Humanist Wedding Ceremonies
Why choose a humanist wedding?
The decision to marry is an important milestone, that should be marked in a way that is absolutely right for you.
You may feel that the ritual and words of a religious wedding do not fit your outlook on life.
On the other hand the laws governing a Register Office ceremony strictly control what can be said and done and where a wedding ceremony can be held, and may feel impersonal and unsatisfying. You may already be married for a variety of reasons and wish to have a wedding or blessing to celebrate with your family and friends.
Non-religious does not mean non-traditional. A humanist wedding or blessing looks and feels like the weddings we all know and love, with bride entrance, vows, ring exchange and pronouncement as married. But it also gives you the flexibility to create an occasion that is personal and celebrates your marriage in your own way. You can include special touches and reflect your personalities and different cultural backgrounds. You get to know the person who will conduct your wedding, choose your own words and marry where and when you like.
And while every humanist wedding is warm, dignified and sincere, and very enjoyable, no two ceremonies are the same and yours will be utterly unique.
What are Humanist weddings or blessings?
Humanist wedding ceremonies are growing in popularity and offer an alternative in which you can choose your own wording and location. You do not need to be a humanist or subscribe to anything - just have the desire for a wedding ceremony that is personal and special.
Humanist weddings are chosen by a wide range of people: straight and gay, with or without children, of all ages, and from different cultural backgrounds, who want to celebrate their marriage in a personalised way that feels appropriate to them.
Russel and Gisela held their wedding in the Russell Suite of Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park.
'We wholeheartedly recommend a humanist wedding. It is so customisable that it can surmount any boundaries of religion, culture or language. As with anything bespoke it does take a bit more time, but it is so worth it. You will have a ceremony that is 100% you. Russel and Gisela' (2013)
Lynz and James married under the tree in the courtyard of La Gothique, a restaurant in London. It was a very relaxed ceremony with most guests standing. This picture shows an impromptu moment when a younger guest decided to present the bride and groom with a toy microphone!
'Thank you so much for helping make our wedding day so special. You were wonderful and so helpful in organising everything, both on the day and in the build up. We got a lot of compliments on the ceremony, it went down really well and was perfect timing with the sun coming out! - Lynz and James' (2012)
Lourdes and Kate held their wedding ceremony at midnight
on the terrace of a central London apartment.
'...The wedding was great and the ceremony awesome.
Thank you so much for making the occasion so special.
Lourdes and Kate' (2010)
Our weddings are inclusive and designed to be meaningful and poignant to everyone present, whatever their beliefs. Fun or romantic, funny or deeply personal, you can set whatever tone you like.
We work around all kind of situations without judgement or prescription and want every word to feel comfortable and right.
Humanists look on marriage as an
equal partnership and a serious commitment that involves mutual love,
support and respect. A humanist ceremony is a time when you can declare
all that you feel for each other and those present, in a way that is right for you.
Renewal of Vows
Plan a warm and personal renewal of vows ceremony in which you celebrate your marriage and express your love for each other, and thank all those who have been part of your journey. Children and family can take part. We tell the 'story so far' and you exchange some simple vows and perhaps re-exchange your original rings or new ones.
Personalise your ceremony
No two ceremonies are the same and yours will be prepared just for you. It can be traditional and familiar, or as unusual as you like. The ceremony will focus on the two of you and your commitment to each other. Your story is at the heart of the ceremony
'It meant so much to everyone. Pitch perfect is the phrase that comes to mind. The whole feeling and ambience was just right'
You are free to make all the important choices about words, readings and music. You might like to involve certain friends or family members more closely in the ceremony by asking them to read some prose or poetry. Singing together can be joyous and fun.
We invariably include a section on you - the story of how you met, fell in love and what has brought you to this day. This is a chance for a fun element which guests thoroughly enjoy.
You can write your own vows, which can be formal or less formal, and I can help you with the wording. You can speak as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.
You can exchange rings and include something a bit different such as a hand fasting or candle lighting.
'We hugely enjoyed the ceremony and our friends and family were blown away by how inclusive and fun it all was.'
'It was absolutely what we wanted it to be – really meaningful and amazing. You gave us such good advice about what would work, really listened to us, were really professional in the rehearsal and on the day and we really felt your happiness for us too.'
Children can be included and involved in any way you wish: They can be part of the entrances, perhaps strewing petals or carrying the rings. The ceremony can include a symbolic act such as sand blending in which they take part.
You can incorporate a Naming Ceremony in your wedding: Start the ceremony with a naming in which you welcome a child or children, and appoint 'godparents'
(Above - Lucy & Tim held a naming ceremony for Elliot in 2010 in their Godalming marquee wedding ceremony)
Recognise and celebrate different cultural backgrounds:
I have conducted ceremonies that have included the Jewish chuppah and breaking the glass, a Persian marriage blessing, Celtic blessings and handfastings, a Japanese wedding blessing, and Hindu blessings. We incorporate different languages in various ways and if you like I will learn to say welcome in your language at the start!
Ali & Todd recognised Ali's Jewish family background. Their winter wedding ceremony at Great Fosters in Surrey took place under a chuppah and Todd smashed a glass at the end.
'Just wanted to send you a v quick message before we go on honeymoon to thank you so much for Sunday. The ceremony was absolutely perfect, and there is not a single person we spoke to who didn't comment on how much they enjoyed it. We are so very happy with how it went (and that Ali managed to get through most of it tear-free!) We had lots of compliments for your delivery of it too! Ali and Todd' (2012)
Deborah & Mike included a Celtic handfasting - truly tying the knot!
