A traditional church ceremony, with ritual and religious words does not fit with everyone’s outlook on life or hopes for the future, instead couples go for a humanist or spiritual wedding. They are an excellent choice for interfaith weddings, where two families want to combine the traditions of both their religions and cultures.
The laws governing Register Office ceremonies strictly control what can be said or done. These civil ceremonies are designed around a standard framework. It is not currently possible to be legally married out of doors and there are limitations on time, place and content of ceremonies.
However a humanist wedding or civil partnership celebration can take place anywhere and be designed to suit the individuals. It may be as dignified and serious as a church wedding, but with the religious element replaced by words and music that have real meaning for the couple. They can be as romantic and creative in designing their ceremony as they wish. Humanist ceremonies have been held in gardens, marquees, on boats, in castles, on beaches.
Many couples choose to stand facing their guests during a humanist wedding, for a more open and inclusive feeling. Couples with children can make them a part of the spiritual ceremony. No two ceremonies are the same – they can be as traditional or as unusual as suits the people marrying.
Couples regard the humanist ceremony as that which truly makes them husband and wife. It is the real celebration, expressing the deepest feeling in the company of all family and friends.
However it does not form a marriage contract in the legal sense. Most couples therefore also attend a Register Office, sometimes a day or two before the humanist ceremony, to deal with the legal formalities and obtain a civil marriage certificate. It is not necessary to exchange rings at the Register Office.
Similarly, the legal element of a civil partnership can only be contracted by a Registrar at a Register Office, but many couples regard the humanist civil partnership celebration as that which binds them together.
The BHA is campaigning to legalise humanist weddings in England and Wales. They are already legal in Scotland.
Celebrants will discuss fees at the first meeting. The amount may vary depending on the time needed and distances travelled but you will typically pay between £300 – £650 – more if the celebrant has to travel some distance. To find a celebrant in your area you can contact the BHA office on 020 7324 3060 or write to 39 Moreland St, London EC1V 8BB..
BHA wedding/civil partnership celebrants are friendly experienced people who can help prepare the words to be spoken, offer advice on readings and music, and explain the many small details that help make such a big occasion a success.
The celebrantmeets with the couple several times before the wedding/civil partnership celebration, firstly to discuss ideas and answer questions, then to thoroughly plan and rehearse every aspect of the ceremony so they feel relaxed and confident of all going well.
The BHA has a network of accredited wedding/civil partnership celebrants organised into regions.
The BHA Sharing the Future book gives a range of ideas, practical tips, sample ceremonies and a selection of poems and prose used by couples choosing a non-religious ceremony.
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