Your wedding ceremony is at the heart of your day. The feasting, dancing and toasting certainly have their place, but the moment when you and your partner join your lives together is one of a kind – so it makes sense to ensure it's a real reflection of the two of you.
This is where Humanists UK come in. The charity pioneered non-religious ceremonies for significant life events in 1896: theirs is the longest-established network of professional celebrants in the world. Far from following a strict format, a humanist wedding ceremony is entirely bespoke. You work with an accredited celebrant to create a ceremony that is all about you.
"Humanist celebrants are very imaginative when it comes to making the ceremony personal, authentic and as true to the couple as possible," says Deborah Hooper, Director of Ceremonies at Humanists UK.
What's more, a humanist ceremony is a great choice for couples who want their wedding to be as ethical as possible.
We explain how having a humanist wedding ceremony can let you share your values as you share your love.
1. You're Celebrating Inclusivity
At a humanist wedding ceremony, everyone is welcome.
"Humanism is a worldview – we believe we have only one life and we should make the best of it while we’re here," says Deborah. "The values at the heart of humanism are respecting others, treating people fairly, promoting democracy, equality and human rights, combating prejudice, and celebrating human achievements and potential."
A humanist wedding ceremony is for anyone who shares those values – whoever you are and whoever you love.
Humanists UK has demonstrated this by actions as much as words; having long campaigned for legally recognised same-sex marriage and having conducted same-sex humanist wedding ceremonies for over 40 years.
2. You're Standing up for Equality
"At a humanist wedding ceremony, both people who are getting married are equal," explains Deborah.
Wedding traditions that are rooted in a patriarchal framework can be alienating for some couples. A humanist ceremony gives you the freedom to include traditions that actually speak to you. Deborah has seen couples include a Chinese tea ceremony, handfasting, sand-blending, lighting a unity candle and a German 'cut-out heart race'.
There's a wealth of ideas to celebrate your love as two equal people.
3. You're Saluting Uniqueness
"It’s a humanist value to celebrate individuality - we’re all unique!" says Deborah. "A wedding is about two unique people who have found each other and want to spend their lives together."
As we've said, before the big day, you'll work with your humanist celebrant to put together a ceremony that's unique to you and your partner. You'll tell them about what matters to you, from your histories to your interests, and they'll help you tell that special story at your wedding, whether through readings, symbolic gestures, songs – or all of the above.
"It is an investment in time, but you get something totally personal," points out Deborah. "Most couples write their own vows, and that can be with the help of the celebrant. Sometimes they’re romantic, or funny, or a mix of the two!"
You'll be able to trust your humanist celebrant to come up with the right ceremony for you – they have regular training and development, and are annually accredited.
Remember, a humanist wedding ceremony is all about you. If you want the most pared-back of ceremonies, without a unity candle in sight, you can do that, too.
"You can have something totally simple – what always happens in a humanist ceremony is that the couple’s love and commitment to each other is at its very heart," says Deborah.
If one of you isn't keen on being the centre of attention, your celebrant will work with you to set up the ceremony so you both feel entirely comfortable.
You can also make your ceremony unique by having it in a location that's personal to you. A humanist ceremony can take place anywhere you choose, indoors or outdoors, so long as you have the owner's permission!
4. You Can Share the Love
A humanist ceremony is an opportunity to let your loved ones share in your celebration.
"Our celebrants are fantastically creative at finding ways for guests to get involved," says Deborah. "Friends and family members can be included with readings, singing or symbolic gestures like handfasting."
You can also use your humanist ceremony to celebrate your heritages for a real fusion wedding that brings your families together.
And it's not just about human guests – venue allowing, you can even get your pet involved!
Humanist ceremonies are entirely flexible, so if all this talk of guest involvement isn't your thing, they work just as well for a just-the-two-of-us elopement.
5. You're Supporting Ethical Aims
Humanist UK campaigns on multiple issues, including human rights, equality and inclusivity. You don't have to be a member of the charity to have a humanist ceremony, but by choosing one of their accredited celebrants, you'll be helping to further their work in these areas.
For ideas and inspiration, The Little Book of Humanist Weddings is a must-read, with poems and insights that are ideal for your ceremony and speeches.