Last year Alternative Weddings MCR had the pleasure of observing a few humanist ceremonies during the weddings we planned, and how wonderful they were! So special in fact that our founder Stefanie Fetterman has decided to train as a Humanist Celebrant herself and all being well, from June 2017, she should be fully qualified and accredited to marry people!
Last year we watched the family and friends of our couples cheering and clapping and laughing along to ceremonies that had been written especially for them by dedicated celebrants. Stories were told, jokes were cracked and songs were sung, perfect for our alternative weddings! The ceremonies were inventive and original and unlike traditional church or registry office services the couple had complete creative control.
From replacing a traditional hymn with “I Get By (With a Little Help From My Friends)”, string quartets playing Oasis, a hand-fasting ritual in which each guest came and tied a ribbon around the bride and groom’s hand (as a symbol of their love and support), or readings such as poems by John Cooper Clarke, these weddings couldn’t have been quirkier or more cool. You could tell from the level of intimacy, the in-jokes and the smiles on everyone faces just how much these ceremonies meant!
It’s not surprising that many people are considering humanist ceremonies for their big days, many people simply don’t feel connected to traditional religious services anymore but still want to declare their love in a joyous and public way.
Considering a humanist ceremony yourself? Then here’s what you need to know.
So what is a humanist ceremony and how might it work for you?
- A non-religious humanist ceremony is essentially anything you want it to be! Whether that’s a wedding under a waterfall, a ceremony on the top of Macha Picchu or simply getting married on a farm or in a woodland. A humanist wedding can take place anywhere (except in a Church) and you, the couple, have 100% control. No special licenses are required. Working collaboratively with a humanist celebrant of your choosing a totally personalised ceremony will be written, they will then deliver this ceremony in a location of your choosing. You can set any theme or mood to the occasion, there simply are no rules!
Who conducts a humanist ceremony?
- A humanist ceremony is conducted by a humanist celebrant, someone who has been accredited by the British Humanist Association. The BHA are an association who champion “an ethical and democratic life stance” and do not believe that religion is necessary to live a rich and meaningful life. Humanist Celebrants believe “we only live one life” and so tend to people who want to make the most of it! You can find a list of your local celebrants here.
Is a humanist ceremony legally binding?
- In Scotland yes but we are still waiting for England to catch up. Unfortunately the parliamentary bill that would enable this to happen has been put on the back burner because of the bigger issues that exploded in 2016. Humanist Ceremonies were very close to becoming a legal reality, it is only a matter of time before it goes through. For the time being, what many couples are choosing to do is to get married informally at a local registry office (basically ticking the legal boxes) and then hold a bigger humanist ceremony in front of their family and friends in another venue at a later date. This is a brilliant way of keeping every happy, including yourselves, and not being forced to marry in a church or institution which might make you feel uncomfortable.
What if my family is very religious? Might they be offended?
- Humanist Ceremonies are highly respectful. The tone and level of formality is completely up to you and your celebrant will discuss this with you during the ceremony planning process. Humanist ceremonies can combine warmth, humour, beautifully expressed sentiments and excerpts from poetry or prose to transform a traditionally solemn religious experience into a real and meaningful exchange. It would be very hard to be offended as humanist services by nature celebrate people and diversity have very good intentions at their heart.
So fingers crossed all goes well with Stefanie’s training, watch this space for Humanist Ceremonies available through Alternative Weddings MCR!