We know you’re likely to have lots of questions. Have a look at what we’ve been asked before, and do contact us if there’s something we haven’t covered.
Yes. You can have your wedding anywhere you fancy, indoors or out.
Absolutely not. Indeed al fresco weddings – whether in public places or at private venues – often have a wonderfully relaxed and intimate feel to them. That said, in case the British weather lives up to its reputation, we always advise there is a plan B: this might be an indoor venue close by or simply the provision of lots of umbrellas! Your celebrant can talk this through with you.
Many of our celebrants are happy to take weddings overseas and have been to some lovely places to do so! Celebrants will often let you know on their websites if they are happy to travel, but if you have found someone you would like to work with that doesn’t mention this, do just get in contact with them and ask. Otherwise, please contact the office for details of who might be available.
Each ceremony is written specifically for the couple; there is no set format. But as a guide, a typical wedding might include readings or poems, information about the couple and why they are choosing to marry and perhaps some music. The couple will make vows or commitments to each other and often exchange rings. A sample structure of a humanist wedding is shown here.
It definitely takes more time and thought to arrange a humanist ceremony than a standard church or civil wedding, but it’s well worth the effort. You will end up with a ceremony that reflects the two of you, what you value and your hopes for the future, and an occasion that is truly unique and personal. An added bonus is that most couples find the planning process interesting and fun too. For example, one recently married couple commented:
“I wholeheartedly recommend a humanist wedding. It is so customisable that it can surmount any boundaries of religion, culture or language. As with anything bespoke it does take a bit more time to consider material you would like the ceremony to contain, but it is so worth it. You will have a ceremony that is 100% you.”
Our recommended fees are £350-£1000. This is obviously a wide range but reflects that weddings can vary tremendously. Individual celebrants’ fees are often given on their website or you can find out more by emailing or phoning them: be sure to mention your intended venue so they can take into account the amount of travel involved.
Celebrants work in slightly different ways but as a guide each celebrant’s fee will cover:
It depends on what you want to include, but as a guide around 20-45 minutes. This is one of the aspects you can discuss with your celebrant.
We certainly do. Indeed, BHA celebrants have been conducting ceremonies for same sex couples for at least two decades and were instrumental in successfully campaigning for legal same-sex marriage.
Yes, we’d be happy to create such an occasion for you – in fact many of our wedding ceremonies take place under similar circumstances. We can make the humanist ceremony a wedding in itself or think of it as a celebration of your marriage – whatever suits you best. That said, in practice most couples in such circumstances choose to make promises to each other and (re)exchange rings.
Absolutely. Our ceremonies are available to anyone who wants a non-religious, personal and meaningful way to celebrate their marriage. (And many people then discover they are actually humanist in outlook without having realised it – our ‘Are you a humanist?’ quiz is a fun way to find out.)
We recognise that nearly every ceremony is attended by guests of different faiths and of none, and feel passionately that everyone present should feel comfortable and involved.
The focus of your humanist wedding will be on the two of you and your relationship and what you value. Underpinning it all will be the humanist view of long-term partnerships as being strongest when built upon support, equality and honesty. It’s difficult to imagine anyone would have a problem with that!
Most celebrants will have no rules about this and are concerned only that you get the pictures you want. In fact, many photographers love humanist weddings as there is a lot of interaction for them to capture, particularly since couples often face their guests.
That’s very common and not a problem at all. Your celebrant will lead the process and can give you as much help and guidance as you need to work out what would suit you and your situation. They can advise on readings, music, promises and a whole series of big and small issues that help the day to go well.
Absolutely. It’s great when guests are really involved in a marriage rather than simply witnessing it. Your celebrant will be happy to suggest ideas.
Yes. There is real poignancy in music, whether it’s a live performance, listening to something recorded, or perhaps having something for everyone to sing along to! Your celebrant can suggest some choices for you to consider.
A personal wedding is an emotional occasion and it’s not at all unusual for there to be both tears and laughter during the ceremony. This is fine – it’s a big moment and you’re allowed to show your feelings! Your celebrant will be there as a reassuring presence (and also to pass tissues if necessary).
Many couples find that the rehearsal helps them prepare for the big day emotionally as well as practically. You may be surprised by how relaxed you feel! But if you do cry, it’s absolutely fine.
Certainly. Humanist ceremonies are non-religious but there are many rituals from other cultures that can be incorporated, such as Chinese tea ceremonies or the Jewish ritual of glass-smashing. Your celebrant will be delighted to discuss your ideas.
