What’s the most inclusive type of wedding ceremony?

What’s the most inclusive type of wedding ceremony?

Sanaya and Steve by Nikki van der Molen

Humanist weddings are on the rise. And it’s little wonder. People fall in love all over the world and despite our differences, love wins. Focusing the entire wedding day on the celebration of a couple’s love, humanist ceremonies are religion-free, creative, meaningful, and extraordinarily memorable.

With a humanist wedding ceremony, gone are the days of ‘just getting the ceremony part out of the way before the party’. A humanist ceremony turns the modern wedding day on its head, delighting the couple and the guests with professional delivery of a carefully crafted, engaging script. Integral to the beauty of the vows, the rituals, the celebration, the emotions, and the story-telling, is ‘inclusivity’. Humanist Ceremonies celebrant Rachael Meyer tells all.

Diversities United

The world has become smaller and our lives are richer for it. Most weddings – however grand, boho, traditional, large, or intimate – will include couples and their friends, families, colleagues, and acquaintances with diverse backgrounds, cultures, ages, genders, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, genders, family situations, personal situations, and lives in general. For many couples planning a non-religious wedding, inclusivity is of the highest priority.

Humanist celebrants naturally love people and their unique stories. That’s why we do this job! We embrace diversity and we accept and celebrate every human’s differences. We may not be perfect, and we don’t know everything, but we’re open, curious and welcoming, and we’re very keen to learn so we can craft and deliver a ceremony that meets and exceeds people’s expectations of feeling included and involved.

Because humanist celebrants write every single wedding ceremony from scratch after a lengthy meeting and several planning conversations, the couple and their values are placed at the very heart of the script; with their love for each other, their style and their past, present, and future togetherness woven right through.

Who has a humanist wedding?

Love is love and people love humanist weddings as they are so inclusive. Some couples who want a humanist ceremony are atheist. Some are agnostic. Some are of different religion or spiritual belief. Whatever the situation, humanist wedding ceremonies are perfect for anyone who does not their wedding to feature religion, but who does want to have a meaningful ceremony conducted by a celebrant they choose to invite into their lives for a short period during an important, life changing moment in time.

I have conducted a humanist ceremony straight after a traditional Chinese tea ceremony in the Yorkshire Dales.

Hester and Joe’s wedding. Photo by Duncan McCall Photography.

This year, I’m conducting a humanist ceremony where instead of a reading, a family friend of the couple – a vicar – will come up to say a few words from the heart. I write and conduct same-sex weddings in some awesome venues and, oh wow, how we celebrated with billboards in Northern Ireland when same sex and humanist weddings were legally recognised at the end of 2019.

‘Love wins’ billboard in Belfast 2019.

We are inclusive. We embrace tradition and we form new traditions. We accept others’ spiritual beliefs. We like to collaborate to make everyone come together as one on their special day: in the name of supporting and celebrating two people in love.

Religion-free but symbolic acts aplenty

Because there is no religious content written into our scripts, absolutely everyone feels included throughout a humanist ceremony. Everyone can follow, join in with and enjoy the proceedings. Our ceremonies are never boring however. No way. We are great writers, experienced speakers and event managers, and we appreciate the historical significance of a ritual.

As well as offering unique vow exchanges, ring giving ceremonies, and certificate signings, humanist ceremonies feature the couple’s own (often humorous as well as moving) love story, words about love and marriage, and a celebratory pronouncement. We live in a wonderfully diverse world of religions, beliefs, traditions, and cultures, and so we do love to include symbolic acts inspired by a world of weddings. It’s also not unusual for our ceremonies to include gorgeous fire or flower ceremonies, handfasting, candle-lighting, oath stone, cloaking, or tree-planting ceremonies, or a range of other existing or entirely bespoke rituals – which are not only amazing to perform and watch, they’re a photographer’s dream!

Hester and Joe’s handfasting. Photo by Duncan McCall Photography.

Involving families and friends

Thanks to the increasing awareness of humanist weddings, couples are starting to realise that they have the flexibility to make their ceremony as bespoke and fabulous as the rest of their day.

Everyone has their own situation, their own personality, their own story, their own style.  Some couples are young and just starting out on their journey together whilst others have been married or had relationships previously and others have just taken a while to find the person with whom they want to spend the rest of their life. Some couples are hoping to have children at some point, (or maybe not), some have already had children together, others are bringing children – or much loved pets – from previous relationships together to create a brand new family. Anything is possible! I’ve written and delivered a beautiful, multi-cultural family wedding ceremony where the number of pugs equalled the number of guests. It was amazing!

Helena and Ollie with their pugs. Photo by Sira Studio.

Whatever a couple’s family situation, the way the ceremony is written is entirely led by them. They can have a simple, traditional ring exchange and certificate signing, or we can be as creative and off the wall as they like. Children can be included in many ways – for example with special vows, as ring-bearers, by accompanying their mum down the aisle, singing, reading, or being their mum or dad’s ‘Best Person’.

Kayleigh and Lisa’s wedding. Photo by Sawyer and Sawyer Photography.

Often, important friends and other family members are included in ceremonies. This could be for a reading, to lead a sing-a-long, to offer some heartfelt advice or specially crafted poem, or to get involved in a symbolic act such as a handfasting.

A handfasting at Dan and Sheila’s wedding. Photo by Sira Studio.

There are plenty of meaningful, moving and also some really good fun ways of involving families and friends. And it’s not unusual to have guests’ vows to the couple, an oath stone or ring warming ceremony, or even a toast with a cocktail to the couple after they the pronouncement. Yes, we can have a drink! With a humanist ceremony, everyone feels a part of the action!

Love wins. Humanist weddings are for everyone.

We recognise that planning a wedding can be stressful so the way we plan and deliver our ceremonies with support, advice, humour and human kindness free on tap. Whatever style you choose, you can be rest assured that your ceremony will be wonderful and incredibly inclusive when you bring a humanist celebrant on board!

Featured celebrant

Rachael Meyer is a humanist wedding celebrant based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. A seasoned storyteller, Rachael has a background in professional writing, event management, photography and video production. Since training to be a wedding celebrant with Humanists UK in 2018, she has delivered many weddings throughout Yorkshire. Rachael is one of four other celebrants shortlisted for the UK Wedding Awards. The winner will be announced in London on 13 February 2020.

Humanist wedding celebrant, Rachael Meyer. Photo by Sira Studio.

Featured photographers

Duncan McCall Photography

Nikki van der Molen

Sawyer and Sawyer Photography

Sira Studio

'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.