Humanist Wedding Ceremonies

Between January and September 2010, there were more humanist wedding ceremonies conducted in Scotland than Catholic ceremonies, and by 2015 it is expected that they will overtake those of the Church of Scotland. But why have humanist ceremonies become so popular?

In 2005, humanist weddings were declared legal in Scotland, unlike in England and Wales where you still need to carry out a civil ceremony to complete the legalities. Scotland is one of only six countries in the world where humanist ceremonies are legal and have the same legal status as religious and civil ceremonies as long as they are carried out by a Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) Celebrant who has been authorised by the Registrar General of Scotland and performed in a place which is safe and dignified.

The HSS describes humanism as “a diverse movement with ancient roots that reflects the views of millions of people around the world. Stated simply, Humanists believe that we can lead good and worthwhile lives guided by reason and compassion rather than religion or superstition, and that there are more things that unite humanity than divide it.”

Jack and Sarah were married in a humanist ceremony at their home in Stirling in May 2009. “We’d been together for 11 years before we got married and had built a home together that reflected our love and compassion for each other,” Jack told me, “and since we love our home so much, we decided to get married here!”

Jack and Sarah had a wedding in their own garden, with close friends, family, their daughter Lily and the family dog Duke. “It just couldn’t have been more perfect.” Sarah told me.

When I asked why they opted for a humanist ceremony, Sarah told me that they found the traditional civil ceremony to be cold and formal, whereas the humanist ceremony allowed them to marry in the way they wanted, rather than in the way they were told. “It made the day truly ours.”

The ceremony is very much the choosing of the couple, however as it is a non-religious event, hymns and religious readings or prayers are not allowed.

HSS convener Juliet Wilson said: “We believe that more and more people are choosing to marry in a humanist ceremony because they identify with the humanist values of equality, reason, compassion and tolerance, and these are the values that bind society together.”

For the modern couple a humanist ceremony provides an ideal route for couples who are of different religious beliefs, or those who wish to avoid the formal nature often associated with a civil ceremony. It is also an option for same-sex couples, and while it is not yet legally recognised, it does allow a same-sex couple to make a commitment to each other surrounded by loved ones.

As of January 2010, the recommended fees were as follows:

Legal marriage fee £275.00
Non-legal wedding £200.00
Partnership ceremony £200.00
Wedding rehearsal £30.00
Travel expenses £0.50 per mile

In case of hardship, the fee may be reduced or waived at the Celebrant’s discretion. Other extraordinary expenses (e.g. additional travel costs, ferry, overnight accommodation etc) are usually agreed with you prior to the ceremony.

The legal authorisation from the Registrar General is on the basis that the HSS are conducting humanist marriages and they ask couples to take out membership of the Humanist Society of Scotland at a cost of £30 for a couple for a year.

For more information on humanist weddings in Scotland you should visit the HSS website.