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  • Writer's pictureKristina McDonald

What is a Humanist Wedding?

Put simply, humanist weddings are non-religious ceremonies that put the couple front and centre. They are carried out by a humanist celebrant, who is trained to perform weddings that are humanist in nature, and who is dedicated to offering couples a bespoke, personalised wedding experience.

Each ceremony script is unique, written to incorporate the values, beliefs and story of each couple, and to reflect their personalities and relationship. Humanist ceremonies are meaningful and intimate, regardless of how many people are there, because the focus of the proceedings is on the couple and their love.


How is a Humanist Wedding Different?

Unlike religious and civil ceremonies, at a humanist celebration, anything goes! Humanist weddings can take place at any time, any place, and are not constrained by “traditional” wedding expectations.

Religious weddings often have the religious elements front and centre. While this can be an important aspect of a wedding for couples who hold religious beliefs, for those who don’t it can feel uncomfortable or hypocritical to choose a religious ceremony. If couples have different religious beliefs, it can be difficult to find a compromise that keeps everyone feeling happy and excited for their ceremony.

Humanist weddings and civil ceremonies are both non-religious in nature, but a humanist ceremony could not be more different from a civil ceremony. Often, civil ceremonies have little scope for individual expression, and the script is standardised with only the couple’s names changing each time the registrar performs the ceremony. It can feel impersonal and unromantic, which is exactly the opposite of what a wedding should be!

With a humanist wedding, every aspect of the script, from opening remarks to the vows, from the music to the readings, is tailored to the couple’s personal choice. Humanist weddings are all about the couple, their love story, personal values and hopes for the future, along with whatever else they want to incorporate! Celebrants work to make sure every aspect of the ceremony is perfect, and the nature of humanist weddings allows space for music, readings, symbolic rituals, personalised vows and a real celebration of each couple.

Are Humanist Weddings Legal?

If you’re in Northern Ireland or Scotland, the good news is: yes they are! Humanist weddings have been legal in Scotland since 2005, and Northern Ireland legalised them in 2019. Jersey and Guernsey also allow legal humanist weddings, too!

England and Wales have some catching up to do; if you choose a humanist wedding there, you will also need a separate civil ceremony to do the legal bit. This shouldn’t put you off though; most couples who get married this way say that the humanist ceremony felt more like their real wedding, with the civil ceremony just a necessary formality in the background.

Humanists UK are currently lobbying to legalise humanist weddings across the whole of the UK, so hopefully England and Wales will join up with the rest of us and be able to celebrate legal humanist weddings soon!


What Can I Expect From a Humanist Wedding?

Lots of happiness, laughter, love, and maybe a few tears of joy!

It’s difficult to define a “typical” humanist wedding, as each one is unique. However, there is a structure that most celebrants will keep to, to make sure your ceremony is planned to perfection.

  • Arrival of the couple (individually or together)

  • Introductions and welcomes

  • Words about love and commitment from a non-religious perspective

  • Reading or poem

  • The couple’s story – how they met, their shared values, hopes for the future

  • What marriage means to the couple

  • Reading, poem or song

  • The couple’s promises/vows

  • Meaningful symbolic act (e.g. handfasting)

  • Exchange of rings

  • Pronouncement as married

  • Words of well-wishing

  • Closing and departure

All of this is entirely open to change, and you can add or take out parts depending on your preferences. The only element that must be present is the legal declarations, if you’re having a legal marriage. Everything else is entirely up to you!

Why Should We Choose a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?

I think everyone should have a humanist wedding ceremony, but I’m biased! Here are some great reasons why a humanist wedding is a great choice for you:

  • You have complete control! If you want to have your dog walk you down the aisle: go for it! If you want to write your own vows and bring everyone to tears: lovely! If you get terrible stage fright and don’t want to say a thing: that’s totally fine.

  • You can have your wedding wherever you like. If you want your ceremony on the beach, in your mum’s garden or halfway up a mountain: you can! All you need to do is, if you’re having a legal ceremony, make sure the venue is registered to host weddings. I can provide a list of pre-approved venues, or you can apply to the council for a temporary license. Of course, if you’re forgoing the legal bit, you don’t need this license; just permission to hold a ceremony.

  • Humanist ceremonies are inclusive, warm and intimate. Whether you’re a same-sex couple, an inter-faith partnership or completely non-religious, you and your guests will find a very warm welcome.

  • Humanist celebrants undergo rigorous training, to make sure we’re the best we can be! This training and accreditation from Humanists UK also includes public liability insurance, so you can rest assured you’re in safe, expert hands.

  • Not only are we experts in ceremonies, we are also experts on you! By the time you’re actually getting married, you will have met up a few times, talked about the deep stuff, and worked together to perfect your ceremony script. You will know each other well, and your celebrant will be able to help calm your nerves and make you feel at ease on the day.


If you feel like a humanist wedding is the right choice for you (and why wouldn’t you?), I’d love to hear from you. Contact me using the button below, and I'll be in touch really soon to talk all about your big day!

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