What Is A Humanist Wedding? (Humanist Ceremonies Explained)


I’m Janni, a humanist celebrant in Northern Ireland. I have the best job in the world and am lucky enough to visit some of the best wedding venues in Northern Ireland and create amazing wedding ceremonies for my couples. Have you ever wondered, “what is a humanist wedding?” or “how do non-religious ceremonies work?”. Today, I wanted to share everything I know about humanist weddings and ceremonies.


What is a humanist wedding?

A humanist wedding is the best choice for modern couples who want a non-religious wedding ceremony that is meaningful, bespoke, and very personal.

It’s the perfect way to celebrate finding that special person that you want to spend the rest of your life with.

A humanist philosophy is that we make our own meaning in life, and at the centre of everything is love. It is the connections we make with each other that give life its meaning.

Love is awesome, and a humanist wedding ceremony celebrates, love and the couple and what’s important to them. A humanist ceremony is crafted around you as a couple and what is important to you and celebrated the way you would like it to be.

What is the difference between a humanist wedding and a civil wedding?

A humanist wedding ceremony is always unique, each one will be as different as the couple getting married. A civil wedding is a more formal and formulaic occasion. Both ceremonies can be very special but the biggest difference between a civil ceremony and a humanist wedding ceremony is the amount of thought put into each humanist ceremony.

A humanist celebrant takes the time to get to know you as a couple and to learn to understand and discuss with you what you would like to include in your wedding ceremony. We can include music, readings, and mini rituals that reflect your personalities and create a personal ceremony that is a beautiful, meaningful celebration around your own beliefs and values.

A civil wedding is most often delivered by a stranger and there is less choice about where you can actually get married. With a humanist wedding, you can choose to marry almost anywhere, from the top of the mountain, or beside a lake, in a stately home or a tiny cottage, there are so many choices and not only that but you can get married whenever you fancy too – any time and any day!

Is a humanist wedding ceremony legally binding?

It depends where you are getting married within the United Kingdom. If you are getting married by a celebrant who is accredited by Humanists UK then you can have a legally recognised marriage in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Your marriage will be legal and recognised worldwide.

Meanwhile, Humanists UK are lobbying for legally recognised humanist weddings to be available in England and Wales too. If your heart is set on marrying in a venue in England or Wales then you can still have an amazing humanist wedding celebration (the love part) and a separate civic ceremony (the legal part). Couples who have chosen to do so say that it is their humanist wedding ceremony that they consider to be their ‘real’ wedding.

the rabbit templepatrick

Can you have a humanist wedding in a church?

A humanist wedding is non-religious, so the short answer is no, you can’t have it in church.

You cannot hold your humanist wedding ceremony in a church unless it has been deconsecrated (and has changed from sacred to secular use). Some couples who choose a humanist wedding have a blessing of their marriage in the church at another time.

Who conducts a humanist wedding?

Ideally, you will want to have a humanist celebrant conduct your wedding. Makes sense doesn’t it? Surprisingly all sorts of people offer to conduct a humanist wedding from ministers (who leave out the religious bit) or independent celebrants who offer to conduct anything from a religious to a non-religious wedding.

Someone (like me) who is accredited by Humanists UK will provide an authentic humanist ceremony and you can be sure that your humanist celebrant is committed to providing an excellent quality of service, undergoes continuing professional development and mentoring. Not only that but a portion of your wedding fees will support Humanists UK a charitable organisation campaigning for humanism, human rights, and secularism.

Someone who conducts humanist weddings is usually known as a celebrant, but sometimes you will hear the term officiant or person who leads the wedding.

What should be included in a humanist ceremony?

All kinds of people choose a humanist wedding because it is personal and can take place anywhere. You will agree on a wedding script with your celebrant and make sure that your wedding is conducted exactly how you want it to be.

When deciding what to include in a humanist ceremony, you can think about what your family and friends will enjoy on the day and decide to include readings, music and vows that most represent your personality and beliefs.

humanist wedding ceremony

Usually, your own love story is included. After all, that is why everyone is gathered to celebrate your wedding and they love nothing more than hearing about how you met, what you think about each other and marriage and your plans for the future. Of course, some couples are more private and choose not to share too much. Whatever the case, the wedding celebrant will take the time to get to know you and to understand what is important to you, and then write the perfect script for you and your big day.

Since it’s a wedding, vows are important. There are no rules, so here too you can say as much or as little as you would like to. Some couples choose to have traditional marriage vows at their wedding, whereas others choose to have something a little more modern or quirky. Wedding celebrants can help you with that too, they can help you to write your vows, or they can provide some ready-made vows that you can use, or adapt to make them personal to you.

When you think back to special moments, it is often the symbolism you remember rather than the words. That’s why it is a good idea to include some mini rituals at your wedding that symbolise your values and commitment. As well as being symbolic, they look beautiful and people will remember them long after your wedding day too.

Do you need a registrar at a humanist wedding?

If you choose a humanist wedding in Northern Ireland (or Scotland) you’ll have a wedding recognised by law and a registrar is not required at your wedding.

Having attended a wedding in Wales (where humanist weddings are not yet recognised by the law). On the day, we shared a really lovely ceremony by a lake, followed by the legal bit conducted by the registrar at the wedding venue the two ceremonies fitted seamlessly together. Some couples choose to do the legalities either before or after their wedding ceremony and on a different day.

Where do humanist weddings take place?

One of the joys of a humanist wedding is that they can take place wherever and whenever you as the couple decide. In practice, in Northern Ireland, Humanist UK celebrants can legally marry you wherever you want. There are one or two exceptions because we cannot use a church or a registry office. Apart from a church or registry office, the choice of where to get married is entirely up to the couple.

You can choose somewhere really beautiful and significant to you – any outside venue at all as long as you have the landowner’s permission. If you have always dreamed of marrying on a beach or by a waterfall simply choose a humanist UK celebrant and make it happen! If an indoor venue safe from the rain is more your cup of tea then you can marry in your favourite restaurant, a theatre, a pub, and old manor house, a tiny cottage or even your own home or anywhere that has a special significance for you both. The choice is yours.

Are we able to contribute to the service and make suggestions?

The whole idea of a humanist wedding is that it is designed around each couple. If you choose a humanist service then absolutely you are welcome to contribute and make as many suggestions as you like and your humanist celebrant will work with you to include everything you discuss and make the ceremony flow seamlessly. The more you feel able to contribute, the more personal your wedding will be.

If on the other hand you feel a little overwhelmed about all of the choices available to you at a humanist wedding, then your celebrant will be more than happy to make some suggestions. There’s usually at least one big meeting face to face that lasts a couple of hours.


It is a lot of fun, and you’ll be asked lots of questions (your celebrant will make lots of notes). Your celebrant can help you to pick music and choose readings, and suggest or show you symbolic acts and mini rituals that you can pick. Together, you come up with a plan for the running order of the ceremony.

After meeting with you, your humanist celebrant will craft a ceremony and write an outline script. Your ceremony will include lots of emotion and laughter, be personal to you and celebrate your big day in an authentic way that fits your personality. Your friends and family will love the celebration of you as a couple.

You will receive a draft copy of the script, and if you wish, you can make changes, adding in more elements or taking them out until it feels just perfect for you.

How much does a humanist wedding cost?

If you choose a humanist wedding ceremony you will pay the celebrant for their time, creativity, and expertise in creating a truly memorable occasion. The cost is a little more than if you choose a civic ceremony, the difference however is significant.


I am a full time humanist celebrant creating amazing personalised ceremonies throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.