The British Humanist Association trains and accredits a network of celebrants who conduct non-religious, humanist ceremonies for which there has been an increasing demand in recent years. For details of those covering our region, see CELEBRANTS.
Each humanist wedding ceremony is unique, dignified and deeply personal. It is up to the couple to choose the words of commitment that they will exchange. Humanists look on marriage as an equal partnership involving reciprocal love, support and respect. They also recognise that same-sex couples have the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual couples. A typical ceremony includes readings of poetry or prose, music and sometimes the symbolic lighting of candles, as well as thoughts about the marriage relationship. Handfasting is also becoming popular.
As with other ceremonies there is no standard script, so each one is tailor-made to meet the wishes of the parent or parents who choose the words of commitment to their child’s future. Friends or other members of the family may also contribute, including children; music and readings are often included, too.
Funerals and Memorials
A humanist funeral is a unique opportunity not only to mark a death but also — perhaps mainly — to celebrate a life, and to do so without recourse to God or to the expectation of an after-life. Typically the structure of a humanist funeral follows these lines:
• Introductory music and words of welcome
• Thoughts about life and death from a humanist, non-religious perspective
• Tributes outlining the life and personality of the deceased, including readings and contributions from family and friends
• A quiet period for private reflection or for prayer for those with a religious faith
• The Committal, during which the coffin may if wished be removed from view
• Closing words and exit music.
A trained humanist celebrant will spend a considerable time preparing, revising and finalising each ceremony in consultation with those closely involved — the future bride and groom, a gay couple wishing publicly to declare their commitment, the parents of a child to be named, or the family of a loved one who has died.
For details of the trained and accredited humanist celebrants in our region, please see CELEBRANTS.