'We can't thank you enough for being so calm, caring and professional. Everyone commented on what a moving ceremony it was, and you helped to make our day truly unforgettable!' Deborah & Mike (2013)
Whatever your location or style, we will create a personal bespoke wedding ceremony together
Your wedding ceremony can be held at almost any location.
Many couples choose to get married out of doors in the summer and BHA celebrants have conducted ceremonies on hilltops and beaches, on boats, and in woods, parks or gardens. Or couples choose a variety of indoor venues such as homes, marquees & teepees, wedding venues and function rooms, village and town halls, barns, pubs and hotels.
You can arrange your wedding overseas and I will travel to the location.
Daniel and Maria loved the beautiful garden setting of the Bingham beside the Thames in Richmond
'It was lovely for us to have you as our celebrant in such an important day. Both Maria and I think that we could have not chosen a better celebrant. We felt you were extremely organised and trustworthy, and we were mainly happy to feel that this was not just another wedding for you, you actually got emotionally connected to the ceremony.' Daniel & Maria (2015)
Mig and Paul arrived in separate boats for their wedding at Garrick's Temple beside the Thames at Hampton
Garrick's Temple, Hampton
'Thank you so much for all your help. The ceremony was amazing and everything we hoped it would be. You were so patient with us, and helped us through it all.' Mig & Paul (2015)
The Legal Side
Humanists UK continues to lobby for change (see weddings FAQ) but as a humanist wedding does not yet form a legal marriage contract in England, Wales and N Ireland as it does in Scotland, it is currently necessary for you to go to the Register Office to deal with the legal formalities and obtain a civil marriage certificate.
Many couples appreciate the registry office marriage as the beginning of the celebrations where they arrange the basic service, meeting with their closest who are gathering for the wedding, often followed by lunch. The wedding rehearsal can be held that day when you have your key people with you. You do not need to exchange rings.
Sometimes couples marry well before, perhaps in different countries, or even after the ceremony for visa or other reasons and wish to have a wedding ceremony here in the UK.
Although we do not advocate hiding the fact nor pretending that the ceremony is the legal registration of marriage, in the ceremony itself there is usually no reference to the registry office and it feels like a full and rich wedding ceremony to guests. The bride and groom often sign a memento 'wedding certificate' during the humanist wedding after the vows, while music is played or live musicians perform, giving the chance to include key people as witnesses to the commitments and vows that were made.
It is because humanist weddings are not legally binding that they offer a great deal of flexibility. There are no words that have to be said, and there is no need to restrict yourself to licensed venues or times of the day. Many couples love the opportunity to marry outdoors (allowing for weather!), or opt for indoor venues.
(Above - rehearsal day at St Stephens Trust Hampstead)
What to do next
If the sincerity and freedom of a humanist wedding appeals to you, contact me to find out more.
Meet or Skype me before deciding: If you would like to meet me for a chat before deciding, I often see couples in a coffee shop or pub near where I live in Teddington, Middx, or meet you half way. Or if you are overseas we can arrange to Skype or Facetime.
Plan the ceremony together: Once we decide to go ahead, I will be there to offer advise and help you plan your ceremony. I will want to meet or Skype you well before the wedding to discuss your ideas and answer your questions, and to plan and rehearse each aspect of the ceremony with you. I will work with your own ideas, and will suggest wording, or readings, and explain the many small details that make such a difference to the success of the occasion. We will work on the ceremony script together so that you are happy with every word.
Please contact me if you wish to enquire about my availability.
Emma & Guy's wedding in was set in beautiful Somerset countryside at Brympton d'Avercy
'Thank you so so much for conducting our ceremony for us. It was incredibly atmospheric and so special. We have received countless numbers of comments from our guests, both familiar and unfamiliar with the humanist set-up who have all been hugely complementary of you and the service. Since the very start we knew that we had entrusted our ceremony into very safe hands and the service surpassed all of our hopes and expectations!' Emma & Guy (2015)
Fees: Many hours of work go into preparing a humanist wedding ceremony which is complex and personalised, and I will meet with you at least three times before the day, to get to know you and find out your wishes for your ceremony. After that I will take the utmost care to prepare and deliver a meaningful, enjoyable and memorable wedding ceremony.
In line with Humanist UK recommendations, my fee for 2019 is £700. If the ceremony is not fairly local to me near Kingston in SW London, travel expenses are charged on an individual basis. My fee includes an initial chat in a pub or coffee shop near me or on Skype, a planning meeting/Skype, coordination by email and phone, a rehearsal at the location before the ceremony, the preparation and delivery of the ceremony, a memento wedding certificate, and a presentation copy of the wedding ceremony script.
I will travel overseas - my fee is £800 plus all expenses.
My terms are a deposit of £100 to hold the date, and the balance a week before the ceremony. Payment can be in instalments. I contribute a percentage of each ceremony fee to the BHA as a levy towards celebrants’ training and quality assurance standards and to the promotion and development of Humanist UK's Ceremonies network. This contribution also pays for full Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurance for each celebrant.
'We really appreciate all your hard work writing it all and your efforts in organising us and we thought the ceremony was fabulous and everyone said how lovely and personal it was. We both just felt really happy and we can't thank you enough.'
Congratulations Maria & Daniel!
(The Bingham, Richmond, 2015)
Today I marry my friend,
The one I have laughed and cried with,
The one I have learned from and shared with,
The one I have chosen to support, encourage,
And give myself to, through all the days
Given us to share,
Today I marry the one I love.