legal humanist ceremony

Legalising it

Is a humanist wedding legal?
Humanist marriage gained legal recognition in Scotland in 2005 and the Republic of Ireland in 2012. Earlier this year, in June 2017, a humanist couple, spokesperson/model, Laura LaCole and pro footballer, Eunan O’Kane, won their right to have a legal humanist wedding ceremony in Northern Ireland.
They had the first humanist wedding with legal recognition in the United Kingdom in June.
However, the Attorney General appealed and we are still waiting for the outcome of a further hearing.
Scottish Humanist Weddings
With Scotland celebrating its 50,000th legal humanist wedding since 2005 this summer, it can feel like the rest of the UK is still in the dark ages. Humanists UK have been campaigning for the legal recognition of humanist marriage on the grounds of equality; it should be the equal right for non-religious people to have legal humanist wedding ceremonies.

In Scotland, humanist weddings are like Jewish weddings, in that they can be held anywhere. Jewish weddings do not need a licensed venue, just a Rabbi. In the same way, a humanist wedding ceremony would simply need an accredited humanist celebrant. This is important as by choosing a Humanist Ceremonies accredited celebrant, it means that if the marriage laws are brought up to date to allow legal humanist weddings, then your celebrant may be able to do the legal part (which currently has to be done by a registrar).
The legal part is simply a couple of standardised sentences, so these could be easily slipped into your unique, personalised humanist ceremony.

It’s also worth knowing that we Humanist Ceremonies celebrants have an arrangement with Scotland so we can go to Scotland and conduct legal humanist wedding ceremonies there. If you are interested in having your wedding in Scotland and you are looking for a humanist celebrant, please get in touch. Most of us celebrants are happy to travel to the Highlands to conduct a legal humanist wedding!

Do we need to go to a registrar?

In the UK, at the time of writing, you will need to go to the registrar for the ‘legal bit’. However, you can save the ring exchange, the meaningful words, the promises, the readings and all the parts that make your unique, memorable wedding ceremony, for your humanist wedding ceremony. You can go to the registrar a few days or weeks before your wedding day, or afterwards. So, that flexibility means you can choose the cheapest midweek option at the registrar.

What’s the difference between a registar’s wedding ceremony and a humanist one?
A humanist celebrant will take time to get to know you, to collaborate creatively, and research and write a personalised ceremony for you. A registar will probably use the same script with gap fills for your name.
Unlike a registrar, who may do several ceremonies in one day, a humanist celebrant will tend to only take one wedding ceremony on one day so it is not rushed. In fact, many couples prefer the fact that there is nothing rushed about a humanist ceremony, although they can be as long or as short as you decide.

I have worked with a registrar in the past, who came to the wedding ceremony. We had a break of music to clearly define the difference between her legal part (which was only a few minutes’ long) and the humanist ceremony. The registrar was really easy to work with, as we were both focussed on the couple themselves, and what the couple wanted. Family and friends all really enjoyed the humanist ceremony; without which, it would have not felt as meaningful.

Personally, as a humanist celebrant and free thinker, I dream of the day that we gain legal recognition for humanist marriage and a time when it will be extraordinary to think that this human right was ever denied to humanist or non-religious people.
Same sex marriage laws have finally been changed, so now it’s time to consider non-religious and humanist people too.
(NB These are all my own views/opinions)

What is a humanist wedding ceremony?


Humanist weddings are an increasingly popular choice for people who want a personal, non-religious ceremony. It differs from a civil ceremony in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the personalities of the couple, as well as the shared beliefs and values. It is written and conducted by a humanist celebrant, who has been selected, trained and accredited by Humanists UK.

1) A humanist wedding ceremony is personalised. A Humanists UK celebrant will meet with the couple and listen to their wishes, and get to know their personalities, as well as their ideas and plans for their wedding. Each ceremony is bespoke and hand-crafted for the couple, so no two ceremonies are the same. There are almost no limitations to what a humanist ceremony can be; the couple can choose what to include, for example the style, the promises, the rituals, readings or poetry. Many couples choose to include traditional features, such as the ring exchange, the promises, the walk down the aisle. However, unlike traditional ceremonies, a humanist ceremony also gives the couple a chance to have their story told in their own way.

