When couples aren’t religious and don’t want a traditional church wedding, preferring instead something that reflects them and their values, a humanist ceremony is often the perfect fit. That was the case for Paul and Mark. Paul shares their wedding story with us in his own words.
In February 2007, Mark and I were set up on a blind date by Mark’s friend Julie, my friend Pam, and their mutual friend Dianne. Of course, we thought, ‘This will never work just because we’re gay.’ But actually, it did!
Throughout our relationship, Mark was always reluctant to discuss the subject of marriage, partly because same-sex marriage was not yet recognised here when we initially got together, and partly because he didn’t see the point. So, in my mind, any proposal had to be from Mark!
When we first got together, I had a ring that I loved, but then I thought I’d lost it. Unbeknown to me, Mark had actually kept hold of it. On the plane on our way to celebrate our 10th anniversary in New York he popped this ring out and asked me if I wanted to buy a real one and get married!
We started the planning process when we got back from New York. Mark loves a list and so we had lists galore.
Neither of us is religious and so we didn’t want a traditional church wedding, we wanted something that reflected us and our values and humanism, and a humanist ceremony seemed the perfect match.
Mark’s stepdad’s funeral had also been conducted by a humanist celebrant and we had seen what a great ceremony and reflection on his life that was.
Our celebrant was initially recommended to us by staff at our venue, Rudding Park. As with anything, you’re always a little anxious and unsure, but when we met Cate, she was perfect and completely got us, our situation, and how we wanted the day to be. She put us at ease and had many ideas and suggestions, most of which we incorporated into our day.
We wanted the day to be a big celebration and to be all about us — with a nod to tradition.
Our theme for the day was about our journey – and travel, because travelling together is such a big part of our relationship. The table names were of places we’ve visited — and the music and everything else was worked around that.
The ceremony was traditional in the sense that we both walked down the aisle (all being equal).
We also had a ‘ring warming’ ceremony, which went down a treat and then we exchanged rings — the ones we bought in New York.
After the ceremony, there was a drinks reception, followed by the wedding breakfast and evening celebration. Many people warned us to be prepared for things not to go to plan, but we needn’t have worried as everything was perfect.
Mark’s friend Rob was his Best Man and my mum was my Best Person. We had ‘Groomsmaids’ — three from each family, a Pageboy and Flower girl (our nephew Alfie and niece Amayah).
We looked at several venues from the Manchester Museum to many hotels. Set in 300 acres of landscaped gardens and woodland, Rudding Park luxury hotel in Harrogate had everything we wanted.
We had a small legal registration of marriage in the local town hall the week before so that we could fully enjoy the big day. But we think of our humanist ceremony as our real wedding.
Our cousin, James is a professional wedding photographer and he did our photos for us. He is great and we had several meetings about what we wanted to remember from the day in photographs.
A humanist wedding is ideal for you if you’d like a non-religious wedding that is unique, personalised, and meaningful.
Take our quiz and find out — or watch this short video where Stephen Fry explains humanism.
Cate Quinn is a humanist wedding celebrant based in Knaresborough. She’s available for weddings, vow renewals, and civil partnerships in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and further afield — even abroad!
If you’re thinking of having a humanist wedding, you can find celebrants near you via our celebrant map. All our celebrants conduct same-sex weddings, so you don’t need to ask — it’s a given.
Your ceremony will focus on your love story. It can include unique vows, readings, poems, and any symbolic acts you choose.
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There are exciting times ahead as you choose your humanist celebrant and plan a personalised wedding that's unique to you.