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Is A Humanist Wedding Ceremony The Perfect Choice For You? with Humanist Celebrant, Lisa Bourne

Struggling to find unique ways of exchanging Wedding vows without religion? Lisa Bourne discusses exactly why Humanism is the perfect choice for your Wedding Ceremony!

Listen to Lisa on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…


Lisa Bourne, Lisa Bourne Ceremonies


James [00:00:03] Good morning Lisa! How are you on this fine and sunny morning?

Lisa [00:00:10] Yes good. A little bit hot and sticky, but yeah good thank you. 

James [00:00:14] Powering through, I’m glad to hear.

So you are Lisa Bourne and you’re from Lisa Bourne Ceremonies, and you are a Humanist Celebrant. This is of particular interest to Rachel and I because obviously we had a humanist ceremony ourselves.

I remember at the time, you know, when you’re planning a wedding you’ve got this big road in front of you, all doors are open, all possibilities. We’d squared away that we wanted to get married in Scotland, because we love the place. 

James [00:00:48] This was a few years ago so maybe Humanism wasn’t quite as well known as it is today. But the Humanism option came up so we had to look into it and at the time, well not the time but now as well, we are still not entirely unspiritual people, but we’re not necessarily devoted religious people. And we fit somewhere in between. We weren’t sure about what our faith meant or our beliefs or any of it really and we discovered Humanism, and we thought “this is the perfect fit for us”. As it happens in Scotland, it was a bit magical because if you have a Humanist ceremony, it is actually a legal ceremony so that you can have the whole thing in one go. And it was very, very easy. We thoroughly enjoyed the process, but I’m not going to talk too much about it because I’d like you to put your spin on it really. 

James [00:01:44]

So the topic we wanted to talk to you about today was “Is a Humanist Wedding Ceremony the Perfect Choice for You?”

and by “you” obviously referring to everybody out there. You guys getting married, is humanism the perfect choice for you? So I’ll let you break into that a little bit and explain to people “what is humanism?” 

Lisa [00:02:03] OK well Humanism is a massive, massive topic and you can do full university degrees on it. So it’s a big broad topic.

But basically people who are Humanists are non-religious, they’re atheist or agnostics and a Humanist ceremony is just basically a non-religious ceremony. So celebrating milestones and that’s it really. 

A Humanist Ceremony is not legal currently in England and Wales, not legally recognised, it’s not illegal!  Let’s just clear that up!  But we are still fighting for that and there are cases going to go to court very soon from Humanist UK because it is legal, like you say, in other places in the UK. 

James [00:03:01] And just to clarify for folks then when we say “not legal” we are saying that it’s necessary to go to a registry office to legalise the marriage, and then we move on to a Humanist Ceremony where you are creating a dream ceremony for yourselves, you are able to spec it up. 

Lisa [00:03:22] That’s right. So the only people who can legally marry a couple in England and Wales is a registrar at the moment. So whether it’s an independent celebrant or humanist celebrant, the only people who can legally marry is the registrars. So you would go to your local registrar, you normally have a ceremony that’s like £50, where it’s just the basic minimum, sign the paper kind of thing.

And then you can have your humanist ceremony separate, and that’s usually the one that is the wedding anniversaries that are celebrated and stuff. People see that as their actual wedding day.

And so you can have your legal bit before or after your humanist ceremony, it doesn’t really matter. It’s whatever fits for you. 

James [00:04:19] OK. So if somebody is weighing up their options, and I think to a certain extent the unknown is a bit scary. So somebody doesn’t have any experience of humanism let’s say, celebrations, not just Weddings, then it might be quite a daunting prospect to even start to look in that direction. But the truth is that looking in that direction is one of the most exciting things that you can do because in a Humanist Ceremony, you have a blueprint that can give to couples, but from there they can build and change and design their thoughts and feelings around the content. 

Lisa [00:05:01] Yeah. So basically we say that it’s from scratch, the script is written from scratch, but there tends to be a certain order that people like or that fits well. So obviously you would always have your welcomes and introductions and housekeeping and things and then you normally kind of build up to the vows. You could do the vows in the beginning, but a lot of the time it doesn’t makes sense. So there’s like a general example structure that is in the leaflet that people can see. It’s online. 

Lisa [00:05:34] But basically it’s from scratch so it’s whatever you want in there, it’s what order you want to have the readings, the music.

I think, like you say, people are a bit scared because they don’t know what a Humanist celebrant is or what a Humanist wedding is. But it basically looks like, from the outside in, any other wedding, or if you don’t want it to look like any other wedding, it looks like a completely different wedding.

So it’s whatever works for you. 

James [00:06:12] I will add actually that anybody that we’ve spoken to over the years who has been to a Humanist wedding has walked away and said “Wow that was such a beautiful ceremony”. And I think the difference is, if we’re going to go down maybe a civil ceremony with registrars, there are limitations in place and they’ve been in place for a long time. It’s very, very traditional and it’s very set. 

Lisa [00:06:41] It’s time limited as well. 

