Your Humanist Wedding Ceremony
If you’re planning to get married, one of the first questions you and your partner will need to ask yourselves is: “What kind of ceremony do we want?” For many couples, the answer to this question will come quickly in easily. However, others may find that there’s no immediately clear answer. There are many possible reasons for this. For example, both partners may come from different religious backgrounds, or perhaps it’s been many years since either of them has practiced a religion. Whatever the reasons, it’s important for a couple to be able to decide on a wedding ceremony that is true to themselves and to their beliefs.
Humanist wedding ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular in Ireland and elsewhere. Ever greater numbers of couples are deciding that traditional, religious ceremonies aren’t a good fit for their personal outlook on life and marriage. As a result, they have begun to seek alternative styles of celebration, and many have found what they’re looking for in humanist ceremonies. But, what exactly is a humanist ceremony? And how would you go about planning one? In this week’s blog post, we’d like to provide some answers to these questions.
What is a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?
The simple answer to this question is that a humanist wedding ceremony can be almost anything you want it to be. Humanism is a a secular philosophy which values human freedom and progress, as opposed to veneration of a divine being. A humanist wedding ceremony is a non-religious ceremony that nonetheless celebrates humanist values like compassion, tolerance, and respect between human beings. For this reason, a humanist wedding ceremony could be a good choice for couples from differing religious backgrounds, or who hold no religious belief at all. In practice, there’s no definitive description of how a humanist wedding ceremony should be conducted, so couples are free to design their own ceremony.
What Are the Elements of a Humanist Wedding Ceremony?
As mentioned above, couples choosing to have a humanist wedding ceremony are free to design it themselves. However, there are some common elements that are often featured in humanist wedding ceremonies. One of the most popular is the act of exchanging vows. Couples will compose personal statements of their commitment to each other, which will be read aloud at the ceremony. Wedding rings are also commonly exchanged, as they are seen by many couples as having a symbolic significance which transcends their origins in more traditional ceremonies. Other elements which may be borrowed from religious ceremonies but imbued with a humanist meaning include readings and the singing of songs. In both cases, religious versions can be replaced with non-religious but nonetheless meaningful alternatives.
Of course, couples who choose a humanist wedding ceremony will wish to have their marriage recognised by the law, just like anyone else. There are two main options to consider in this regard. The first is to hold your own ceremony, with a friend or family member acting as the celebrant, and to follow this with a visit to the registry office to make your marriage official. Alternatively, you may choose to hire a humanist celebrant who can legally solemnise the wedding without the need for a seperate trip to the registry office. The Humanist Association of Ireland maintains a list of registered celebrants, which can be found here.
How Can We Decide If a Humanist Wedding Is Right for Us?
Decisions like this are deeply personal and depend heavily on your personal outlook, beliefs, and values. As a couple, you should have a careful discussion about your shared values and whether these are best served by a humanist wedding. It will also help for both of you to be well informed about humanism and humanist weddings, so that you can make an informed decision. While we’ve done our best to answer the most important questions here, humanism is a huge topic with a storied past. The Humanist Association of Ireland offers more information about humanist weddings, here.
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