Personal vows are often one of the highlights of a humanist wedding so, yes, we absolutely encourage you to write or choose your own words, and will give whatever help and support you need to do so.
No, not if you don’t want to. Your celebrant can provide a range of sample vows for you to look through and you might want to use some of these or adapt them slightly: it’s entirely up to you. But if you do decide to write your own vows, your celebrant can help you to get started with these and, if you want them to, will be happy to act as a sounding board for your ideas.
Yes. Many people feel there is a real gravitas to traditional church words, for example, and these can be adapted slightly to make them fitting for a non-religious ceremony. Parts of the register office words are popular too and, if you wish, these can be incorporated into your vows or during the ring exchange, if you are having one.
Actually there is no requirement for you to say anything at your wedding if you really don’t want to. That said, most people feel that the public declaration of vows or promises is one of the most important parts of the ceremony. If one or both of you are worried about speaking, the easiest way to accommodate this is for your promises to be written in the form of questions to which you each answer ‘I do’ or ‘I promise’. The promises themselves can still be personal, but spoken by the celebrant.
Unlike in Scotland, our humanist weddings do not currently have legal status but we continue to campaign for this. However, many couples take care of the legalities at a local register office and consider their humanist wedding their real wedding. And there really are some advantages to our weddings not having legal status. For example, there is no restriction about what can or cannot be included and where you can or cannot marry. It makes the whole occasion much more flexible and so much more personal.
This depends from couple to couple. Many will have taken care of the paperwork at the register office in the days before their humanist ceremony, perhaps just taking a couple of people along as witnesses. Others do this on the same day as their humanist wedding, making it all part of the celebration, whilst others leave the legalities until after they have had their ‘proper’ (i.e. humanist) ceremony.
This is a common concern, and we look forward to a time when humanist weddings are legally binding. That said, a register office wedding to legally register your marriage doesn’t have to be long or expensive and you can do this without making a big deal of it if you choose.
No. There are various reasons why people might want the public statement of commitment and celebration without legally registering their partnership as a marriage: celebrants are sensitive to this.
A lot of people are understandably concerned about this. In fact, couples tell us that their humanist wedding felt like their ‘real’ wedding, as what mattered most to them is being surrounded by those they love as they make public commitments to each other.
Absolutely. Indeed, guests often comment afterwards that the occasion was much more moving and meaningful than other weddings they’ve been to, because it was so personal.
Your celebrant will talk to you about how you want to manage this. It’s perfectly possible to explain the legal situation in a positive way, saying that this is the occasion you consider your real wedding. But if you don’t want to draw any attention to the legalities then that’s fine too, though obviously your celebrant won’t say anything that suggests it is legally binding.
Scottish marriage law is very different to English, Welsh and Northern Irish marriage law in that it is celebrant-based. Humanist weddings have been legally binding there since 2005 and their popularity has snowballed: recent figures show that they now account for 30% of all weddings. We hope it won’t be long before the rest of the UK follows their fine example. More information about humanist weddings in Scotland is available from the Humanist Society Scotland.
We hope soon. There’s lots of support: the LibDems, Labour Party and Greens all included legalising humanist marriage in their 2015 manifestoes, and a 2014 formal consultation on the issue was largely positive. However, the new government is not keen to legalise humanist marriages but we will continue to pursue the issue every way we can.
How far in advance do we need to book a celebrant?
There’s no rule but many celebrants do get booked up quite a while in advance, especially on Saturdays during the summer. If your chosen celebrant is busy they will always be happy to recommend someone else.
Our find-a-celebrant search facility lets you search for all British Humanist Association accredited celebrants who work in your area. Simply enter the postcode of your venue or your home and you’ll be given a list of people to contact. Many celebrants have their own websites so you can read more about them. You can then phone or email celebrants directly to check their availability and ask them more about how they work.
It’s important you have a chance to check that you’re a good match for each other. Most celebrants will be happy to meet up without obligation for a chat and a cup of coffee. If you’re further afield, an initial phone call or a chat on Skype works well.
Feel free to ask them whatever you want to know – they won’t be offended! Or you can ask them to talk about how they put a ceremony together to get a sense of how they work. Or let them know your initial thoughts about what you want from the occasion and let the conversation go from there.
Quite a few people ask this, but fear not, there are no cloaks or robes! Instead, we’ll be smartly, professionally and appropriately attired. If you’ve got a particular dress code for the occasion do let your celebrant know.
Yes, that’s fine. Our celebrants are used to working with couples who live abroad with communication being via Skype and email. You will probably want to meet in the flesh before the big day if possible; this often happens at the wedding rehearsal.