Are you a Humanist Celebrant?

The short answer is: No.

Not all Wedding Celebrants or Naming Celebrants are Humanists and that’s a good thing!

2019 Lucys Wed 18
© Jof

What is a Humanist Celebrant?

A Humanist Celebrant is someone trained by Humanists UK. They have completed a specific learning programme, tailored to reflect the beliefs of Humanism and they (in theory) create and conduct ceremonies according to those standards.

It is common for all Celebrants to be referred to as ‘Humanist’; likely because they were the most well-known organisation to train and advertise Celebrants, when having an alternative or non-religious ceremony first became mainstream.

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 a lack of religion. It is a belief system with its own morals, ethics and pastoral elements. As a Humanist Celebrant friend described it:

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

Go to their website and reach out to actual Humanists to find out more about them, what they do believe, and what they 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 Humanists 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 humans interacting with one another and the World is how so much beauty is created. Folks of all types should be respected and connections or relationships between us should always be undertaken with integrity.

I could never call myself a Humanist though. 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, it is a sense of awe and wonder at the intricate balance and complexity of the World that, for me, trancends the mundane and crosses over into the realm of the sacred. I discuss my use of the word ‘sacred’ here.

I experience am also an animist. I believe that all things have a spirit or soul and that the combined energies of all life on this planet creates something ‘more’ than our composite parts. For all these reasons, I could never fully identify as a Humanist.

© Chris Seddon Photography
© Chris Seddon Photography

So can you marry us in a Humanist ceremony?

I wouldn’t call my ceremonies Humanist (for all the reasons cited above) but 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 the beliefs of Humanists UK (their training body) and might also misalign with their personal beliefs. Instead they may ask you to invite a friend or family member to take on these particular roles or words, if they are happy to include them at all.

Someone with a sense of the sacred and spiritual in their life, who would like to see that embodied in their wedding ceremony, might find an Independent Celebrant more suitable.

An Independent is more able to embody your spirituality as they have no external restrictions of belief or policy. Of course, Independents are also 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 ceremony. I fully emobody that sense of wonder and wild connection that many non-religious folks feel out in Nature, and am comfortable braiding the two when couples have differing yet complimentary beliefs.

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

The level of ‘sacredness’ that comes through in each ceremony reflects how that quality is present in you. Being able to offer ceremonies that are sacred and heavily ritualised alongside celebrations that are firmly rooted in the 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!

*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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