2) A humanist wedding ceremony is respectful. Humanists respect people of all faiths and religions; Humanists UK celebrants are all genuine humanists, many of whom also have an interest in learning about different cultures and religions. Humanists believe that we have only one life and therefore it is our responsibility to make it a good life and make ethical decisions based on empathy, reason and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals. Humanists believe in the absence of an afterlife, and any discernible purpose to the universe, humans can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same. A humanist wedding ceremony can contain a quiet time for personal prayer, or even a religious reading by someone other than the humanist celebrant; as long as the couple requests this.

3) A humanist wedding ceremony is creative. It can be traditional or contemporary, but it is always original. From remote locations to fancy dress, from the epitome of luxury to the wildly rustic style of weddings, from subtle differences to the traditional ceremony to the outright extraordinary, the ideas are endless. A celebrant will ask you about your dreams for your wedding day and give suggestions on how your ceremony could reflect it.

4) A humanist wedding ceremony is inclusive. Unlike other ceremonies, there is the opportunity to mention significant people (present or absent) at the beginning of the ceremony. This is often very much appreciated, especially when friends or family have travelled from afar, or there are people whom the couple wish to particularly thank. Furthermore, there is the chance to include significant people, either by asking them to read a poem or reading, or involving them in rituals.

5) A humanist wedding ceremony will be memorable. With traditional or civil ceremonies, it all sounds a bit the same. However, humanist ceremonies are artfully crafted to ensure that they will be remembered and there is always something new for someone in each one, whether that is a different ritual, the love story, or a piece of poetry.

6) A humanist wedding ceremony won’t be in a church, unless that church has been deconsecrated. A humanist wedding ceremony can be absolutely anywhere that you want it to be. From beaches, to restaurants, to castles, to people’s back gardens, there is almost no limit to where you can have your humanist wedding ceremony. A church can often feel like a cold, daunting place for many people, especially if they are not religious. In contrast, humanist wedding ceremonies are full of warmth, whatever the weather.

7) A humanist wedding ceremony will probably contain some traditional elements. Most brides choose to walk up the aisle to entrance music, and couples almost always choose to have the ring exchange, and make vows or promises together. However, with humanist wedding ceremonies, anything is possible. So, if you don’t want to walk up an aisle, or your both want to walk up aisles, you can choose to do it whichever way you want.

8) A humanist wedding ceremony by a Humanists UK celebrant is quality assured. All the Humanists UK celebrants have been selected and trained to the highest standards. To maintain their accreditation with the largest network of humanist celebrants in the UK, which is part of the Humanists UK charity, they have to adhere to a strict code of conduct. This is really reassuring for any couple. Humanists UK celebrants also have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance. So, if a celebrant trips and knocks into the wedding cake, this can be claimed on their insurance. (nb we have never heard of this happening yet).

9) Humanist wedding ceremonies reflect shared humanist values and beliefs. There is always at least one person who is attending a humanist ceremony for the first time. Humanists believe that we have only one life and therefore it is our responsibility to make it a good life and make ethical decisions based on empathy, reason and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals. Humanists trust scientific methods when it comes to understanding the universe and reject the idea of the supernatural, in the same way as being atheist or agnostic. Humanists believe in the absence of an afterlife, and any discernible purpose to the universe, humans can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

10) Humanist wedding ceremonies often evoke emotion; bringing tears (of joy) and smiles and laughter. Each ceremony is created to resonate with the couple and the couple’s friends and family. This creates an empathy, understanding and emotion for your wedding guests. Older relatives may be really impressed; I’ve had the father of the bride give me a bear hug of gratitude afterwards! You can expect your friends and family to be enthused after your ceremony, and some of them may choose to have their own humanist ceremony one day.

Written by Natasha Gray
Humanist/non-religious wedding celebrant, with Humanist Ceremonies

Creative, Unique, Personalised Humanist Wedding Ceremonies,
Partnerships, Namings and Civil Ceremonies