The Humanist Wedding

All official weddings in the UK must be conducted by a licensed celebrant, priest, priestess, or registrar.

A wedding is an important milestone in people’s lives. Most people (certainly not all) choose the occasion to be as formal as possible.

About half of all weddings that occur in the former United Kingdom today are conducted in a place of worship – church, synagogue, chapel or mosque.

Not all couples hold any kind of religious belief but the splendour and ‘majesty’ of the surroundings such as a beautifully built church etc make such a venue for their wedding a very attractive proposition. It is understandable that a couple want the solemnity and significance of their marriage ceremony to echo down the years of their partnership.

Yet some find the overtly religious content of a wedding ceremony conducted in such a place by a priest, priestess, rabbi, etc distasteful.

Those who shun, for whatever reason, to hold their wedding in a place of worship choose a registry office ceremony. Yet many find this venue just as uninspiring and dull and they have no personal input into such a ceremony.

Those who wish to marry have only these choices:

  1. religious wedding in a place of worship
  2. civil wedding in a registry office
  3. civil wedding conducted by a registrar in a building licensed for marriages
  4. humanist ceremony after civil marriage in a registry office or licensed venue.

It is sometimes possible to conduct a humanist, non-religious wedding in a Unitarian church with the minister registering the wedding after the ceremony.

University chaplains may sometimes allow similar arrangements but this is a rare occurrence and depends on a couple’s relationship with the chaplain or their association with the university.

Should you be considering a humanist wedding, that is, a wedding ceremony devoid of religious references to gods and goddesses, the first thing on your agenda should be to secure the services of a celebrant and discussions can then take place as to the form and content of the ceremony you choose to have.

Many couples keep to the traditional form of words found in most wedding ceremonies devoid, of course, of the need to make vows and promises before ‘god’.

Some will find emotional sentiments perfectly appropriate, still others will shun such emotionalism.

Much depends on the kind of ceremony the couple would like to have, and what kind of atmosphere they seek to create. Personally created wedding ceremonies have no set rules or content to follow.

Marriage is a very serious commitment made by an individual to another in anticipation of lifelong partnership and the desire to contribute to their happiness. It is not something to be considered lightly, flippantly and without real understanding of what it means to commit oneself to a lifetime of service to another person.

Civil Partnerships

From 2005 civil partnerships between same sex couples are now recognised in law.

It is a marriage. They become partners to serve the welfare and happiness of each other just as in a ‘usual’ marriage between man and woman.

There is very little difference between the actual ceremonies – each one is individually tailored to suit the preferences and choices of the personalities involved.

In many ways a Civil Partnership has made things easier for humanist, non-religious Celebrants as documentation must be obtained by the couple from the local Registry Office and duly completed.

Once completed and registered that becomes their official and legal binding and is recognised as such in all matters concerning their life together.

A ceremony marking that special milestone in their lives can take place at any time thereafter if the couple desire such a ceremony.


An affirmation ceremony is one which centres around a couple confirming their commitment and responsibility for the other’s continued happiness.

It is a ceremony conducted usually within the context and part of a general family celebratory gathering.

It is a formal, dignified and often a very moving acknowledgement of affirming love and commitment to another.

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