Are humanist weddings legal?
Yes! Of course, humanist weddings are legal. They’re not illegal. However, as the law in the UK currently stands, a humanist marriage is not legally recognised, so a couple has to visit a registry office or a registrar has to perform the ‘legal bit’, before or after the humanist wedding ceremony.
Will my humanist wedding feel real?
Most couples choose to visit a registry office before their wedding. Many people are concerned that this will affect the feeling of their humanist ceremony; but we’re told, time and again, that these fears are unfounded. As Humanists UK celebrants, we are trained carefully to write and conduct humanist ceremonies that personalised and reflect your personalities, and resonate with your family and friends.
So, the humanist ceremony creates the real memory.
Many couples choose to keep the ritual of the ring exchange for their humanist wedding ceremony. In the ‘legal bit’, there are specific words that must be exchanged, so there is nothing personal in those. Your names are just filling the gaps.
The current status of the campaign for legal recognition.
Humanists UK is campaigning hard for the equal rights of non-religious people in the UK, including the legal recognition of humanist marriage. Humanist weddings gained legal recognition in Scotland in 2005. As a result, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of humanist wedding ceremonies, and Scottish celebrants; in fact, they’ve just celebrated their 50,000th ceremony! Humanists UK work closely with Humanist Society Scotland and, if you wish to have a wedding in Scotland with a Humanists UK celebrant, with legal recognition it is possible for us to apply for a special permit (ask me directly for more details!)
The Republic of Ireland gained legal recognition for humanist marriage in 2012. And Humanists UK has been supporting a case that has been won by Leeds United footballer, Eunan O’Kane, and Laura Lacole, to make their humanist wedding legal in Northern Ireland. Humanists UK’s Head of Ceremonies, Isabel Russo, happily conducted the first humanist wedding ceremony with legal recognition in the UK on the 22nd June 2017. As the original outcome of the court was appealed, we have to wait until September to know if we have won the rights for all humanists in Northern Ireland. But we’re so proud of this particular humanist couple for persevering to have their own humanist wedding with legal recognition.
Why hasn’t humanist marriage in the UK been given legal recognition yet?
This is a question that, as Humanist UK celebrants, we all ask ourselves, all the time. We’re lucky that we are part of Humanists UK, who are campaigning for the rights of all non-religious people. Many people wonder if it’s because of the need for registered venues, or churches, because, humanist weddings can be held anywhere. However, Jewish weddings can be held anywhere.
When/if we gain legal recognition, then Humanists UK celebrants will have to be trained, and then we hope that they will have the permission to conduct the ceremony in any place. If Scientologists and other organised religions can have legal recognition of their marriages, why not humanists? After all, non-religious people, who often identify as humanists, should have equal rights to people who identify with organised religions. (Here’s a link to a quick check how humanist you are: How humanist are you?)
Whilst we wait for the UK to catch up with Scotland and Ireland, and give equal rights to non-religious people in allowing the legal recognition to humanist marriage, Humanists UK will continue to select, train and accredit wedding celebrants, ensuring that this largest network of professional humanist celebrants adhere to a strict code of conduct and receive continual professional development.
I’m really proud to be part of a large network of great celebrants and, as a genuine humanist, represent Humanists UK (aka The British Humanist Association), a national charity that has been campaigning for equal rights for non-religious people (including women’s rights & LGBT rights), since 1896.
If you are thinking about having a humanist wedding at the end of 2017 or in 2018 or 2019, you may even be lucky enough that the campaign has achieved its goals; in which case I’ll be able to offer you a humanist wedding ceremony that includes the legal bit. (You may even be one of the first couples in the UK to experience a humanist wedding with legal recognition!)
And if you have a humanist wedding with me or one of our other celebrants, then you can apply for a year’s free membership for you both and enjoy free events, free-thinking discussion and interesting talks throughout the year, including updates on the campaign for the legal recognition of humanist marriage. What’s not to love about that?!
Are humanist weddings legal?