Humanist Weddings – What you need to know?

Humanist Weddings have been legal in Scotland since 2005 and have risen in number from 85 in the first year to over 4,300 in 2015. In keeping with the Humanist ethos, Humanist Weddings are not religious ceremonies and are ideal for couples who are not themselves of a particular faith. At the same time, because the ceremony is based on you and your relationship, there is nothing in it that will make those of any religious faith feel uncomfortable. We caught up with Stephen McKerr of Caledonian Humanist Association to put to him some of the questions we are often asked about Humanist Weddings.

What is a Humanist ceremony like?

There’s no such thing as a typical ceremony: each celebrant works to their own style and so each ceremony is uniquely different but all must include certain legal parts. Humanist Wedding offers couples a non-religious, yet warm, inclusive and personalised ceremony which you and your guests will enjoy and remember forever. It is a great choice for couples from all walks of life, differing cultures, young or old(er). A good analogy is that is like a good rom-com movie – a nice mix of romance, maybe a few tears, some humour, a kiss and a nice happy ending!

Humanism is based around the values of fairness, kindness, tolerance and equality. More simply it is about all the things in life that bring us together and has no focus on anything that may divide us. It is therefore, the perfect way to celebrate your marriage by basing your ceremony around those values you share as a couple. While I as a celebrant must conduct your ceremony in line with Humanist beliefs, there are many aspects of it that you can personalise to make it more bespoke to your own wishes, such as,

· Vows and promises

· Entry and Exit Music and background music for the signing of the schedule

· Poems or readings by family members or friends

· How you will exchange Wedding rings

· ‘Your Story’ – how you met and events leading up to the big day

No matter the content, the overall effect is shaped by you and your choices, working closely with your celebrant. They will guide you through the process of creating a ceremony that is just right for you. Some couples choose a ceremony that is very relaxed and informal. Others prefer a more formal approach. Most are a balance of the two – it’s up to you.

humanist weddings

What about symbolic gestures?

This is a completely personal choice. I was a Wedding co-ordinator before becoming a celebrant so I am in the unique position of having witnessed hundreds of ceremonies impartially. Some symbolic gestures are a lovely touch, but others turn your ceremony from being dignified to becoming a pantomime. Let me know what you have in mind and I can advise if it will work well.

How long does the ceremony last?

This can vary dependant on whether you will include readings or any symbolic gesture other than the exchanging of rings. A general rule is about 35-40 minutes.

Does the venue need a special licence?

No. A Caledonian Humanist Association Celebrant is authorised by the Registrar General to conduct your ceremony anywhere that your Celebrant considers to be ‘safe and dignified’. This gives you great freedom in your choice of location and venue.

Similarly, you have much greater freedom when deciding the time of your ceremony. What this means is if you want a ceremony in your back garden at the stroke of midnight, we can make this happen!

Is it legal?

Yes. Whatever time or place you and your Celebrant agree on, your ceremony is legal and has exactly the same status as a Wedding or civil partnership carried out by a Registrar or religious celebrant. Your marriage is solemnised by your celebrant under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 2014 which includes the signing of the Marriage Schedule. This is obtained by you between 3 months and 29 days before the Wedding. You start the process by each completing a form M10 and returning to the registry office local to your venue. Years ago, this was called ‘putting in your banns’. If you do not begin this process at least 29 days before you are due to get married, then you will have to postpone proceedings.

What if I forget to bring the marriage schedule to the ceremony?

There is no polite answer to this – you will have to go back home for it. No legal Wedding ceremony can begin until the schedule has been checked by the celebrant.

Does a Registrar also need to be present to sign the marriage schedule?

No. Humanist Weddings in Scotland differ from those in the rest of the UK in that we are fully licensed to solemnise marriages in Scotland – that means we pronounce you as a married couple and sign the document. Believe it or not, there is a certain type of ink that must be used to sign a legal document such as a marriage schedule and I bring a pen with suitable ink on the day.

humanist weddings

What happens after the ceremony?

The marriage schedule must be returned to the issuing registry office within 3 days but if you jetting straight off on honeymoon, anyone over the age of 16 can return the schedule on your behalf, perhaps the final duty for the Best Man to perform?

When should I book my Humanist Celebrant?

This should be booked as soon as you have secured your date and venue. Remember that the ceremony IS your Wedding and without it, you are just having a rather expensive and extravagant party!

You are safe in the knowledge that as a celebrant with the Caledonian Humanist Association, I am

· Fully trained and insured

· Experienced in working with people from all walks of life

· PVG checked and cleared (formerly Disclosure Scotland)

· Bound and regulated by the Code of Conduct set by Caledonian Humanist Association

· Licensed by the Registrar General for Scotland to conduct legal Weddings




If you would like to find out more about Humanist Weddings, you can find all the contact details for Stephen McKerr of Caledonian Humanist Association, and details of other Wedding Celebrants on


10th July 2017