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