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 Are you having a humanist wedding? 
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Joined: January 29th, 2012, 4:01 pm
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Are you having a humanist, nonreligous, secular or atheist wedding?

Hi All,

I am a researcher and am interested in interviewing and speaking to people who are planning non religious ceremonies. The work is part of my PhD looking into atheism/humanism/nonreligion in Britain and want to look at how people organise weddings "without God" or without a religion traditional to your upbringing or culture.

Would you be happy to speak to me? If so please message me and I can get in touch with more information and perhaps arrange to meet or chat.

THANK YOU

Katie :)

My contact details if you want to go off forum are [email protected]


January 29th, 2012, 4:42 pm
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Hi and welcome Katie, I can't help with the wedding question having been married for 38 years but.....
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non religious ceremonies
Both my wife and myself will certainly be having non religious funerals.

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January 29th, 2012, 6:03 pm
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Hi Katie, if you haven't already done so, I'd suggest contacting the BHA and asking them if they could ask their wedding celebrants to ask their clients if they would be prepared to help you. For what it's worth, my husband and I would have had a humanist wedding if we'd got married in Scotland, where we lived at the time, but we decided we wanted a private wedding on a hot beach so we went to Florida. The system there allowed us to do what we wanted. Thus we booked a non-denominational celebrant and made it a humanist wedding because we wrote the script ourselves to reflect our outlook and values.


January 29th, 2012, 7:34 pm
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My wife and I were married at a civil ceremony, 5 years ago. We didn't know anything about humanist ceremonies, but we wanted the ceremony to reflect something of our world view as well as our personal relationship, which we achieved in our choice of readings.

It was initially infuriating that we were not allowed to have any reference to god or spirituality - as if established religions have a monopoly on those concepts - not because we wanted any specifically religious readings, but because our culture has been so dominated by religion that the best way to express an idea of transcendence or spirituality (which I believe are fundamental, human experiences) is using religious language. We got around it by editing our reading, replacing the word 'god' with 'love'.

For me, a wedding is about a couple bringing together all the people they love and making a commitment to each other, celebrating the best and happiest stuff in life. To my knowledge this idea is shared by every human culture. It is first and foremost a human celebration, and it is a great shame that many people think of it as inextricable from religion.

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January 29th, 2012, 8:12 pm
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Not intending to get married under any set of "rules" but if I were I would not consider that the contract relied on anyone but the couple, though I agree it does need some sort of "official" recognition, just as a business contract needs a solicitor. It certainly does not need a supernatural entity to gives its non-existent OK!

Human being are answerable only to themselves and each other.

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January 29th, 2012, 8:33 pm
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My wife and I also had a secular ceremony, performed by a friend who was a notary. It was at a small attraction at Indian Shores in Florida called Tiki Gardens, which had a south sea islands theme and a nice polynesian style restaurant. We have much nicer memories than any church ceremony would have provided!

Weddings like that are easy in Florida. Forms have to be obtained from the county for a small fee and signed and submitted to be legal, but notaries and ordained ministers or celebrants can perform any type of ceremony desired. Blood tests are not required. Disney World is a popular place for visitors to get married and there are many nice wedding chapels around it.

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January 29th, 2012, 9:18 pm
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We had a civil ceremony, about 12 years ago. We had never heard of the term 'humanist' but just weren't believers and so wanted a non religious ceremony. There are only certain designated places, that need to be legally registered, where civil ceremonies can take place in the UK (or at least England as far as I know), often hotels. Ours was in a lovely hotel on the beach, a lovely setting. If I remember correctly the registrar offered us a choice of religious or non religious vows. There are certain statements which are required within the vows to make it legally binding, other than that you're free to add what you wish within reason.


January 29th, 2012, 9:45 pm
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Ken H wrote:
My wife and I also had a secular ceremony, performed by a friend who was a notary. It was at a small attraction at Indian Shores in Florida called Tiki Gardens, which had a south sea islands theme and a nice polynesian style restaurant. We have much nicer memories than any church ceremony would have provided!

Weddings like that are easy in Florida. Forms have to be obtained from the county for a small fee and signed and submitted to be legal, but notaries and ordained ministers or celebrants can perform any type of ceremony desired. Blood tests are not required. Disney World is a popular place for visitors to get married and there are many nice wedding chapels around it.
We were married on Smathers Beach in Key West and spent half our honeymoon at Disney World. Perfect!

