Nurse and educationalist, Hannah Bryant, made the decision to become a humanist wedding celebrant during her own wedding ceremony. Here, she tells us how she got started, what she loves about her role and about the crucial support she gets from being part of Humanist UK’s network of celebrants.
‘When my wife and I got married in 2015, we decided we wanted a humanist ceremony. We wanted a bespoke ceremony written about us, for us.
‘When we first met our celebrant Wendy – now one of my colleagues – she asked us all sorts of things about each other. At the time we couldn’t think why she was asking, but later on it all became clear – the ceremony she wrote for us was fantastic. So much so, that halfway through the ceremony, I decided that I’d love to be a wedding celebrant myself!
‘I had no idea how this would be possible or what would be involved in training. However, after doing some research and chatting with other celebrants, I decided to apply. The training was really intense, but we learnt so much and I’m so glad that I did it.’
What humanist values mean to me
Hannah balances her role as a humanist celebrant with her nursing commitments. While this can be busy and challenging, she finds that each role also enriches the other.
‘The training was hard as Humanists UK has very high standards. It was tricky meeting the deadlines for the writing assignments with my other role as a nurse, but I was determined to manage it.
‘In addition, at the start of my training in 2017, I had a nasty accident. I was in a wheelchair for a few months, then I needed extensive rehab. But I completed the training as soon as I could. It made such a difference having support from the other trainees and from my mentor.
‘I understand humanism as a way of life. For me, it’s about living in the moment and living this one life we have to the fullest. Trusting in science and reason. It’s about caring for others and the planet we live on. It’s basically being a good person. It fits so well with my life and values as a nurse.’
There are also many practical skills and experiences that Hannah brings from nursing into her role as a celebrant – ‘I’m a warm, caring, people person. But I’m also used to working under pressure and to dealing with the unexpected. Nothing fazes me!’
Why train with Humanists UK?
Hannah chose to train with Humanists UK because she wanted to be part of a trusted network with shared values that would offer her support in the long term.
‘Being part of the Humanist Ceremonies network means a standard of professionalism which both venues and couples trust. On a practical level, we are all insured and have DBS checks, do Continuing Professional Development and have regular peer reviews to maintain our yearly accreditation.’
‘I am still in touch with the celebrants I trained with. As a network we support each other in so many ways – giving advice, sharing ideas and best practices and even stepping in for a celebrant colleague who is unwell or has to self-isolate.
What’s different about a humanist wedding ceremony?
‘Now that I’m accredited, I’ve officiated weddings for couples all over the country and even from abroad. The nice thing about humanist ceremonies is that they are bespoke – they focus on the couple, the commitment and love between them and the unity that brings between their friends and family as well.
‘I’ve been known to do weddings in fields, in woods, in formal settings, even on a boat. I love all weddings, formal, informal, small or large. I love officiating gothic steampunk and other themed weddings! Many of my ceremonies also involve family pets – planned very carefully so as not to distress the animals in any way. The list is endless.
‘Being able to create these individual and personal ceremonies with each different couple is so magical. My favourite part is getting to know my couples, so that I can write a ceremony about them, for them.
‘Most of my couples book me at least a year in advance. During that time we do build up a real friendship. I get to know all about them, which is a huge privilege, and they get to know me. Most of my couples still keep in contact, I even get the odd phone call from some of their parents!’
The challenges and joys of being a humanist celebrant
Hannah’s advice for anyone considering training to become a celebrant is simple – do your research.
‘Have a good look through the Humanists UK website. Ask for a copy of Humanist UK’s Celebrant Code of Conduct. Ask the Humanist Ceremonies team if you can have a chat with them, or speak to a local humanist celebrant.
‘Being a celebrant is challenging. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s emotional, but you can get so much joy from it. Leading a wedding ceremony on the most important day of a couple’s lives is very rewarding, and gives me a huge amount of happiness.’
Our thanks to Hannah for sharing her celebrant story with us and for all the wonderful ceremonies she writes and delivers.
Find out more
Our Humanist Ceremonies network consists of qualified and accredited celebrants in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands. Our priority is to develop a diverse network of celebrants that represents the wider society that we serve, so that we can meet the need of all those who would like to have a humanist ceremony.
To talk about being a celebrant with someone from the Humanist Ceremonies network near you, use our ‘Find a Celebrant‘ map