Janice and Darren’s humanist wedding by the sea

Janice and Darren by Rachel Alcock

Oh, we do love to be beside the seaside — and so do Janice and Darren! They like being by the sea so much, that they chose a beachside hotel for their humanist wedding ceremony. Janice tells us how she and Darren met and why they chose a humanist wedding.

Getting together

We met five years ago on a night out in Sunderland. We were with our respective friends and Darren chatted me up, as they say!

The proposal

After dropping several hints (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and even my 50th birthday) Darren proposed on holiday in Fuengirola on my 51st birthday.

It was a complete surprise. Although, on reflection, he was on edge all that day. We went to a lovely restaurant and he popped the question with a beautiful ring. Just what I would have chosen myself.

The planning process

I think we started planning the wedding when we’d booked the venue, although I must admit we are more last-minute people than we are planners!

Why we chose a humanist wedding

The most important aspect to us was sharing the day with the people we love. We didn’t want anything too formal, we wanted everyone to feel relaxed and enjoy the day with us. I’d never heard of a humanist wedding until I met humanist celebrant Sarah Hammal at a wedding fayre at The Grand Hotel Sunderland on a wet Sunday afternoon. We are not religious and the idea that we could build our own wedding ceremony, incorporating what and who meant most to us, was a lovely idea. Humanist ceremonies are totally personalised to each couple, so we knew our wedding would be unique.

After meeting Sarah, we knew that a humanist wedding ceremony was definitely what we wanted. Sarah made the whole process so easy for us and we immediately felt at ease with her —  like we’d known her for ages.

Our humanist wedding ceremony

On the day, everything was perfect. The ceremony was so special but also fun. There was nothing I would change.

As part of the ceremony, we lit a candle which had been personalised by my friend. Darren had one of his friends as his best man and his son as an usher. I had my daughter as my bridesmaid and my son walked me into the ceremony room. We also had three friends read poems/passages that were special to us. Having people who mean the world to us sharing our day was as special as it gets.

The location

We chose The Grand Hotel Sunderland as we know it well. Throughout our lives we had both been to events at the hotel and it is in one of our favourite locations, as it’s next to the beach.

On a practical note, we wanted somewhere not too far away, where people could easily get to, have a lovely day/night, then go home if they wanted to. We didn’t want our guests incurring massive transport/hotel costs.

The legal bit

We had a register signing on the Wednesday before our ceremony and we took our mams as witnesses. But it was quite impersonal (scripted) and we will always class our humanist ceremony as our official wedding.

Our photographer

We were given a couple of photographer’s details and, after looking at some of Rachel Alcock‘s work, we contacted her. After meeting Rachel we knew she would be perfect for us. She is so lovely and down to earth she put us at ease straight away. We didn’t want posed, stiff photos, just natural group shots — and Rachel knew exactly what we were after.

On the day, she organised everyone and got us all where we needed to be without being intrusive. I hate having my photo taken but have to admit that I love looking at our wedding photos. Rachel did an amazing job!

Advice for other couples thinking about having a humanist wedding

To other couples thinking about a humanist wedding, I would say, ‘do it!’. Your ceremony will be special and personal to you. I’m sure all Humanist Ceremonies celebrants are as fabulous as Sarah!


Thank you to Janice and Darren for sharing their story with us!

Is a humanist wedding for me?

A humanist wedding is ideal for you if you’d like a non-religious wedding that is unique, personalised, and meaningful.

How do I know if I’m a humanist?

Take our quiz and find out — or watch this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.

Featured celebrant

Sarah Hammal is a Humanist Ceremonies celebrant who has lived in Sunderland all her life —  apart from brief forays into the ‘Toon’. Sarah conducts wedding ceremonies in and around Sunderland and is also happy to travel to conduct ceremonies elsewhere in the north of England.

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