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January 29th, 2012, 10:09 pm
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Manuel wrote:
We had a civil ceremony, about 12 years ago. We had never heard of the term 'humanist' but just weren't believers and so wanted a non religious ceremony. There are only certain designated places, that need to be legally registered, where civil ceremonies can take place in the UK (or at least England as far as I know), often hotels.
Scotland is slightly different - it's the people who are authorised. Civil marriages have to take place in venues that have a license, but that's for health and safety reasons for the Council's employees. HSS celebrants who are authorised by the Registrar General of Scotland can perform a legal marriage anywhere in Scotland.

Quote:
If I remember correctly the registrar offered us a choice of religious or non religious vows.
As I understand it, registrars cannot by law allow any religious content - it's the preserve of religions.

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January 29th, 2012, 10:14 pm
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Hi Everyone - thank you for responding - its great to hear so much so quickly

@Alan C
Interesting how the landscape of weddings and funerals has now changed - I guess there was not really any option 38 years ago. Did you have a CofE/Catholic wedding? Was this something that you were uncomfortable with or have you moved toward humanism later in life? I have considered looking at funerals, but an anthropologist, Matthew Engelke has just studied and is writing about BHA funerals, so don't want to cross over. Can I ask - apart from there being no religion - what is particular about a Humanist funeral, for you?

@Athena
Thank you for the suggestion, I will do this, either getting in touch vie the organisation - or the celebrants have their profiles online I think. Nice that you transferred the Humanist aspect to Florida - guess this makes one part of the Humanist celebration significant its portability? Can I ask if you were actively "Humanist" before the wedding, or if this is something you came to through planning the ceremony?

@Skepticle
Thank you for your comments, would you have gone for a humanist wedding if you had known? And if I can open the question out a bit, and forgive my ignorance, do you consider spiritualism/love to be transcendent and therefore supernatural - or do we need different terms? Can I also ask - and perhaps because I am assuming everyone is on this forum - do you consider yourself and humanist? and if so is this in the organised sense or do you see this as an individual expression?

@Daveb
Can I just clarify if you are marrying/thinking of marrying - or if the idea of marriage in itself is against your own world view? Where do you stand on the humanist wedding ceremonies (run by BHA)? Do you think this alternative is necassary?

@Ken H
That sounds beautiful and makes me very jealous! We have some nice outdoor areas which make the option of a non-church wedding preferable, but sand and sea not the strong point!

@Manuel
If you had heard of the term humanist - would you have gone for this? Are you now involved as a humanist?

@Alan H
Thank you for those points - helpful for me to know these facts too!

also forgot to say, if people want to respond regarding my research and want to do so off forum you can email me at [email protected]


January 29th, 2012, 11:47 pm
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KatieA wrote:
@Athena
Thank you for the suggestion, I will do this, either getting in touch vie the organisation - or the celebrants have their profiles online I think. Nice that you transferred the Humanist aspect to Florida - guess this makes one part of the Humanist celebration significant its portability? Can I ask if you were actively "Humanist" before the wedding, or if this is something you came to through planning the ceremony?
We both were active Humanists long before then! :-) In fact, we first met at a BHA conference...

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January 30th, 2012, 12:01 am
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Katie:

I'm not considering marriage at all and have only done so once or twice in my 67 years! In both cases I would only have considered a civil ceremony.

Should the couple consider that they need some sort of contract to "legitimise their union" it is entirely up to them to decide what form this might take. If they have 100% love and trust in each other that step might be considered only in the aspect of how the law sees them - some sort of public commitment might be in order to satisfy the rest of society. That latter may be needed so long as the law, tax system etc. sees "registered" marriages and "co-habiting" as different things. Even kids these days do not seem bother that they would have been considered "illegitimate", "bastards", not so many years ago - there is no real stigma there any more.

Whatever the legal view of the union in the eyes of the taxman etc. in essence I see it as a mutual and personal "contract" between two people. As a 100% atheist I see no responsibility for them to satisfy any supernatural entity, religion has nothing to do with it - unless the couple wish it to. And I would guess that the vast majority of church weddings and blessings involve people who only attend church for such ceremonies. And that for the theatrical content rather than to seek religious permission.

If they wish to draw up a legally binding contract with a solicitor then this should be taken as of equal value to any other kind of civil marriage. And, with the current argument from at least one senior member of the Anglican church perhaps it is time for the word "married" to be left for them and another generic term, "united", "partnered", "bonded" or whatever, be used for all long term partnerships that are publicly acknowledged.

So the BHA, or whoever, are not necessary to formalise the marriage - it should be a contract between equals.

Forced "marriage", for any reason, is an anathema, a lie, and should incur very heavy criminal penalties for those doing the forcing.

How about "time defined unions" - a common thing in sci-fi, a wedding contract, with or without children (for which maintenance until adult is required), for a defined period with defined rules?

