What is a humanist wedding?

What is a humanist wedding?

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?

So, just what is a humanist wedding?

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is welcoming, inclusive, and personally tailored to you. A humanist wedding is led by a celebrant and focuses on your love story and the things that are important to you as a couple.

The wedding ceremony is conducted by a trained humanist wedding celebrant. They take the time to get to know you as a couple and they write and deliver a meaningful ceremony just for you. It can be as traditional or non-traditional, formal or informal as you like. Your day can include ritual moments, singing, pets, traditions (or not!) and anything else that makes it feel 100% right for you.

Thinking of having a humanist wedding ceremony on your big day? Go to our handy map to find one of our trained and accredited wedding celebrants near you.

Read on to find out more about what makes humanist weddings so special.

Tiz and Maria’s garden wedding by Ross Holkham

Wedding ceremony traditions and rituals

In a humanist wedding ceremony you can keep to tradition or break with it, that’s up to you. Ritual moments are a beautiful way to enhance the meaning and emotion of a non-religious wedding. So when you’re planning your humanist wedding, you can be open to possibility. It can include unique vows, readings, poems, music, and any rituals you choose, such as handfasting or hand-binding, symbolic knot-tying, or lighting a unity candle.

Unity Candle at a humanist wedding
Laura and Alex lighting a unity candle by Ben Jenkins

How is a humanist wedding different from a civil ceremony?

A humanist wedding is different from a civil ceremony or register office wedding in that it’s entirely personalised to you. Also, it can take place anywhere that is significant to you as a couple. It could be the place you first met, somewhere with happy childhood memories or a location that signifies something about you. Whether it is a beach wedding, a woodland wedding or a wedding at home, a humanist ceremony is entirely focused on you, your love, and your story.

Humanist wedding in a woodland
Chloe and Josh’s woodland wedding by Alex Miller

Humanist wedding celebrants

Your humanist wedding celebrant will spend time getting to know you both, together and individually. This means that, on the day, they can tell the story of your relationship in an authentic and meaningful way. Usually this involves meeting for a few hours of conversations and sharing before the wedding. They will ask you questions and together you will shape your story which they will then turn into a bespoke script for your wedding ceremony.

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

Briege and Warren’s luxury barn wedding by Emma Kenny

The wedding party

If you’d rather have a Best Woman than a Best Man, or one of each, just say the word. Do you want to involve your pets or children in the wedding ceremony somehow? No problem. You’re in control. With a humanist wedding, it’s your day, your way. Our celebrants can help you bring your loved ones and pets into your ceremony in a natural and inclusive way.

Kayleigh and Lisa with their son by Sawyer and Sawyer Photography

Humanist celebrants are committed to helping you create a personal, meaningful celebration 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, Jersey, and Guernsey – meaning it’s extremely easy to get married in one perfect, heartfelt humanist ceremony.

In England, Wales, 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 ceremony. You can read our in-depth guide to how the law varies on humanist weddings. Humanists UK also campaign for humanist marriage on behalf of non-religious people.

Humanist wedding
Sanaya and Steve’s wedding celebrations by Nikki van der Molen

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 open to all.

Humanist wedding
Nick and Chris by Russell How

Humanist Wedding Testimonials

What couples say about humanist weddings

‘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 wedding 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 wedding 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’.

What our wedding celebrants think

‘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

Next steps for wedding planning

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. Use our map to locate celebrants near to you and get in touch to make an introductory appointment.

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

Featured photographers

Thank you to you all for sharing these beautiful images with us.

Alexander Crane

Ross Holkham

Russell How

Ben Jenkins

Emma Kenny

LA Photography

Alex Miller

Nikki van der Molen

Sawyer & Sawyer

Header photo by Alexander Crane

'My humanist ceremony was the most special day of my life. All my family were blown away. Both my parents said that they'd never been to a wedding that was more personal or heartfelt.'
Madeleine, 34

Read our wedding blog for feature ideas, inspiration, top tips, and real-life humanist wedding stories.

If you're planning your wedding now, then contact a celebrant as early as possible.