From the beginning of the human race, people have discovered the need to mark those important events which occur during one's lifetime. Humanist Ceremonies encompass all of lives rituals.
These include fully legal weddings (in Scotland and Jersey only within the UK at this time) including same-sex marriages from 16 December 2014 when the new marriage act came into effect. It also allows us to conduct civil partnerships which previously only the Registrar could perform. For those who are already married and perhaps wishing to mark an important milestone in their relationship, we offer a commitment or renewal of vows ceremony. What we cannot do, as it is illegal, is pretend to your guests that this is a 'wedding' when it is not. These types of ceremonies are personal celebrations for the couple to express their love for each other, their hopes and dreams which they share. They can include the aspects which they wish from readings, poetry and symbolic gestures to their own vows. My whole ethos is that the ceremony should reflect their wishes and personalities.
One aspect of Humanist weddings is that many of the couples who have married in this way when they have children they wish to have a Naming Ceremony for their child/children, though often couples who had a Registrar's wedding chose us as they have heard about us or been at a Humanist ceremony. Again the Naming ceremony is very personal as it allows the parents and if they wish guide parents, to make a formal commitment to their child as we welcome them into their family, the immediate and the extended one in which they will reside with love and care.
The final ceremony for all will be their Funeral service. A Humanist funeral service is personal, it is about the person and does not include any religious readings or music as an act of worship. Their death does not overshadow who they were in their life so our ceremony is a Celebration of their life. It does tend to have laughter and tears but our lives have both so why just have the tears of sorrow.
What humanist ceremonies reveal about Humanism
The way in which humanist ceremonies have developed and are conducted reveals a great deal about what humanists consider most important. Humanist funerals with their personalised human-centred focus - are a celebration of this life, rather than some mythic life to come. The focus of a humanist wedding is on the expression of the couple's love and commitment, rather than on them entering into some sort of state-enforced or divinely enforced contract. Humanist baby-naming ceremonies focus not on committing the child to a specific god or religion for the rest of their natural life and beyond, but on allowing parents and other close friends and relations to express their commitment to help this new human being flourish - which, for humanists, includes helping them to develop the skills and maturity they will need to take on the responsibility of developing their own beliefs and making their own moral judgements. (Stephen Law)
The following pages deal with these ceremonies.