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January 30th, 2012, 10:55 am
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KatieA wrote:
@Manuel
If you had heard of the term humanist - would you have gone for this? Are you now involved as a humanist?

No, I actually rarely use the word although it does describe my position pretty well. If I'm describing myself within this context I would usually simply say I'm not a believer, although I have used the term atheist before.


January 30th, 2012, 11:35 am
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Quote:
Thank you for your comments, would you have gone for a humanist wedding if you had known? And if I can open the question out a bit, and forgive my ignorance, do you consider spiritualism/love to be transcendent and therefore supernatural - or do we need different terms? Can I also ask - and perhaps because I am assuming everyone is on this forum - do you consider yourself and humanist? and if so is this in the organised sense or do you see this as an individual expression?


Had I known more about humanism, I certainly would have looked into what humanist ceremonies entail. At the time, I was under the false impression humanism was a modern religion, like Wicca. When I found out what humanism really was - a world view - I realised I had been a humanist all along without knowing it.

I don't believe in the supernatural at all. The word supernatural is meaningless: how can you draw a line to say one thing is nature and another is not?

I think spirituality and transcendence are things we feel. I can feel transcendence as a connection to a wider world and to other people, but that connection is all in my mind. Like love, anger, fear, pride and shame, spirituality is a natural emotional response to natural aspects of human life.

Unfortunately, it is hard to express transcendent experiences in English without using religious terminology, since our speech has been shaped by our country's Christian heritage. Words like god and soul have a poetic beauty to them which is not found in other words, which is why I would have been happy to have references to a metaphorical god at my wedding, even though I do not believe in an actual creator deity. I am probably a bit weird in that way, however.

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January 30th, 2012, 2:43 pm
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Hi,

It's interesting that you related it to Wicca, I wonder if that is a sign of change within the organisation or with perception?

The notion of supernatural is a flawed concept - as is religion I think and the very issue you raise about the Christian heritage and how this is inherent in much of what we say is exactly what the research I am doing is looking at. I wanted to look at something like a wedding to think about how we talk about concepts that are abstract without resorting to "Christian" or "religious" language - or if this is even possible - so would ideally like to observe some weddings, as I think it is not only language but practice and visual symbols which may get transferred.

Katie


January 30th, 2012, 3:03 pm
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Dave B wrote:
Katie:

I'm not considering marriage at all and have only done so once or twice in my 67 years! In both cases I would only have considered a civil ceremony.

Should the couple consider that they need some sort of contract to "legitimise their union" it is entirely up to them to decide what form this might take. If they have 100% love and trust in each other that step might be considered only in the aspect of how the law sees them - some sort of public commitment might be in order to satisfy the rest of society. That latter may be needed so long as the law, tax system etc. sees "registered" marriages and "co-habiting" as different things. Even kids these days do not seem bother that they would have been considered "illegitimate", "bastards", not so many years ago - there is no real stigma there any more.

Whatever the legal view of the union in the eyes of the taxman etc. in essence I see it as a mutual and personal "contract" between two people. As a 100% atheist I see no responsibility for them to satisfy any supernatural entity, religion has nothing to do with it - unless the couple wish it to. And I would guess that the vast majority of church weddings and blessings involve people who only attend church for such ceremonies. And that for the theatrical content rather than to seek religious permission.

If they wish to draw up a legally binding contract with a solicitor then this should be taken as of equal value to any other kind of civil marriage. And, with the current argument from at least one senior member of the Anglican church perhaps it is time for the word "married" to be left for them and another generic term, "united", "partnered", "bonded" or whatever, be used for all long term partnerships that are publicly acknowledged.

So the BHA, or whoever, are not necessary to formalise the marriage - it should be a contract between equals.

Forced "marriage", for any reason, is an anathema, a lie, and should incur very heavy criminal penalties for those doing the forcing.

How about "time defined unions" - a common thing in sci-fi, a wedding contract, with or without children (for which maintenance until adult is required), for a defined period with defined rules?


Would be interesting to look at the idea of "time defined unions" - would you be able to guide me to a good starting point?

Thank you for elaborating on my other questions - your thoughtsseem to fit with an idea of trying to move such rituals away from the state, so it is also an interesting part of my research to understand perhaps why some want to legalise the humanist wedding ceremony and what the importance of having the legal recognition in this way is.

Katie


January 30th, 2012, 3:09 pm
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Quote:
It's interesting that you related it to Wicca, I wonder if that is a sign of change within the organisation or with perception?


