Written by Paula Jones Last updated: June 6, 2006
Unitarian wedding ceremonies are highly flexible. Here’s an introduction…
The ultimate broad church, Unitarianism is a historic non‐conformist faith, which emphasises individual choice and deciding for yourself in spiritual matters.
Today’s movement emphasises the shared quest for meaning, rather than any specific beliefs. Members may come from a variety of religious backgrounds, their beliefs ranging from liberal Christian to religious humanist to New Age. About 900 wedding ceremonies take place in Unitarian churches each year.
You don’t have to be a Unitarian or belong to a Unitarian congregation in order to be married in a Unitarian church, chapel or meeting house. The fee is usually set locally, but is likely to be comparable to what you’d pay for an Anglican vicar.
Wedding ceremonies in Unitarian churches are legally recognised by the state, provided there is an authorised person present ‐‐ often a Unitarian minister or member of the congregation ‐‐ and the minimum legal contracting words are included.
Flexibility is key. The exact form of and content of your ceremony is individually agreed between you and the local officiate ‐‐ not any supervising body. Most Unitarian ministers and lay officials are happy to supervise personalised ceremonies, where the aim is to do justice to the beliefs of a couple, rather than seeking to use set religious language which may have little to meaning for those taking part.
Unitarians are happy to perform ceremonies for couples of different faiths ‐‐ eg Christian and Jewish ‐‐ and for divorcees. In Britain, divorcees actually form a higher percentage of those getting married in Unitarian churches and chapels than for any other denomination or faith.
In the ceremony, references to God may be omitted in favour of other material, such as poetry, which may reflect your beliefs. Couples can choose their own readings and write their own vows, provided that the marriage wording remains. For Unitarians, such ceremonies remain deeply religious because they deal with people’s personal beliefs and convictions (conventional or otherwise) about life issues.