Looking back there are three main questions I wish I’d known right at the very start of planning my humanist wedding ceremony. Read this post if you’re curious about how much humanist weddings cost, how to sort out your legal marriage paperwork, and what happens during the ceremony itself.
Despite being a humanist wedding celebrant now, I make no secret that I had never heard of humanist wedding ceremonies until I got married myself. I’d never been to one and no one I knew had got married that way. I first learnt that humanist wedding ceremonies were even “a thing” when my beloved Mr Senior and I were looking at potential wedding venues.
During our hunt for a venue we realised that we preferred alternative venues compared to the classic white tablecloths and chair covers kind of hotels and halls. A common hiccup for us was that most of the places we felt comfortable in were not licensed to host civil marriage ceremonies.
It was a game changer when we discovered that a humanist wedding ceremony can happen anywhere. At that point we felt free to consider more unusual settings for our celebration. We considered a tipi in the woods, a local art gallery, an industrial warehouse and we finally settled on a little volunteer-run theatre.
All of this is background to the fact that when we decided to have a humanist ceremony, I didn’t actually know all that much about them. Looking back there are three main questions I wish I’d known right at the very start. If you’re in the same situation that I was (i.e. interested in, but clueless about, humanist wedding ceremonies) this post will accelerate you into a position of knowledge and excitement.
So especially for you, here are three things I wish I’d known before my humanist wedding ceremony.
How much does a humanist wedding ceremony cost?
Let’s address the elephant in the room when we’re talking about anything we might book or buy: How much will it cost?
My fee is £1,500 and you can expect to pay up to around £2,000 for a humanist wedding celebrant. This is true at the time of writing in summer 2023 and reflects prices in England and Wales. There will of course be additional accommodation and travel costs, particularly if you are getting married oversees.
Other celebrants may work slightly differently, but when couples choose to work with me the following things are included:
A series of meetings and communications to get to know and understand you as a couple
The development of a bespoke ceremony script
Support with writing personalised vows… I’ll even write them for you if you prefer
Conducting your ceremony on the day. This includes liaising with your wedding team (other suppliers, friends and family) to make sure everything runs smoothly, so you don’t need to worry about a thing
A keepsake copy of your ceremony script
You can find full details of my ceremony fees here.
In case you’re wondering why celebrants’ fees vary, the technical reason is that each humanist wedding celebrant works for themselves, as a sole trader. To have a set fee which celebrants agree to charge would be against competition laws.
In reality, the reason that celebrants’ fees vary is that we each offer a highly personalised service, and have different overheads and personal circumstances. You’ll no doubt already be aware that this is similar to how wedding photographers work.
If you are excited about your wedding ceremony being the best part of your day, and you value the idea that it’s the whole reason for having a wedding in the first place, then the investment becomes an easy decision.
How do you get legally married when you have a humanist ceremony?
At the moment couples who have a humanist wedding ceremony in England or Wales have to take an extra step to become legally married unfortunately. The reason for this is complex and annoying (you can read about the Humanists UK campaign for the legal recognition of humanist marriage here) but the jist is that marriage law is out of date and currently discriminates against couples who aren’t religious.
We non-religious folk shouldn’t have to put up with this stupid situation. However, putting the frustrating politics to one side, it’s actually quite simple to become legally married when you have a humanist wedding ceremony. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it:
Have your humanist wedding ceremony with all your loved ones gathered around you. Exchange rings (if you like), wear glamourous clothes, say your vows and revel in the loveliness of your completely personalised REAL wedding*
Either before or after your REAL humanist wedding, arrange a “two and two” civil marriage ceremony at your local register office. This is a simple, short ceremony (it’s more of a glorified meeting) with you, your beloved, and two witnesses. A registrar will say the official words to recognise your partnership as a married relationship
FYI You might need to choose from a limited timetable of slots, depending on how flexible your local council is. So, you might not get a Saturday slot, but as it’s not your REAL wedding who cares if it’s on a random Wednesday morning?
Regardless of what anyone tells you, remember that you don’t have to make a big deal of your civil marriage ceremony. Most of my couples choose to keep it very lowkey, and then do all the fun, meaningful wedding stuff for their humanist wedding ceremony
But mates, if you want to go big and have two wedding days: a legal one and a humanist one, feel free. You can make a whole thing of it if you want to, I wouldn’t judge you for wanting to wear your wedding outfits twice!
[*Why do I keep emphasising that your humanist wedding ceremony will be your REAL wedding? Because I want to address any concerns you might have about whether your ceremony will feel real, without the legal bit included.
Please be reassured that what makes your wedding real is proclaiming that you are completely in love and committed to your significant other, in front of everyone who is important in your life. Here are 6 reasons why humanist weddings are real and feel 100% authentic.]
What happens at a humanist wedding ceremony?
Honestly, the answer to this is: anything you like. The things that humanist weddings have in common are that they celebrate equal partnerships, are inclusive of all guests regardless of their background or beliefs, and they are personally tailored to the couple getting wed. Other than these things, each wedding is likely to be utterly unique.
A lot of couples choose to have some traditional elements in their humanist ceremony, because they want their wedding to feel culturally familiar and be recognisable as a wedding. This means that if you would like to walk in along an aisle, have a wedding party, carry flowers, exchange wedding rings, say “I do”, share a big celebratory smooch, or anything else you can think of, you are absolutely welcome to!
Your wedding celebrant will encourage you to think about what feels right for you. You can take a pick-n-mix approach when it comes to building your ceremony. Include the bits that you like, but don’t do anything that doesn’t feel natural. There are lots of ways to personalise your humanist wedding ceremony, and I've collated some wonderful ideas for you (even if I do say so myself). You might like to choose a fun way to start the ceremony, and here are some creative alternatives if you don't fancy writing your own vows.
Check out my FAQ page for more information about humanist wedding ceremonies.
If you’re ready to start the process of creating your totally wonderful, out-of-this-world humanist wedding ceremony drop me a line. The next step would be to set up a chat, with zero-pressure to book. You can tell me all about your wedding and we’ll work out together if I’m the right celebrant for you.
The photographs on this page are of Ainé and Tommy. They're a real life couple who happen to also be gorgeously photogenic models. This wedding inspiration photoshoot was brought to life by this team of suppliers:
Coordinator, concept & design - Amanda Whiston Weddings
Venue - Haarlem Mill
Celebrant -Meg Senior Ceremonies
Stylist - Two Eight One Ltd
Florist - Katie Olivier Blooms
Photographer - Emily Jayne Weddings
Makeup artist - Ruby J Beauty
Hair stylist - Everyone's Looking
Cake - Julia Florence Cake Design
Stationery - Gable and Grain
Confetti - Proper Confetti
Bridal boutique - Alexandra Anne Bridal
Dress & veil - Love Story Bride
Hairband & earrings - Maison Sabben
Tommy's suit - Jon Paul Menswear