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  • Meg Senior

What it takes to become a humanist wedding celebrant

Meg Senior humanist wedding celebrant smiles up from writing a ceremony script
Photo credit: Nelly Naylor

WTF is a humanist celebrant?

I’ve seen a lot of posts online recently encouraging couples who are planning a wedding to check the credentials of their wedding suppliers. It’s always worth asking before you book what qualifications and experience suppliers have, but it can be hard to know what different accreditations, awards and website badges mean unless you work in the wedding industry.

This article explains what it takes to become a humanist celebrant so that you can understand why humanist wedding celebrants proudly say, “accredited by Humanists UK”.

Understanding what training your wedding celebrant has gone through, will give you peace of mind that they know what they’re doing. Don’t be afraid to ask celebrants about this when you are deciding who to book. It’s so important that you trust the person who will lead your wedding ceremony after all.

Meg Senior humanist celebrant conducting a handfasting for Matthew and Jane in the Peak District
Photo credit: Hannah Brooke

I find that most the couples I work with share quite private, precious details about their life and love story. Many couples invite me into their homes to meet with them (and their gorgeous pets). And on their wedding day I’m in charge of the focal point of the whole celebration. For all this it’s absolutely essential that we have a relationship of trust.

So if you’re thinking of booking me, or another humanist wedding celebrant, read on to feel like a happy shopper who has done their recommended due diligence (for want of a less formal phrase!).


What it takes to become a humanist celebrant

Here are my credentials, and the answer to the question, “What qualifies you to do, what you say you do?” I’m not part of the HUK training team and so I can only speak from my personal experience.

I went through a very detailed training process to become a humanist celebrant. It’s not a case of “you’ve paid your money to train, you’re definitely going to be a humanist celebrant”. The process started with recruitment and vetting via an application form, face to face interview, two professional reference checks and a DBS check.

When I’d been accepted as having the rights skills and approach to become a humanist celebrant, I was matched with a mentor within the Yorkshire region. My mentor was an experienced celebrant who supported me throughout, and together we had regular meetings about my progress. She was someone I could learn from and reflect on my own learning with.

Meg Senior humanist celebrant, handing over rings to couple during their wedding ceremony
Photo credit: Karen Nash

The main body of the training took place over three to four months for each ceremony type. It was made up of five things:

1. Interactive, face to face learning with two experienced wedding celebrants as trainers

There was a formal curriculum to follow which covered everything from public speaking skills and script writing, to how to gather content for ceremonies in a non-judgemental, client-led way. My small cohort of trainees learned about being responsible with people’s data, and safeguarding vulnerable people and children. I can’t give an exhaustive list but there was lots of juicy content and it covered everything you would want your wedding celebrant to be on top of.

2. Assignments and feedback

At each stage of the training we were assigned case studies and we wrote a bespoke wedding ceremony to match each different scenario. Assignments and participation in interactive sessions were marked with detailed feedback. At any stage trainees could be told to resubmit work with improvements. This is what ensures the really high standard you can expect from humanist celebrants.

3. Reflection and self-led learning

Throughout we were expected to develop our practice and truly become experts in creating bespoke wedding ceremonies. There was preparation work for each interactive session, a reading list and a reflective learning log to complete. We also observed other celebrant’s ceremonies and planning meetings, and read LOTS of wedding scripts. All this work prepares new humanist celebrants to be effective in the real world.

Meg Senior humanist celebrant, between Affnan and Betti in a woodland wedding setting
Photo credit: Natalie Hamilton

4. Live wedding ceremony

Before receiving probationary accreditation, every trainee celebrant must write and deliver a live ceremony to their cohort of trainees. The delivery is the key thing here, as we had written several scripts based on case studies up to this point. This stage means that every new humanist celebrant has performed at least one ceremony in front of an audience and received critical feedback on their delivery and composition.

5. Ceremony observation

The final stage to become a fully accredited humanist celebrant, is when an experienced celebrant from the humanist network observes a real life ceremony in action. This usually takes place in the first six months. The observer gives useful feedback and judges whether the new celebrant meets the Humanist UK competencies and code of conduct. Think of this as quality control. We get observed, AKA peer-reviewed, every two years in each ceremony type to ensure high standards.


What is special about humanist celebrants?

Imagine that whole process, then repeat it again for every ceremony type. To be accredited by Humanists UK, celebrants have to apply and train separately to lead wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies and funeral ceremonies. There is distinct content to cover, because they are very different ceremony types, and require different skills and knowledge.

On top of this all humanist celebrants must complete continuing professional development, which can cover a whole range of topics. I’ve had additional training on inclusivity and anti-racism, interesting ceremony choreography, new legislation and how it applies to wedding celebrants, re-weddings, and sustainable weddings to mention a few topics.

The massive benefit of being accredited by Humanists UK for me is that I can draw on the support of a network of people who have the same values and standards as me. It means I can confidently recommend other humanist celebrants when I get an enquiry and I’m not available myself. A benefit for clients is that if I could no longer conduct your wedding ceremony, for instance because of Covid, you’ll know that I can call on a colleague who has been through the same rigorous training as me.

Lesbian brides holding hands and laughing, with Meg Senior humanist celebrant beside them
Photo credit: Hannah Brooke


The difference between humanist celebrants and independent celebrants

I have to make a small disclaimer to all of the above: My experience as a humanist celebrant is different to that of independent celebrants.

The difference between independent celebrants and humanist celebrants is partly values based, (I talk about values in this blog post about how to choose your wedding celebrant), but another distinction is that all humanist celebrants have received training from the same organisation, Humanists UK.

Independent celebrants are exactly that, independent. They have not all been trained by one body, in fact some may not have any formal training. You’ll need to ask them about their own personal experience to understand their credentials.

Meg Senior humanist celebrant conducting a wedding ceremony at Grassfield Hall, Yorkshire
Photo credit: Charlotte Nelson


This article is in response to the popularity of my Instagram Live about training to be a humanist wedding and naming celebrant

I’d love to hear if you’ve found this useful. If, having done your due diligence now, you’re ready to book your humanist wedding ceremony with me, then please...


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