• Meg Senior

What is it like to be a guest at a humanist wedding? What to expect, from a wedding guest's POV


What is it like to be a guest at a humanist wedding? Image of a couple getting married, one of them is a man in his early forties, he is laughing at his partner whose face we cannot see


If you’re planning a humanist wedding, there’s a good chance that quite a few of your guests might never have been to a wedding like yours before. Humanist weddings are growing in popularity but they’re not ten a penny.


Naturally extra cool couples (like you) choose to get wed in this memorable, meaningful way, but the reality is that the majority of folk haven’t actually attended a humanist ceremony. In fact they might not have even heard of one, and they might have questions for you about what to expect.


If they are wondering “What is it like to be a guest at a humanist wedding?” this blog post will help you to guide them about what to expect.


And who better to give a guest’s perspective than a wedding guest themselves? Here one of my couple’s wonderful guests tells all about the humanist wedding ceremony they attended this summer.

 

GUEST BLOG

What’s it really like for guests at humanist weddings?


What can you expect from a humanist wedding ceremony? Well have you ever been to an event that’s really cheered you up for weeks after?!


The buzz of a good party or excellent wedding stays with you doesn’t it? That’s exactly what happened to me earlier this summer when I went to the wedding of my good friends, with a humanist ceremony outside in the beautiful English summer.


I was really unsure what to expect from a humanist wedding at a rural venue. Where would the ceremony take place? What would happen if it rained? What on earth would I wear? Thirteen years earlier I had got married in a church and then had a reception in a big hall. Conventional I know, but it worked well. In contrast how was a wedding going to work on a farm in the middle of the countryside with a humanist celebrant?


Sunny humanist wedding ceremony in action

I needn’t have worried… Meg was my friends’ celebrant and she hosted their wedding ceremony, making sure everything went smoothly and it all ended up being dreamy. I was an usher so saw lots behind the scenes and it was all so calm and laid-back. Meg had it under control.



I was a guest at a humanist wedding ceremony – and I loved it!


The vibe with a humanist celebrant was more laid-back than with a registrar


Unlike a registrar might be, Meg wasn’t dashing off to another wedding. My friends had their celebrant’s dedicated attention for the whole main part of the day. They could dictate what time the ceremony took place, and when things didn’t quite keep to time (my friend – the bride – is notorious for being late) it didn’t matter at all. This all set the tone for a relaxed day that felt like it was owned and shaped beautifully by the couple.



Humanist wedding ceremony in action. Celebrant is smiling whilst couple laugh and look a little bit embarrassed


My friends had wedding guests travelling from all over the UK and beyond, many who hadn’t seen each since before the pandemic so they wanted to create lots opportunities for people to catch up. As their celebrant Meg suggested they started the wedding day with an hour of relaxed mingling on the lawn before the ceremony began. This was such a lovely, chilled way to start the day and something I know is often not possible in other settings because of time constraints and space limitations.


My friends told me that they choose a celebrant they both clicked with after looking around online. They had met with her in person and online and felt she knew them well by the time it was their actual wedding day. They were feeling a bit overwhelmed and nervous on the day but as soon as Meg arrived she put them at ease with a great balance of direction (so we all knew where we were going and when!) and flexibility (so last minute changes could be made).


Humanist wedding ceremony in action. Couple look at their guests and to their children


One last minute change was needed – when the bride decided she need a cheeky beer with her bridesmaids to put her nerves at ease before she went down the aisle. Meg skilfully coordinated with the venue, musicians and most importantly the groom, and time was made for something that helped my friend take a beat to feel prepared.



Four ways this humanist wedding ceremony was one-of-a-kind

The relaxed vibe


Even when the ceremony started there continued to be a very relaxed, almost conversational vibe. As my mates had met with their chosen celebrant she had given them questions to answer and opportunities to share their story. The celebrant had then written a one-of-a-kind ceremony just for them. Right from the kick-off she talked about them and what was important to them both. It felt so genuine and personal. The celebrant knew both the couple’s family and close friends were very important to them so had contacted them and woven their nuggets of advice and messages of support into the ceremony. This was so special to hear and witness.


Humanist wedding ceremony in action. Couple's son is passing wedding rings to celebrant

Perfectly quirky readings


My friends asked me to read, I was thrilled to play an important part in their ceremony. As there are much less restrictions to what can be read or included in a humanist wedding we were able to choose something that really suited the couple. In the end they picked a personal favourite to them and their children, a book they had often shared at bedtimes. Meg’s wedding celebrant advice was invaluable as she helped me edit the text to make it an appropriate length.



Time to calm our nerves


I was a little nervous on the day but Meg had time to meet me and other key people who were similarly edgy (ushers, father of the bride and best man all formed a queue!) to walk through the details and put us at ease. This was very different from my experience of reading at ceremonies in the past where it had been a lot more prescriptive and rushed.


Humanist wedding ceremony in action. Celebrant grins as couple share their first embrace as a married couple

Happy tears and laughter


In fact I loved reading and being part of the ceremony! Not only was it completely personal to the couple, it was so engaging. I was totally hooked and really excited to hear what would be shared next. My friends were obviously delighted with the content, they had even written their own vows, and it was wonderful to witness that. There were tears and lots of giggles from both the couple and their guests!


Humanist wedding ceremony in action. All guests are on their feet and cheering the newly married couple

I adored being a guest at a humanist wedding ceremony


Although my husband and I enjoyed our wedding day we both said after our friends’ humanist wedding ceremony that we loved how personal and fitting the whole event had been. We wish our ceremony had been more unique to us. After a few glasses of wine we even talked about renewing our vows just so we could do it all again but this time with a humanist celebration. We’ve decided to wait until we have a milestone wedding anniversary to decide about that!


In the morning I set about texting my friends and family who are engaged or have talked about marriage and told them how amazing and heart-warming a humanist wedding ceremony is and that they should book theirs asap (and invite me obviously!).


 



The images featured here are borrowed from Hannah and Craig's wedding at Heaton House Farm wedding venue and were taken by the incredibly talented photographer Chelsea Shoesmith.


A million thank yous to the most lovely guest for writing this blog post! If it's got you thinking of your own humanist wedding ceremony, I'd love to hear from you.



Whilst you're browsing, I think you might find these posts interesting: Does a humanist wedding feel real? and Reasons your Nan will love your humanist wedding ceremony