Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can we have our wedding at my parents’ house?

Yes. You can have your wedding celebration anywhere you fancy, indoors or out. However, if you would like me to act as the legal wedding officiant you will have to be legally married in an approved venue. I can advise on which venues you can use for the legal aspects of the wedding ceremony and I can officiate (and legally marry you) in those venues.

We’d like to get married outdoors. Is this crazy?

Absolutely not. Indeed al fresco weddings – whether in public places or at private venues – often have a wonderfully relaxed and intimate feel to them. That said, in case the Northern Ireland weather lives up to its reputation, we always advise there is a plan B: this might be an indoor venue close by or simply the provision of lots of umbrellas! I can talk this through with you. Remember, however, if you want the legal and celebration aspects of your wedding in one venue you will have to stick to approved venues.  I can advise.

We want to get married abroad. Can we take a celebrant with us?

Yes, of course. I love a trip. I will expense my travel and subsistence costs and will agree total fee (to cover travel/away time) in advance with you.

What happens at a wedding ceremony?

Each ceremony is written specifically for the couple; there is no set format. But as a guide, a typical wedding might include readings or poems, information about the couple and why they are choosing to marry and perhaps some music. The couple will make vows or commitments to each other and often exchange rings.

Does having a humanist wedding involve a lot of work?

It definitely takes more time and thought to arrange a humanist ceremony than a standard church or civil wedding, but it’s well worth the effort. You will end up with a ceremony that reflects the two of you, what you value and your hopes for the future, and an occasion that is truly unique and personal. An added bonus is that most couples find the planning process interesting and fun too. For example, one recently married couple commented:

“I wholeheartedly recommend a humanist wedding. It is so customisable that it can surmount any boundaries of religion, culture or language. As with anything bespoke it does take a bit more time to consider material you would like the ceremony to contain, but it is so worth it. You will have a ceremony that is 100% you.”

How much does a humanist wedding ceremony cost?

Humanists UK recommended fees are between £350-£1000 – but my fees are typically around £350-600. The range reflects that weddings can vary tremendously.

What does the fee include?

The celebrant’s fee will cover:

  • A planning meeting to discuss the ceremony in depth
  • Drafting and editing a personal script
  • Attendance at a rehearsal at your chosen venue
  • Delivery of the ceremony on the day itself
  • A presentation copy of the script

How long does a humanist wedding last?

It depends on what you want to include, but as a guide around 20-45 minutes. This is one of the aspects we can discuss.

Do you offer same-sex weddings?

I certainly do. Indeed, Humanists UK celebrants have been conducting ceremonies for same sex couples for at least two decades and were instrumental in successfully campaigning for legal same-sex marriage in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

We got married abroad and want another ceremony for friends and family here. Can you do this?

Yes, I’d be happy to create such an occasion for you – in fact many wedding ceremonies take place under similar circumstances. I can make the humanist ceremony a wedding in itself or think of it as a celebration of your marriage – whatever suits you best. That said, in practice most couples in such circumstances choose to make promises to each other and (re)exchange rings.

We’re not actually humanists – or at least we don’t think we are. Can we still have a humanist wedding ceremony?

When they look at humanism, many people discover they are actually humanist in outlook without having realised it.

If you are non-religious and look to science, reason, empathy, and compassion in order to live an ethical and meaningful life, then you’re in the right place: you’re amongst those with a humanist outlook, and my wedding ceremonies offer you a non-religious, personal, and meaningful way to celebrate your marriage.

My grandmother / aunt / dad etc. is religious and I don’t want them to be offended. Will a humanist wedding be okay?

I recognise that nearly every ceremony is attended by guests of different faiths and of none, and feel passionately that everyone present should feel comfortable and involved.

The focus of your humanist wedding will be on the two of you and your relationship and what you value. Underpinning it all will be the humanist view of long-term partnerships as being strongest when built upon support, equality and honesty. It’s difficult to imagine anyone would have a problem with that!

Do you have any rules about the ceremony being photographed / videoed?

I have no rules about this and am concerned only that you get the pictures you want. In fact, many photographers love humanist weddings as there is a lot of interaction for them to capture, particularly since couples often face their guests.

We love the idea of a personal wedding but we don’t know where to start.

That’s very common and not a problem at all. I will lead the process and can give you as much help and guidance as you need to work out what would suit you and your situation. I can advise on readings, music, promises and a whole series of big and small issues that help the day to go well.

We’d like to involve our guests in some way. Can we do this?

Absolutely. It’s great when guests are really involved in a marriage rather than simply witnessing it. I will be happy to suggest ideas.

Can we have music during the ceremony?

Yes. There is real poignancy in music, whether it’s a live performance, listening to something recorded, or perhaps having something for everyone to sing along to! I can suggest some choices for you to consider.

I’m worried I’m going to cry during the wedding.

A personal wedding is an emotional occasion and it’s not at all unusual for there to be both tears and laughter during the ceremony. This is fine – it’s a big moment and you’re allowed to show your feelings! I will be there as a reassuring presence (and also to pass tissues if necessary).

Many couples find that the rehearsal helps them prepare for the big day emotionally as well as practically. You may be surprised by how relaxed you feel! But if you do cry, it’s absolutely fine.

We’d like to include a ritual from another culture. Is this okay?

Certainly. Humanist ceremonies are non-religious but there are many rituals from other cultures that can be incorporated, such as Chinese tea ceremonies or the Jewish ritual of glass-smashingI will be delighted to discuss your ideas.

Can we write our own vows?

Personal vows are often one of the highlights of a humanist wedding so, yes, I absolutely encourage you to write or choose your own words, and will give whatever help and support you need to do so.

Do we have to write our own vows?

No, not if you don’t want to. I can provide a range of sample vows for you to look through and you might want to use some of these or adapt them slightly: it’s entirely up to you. But if you do decide to write your own vows, I can help you to get started with these and, if you want me to, I will be happy to act as a sounding board for your ideas.

We really like traditional vows. Can we use these?

Yes. Many people feel there is a real gravitas to traditional church words, for example, and these can be adapted slightly to make them fitting for a non-religious ceremony. Parts of the register office words are popular too and, if you wish, these can be incorporated into your vows or during the ring exchange, if you are having one.

I hate public speaking and I am really worried about it.  Can you help?

Actually there is no requirement for you to say anything at your wedding if you really don’t want to. That said, most people feel that the public declaration of vows or promises is one of the most important parts of the ceremony. If one or both of you are worried about speaking, the easiest way to accommodate this is for your promises to be written in the form of questions to which you each answer ‘I do’ or ‘I promise’. The promises themselves can still be personal, but spoken by me.

Will we be legally married after a humanist wedding?

As a result of a recent legal judgement, approved Humanist celebrants can now legally marry couples in approved venues. However, many couples take care of the legalities at a local register office and consider their humanist wedding celebration their real wedding. And there really are some advantages to this approach. For example, there is no restriction about what can or cannot be included and where you can or cannot marry. It makes the whole occasion much more flexible and so much more personal.

When do couples get married legally if they are having a humanist wedding?

This depends from couple to couple. Many will have taken care of the paperwork at the register office in the days before their humanist ceremony, perhaps just taking a couple of people along as witnesses. Others do this on the same day as their humanist wedding, making it all part of the celebration.

I love the idea of a humanist wedding but don’t want the hassle of getting married twice.

This is a common concern – although as a result of legal changes in Northern Ireland, it’s no longer necessary. The issue, however, is that legal wedding ceremonies can only be performed at approved venues. Therefore, if you want the ceremony in a non-approved venue you’ll have to have both legal and celebration aspects separately. I can advise.

Do we have to be legally married if we want a humanist wedding?

No. There are various reasons why people might want the public statement of commitment and celebration without legally registering their partnership as a marriage: celebrants are sensitive to this.

If we have to get married legally at a different time and place, will a humanist ceremony actually feel like a wedding?

A lot of people are understandably concerned about this. In fact, couples tell me that their humanist wedding felt like their ‘real’ wedding, as what mattered most to them is being surrounded by those they love as they make public commitments to each other.

Why are humanist weddings legal in Scotland?

Scottish marriage law is very different to English, Welsh and Northern Irish marriage law in that it is celebrant-based. Humanist weddings have been legally binding there since 2005 and their popularity has snowballed: recent figures show that they now account for 30% of all weddings. We hope it won’t be long before the rest of the UK follows their fine example. As more venues are approved in Northern Ireland we expect that many more legal marriages in Northern Ireland will be performed by Humanist celebrants.

When are humanist weddings going to be legal in England and Wales?

We hope soon. There’s lots of support: the LibDems, Labour Party and Greens all included legalising humanist marriage in their 2015 manifestos, and a 2014 formal consultation on the issue was largely positive. However, the new government is not keen to legalise humanist marriages but we will continue to pursue the issue every way we can – and we know that many Conservatives support us.

How far in advance do we need to book a celebrant?

There’s no rule but I do get booked up quite a while in advance, especially on Saturdays during the summer. If I’m busy I will always be happy to recommend someone else.

We want to make sure we are comfortable with a celebrant before we decide to book them. Can we meet in person?

It’s important you have a chance to check that we’re a good match for each other. Most celebrants will be happy to meet up without obligation for a chat and a cup of coffee. If you’re further afield, an initial phone call or a chat on Skype works well.

What should I ask a celebrant when we first meet?

Feel free to ask me whatever you want to know – I won’t be offended! Or you can ask me to talk about how I put a ceremony together to get a sense of how I work. Or let me know your initial thoughts about what you want from the occasion and let the conversation go from there.

What do celebrants wear?!

Quite a few people ask this, but fear not, there are no cloaks or robes! Instead, I’ll be smartly, professionally and appropriately attired. If you’ve got a particular dress code for the occasion do let me know.

We live overseas but will be returning to Northern Ireland for our wedding. Can we work together from a distance?

Yes, that’s fine. I am used to working with couples who live abroad with communication being via Skype and email. You will probably want to meet in the flesh before the big day if possible; this often happens at the wedding rehearsal.