What is a humanist wedding?

Lucy and Jona’s humanist wedding. Photo by Alexander Crane.

In recent years, you might have found yourself hearing more and more about ‘humanist weddings’. But what are they? Why are they more popular than religious weddings in Scotland? And what is the link between humanist weddings and long, happy marriages?

A humanist wedding is a non-religious celebration that is welcoming, inclusive, and personally tailored to you, focusing on your love story and things that are important to you as a couple. It can include unique vows, readings, poems, music, and any rituals you choose, such as handfasting, symbolic knot-tying, lighting a unity candle, or sand-blending.

It’s different from a civil or register office ceremony in that it’s entirely personalised to the couple and it can take place anywhere that a couple feels is significant to them. A humanist wedding is entirely focused on you, your love, and your story.

Your humanist wedding celebrant will spend time getting to know you so that on the day, they can tell the story of your relationship in an authentic and meaningful way.

Small, intimate wedding by Humanist Ceremonies. Photo by Simple Tapestry.

A humanist wedding can be a small, intimate, traditional affair or a huge, elaborate, fun-filled celebration. The choice is yours!

Humanist weddings can be held outdoors. Photo by Alexander Crane.

And, as for the location, as said above, a humanist celebrant can marry you anywhere! This could be outside on your favourite beach, in a woodland glade, on a clifftop, or beside a river.

Alternatively, your wedding could take place in a castle, a hotel, a park, a garden, or at your local pub in front of your friends, family, and a roaring fire.

If you’d rather have a Best Woman than a Best Man, or one of each, just say the word. Fancy an owl as a ring-bearer? Or do you want to involve your pets or children in the ceremony somehow? No problem. You’re in control. It’s your wedding, your way.

Humanist celebrants are committed to helping you create a personal, meaningful wedding that tells your story in a way that no other kind of wedding ceremony can.

Are humanist weddings legally recognised in the UK??

Humanists weddings enjoy legal recognition in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the island of Jersey – meaning it’s extremely easy to get married in one perfect, heartfelt humanist ceremony.

In England, Wales, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man, the situation is different. You can still have a humanist wedding (as thousands of couples do) but you will need to register the marriage separately at a register office in the days before or after your wedding. You can read our in-depth guide to how the law varies on humanist weddings.

Can we have a same-sex wedding?

Of course! All our celebrants are happy to conduct same-sex weddings. Humanist Ceremonies weddings are inclusive celebrations.

Kayleigh and Lisa’s wedding. Photo by Ray Sawyer.

What our celebrants say about humanist weddings

‘Your ceremony can be as joyful, heart-warming and completely individual as all the other details you’ve painstakingly planned for your big day. It can be low-key and simple, or grand and full of gravitas. And it can take place anywhere – a field, a forest, a castle… What’s key is that you have the freedom to decide exactly how you want to do things.’ Laura Gimson

‘​A humanist ceremony is entirely centred around the people involved. Each wedding ceremony is designed and written for the couple and their family and friends, so no two are ever the same. The tone, content, and structure are all determined by you – there’s nothing you have to include. As such, everything I say in your ceremony is relevant, personal and genuine. What better way to start married life!’ Maxine Beech

What couples say

‘It was exactly what we wanted in every way, from the location in the trees, the personalised story, the individual vows and the direct involvement of our families. Friends have described it as magical and that is how it felt.’

‘I’ve not been to a ceremony like it: so memorable, and touching, funny, and personal. It was everything I hoped it would be. And more. Thank you for making our day so amazing.’

‘Everyone has commented on how nice it was to have such a personal and tailored ceremony. We cannot recommend our celebrant or humanist weddings highly enough!’

‘Both sets of parents didn’t know what to expect and were – thankfully – overwhelmed at how wonderful it was. We really couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ceremony to start our perfect day, so thank you so much!’

What guests say

‘Quite the most romantic wedding ceremony I’ve ever been to – the individual touches, their story, their personal vows, the setting, all tied into one amazing package. Perfect!’

‘Everyone like us who had not been to a Humanist wedding before all said it was the best wedding they had ever been to’.

Next steps

If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding and would like to talk to someone about your ideas, we’ve made it easy for you to find your ideal celebrant.

For inspiration for your humanist wedding, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Featured photographers

Alexander Crane

Simple Tapestry

Sawyer & Sawyer

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