Humanist weddings continue to surge in number, bucking national trend

28 April, 2016

Humanist weddings are extremely popular, but the Government continues to delay giving them legal recognition in England and Wales.
Humanist weddings are increasingly popular, in spite of a more general decline in the number of marriages.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has called for legal recognition to be given to humanist weddings across the UK, as new national marriage figures in England and Wales show that marriages overall have declined in number at the same time as non-legal humanist weddings have surged in popularity.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has announced that the number of marriage ceremonies in England and Wales declined by 8.6% in 2013. Meanwhile BHA-accredited celebrants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland performed 26% more weddings in 2013 than in 2012 – growth that has continued since, with 87% more being performed in 2015 than 2012.

The number of humanist weddings performed in Scotland has grown exponentially since their legal recognition as marriages, reversing the overall decline in the number of marriages in Scotland. In 2010 Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) performed more marriages than the Catholic Church, and in 2013 it performed more than double. It is expected to have overtaken the Church of Scotland in 2015 to become the largest provider of belief-based weddings. Humanist marriages in Scotland were legalised in 2005, since which time the number of such weddings has gone from about 50 per year to well over 4,000.

It is still not possible to have a legally recognised humanist marriage elsewhere in the UK. In England and Wales, the UK Government is currently considering whether such recognition should be given. In Northern Ireland there is no Government consideration of the issue. The BHA is today calling for legal recognition across the whole UK.

BHA Head of Ceremonies Isabel Russo commented, ‘The UK Government says it is in favour of marriage as an institution. If that is true then there is one easy, legitimate step it can take to massively boost the number of couples getting married, and that is extending legal recognition to humanist marriages in England and Wales.

‘We will be continuing to work to see the Government make use of its power to extend such recognition as we know that such a change would be overwhelmingly popular, simple to introduce, and grant the same freedoms to humanist couples that are already enjoyed by religious couples.’

Wouldn’t it be great to start your married life with a ceremony that really means something? To tell your friends and family what your relationship means to you, and why you are choosing to get married?

Many of us who aren’t religious are looking for a wedding that is more flexible and personal than a civil or register office ceremony.

Humanist, non-religious wedding ceremonies may not yet have full legal recognition in all parts of the UK, but they do give you the opportunity to mark your marriage where you want, when you want, and how you want. You can find out more on the Humanist Ceremonies website.


For further comment or information, please contact BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson on or 020 7324 3072.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns around marriage laws:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.