Everything You Need to Know About Humanist Weddings

2019 has seen a whole host of new and exciting wedding trends come to light, from fig wedding cakes to unusual wedding catering ideas, but one wedding aspect you might not have been expecting to see gain such huge popularity is humanist weddings.

Figures released from the Office of National Statistics showed that the number of humanist weddings rose by 266% between 2004 and 2016, while most faith-based ceremonies saw a decline in popularity (it revealed that Church of England weddings fell by 28%, Catholic weddings by 34% and Baptist by 42%.)

“The steep increase in popularity of our weddings reflects the growing number of non-religious people who want a deeply personal ceremony which celebrates their love and their shared values, conducted by someone who shares those beliefs,” says Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

“There’s enormous public appetite for humanist ceremonies but the scale of the demand for weddings, especially in the last fifteen years, has blown us away. These people are not religious but they want a ceremony at one of the most important moments in their lives that reflects the positive beliefs and values they hold.”

What exactly are humanist weddings, though, and why are so many more couples choosing to have one?


What is a Humanist Wedding?

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony, conducted by a celebrant rather than a vicar or a priest.

They’re popular with couples who have no religious affiliations, but who want to enter into a publicly committed marital relationship.

Humanist ceremonies can be totally personalised to you, so they’re great for couples who want to have a very unique ceremony rather than stick to a standard template.  You can set the tone that is right for you and choose the words,  music and even the venue.

Who Conducts a Humanist Wedding?

A celebrant trained and licensed by the  Humanist Ceremonies™ usually conducts humanist weddings, but you can ask a friend or relation to do it if you prefer.

If you choose a Humanist Ceremonies™ celebrant to conduct your wedding, you will meet and work closely with their them over a period of time. This means that when your wedding day arrives, the celebrant will be able to share stories and deliver readings which are personal and utterly unique.

Where Can You Have a Humanist Wedding?

Part of the beauty of humanist weddings is that you can hold them wherever you wish. If you’ve always dreamt of an outdoor wedding, a humanist ceremony might be for you!

If you have somewhere particularly person you want to get married, like your family home, or where you are your partner first met, you can hold your humanist ceremony there.

Who Can Have a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?

A humanist wedding is suitable for anyone wanting a non-religious ceremony.

As the whole event can be personalised, humanist ceremonies are a good fit for couples who want to customise their ceremony to make it unique to them.

Each wedding is tailored to the individual couple, so it’s as unique as you are. You choose everything from the music, to the words spoken to the length of the ceremony.

A Humanist wedding is completely secular (ie non‐religious with no hymns, prayers or Bible readings). This can be a particular advantage for couples from different faiths. Rather than plump for one tradition at the risk of alienating the other, inter‐faith couples can design a ceremony that emphasises what they have in common.


Are Humanist Ceremonies Legal?

In England and Wales, humanist weddings have no legal status, so if you want to be legally married, then you’ll need to have a civil wedding at the register office as well, or to have a registrar present.

When conducted by accredited humanist celebrants, humanist ceremonies are legal in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Jersey.

“The fact that people are seeking to start their married life on a firm foundation of shared values and meaningful public commitment says great things about our society and it is bewildering that the Government continues to resist giving legal recognition,” says Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson.

“Thousands of couples remain either legally unmarried or have to go through the expensive irrelevance of a register office in addition to what they see as their ‘real’ wedding.”

How Much do Humanist Weddings Cost?

Prices vary, seeing as the event is very personal to you, but as a general guide, humanist weddings tend to cost between £450 and £1500 – a big disparity, we know!

The fees cover the celebrant, but the price depends on location, travel time, number of planning meetings, how long you need the celebrant for, what the ceremony entails.

How to Plan a Humanist Wedding

Once you have decided on a date and time, you need to do the following:

  • Unless you have chosen a friend or relation to conduct the ceremony, visit the Humanists UK site to find a celebrant.
  • Once you have found a celebrant, decide on a venue ‐ ideally somewhere that’s significant and personal to you as a couple. Decide whether you want to make the marriage legal first by having a civil registry office wedding and contact your local register office to arrange a date and time.
  • Decide on the type of service you’d like and what you would like to say. The job of the celebrant is to help you create a ceremony that’s personal to you. They will help you explore your feelings towards one another and express this in words. You can write the entire service yourself to reflect the important aspects of your relationship or, with help and advice from Humanists UK, you can adapt one of the ceremonies they can suggest to you. They also have suggestions for readings and music.

Guests at a Humanist Wedding

Someof your guests might never have been to a humanist ceremony before, so it’s a nice idea to include something on the invitation to describe what a humanist wedding entails.


What to Wear at a Humanist Wedding

Because a humanist service is such a personal event, there’s no reason why you can’t wear whatever you want!

If you’re having a civil ceremony on the same day, it’s a good idea to wear something relatively smart.

Check out our edit of alternative wedding dresses for a bridal outfit with a difference.

How Long is a Humanist Ceremony?

As there are no legal formalities you have to abide by, the structure of the day is entirely up to you. This will, to some extent, have been rehearsed beforehand with the wedding party, so that the main participants know the procedure, their positions and when and where to move.

The ceremony has no set structure. At some point, the couple will make promises to each other and although they have no legal standing, their words will bind them together in love.

A number of couples like to reflect on and celebrate their relationship before they make their promises. The majority of ceremonies will include readings and music, usually chosen for sentimental and personal reasons. The most important thing to remember is that the ceremony is about a public declaration of your love and commitment to each other.

Watch the video below for an overview on humanist ceremonies.

Find Wedding Ideas, Inspiration, Venues and Services