British Sign Language interpreter Audrey Simmons became a humanist wedding celebrant in 2016. Today, she takes time out from her busy schedule to tell us about each of her roles and how she hopes to bring them together to conduct the first Humanist Ceremonies wedding ceremony entirely using British Sign Language.
What humanism means to me
Humanism is a worldview rooted in respect for humanity and the natural world. I believe that we have one life here on earth and with respect, honesty, empathy, and tolerance, we can give this life meaning.
Why I become a humanist celebrant
I’m a member of the Association of Black Humanists (formerly London Black Atheists) and a few years ago, we had a guest speaker from Humanists UK who gave a presentation about Humanist Ceremonies and the role of a humanist celebrant. Listening to what the role entailed and the skills needed, I thought, ‘That sounds like the perfect job for me!’ There was something so appealing about it. I didn’t question it, I just knew that I wanted to do it. So, I applied to do the training, and I was accepted. I completed my training and became an accredited humanist wedding celebrant in 2016 and I have never looked back!
What I find most rewarding about being a humanist wedding celebrant
The most rewarding aspect of being a humanist wedding celebrant is seeing people in love. It may be a bit of a cliché, but I’m a sucker for a good love story. I love the introductory meetings where I get all the juicy details of how the couple met and what makes them tick and then, best of all, I get to see my research come to life at the ceremony.
The skills I bring to my role as a wedding celebrant
I love people and I love meeting people — and I do love a good love story!
My mother used to say I could talk for England and I now use this skill in my role as a radio presenter. I studied drama and I am a confident public speaker. Also, I like to research and prepare things in advance, and my role as a wedding celebrant allows me to do that so, when you put all of this together, it makes the role of celebrant one that fits me well!
I’m a qualified sign language interpreter. I was an in-house interpreter for Action on Hearing Loss for six years before becoming a freelance interpreter.
‘I would love to conduct a humanist wedding ceremony using British Sign Language.’
And it’s not just about conducting the ceremony; if one or both of the couple is Deaf, I can use BSL in the planning meetings too, which means the research needed to tell the couple’s story will also be conducted in BSL. It is so important for brides and grooms to understand and fully participate in planning their own ceremony. BSL has its own grammar and syntax, which makes understanding written English less than straightforward for people whose first language is BSL. I’m available to discuss all aspects of the wedding and answer any questions the couple may have – using BSL.
I can help couples to produce their own vows using BSL or to practise the traditional ‘repeat after me’ vows.
So, if you or someone you know would like a non-religious wedding ceremony conducted using BSL, contact me!
Becoming a humanist celebrant
Audrey Simmons conducts humanist weddings in London and the surrounding area.
Find a wedding celebrant near you
If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding, the next step is to find your ideal celebrant.