In this case, definitely a change in my perception. I didn't know anything about humanism at the time, I'd just heard you could have a humanist ceremony, so I assumed it was a kind of religion. Turned out I was wrong :)

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January 30th, 2012, 3:29 pm
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What an interesting topic for research, KatieA.
KatieA wrote:
so it is also an interesting part of my research to understand perhaps why some want to legalise the humanist wedding ceremony and what the importance of having the legal recognition in this way is.

I am a Scottish Humanist Celebrant, working with the Humanist Society Scotland, and, as many of my colleagues who have undertaken legal wedding training, I am authorised by the Registrar General for Scotland to perform legal marriages. We have had legal Humanist weddings here since 2005, but I had performed many non-legal weddings before or after the Registrar's legalities (as the BHA Celebrants do).

This has led to a huge increase in Scottish weddings.
Quote:
'Weddings up 64%' is probably the most unlikely headline of the year, but add one word and it's completely true. That word is 'humanist'."
Julian Baggini
Indeed last year we performed more legal marriages than the Catholic church, and we are expecting to overtake the Church of Scotland in numbers around 2014 :D

Why do couples come to me? Because they have a Humanist outlook, they want a personal ceremony where and when they want (we are individually licensed so can perform legal marriages anywhere safe and dignified in Scotland. I've done weddings up mountains, at beauty spots, in people's gardens and homes, in castles both still intact and in ruins, on my own village green, in a yurt in the couple's paddock...) Just as our funerals, none of our legal marriages are the same. Each one is individually crafted.

You probably don't want or need to expand your research to Scotland, but I'd be happy to discuss any issue arising from my experience :)


January 30th, 2012, 4:26 pm
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Fia wrote:
What an interesting topic for research, KatieA.
KatieA wrote:
so it is also an interesting part of my research to understand perhaps why some want to legalise the humanist wedding ceremony and what the importance of having the legal recognition in this way is.

I am a Scottish Humanist Celebrant, working with the Humanist Society Scotland, and, as many of my colleagues who have undertaken legal wedding training, I am authorised by the Registrar General for Scotland to perform legal marriages. We have had legal Humanist weddings here since 2005, but I had performed many non-legal weddings before or after the Registrar's legalities (as the BHA Celebrants do).

This has led to a huge increase in Scottish weddings.
Quote:
'Weddings up 64%' is probably the most unlikely headline of the year, but add one word and it's completely true. That word is 'humanist'."
Julian Baggini
Indeed last year we performed more legal marriages than the Catholic church, and we are expecting to overtake the Church of Scotland in numbers around 2014 :D

Why do couples come to me? Because they have a Humanist outlook, they want a personal ceremony where and when they want (we are individually licensed so can perform legal marriages anywhere safe and dignified in Scotland. I've done weddings up mountains, at beauty spots, in people's gardens and homes, in castles both still intact and in ruins, on my own village green, in a yurt in the couple's paddock...) Just as our funerals, none of our legal marriages are the same. Each one is individually crafted.

You probably don't want or need to expand your research to Scotland, but I'd be happy to discuss any issue arising from my experience :)


Hi Fia,

Thank you for your reply.
I hope it will be interesting for others, there is a lecturer at LSE who has just finished a BHA study and trained as a Funeral Celebrant - this leaves Humanist weddings and other non traditional weddings in the UK still under researched - at least in my area of anthropology. I have in general concentrated on England - but I think there is a definate need to also look at Scotland. I would be interested in getting you perspective, it will be difficult to travel to Scotland - at least for a while so if you are happy to talk by skype/email or even phone that would be of help I think
My personal email is [email protected]
Katie


January 30th, 2012, 4:32 pm
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Quote:
@Alan C
Interesting how the landscape of weddings and funerals has now changed - I guess there was not really any option 38 years ago. Did you have a CofE/Catholic wedding?
We were married in a CoE Church (the same one I was "Christened" in, the only other option at that time was the registry office and my wife wanted a "proper" wedding.
Quote:
Was this something that you were uncomfortable with
Yes.
Quote:
or have you moved toward humanism later in life?
I've been a non believer since about the age of eight but only heard about Humanism around 12 years ago, the description (Humanist) that Athena provides on the main page of the Think Humanism website fitted me, so here I am.

Quote:
Can I ask - apart from there being no religion - what is particular about a Humanist funeral, for you?
First and foremost a Humanist funeral is a celebration of the life of the deceased without all the "he's gone to a better place" nonsense, the last funeral I attended; there was more talk of Jesus than of the deceased, I was disgusted!

And just as important, my funeral will be conducted by my good friend Fia (of this forum) I can think of no one else I'd rather have :smile:


PS.
Fia it will be flights both ways after your past problems with the boats :wink:

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January 30th, 2012, 6:15 pm
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