A humanist wedding ceremony can shed light on these hard times we have been in. 2020 has been a vortex for new ideas, and for the resurgence of old, forgotten traditions. Between COVID-19 creating many forms of havoc not just in our daily, personal lives, but also globally at large, along with many other events, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of chaos that seems so prevalent in our world today. And yet, although much has changed and continues to change, there are certain things that preserve.
One of those things is weddings. Despite the crisis that we’ve been forced to endure throughout the past, people continue to hold wedding ceremonies, in defiance of the virus, but while still adhering to strict social distancing procedures to ensure the utmost safety. However, there is more than one type of wedding ceremony that has seen a sharp increase in activity throughout recent years. We believe that it is a wonderful idea in the current age, especially given the state of these times. However, many people may be unfamiliar with this kind of wedding ceremony, so let’s delve right into learning what the humanist wedding ceremony is all about!
What is a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?
A humanist wedding is a non-religious wedding. It is as simple as that, yet also contains a lot of depth. Typically, a traditional wedding follows a specific format or script. A wedding ceremony that follows humanist beliefs would allow for a couple to break through the binding of these chains to partake in a dream wedding of their own image. A traditional wedding ceremony is typically conducted in a church setting; but a humanist wedding ceremony can be conducted anywhere, even the outdoors, which is an attractive prospect considering the COVID-19 epidemic.
Humanist wedding ceremonies also differ by having celebrants instead of priests. Celebrants will work closely with you throughout the organization process, whereas priests, not so much. Therefore, to begin the process of planning a humanist wedding ceremony, you would find and contact a celebrant.
It is important to emphasize the flexibility of this type of wedding ceremony. Customization to the degree of venue, music, and more, is more important than ever in the current age due to COVID-19 and other factors. So far, however, this might sound like it is not wholly different from a traditional wedding ceremony. The distinction will soon be clear as we delve deeper, as we have only scratched the surface.
Who is a Humanist?
We’ve briefly explored an overview of what a humanist wedding ceremony is like; next you might be wondering- what is a humanist? As mentioned previously, one of the most significant differences that are often noted when comparing a humanist wedding ceremony to a more traditional one is that it is non-religious. As such, humanists do not believe in a religion, or holy book, or God.
Yet, they do hold many respectable virtues in high regard. Humanists believe that they have one life and that there is no afterlife. This makes it important to make the most of this current one and to seek happiness virtuously, along with creating a strong sense of duty to help others.
Anything supernatural or anything that cannot be scientifically proven is rejected. In favor of the scientific method and for ethical reason and empathy for others. A good way of looking at it is that some believe that happiness is earned in the afterlife, after working towards it during their lifetime. But happiness can and should be sought after in the present life. Especially if the individual believes that an afterlife does not exist. It is important to note that it is not merely the seeking of happiness for one’s own self, but others as well. It functions on the belief of deep empathy for one’s life, and others. These are the beliefs of humanism.
What Else Does a Humanist Wedding Ceremony Entail?
We’ve established that humanist wedding ceremonies are not traditional and non-religious. But we’ve only scratched the surface; there is much more to a humanist wedding ceremony than that!
Some worry that such a ceremony could be so distinct from a traditional one that it may not actually feel like a wedding at all. That is most certainly not the case! If anything, it can become a more exciting and enhanced version of a more traditional wedding, and the perfect alternative to a religious ceremony for atheists. These weddings can be more personal, while also very neutral to everyone’s ideas and beliefs.
Stories about the couple could be shared, poems can be read out loud. There can be introductions, speeches, meaningful words shared, and more. It can be a long extravagant ceremony, or it can be a short and quiet one; or vice versa.
It can incorporate old, forgotten, or lost traditions such as handfasting, which is a tradition in which a couple would tie the knot via a union of hands rather than kissing the bride. You can include or exclude traditional elements if you so desire. Celebrants are well trained and can provide excellent information and assistance in constructing an outline for your desired dream wedding.
