Do you have to be humanist to have a humanist wedding?
There are three parts to this post. Firstly an answer to the question “Do you have to be humanist to have a humanist wedding?”, then a brief explanation of humanist weddings and finally a description of what humanism actually means to humanists (so you can work out if you might be a humanist without realising). Let’s jump in.
Wondering if you have to be humanist to have a humanist wedding ceremony?
In short the answer is: no.
The slightly longer answer is: If you aren’t religious and you try to be a good person who lives life to the full, you might be “humanist” without identifying with the label.
Before we talk about what humanism means to humanists, let’s have a little context on humanist weddings.
What are humanist weddings?
Put simply a humanist wedding is a meaningful, personalised ceremony without religious content. It is led by a celebrant (like me!) and it celebrates an equal partnership between two people who are declaring their love.
What makes this type of wedding memorable and enjoyable, is the way that the celebrant tailors the whole experience so it perfectly suits the couple getting wed. Because they are highly bespoke, humanist weddings are basically for everyone, including*:
people who would like a to choose who marries them (in contrast to a registrar who they would meet on the day)
couples who have different religious backgrounds and don’t feel comfortable selecting one above another
people who want to create a fun atmosphere for their guests
couples who aren’t very lovey dovey (more on why in this blog post)…
…as well as couples who are super sentimental, and want to honour their love story
people who think of themselves as “not bothered about religion” or perhaps even call themselves “atheists”
people who are spiritual and in touch with nature, but don’t necessarily subscribe to a belief system other than “be good to people and the planet” (this is very much my vibe by the way)
*This isn't a list of criteria, you could identify with only one of these, or none at all. I just wanted to give you a flavour of the types of reasons people choose a humanist wedding – Whether they are humanists or not.
If you are googling “do I have to be humanist to have a humanist wedding?” I’m guessing that you already think a personalised, memorable ceremony might be for you. So, I have good news for you friend, humanist wedding ceremonies aren’t for an exclusive group of people who have membership to a special body.
Why people choose humanist weddings
There are a million positive things about humanist weddings which make them increasingly popular. Obviously I would say this – I’m a humanist celebrant after all – but other wedding suppliers agree so you don’t have to take my word for it, here’s why photographers love them.
Another reason that couples choose to have a humanist wedding to have a ceremony which is aligned with their values. Humanists have broadly the same values as one another, and many people live by similar values without necessarily thinking about it.
There’s no strict definition of humanism, even Humanists UK who represent the rights of non-religious people, don’t pin down the details too tightly (check out their thoughts here). This is because there’s no group that binds everyone together, with a set of rules which leaders teach their followers about.
Honestly, I personally feel that this makes it hard to work out if you want a humanist ceremony, because ultimately you don’t know what you're signing up to. Reassuringly, by choosing a humanist wedding you wouldn’t actually be “signing up” to anything. But to help you work out if humanist values are aligned with your own values, I've collected some real-life examples of people who call themselves humanist.
What humanism means to humanists
Essentially this is what humanism means to humanists. Well, it’s what humanism means to three humanists that I know, and one of them is me. But it’s a starting place and it will give you a mini overview!
Bob Kiddle – Humanist funeral celebrant
Bob Kiddle used to be a teacher and so as well as conducting funerals, he sometimes gives talks to school kids about humanism to help them study for their Religious Studies GCSEs. Recently I got to see him in action in front of a pretty intimidating group of 16-year-olds, and he was INSPIRATIONAL. I’d never heard humanism explained in such relatable terms before, and hearing Bob speak is what inspired me to write this blog post.
This is a (very brief!) summary of his presentation:
“There are three things that are important to me, which I would say are important to many humanists:
I value human beings. That means all types of humans, whoever they are. Whether they are old or young, live in my home country or abroad, are in my own family or are a stranger, whether they’re in an organised group or simply individual people, whether they’re famous or completely unknown.
Seeking happiness is GOOD. We each need freedom to be happy in our own way. We need tolerance so all people can live their lives in a way that makes them happy (as long as they’re not harming anyone). An example of this is that no-one can tell me who to love or how to love them.
I make decisions based on logic, reason and evidence. I personally don’t find any convincing evidence for ancient religious texts or anything supernatural. I’m willing to be proved wrong if new evidence emerges, I’m wary of those who defend their standpoint when there is contradictory evidence.”
Raj Chowdhury – Doctor and Sunday Assembly Sheffield organiser
Although he probably wouldn’t admit it, Raj is a bit of a Sheffield figurehead for people who aren’t religious, and who like hanging out with other humans like them. He organises Sunday Assembly Sheffield (his definition of which is: "It's a church without religion”) and he keeps us local non-religious folk up to date with a Secular Sheffield substack, which you can find here if you're interested.
These are his thoughts:
"Humanism is the belief that as human beings, we have a duty of care to one another and should try to have a positive impact on the world. It's quite different from atheism which is just a statement of a person's belief about the probability of god existing. I try to live my life in a way that has that positive impact, grounded in what the evidence and rational argument tell me."
Meg Senior – Humanist wedding celebrant
And finally, here are my own thoughts:
For me, humanism is about being kind to other people and the planet. It’s the old golden rule “treat others as you would like to be treated.” Simple as that! Clearly, it’s not groundbreaking stuff, but that’s sort of the whole point. Literally millions of people try to follow that golden rule, whether they formally think of themselves as humanist or not. I love that.
My humanist values mean I lead an ethical life, and I live it to the absolute fullest. I’ve had to learn that prioritising happiness is a totally legitimate life choice! I love my friends and family wholeheartedly, and try to show love to other humans too. I try new things even when I’m scared to, and spend time in nature whenever I can.
Coming from a religious family (my mum was Irish Catholic) it’s important to me to highlight that humanism is NOT anti-religious. To me it’s about accepting all humans, whether they have religious beliefs or not. I strongly believe people have the right to practice what they want to – as long as they’re not hurting others.
So what do you think? Do you have to be humanist to have a humanist wedding? Do you think you might actually be a humanist after all? There’s no pressure from me for you to take on a label. I feel humanist, but I don’t try and “convert” people to my way of thinking. It’s just a word to describe my values, values I would have anyway.
Now you know humanist weddings are for everyone, do get in touch to see whether I’m available for your wedding date. You might also be interested in these other FAQs: