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Humanist ceremonies


What is a Humanist wedding?


It’s perhaps hard to believe, but only half a century ago the choices of wedding ceremony available to marrying couples were very limited indeed – you either headed to your local Church or other place of worship, or to the Register Office.

Today, in England and Wales, we can add the introduction of licensed venues, civil partnerships and same-sex marriages to this list – but there is one other form of ceremony which is  gaining more and more attention – Humanist Ceremonies.


I recently met a Humanist celebrant at an event where we had quite an open and frank discussion about Humanist weddings.  I think they are a great idea but there are some pitfalls.


A humanist, non-religious wedding ceremony gives you the opportunity to marry where you want, when you want and how you want. There’s no set script:  Instead, each wedding is tailored to meet the particular couple’s requirements. You can set the tone that’s right for you and choose your own words and music.


Humanist weddings are perfect for couples who would like:

  • A meaningful ceremony that isn’t religious – there are no restrictions – any vows, readings, music are all OK.  In fact I have heard of ceremonies where the bride and/or groom say nothing during the whole ceremony – great if you are really shy!
  • To marry outdoors or at a location that isn’t licensed for civil weddings – in fact literally anywhere you want – even your front room.  As long as you have permission from the owner.
  • The flexibility to create a personal ceremony that is unique to them – Humanist ceremonies tend to be between 20-45 mins but who says it can’t be 2 hours long if you really want?
  • To celebrate their marriage with family and friends but without legally registering it – perhaps they have already undertaken the formalities overseas, or you want to get married but not have the legal constraints around it.

It’s important to remember that its not a legal wedding, so some couples go to the register office before or after just to do the ‘legal’ bit. Some couples are concerned about having two weddings.  I would say who wouldn’t want 2 weddings?? But seriously, the ‘legal’ bit can be done in ten minutes and if you want to wear jeans and trainers that’s also fine!

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Example structure of a humanist wedding ceremony

  • 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

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humanist wedding photographer

For more information go to the Humanist Society

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© 2016 Emma Bovington