The answer is a definitive ‘no’. As humanist celebrants, we provide non-religious ceremonies for many people. Some people choose to identify as humanist, others don’t. Some couples come from mixed-faith backgrounds and there are many references and rituals that are recognisable but non-religious. In one humanist wedding ceremony I did, the bride’s mum was religious and asked to do a christian reading; it didn’t reference god but it talked about marriage and love. The couple were happy that they could have their humanist wedding ceremony and the bride’s mother was happy that she could include a reference to her religion.
Do humanist celebrants want to convert people to humanism?
Not at all. Being humanist means associating with free thought, kindness, integrity and tolerance. As a humanist celebrant, I try to illustrate these positive attributes and I work to the Humanist Ceremonies’ shared code of conduct and standards of practice.
Not only do I deeply respect that people hold a variety of faiths, beliefs and religions, but I also have a very active interest in developing my own knowledge and understanding, and a passion for learning about rituals and customs in particular.
My grandmother is really quite religious and so I’d like to show some respect for that. Is there a chance to do that in our humanist ceremony?
Yes, although humanist weddings are non-religious by their nature, humanists respect people with any faith. Humanism is explained briefly and affirmation of the respect for other faiths at the beginning of the ceremony. It is also possible to include quiet time for people’s religious prayer, or a cultural tradition that would be inclusive of your grandmother.
We would like to include a song that everyone can sing, like a hymn, but non-religious
A great idea as quite often people love to sing at ceremonies. Songs should be no longer than three verses, familiar to almost everyone and easy to sing. There are lots of suggestions, from Humanist Ceremonies celebrant network, that I can give you. Many familiar hymns can be adapted so they’re non-religious. I can also find songs that are good to sing as a group.
We’d like to write our own vows, is this possible?
Most definitely. With a humanist wedding ceremony, almost anything is possible. If you need help with writing your promises, the advice and help is included in the service. If you wish to keep your personal promises to each other a surprise for the actual ceremony, then you can send them separately to me and I can ensure that they are a similar length and tone of voice.
It is possible to include anyone you wish in the actual ceremony; there are many creative ways in which to do this. Hand fasting, a traditional Celtic ritual in which ribbons or cords are wrapped around the couple’s hands, is where the expression ‘to tie a knot’ actually comes from. It’s possible to involve others in helping to wrap the ribbons or cords. Alternatively, candle-lighting, sand and pebble mixing, wish boxes are all ways in which you can include others and create a memorable ceremony.
We have booked to do the ‘formal bit’ at the registry office a couple of days before the actual wedding. Will this affect our feelings at the ceremony?
The bespoke wedding ceremony itself, in front of all the friends and family, in the vision that the couple has created, ensures that it feels completely real. Many couples choose to keep the ritual of the ring exchange to the actual wedding ceremony. Some couples choose to read the same vows or promises at the registry office as the wedding ceremony, others prefer to do the bare minimum at the registry office. Most brides prefer to keep their dress for the special wedding ceremony in front of all their family and friends.
Will my religious relatives be offended by my wedding or namings ceremony?
Definitely not. As your celebrant, I work with couples and parents to ensure that the ceremony script is inclusive. You can choose to include a time for private thought or prayer. Sometimes, people may choose an adapted hymn. I won’t risk my integrity by reading a prayer or a religious text, but there are many familiar religious texts that do not make reference to religion, and you can choose to have a relevant, religious relative read one of these.
How much does it cost?
Understandably, people want a guide to how much a personalised wedding or naming ceremony will cost.
We don’t set prices, as they can differ, depending on the location and the length or complexity of the ceremony. However, I will quote a set price once we’ve had an initial discussion about where and what kind of ceremony you want.
Our costs are usually a small percentage of the overall wedding budget, but play an enormous part in your wedding day.
With all the meetings, research, writing and the rehearsal, as well as the day itself, included, the cost can be between £550 and £1000.
If your ceremony is abroad, then a flight and accommodation near the ceremony (with a full day before the ceremony, so that there is time for a rehearsal) would need to be added to the cost.