Q. Is it legal?
A. Yes. Humanist weddings within Scotland, conducted by an Authorised Celebrant of the Humanist Society Scotland are fully legal. As such they are recognised by most countries around the world.
Q. Do I still need to have a Registrar?
A. NO. The wedding is fully legal.
Q. I want to hold my wedding in my mother’s garden; do we need a Special Wedding Venue Licence?
A. NO. A Humanist Celebrant’s Wedding License covers all of Scotland, so you can be married anywhere you wish, provided it is safe and dignified, without the need for any special license. This is a fact that many wedding venues are unaware of and often erroneously tell clients that they need a special license.
Q. I want to surprise my fiancée, how do I do that?
A. You can’t! Both parties must submit their M10 forms to the Registrar at least 29 days and not more than three months before the wedding is due to take place so, sorry, no possibility of a surprise wedding. Most Registrars prefer to receive the forms 10-12 weeks before the ceremony. You will also need to include a proof of residency i.e. a utility bill or similar and if born after 1983, a copy of your passport. However, while the ceremony itself cannot be a secret, we can keep your personal vows or what you love about each other, a secret until the ceremony if you wish.
Q. My fiancée and I are from Overseas, can we be married by you in Scotland?
A. Yes. After deciding to use my services, I would provide the details of the local Registrar and advise you to contact them as soon as possible. I have always found them very helpful and they will keep you right about all the formalities required. Parties to a marriage who are not British, Swiss or EEA must complete a Home Office Declaration of Immigration Status form which should accompany the marriage form. Registrars will not accept notice without the completed Declaration Form. The Declaration form can be downloaded from www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland/how-do-igo-about-it. In addition, you may be required to submit a Marriage Visa details on which can be found at www.gov.uk/marriage-visa. This must be done at least three months before you travel to the UK.
Q. How do we choose a Celebrant?
A. The best way is to talk to them. I always try and confer with a couple first so that they are aware of my approach to their wedding and to make sure they are comfortable with me. If possible we would follow that up with a meeting, though that is not always possible especially if they are coming from abroad. However, with modern technology, we can communicate by email, phone or Skype/FaceTime so there are always ways around any potential problems.
Q. Are there any questions we should ask the Celebrant?
A. There are two. The first is, "Are you authorised to solemnise our marriage"? Unfortunately, many Celebrants say they can conduct 'weddings' but not 'solemnise your marriage' which is the legal authorisation either from their Prescribed body such as the HSS or through the Registrar General Scotland. The first some couples realise this is when they approach the Registrar to submit their legal forms. I have had to come to the assistance of couples several times to legalise their marriage in these cases. The second question is "What happens if you (the Celebrant becomes ill and cannot conduct our ceremony"? In my case, the HSS would find a replacement for me at no extra cost for the couple. No other organisation does this at the moment.
Q. I’m not sure a Humanist wedding is what I want but I am intrigued?
A. Your wedding is the most important day in your life so far, so you are right to consider the options available to you seriously. As in the previous answer, the best thing is to speak with me about your wedding and discuss what you want from your day. I do not bite. If after talking to me, you decide to choose another style of ceremony, then that is fine. What is important is that you get the wedding you desire.
Q. Can I have religious readings and hymns in my wedding?
A. I have had approaches from couples who wish to include those in their ceremony either because they believe in God or wish to appease relatives. The answer is NO. As previously explained, Humanists do not believe in a god so there are no such references in our ceremonies. If the couple has religious beliefs but is still unsure about marrying in church, then I would recommend they look at an Interfaith ceremony which can be styled more in keeping with their beliefs. I will accept music which, although perhaps having religious links now, was not originally written as such.
Q. Will the ceremony cause annoyance to those present who have a religious faith?
A. Humanist ceremonies are inclusive and do not contain anything which would offend anyone of faith. Humanists shares many common values with people of faith so would not offend your great aunt.
Q. How much does a Humanist Ceremony cost?
A. Currently, the fees set by the Society are £450 for a wedding ceremony. In addition, there may be agreed, expenses for travelling, rehearsal and any other applicable costs (such as an overnight stay for instance). The membership covers you if I am ill as previously stated.
Q. How early should I book you?
A. As soon as possible after you have decided on a date - even if that date is 2 years or more away. I cannot stress enough that the growing popularity of a Humanist Wedding means that Saturday dates between May-October are filled very quickly, and this is especially true of a Bank Holiday.
Q. What happens when I book you?
A. After we have exchanged a contract and you have paid a non-refundable deposit, I will forward examples of the various parts of the ceremony to aid you in designing your own ceremony. At least six months prior to the wedding we will start to put your ideas together into a script. I would hope to have the ceremony almost finished about three months before the wedding. This does not preclude any later amendments if something happens that you especially wish to include but by having the most important element of your ceremony done and dusted, you will then be free to concentrate your attention of the remainder of your plans.
Q. How and when do we pay you?
A. Initially, the booking is through the HSS website and you pay £85 immediately. The remaining balance is payable to me no later than one week before the wedding (or earlier if that suits you). Some couples make payments over time to avoid large bills all arriving at once as they approach the wedding. You can pay by cheque or by internet banking whichever suits. For couples from abroad, this can be more difficult and international bank charges can be quite high. On occasion, I have used Paypal as the fees are lower than the bank but it would still add about £10 to the cost. Often, we will agree that the fee will be paid when we meet prior to the wedding to reduce costs for them.
Q. How many drafts do you do?
A. As many as it takes (within reason) to produce the ceremony you want. Sometimes, on reflection, your original thoughts about a certain design, once down on paper, simply don’t work as you thought so it will be back to the drawing board. The only time I would get annoyed is if you accept something you don’t like or want which I may have suggested. Any suggestions I make can be included or excluded, it’s your wedding.
Q. Can we have other people involved in our ceremony?
A. Yes. You can include your family and guests in a number of ways. As a group, in some of the symbolic gestures, as individuals, they can be involved in the readings or poetry or even sing. The choice is yours.
Q. We have a piece of prose and/or a poem, not in your examples, can we use them?
A. Yes. I always look forward to having new material. It is your ceremony so if you have found something which encapsulates your thoughts on your marriage or someone is writing a poem especially for you, it is absolutely great to include those.
Q. What about our vows?
A. Apart from those examples I give you, within the framework, there is some advice on how to write your own vows. If you would like to write your own but are unsure, then just forward me your thoughts from the framework and I will draft your vows. The vows can be kept a secret until the day if you wish.
Q. What are the Symbolic Gestures?
A. Symbolic gestures are designed to show your commitment to each other and have a link to our Scottish heritage or humanist philosophy, such as handfasting or candle lighting. They can involve others as well as yourselves. In one wedding, we included part of a Japanese custom as they loved Japanese culture.
Q. What constraints on the ceremony are there?
A. Apart from the Legal Vows which are required in all marriages, you are bound only by your imagination and the time you need to spend working on your ceremony. The ceremony itself should reflect you both and can be formal, traditional, relaxed, funny or somewhere between.