducting Naming & Welcoming Ceremonies:
The challenge of occupying a lot of children, if you have lots of little guests on the day ! A good one is to fit in a sing song for them all to get involved in .... It’s amazing how much “The Wheels on the Bus”, or “If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands...” can keep them focused and cheer us all up!

My advice to you:
I really don’t need to tell YOU this.... but expect the unexpected.... Just go with the flow.
A Naming & Welcoming Ceremony will have a plan, but as we all know, as always, be prepared for your plan to be adaptable.... the actual timetable on the day may well be dictated by the star of the show!

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Funeral Ceremonies

My approach to funerals:
Of course we mourn the death, but I would always want to “Celebrate the Life” too.
I would want to meet/talk to the close family, hopefully at your home, where you will be most comfortable. Telephone some family or friends and work colleagues too, if you would like me to.
Gather as much information as possible to making a fitting, and very personal tribute to your loved one.
To make sure I know your wishes, their wishes, and give to you a copy of what I mean to say. So that we can talk about it and make sure it is what you want before we settle on the final words, for the ceremony.

What I find most rewarding about conducting Funeral Ceremonies:
It is such a privilege to conduct funeral ceremonies.
I really enjoy gathering information to fix a picture in my mind of the character of the person who’s life we are celebrating, so that I can do justice to the celebration of their life. Where they grew up, their childhood, and what they did in life, the people who were important to them.
I find this work extremely humbling and a real honour to be able to support families at such a difficult time for them.

Feedback I have had from families:
There is nothing better than seeing that families are being helped through the grieving process, and where they feel so much better for having achieved the personal ceremony they wished for their loved one, that they thank you afterwards:
“All of the family send their thanks for making Mum’s funeral all that we wanted it to be, I arrived home yesterday with a feeling of peace and closure, thanks to your help and understanding.”
“We wanted to thank you so much for your time and effort, care and attention in the ceremony for our brother.”
“Just passing on many thanks, from family and friends for all your trouble and a lovely send-off for ---. We all really appreciate your work and the professional way you took care of things.”

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Ceremony fees:

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