Humanist Wedding Ceremonies
All things in life appear straightforward until you make a decision. In this case, you’ve decided to get married, and then you make a few enquiries and suddenly that idyllic day in front of all your family and guests becomes a quagmire of competing items looking for your undivided attention – so don’t go off somewhere else now – this is the really, really important part. This page is about planning and making the arrangements for the ceremony itself.
The ceremony is the heart of your wedding day and it can be such a special experience that the rest of the day, and the start of your life as a married couple, is a magical occasion which you will remember and enjoy looking back on it again and again.
A Humanist wedding is a very personal one because the whole emphasis is on you, the couple. The ceremony itself is designed mostly by you and for you, with as much or as little of my assistance as you want. You can be as romantic and creative in designing the ceremony as you wish and you can include anything that you want with the exception of religious hymns or readings. You may choose to involve your family, guests or children in readings of prose and poetry. Perhaps they will be a part of some symbolic gestures or they may have roles in the ceremony that aren't necessarily traditional roles. A “Naming” or "Family Commitment" can be incorporated into a wedding if you already have children from your relationship or there is to be a step-parent. It is a lovely way to show that all members of the new family are important in the relationship.
You may never have envisioned being asked to design your own wedding ceremony but help is at hand. I will provide materials for all aspects of the ceremony to help inspire and guide you through all the stages involved. You are not restricted to those materials and if you wish to include some you have written or found which have inspired you, then great - I am always looking for new materials! While it sounds “slightly” daunting, most couples find that by going through this process it highlights the bonds of love which hold them together more clearly and this reinforces their conviction that they are marrying for the right reason.
While I may suggest some options depending on your choices, these are just that - options. The final say is YOURS
One question I am often asked is whether or not the ceremony will be as dignified and serious as a church wedding. The ceremony, as I have said, is a personal one and it should be about you, the couple. Some choose to have a more traditional wedding and others prefer to have a little fun or to keep the whole affair relaxed. Your ceremony can be anywhere along that line. The ceremony should reflect the personalities of the bride and groom. In a Humanist ceremony, any religious element is replaced by words and music that have real meaning for you. The wedding ceremony, after all, is about YOU. This is also true when couples are concerned their choice of a Humanist wedding may cause conflict with family members who have a religious faith. I have found that by having a ceremony which is true to themselves, those religious family members are normally the first to congratulate them on having such an inclusive ceremony,
My aim is to provide a ceremony which reflects the individual personality of each couple and which in years to come you can look back on and say that it was everything you wished for and was a perfect start to your married life together.
Your ceremony will be unique and personal to you - so it can be as traditional or as unusual as you wish.
The first question I tend to be asked, and it is a quite reasonable one given that Humanist marriages have only been legal in Scotland (but not the rest of the United Kingdom so far) since 2005, is “Do I need a Registrar?” So yes, a Humanist wedding ceremony is Fully Legal in Scotland. This means that you do not need to have a separate ceremony with a Registrar (see the FAQ’s page and links page for further details) although you will still have to register your intent to marry and submit the necessary forms to the Registrar, as with all types of wedding ceremonies. I’m sorry I cannot marry you in other parts of the UK or the world but if it’s a beautiful place and you want a non-legal wedding ceremony I’m sure I could travel!
For couples who are travelling from overseas to marry in Scotland, there may be additional forms required. If you fall into this category please go to the Forms and Advice page where I explain the process more fully.
The second question is, “Do we need a special licence for the venue?” All Humanist celebrants’ wedding licences extend throughout Scotland. This means that couples can choose to be married wherever they wish, from their homes to lochs, historic buildings, hotels, beaches or their local village hall, the choice is yours. Sorry if I’m making your choice more difficult.
Being able to have your ceremony anywhere you want is one of the great things about a humanist ceremony. The venue can be sentimental (where you got engaged); family (mum and dad married there) or it’s just a great place to hold a wedding ceremony.
The cost of the ceremony is set by the Humanist Society of Scotland, for 2018, 2019 and 2020 have been set at £410 for both legal and non-legal committal ceremonies. A rehearsal where I am physically required at the venue will cost £80 plus travelling expenses. Where there are extra expenses involved such as travelling costs, overnight stay if necessary, these are agreed beforehand with you.
The Humanist Society Scotland's board has instructed that all couples wishing to be married through the HSS must become members of the Humanist Society of Scotland by the date of your wedding which is currently £43 per 'wedding couple'. This membership lasts for two years. This helps ensure that not only in the future other couples will have the ability to choose a Humanist Wedding but that our charitable work and campaigning for secular values such as Assisted Dying (though I prefer the term 'end of life care') and the recent change for Same-Sex Marriages. It also means couples are covered by the HSS Guarantee that they will find a replacement to conduct your ceremony should I become ill, for instance, at NO extra expense to you. We are the only group who provide that guarantee meantime.
What Do You Need to Do?
When you have fully considered the type of wedding you want and have hopefully decided that a Humanist ceremony fulfils all that you wish, you need to consider the venue and the date. Weddings can be very expensive but if you can avoid a Saturday, many hotel venues reduce their rates and/or minimum number requirements. After having made your choice of venue and deciding upon the date, contact the venue to provisionally hold or book the venue for that day.
You will need to contact me as soon as possible to confirm that I am available - remember that others may want that date for their wedding, especially true at Bank Holiday weekends. I do not wish to overstate this, but the Saturdays from May to October fill up very quickly and I am often booked 12-24 months in advance so the earlier you can contact and confirm the date with me, the more likely I am to be available. If I am not available I will, with your permission, try and find another Celebrant on your behalf.
After we have confirmed the date, we will exchange a contract. Don’t worry it is only four pages long. The first page contains the details you will require for submitting your M10 forms to the Registrar. I will supply the contact details for the Registrars in the area of the location of the wedding. The second page is a list of what I do, the third, a checklist for you to ensure all the legal requirements for your wedding are met. The fourth gives details of costs and other information. There is normally a non-refundable deposit of £50 to secure the booking. One consequence of the contract is if I become ill or break a leg it becomes my responsibility to find a replacement Celebrant.
Some ten to twelve weeks before your wedding date, you must apply for your Marriage Schedule from the Registrar. This can be done no more than three months before your date, but ensure you give a minimum of 29 days notice. Please remember that this is more important than your flowers, dress, suit hire, cake, etc as without a marriage schedule you cannot have a legal wedding. These are the M10 forms and witness forms I talked about earlier and the present cost is £70. This is the same whether or not a Minister, a Registrar or myself conduct your wedding. The marriage schedule must be picked up in person by you during the week of the wedding. You will need to contact the Registrar beforehand to arrange a time to pick it up.
On the day of the wedding, when I arrive to conduct your ceremony the first thing I will ask for is the marriage schedule. After the marriage schedule has been signed I will give it to the person you have nominated who will be responsible for the return of the signed schedule to the Registrar within three days. But whilst he/she is doing that, you should be away on your honeymoon and enjoying the start of your new life together as husband and wife.
Phew!!! Now I can relax till the next one.