James [00:06:41] I think if people are used to that experience, maybe they’ve been to a handful of weddings where their friends or family have got married and they’ve had a civil ceremony, and then they go to a humanist ceremony and walk out changed.  They’re different people, they see something greater and the possibilities are greater. 

James [00:07:09] So bearing that process in mind then, you’re thinking “I’m probably going to have a civil ceremony because we’re not religious and we’re not going to have a church ceremony”. So that person is sat there weighing their options.

Where would you suggest they start in discovering what Humanism is, how to approach a Humanist to talk about their wedding ceremony, where would they go? What would they do? 

Lisa [00:07:36] OK. The easiest place to start is the Humanist UK website which is humanism.org.uk and on there is loads of information, you can put in your postcode and find celebrants nearest to you. All of us will do free introductory meetings either by phone or come to see you in person so that you can ask loads of questions and say “what will it look like for us?”. “Can we have this? Can we have that?”. 

Lisa [00:08:06] That’s a really good place to start and normally you’ll have an introductory meeting and you’d have your planning meeting. But before the planning meeting definitely use websites and ask as many questions of as many celebrants as you like. I’d also say check out Facebook. A lot of celebrants have Facebook pages and you get lots of different photos of different ceremonies and get a feel for what you might like or not like. 

Lisa [00:08:47] I recently had a conversation with someone who thought they were going to have a civil ceremony, they’d gone to book the registrar and the registrar wasn’t available. So then they’d heard about Humanist Celebrants.

They hadn’t come down the Humanist Celebrant route initially but they were reading it and they said “oh actually this is more in line with what we wanted and our thoughts and beliefs, and I’m so glad that we found your page.”. 

Lisa [00:09:20] It’s trying to educate people that there is that other option if you are non-religious and just having the conversation with the registrar as well. When you go to give notification, the registrars are saying have you got a Venue booked? Ask them what your options are. They’re a little bit more open minded with Celebrants now so you could ask them as well. Ask your venue as well!

James [00:10:09] Yeah, that’s a good one. So would you say that… if I’ve got this right in my understanding that humanism really is the celebration of human life and our connection together as people. 

Lisa [00:10:22] That’s right. Yeah, we celebrate people. 

James [00:10:26] OK because I noticed at the beginning you said that humanism is celebrating milestones. 

Lisa [00:10:34] Yeah. 

James [00:10:34] And I think that again is a really important thing to consider, because throughout your life there are going to be points at which you want to celebrate.

And if you’re not religious, you still want to take note and to remember those days as special occasions. So I like the idea that humanism also incorporates that holistic idea of… this is for your life, this is not just kind of a one shot.

Lisa [00:11:09] Yeah and that’s why it’s really nice for a humanist Wedding… a lot of the time we can include the guests as well because you may be saying thank you to the guests who have supported you or maybe brought you together, introduced you to your partner. And we try and say that the people who are there are part of the ceremony. You’re not just there as a guest and waiting for the party afterwards and the free food, you are there to witness the whole thing as their friends. 

Lisa [00:11:46] Especially with Naming Ceremonies as well, that is something that we try and encourage people to get involved with in little bits. I think that’s really important, and the fact that it doesn’t have to be called a Wedding, if you don’t want it to be called a Wedding, it can just be a love ceremony.

We do vow renewals as well, it can be other milestones. So if you’ve just changed your name, if you’ve transitioned, if you’ve reached 40 years old and you want to celebrate those first 40 years, it can be anything that you want to celebrate, which I love. 

James [00:12:35] Brilliant. So just to encompass all of that information then, I guess humanism is a good option to consider if you really believe in your relationships, your connections with other people, it’s not so much a religion as as a belief structure or a spiritual strength, again these are all of my words by the way, these are not the official words. They are coming straight out. 

Lisa [00:13:10] We would say they are a set of principles that you can live by.  Like celebrating in your life and being mindful of your impact on other people, on the environment. Being mindful of what your legacy is for future generations. Being respectful. It’s lots of different things.

If you are living your life in that way where you are trying to, for example, reduce plastic use, volunteer your time in the community, promote equality and diversity. That is a humanist principle.

It doesn’t mean that those principles are not the same as people of faith because obviously people of faith have those, they’re the things that bind us together as humans. Obviously other people have those as well, not just Humanists, but we would say that they are what we are trying to live by rather than doing what a book suggests we do, or what a religious figure tells us we should do. So that’s sort of the difference. 

James [00:14:50] The gist of it. 

Lisa [00:14:52] Yeah. 

James [00:14:53] Well Lisa thank you very much.  That was very, very informative, very, very interesting. I learn something new every single time we talk. So this is really great for me, I really appreciate you taking the time today. 

Lisa [00:15:04] You’re very welcome. 

James [00:15:06] Awesome, Well that’s great. Thanks again Lisa and hopefully we will get the chance to speak to you again in the very near future. 

Lisa [00:15:12] I’m sure you will. Thanks James. 

James [00:15:14] Take care. Bye for now. 

Lisa [00:15:16] Bye. 

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