Are you a Humanist Celebrant?

The short answer is: No.

But stick with me for the long answer, because you’ll get to know me better and learn that not all Wedding Celebrants or Naming Celebrants are Humanists and why that’s a good thing!

2019 Lucys Wed 18
© Jof

What is a Humanist Celebrant?

A Humanist Celebrant is someone who has trained with the Humanists UK. They will have completed a specific learning programme that is tailored to reflect the beliefs of Humanism and, in theory, they will create and conduct their ceremonies according to those standards and beliefs.

It is common however for all Celebrants to be referred to as ‘Humanist’, likely because when Celebrants first appeared in the mainstream they were the most well-known organisation to train and advertise an alternative to a religious ceremony.

What is a Humanist?

Humanists are non-religious folks who, in the organisation’s own words:

shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect.

There is a lot more to Humanism than simply a lack of religion, it is a belief system with its own morals, ethics and pastoral elements. As a Humanist Celebrant friend of mine describes it:

“It’s not just about beliefs and values, it’s about practices and community too.”

So please go to their website and reach out to actual Humanists to find out more about them, what they do believe and do. If you are wondering whether you might be a Humanist yourself you can take a fun quiz on their website, here.

So why aren’t you a Humanist? They sound awesome!

They do and they are!

But I did not train with Humanist UK so could not claim their title even if I identified as a Humanist myself.

There is a lot of crossover between my personal beliefs and those of Humanists; I am passionate about people and believe that people interacting with one another and the World is how so much beauty is created and should be respected and undertaken with integrity.

However I could never call myself a Humanist because underneath my love of reason and logic and the human experience lies a deep and profound sense of something more.

This ‘more’ is not religious in the sense of a deity or creator but a sense of awe and wonder at the intricate balance and complexity of the World that, for me, crosses over into the realm of the sacred (I have discussed my use of the word ‘sacred’ here).

Because I experience life as a sacred thing, and am an animist who believes that the combined energies of all life on this planet create something ‘more’ than our composite parts, I could never fully identify as a Humanist.

© Chris Seddon Photography
© Chris Seddon Photography

So can you marry us in a Humanist ceremony?

I have absolutely created ceremonies for folks who do identify as Humanists, and they have been more than happy with the results!

Embracing and reflecting the Humanist experience would be as important to me as any other set of personal beliefs my clients carried. Putting individual people and their unique experiences and passions at the heart of every ceremony I create is my job and my joy; with Humanist beliefs so closely aligned with my own it is easy to reflect them in content and in presentation.

A couple have their hands bound together by a brightly coloured plaited cord as part of a Handfasting by Keli Tomlin Ceremonies

What is the difference between an Independent and a Humanist Celebrant?

Apart from the unique personalities and styles that separate all Celebrants, there is only one meaningful difference between an Independent and a Humanist Celebrant.*

Humanist Celebrants may be unwilling to perform certain acts or reference ideas/concepts that are seen to be part of or embody any sense of spirituality. This contravenes their personal beliefs and the beliefs of Humanists UK (their training body); to do so will likely be uncomfortable or impossible for them. Instead they may ask you to invite a friend or family member to take on these particular roles or words, if you choose to include them.

For someone like me, who has a sense of the sacred or spiritual in their life that is important enough to be reflected in their wedding ceremony, an Independent Celebrant who can and will embrace and embody such things may be the better choice.

An Independent is more likely to fully commit themselves to the embodying your spirituality as they have no external restrictions of belief or policy. Of course, Independents are also unique individuals and have the right to embrace ideas or not based on our own personal code; I can’t guarantee anyone’s choices but my own.

I happily work with those of pagan spiritualities to incorporate the traditions and rituals of their beliefs into their wedding. I am very comfortable with the idea of “Life/Nature as sacred” and would have no problem honouring and reflecting this and similar ideas in a wedding ceremony or a naming ceremony.

A Pagan Celebrant Keli Tomlin stands in front of an altar table, hands clasped in prayer. Behond her the bride and groom, in Viking dress, watch quietly. Behind them the guests sit in a circle. The wedding party is gathered in a meadow in Grindleford. The image is black and white.
© Matt Thompson Photography

This extends to those who feel an affinity with the natural world and perhaps even resonate with the power and energies of which I spoke earlier, but prefer not to label themselves. I am willing to bring a sense of this ‘pagan sacredness’ to your ceremony without insisting you adopt a specific tradition or belief system for the day.

I always strive to ensure that the level of ‘sacredness’ that comes through in each ceremony is reflective of how that quality resonates with you, in your daily life. Being able to offer ceremonies that are sacred and heavily ritualised as well as those rooted firmly in the simple, immediate beauty of the moment and of human life, is a privilege I thoroughly enjoy.

Are you a Humanist? Do you have a sense of spirituality that you’d like to see reflected in your Big Day? What would a ‘sacred’ wedding ceremony look like to you?

I’d love to find out!

*(Please note that I can’t speak for all Humanist Celebrants here, only from my experience with some of them and from my own practise.)

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