What’s an Outline of a Humanistic Wedding?
Here’s a brief summary of a humanist wedding ceremony, according to humanism.org.
- Couple arrival (individually or together)
- Intros and welcomes
- Speeches on love and commitment without a religious perspective
- Readings or poems
- The couple’s love story
- The meaning of marriage according to the couple
- Readings, poems or songs
- Promises and vows made by the couple
- Symbolic act (e.g. non-religious handfasting ceremony)
- Rings exchange
- Couple pronounced as married
- Well-wishing words
The Legality of a Humanist Wedding Ceremony
It is important to note that a humanist wedding ceremony is not legal worldwide. It is different in every region. For example, Ireland and Scotland have fully legalized humanist wedding ceremonies since 2012. In the United States, the laws vary from state to state which can result in a difference in your experience with humanist wedding ceremonies. In these countries, some organizations train and conduct celebrants, so that humanist wedding ceremonies can be successfully carried out. Using our previous two examples, Ireland has the Humanist Association of Ireland, and in the United States, they have The Humanist Society.
Humanist wedding ceremonies can be conducted before or after a civil legal proceeding. It is important to speak with a celebrant on this matter to iron out the legality details. Fees may vary depending on a variety of factors including region, but as mentioned previously, organizations exist to properly train celebrants to make fees worth the price.
The freedom of these ceremonies also allows for same-sex marriage, which has seen a rise in interest in the past decade. Given this wide array of possibilities, it becomes little wonder why one may want to opt for a humanist wedding ceremony over a traditional one, or any other. The reasons are numerous, especially when you consider the current year.
What is the Duration of a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?
A humanist ceremony can go from 25 minutes to over an hour. Since it’s the couple’s day, they decide what they’d prefer.
Humanists worldwide support marriage equality and celebrants are available to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies. If interested, find a celebrant near you and discuss a humanist same-sex ceremony!
Is a Humanist Wedding Expensive?
There are many things a humanist wedding ceremony depends on: geographical location, local supply and demand, and experience. However, here is a lot of work involved in planning the ceremony, so it can get slightly more expensive.
The price of a celebrant varies between $600 and $1,300. You should also expect ceremony room hire and registrar fees, but the final price often ends up being similar to a registrar and a registered building.
How Do People React to a Humanist Wedding?
You might be worried that a humanist ceremony might be too “hippy” for your traditional, religious family and friends. But don’t be! Here’s a personal account from a humanist celebrant:
“People who have been guests at, or who have had humanist weddings themselves, are always complimentary. Because the ceremonies are so warm and engaging and are so reflective of the couple’s personalities, values and wishes, they are emotional, heartfelt, surprisingly out of the ordinary, relaxed and utterly personal.”
Humanist weddings are another way of two people coming together to publicly express their love and support, and what’s not to love about that?
Why a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?
Due to COVID-19, one must consider social distancing. The prospect of an outdoor wedding or a wedding venue outside of a cramped church becomes a lot more appealing when this is considered. For many people, their everyday normal life was flipped upside-down. Inspiring new and old traditions to be explored. The safety of a traditional marriage ceremony in a church can be seen as questionable due to the ongoing pandemic.
Human lives are at stake, and so it is of the utmost importance to consider safety and consideration for others. Social distancing is not only meant for the safety of one’s self but for others around them, be their loved ones or strangers. And remember; the humanist way is a consideration not for just yourself, but for others too. A fully customizable wedding ceremony tailored to your own personal suit and needs has never come at a better time, once the current state of affairs globally due to COVID and other factors is considered.
A humanist wedding ceremony is a great way for you to have the wedding of your dreams. With no right or wrong way it creates the perfect approach for you and your partner to create a ceremony that is tailored to what you find important in a marriage, not just the religious aspect. Look no further for ideas on everything from vows, processional orders, and cortege songs, to wedding dessert tables, and destination weddings.
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Written by Jan Rojas