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Humanist celebrant led wedding at Ridge Farm
Kat and Al’s celebrant led wedding at Ridge Farm, with celebrant Jenny Knight.

Humanist and Celebrant Led Weddings and why they’re wonderfully personal and lovely

Humanist and Celebrant led weddings are pretty much my favourite kind. You might not know this, but the law in England means you can only get married in a licenced venue and a licenced venue must have a roof.  This is a little restrictive when it comes to getting married outside and while lots of venues have stepped up to the challenge, it’s always a bit of a compromise.

An example is the pergolas and wooden structures that you see in a lot of venues, which mean the couple is standing in the shade while their guests are sitting in bright sunshine. As a photographer that means you either get a good exposure of the couple or their guests but not both.  That’s a uniquely photography-related issue, but there are plenty of other reasons why Humanist and Celebrant led weddings are wonderfully personal and unique to each couple.

Some thoughts from Humanist Celebrant Natalie Raybould

To help me to explain the magic of a Humanist wedding, I asked Natalie Raybould a Humanist Wedding Celebrant from London, to tell you all a little bit about her approach.

“Humanism is important because having a non-superstitious worldview allows you to go about your own business, making ethical choices based on a general desire to do the most possible good”— TIM MINCHIN (pinched from Natalie’s website!)

natalie raybould wedding celebrant

A shot of Natalie in action! 

The question I get asked most – by guests, by other suppliers, even by venue owners! – after they attend one of my wedding ceremonies is “Why didn’t I know about Humanist weddings before?” – usually followed up with “We would have had one if we had known!” So, a big thank you Laura, for inviting me to talk
about what Humanist wedding ceremonies are and how I create them. Let’s spread the word!

Humanist weddings are all different!

The first thing to know about a Humanist wedding ceremony is: they are all different. Gorgeously, astonishingly, and fabulously unique, from first to last word. If the word “snowflake” hadn’t been hijacked for less salubrious reasons I would be using it now…

The first and foremost reason for creating this ceremony is YOU, the couple getting married. A Humanist celebrant ideally spends months getting to know the couple, building trust and friendship. This not only means that the script will be packed full to the brim with personal anecdotes, jokes, and sentimental touches, but also the ceremony will feel like it is being led by an old friend.

humanist wedding ceremony at homme house herefordshire
Ben and Pip had a family member conduct their ceremony and then exchanged vows themselves

Your celebrant as a conduit for your relationship

I like to think of myself as a conduit for the couple. I can say the things that they might shy away from in public; like how amazing you are together, how your personalities compliment each other so perfectly, and how you support each other in good times and bad. I can tell that story of a perfectly imperfect tear-jerking proposal, and then that story can lead directly in the ceremony to you declaring heartfelt vows to each other.

Your ceremony can take the form you want it to. Don’t be stymied by tradition! Walk down the aisle together if you fancy it; incorporate anything that is important to you both. If you love music, let’s sprinkle it everywhere. Love poetry? Let’s lace thoughtful verses through every morsel. If elegance is what you
adore, I can write high prose that will bring a tear to everyone’s eye. And if you want to get your guests belly-laughing instead, that is a challenge I love too! I am here to guide and shape your wishes into a ceremony form that is 100%  you.

Black and white shot of guests laughing at humanist wedding ceremony
Guests enjoying Danny and Alice’s ceremony, conducted by Natalie Raybould

Your ceremony is the beating heart of your day

A great example of this: the wedding of Alice and Danny, which happened this month at The Old Church, Stoke Newington. All three of us worked together to make sure that every moment of the ceremony reflected what Danny and Alice found most important in their relationship. It was simple and sincere in the vows and ring
exchange, and Alice and Danny wrote beautiful promises to make to each other. The overall vibe was relaxed, colourful and joyous: all the guests spontaneously whooped with glee when both Danny and Alice entered together with bouquets, there was a scavenger hunt under chairs for a mini Big Ben figure that had been in the couple’s lives for years, and an elegant Rickroll was a surprise touch as the ceremony signing music.

A wide shot of a humanist wedding ceremony at Stoke Newington Old Church

Their wedding was heartfelt and hilarious in equal measure and singularly reflected them in every detail. To me, the wedding ceremony should be the beating heart of your day. Too often the ceremony is considered the bit to Get Out of The Way – the words and form are tediously familiar, and because of that guests hear
rather than listen (while cocking an ear for the muffled champagne corks being popped in the other room!) My aim is to make your wedding ceremony the most personal, most fascinating, and most memorable part of your day. It’s why we are all there in the first place, after all! – to celebrate your love.

Danny and Alice’s Stoke Newington Humanist Wedding, conducted by Natalie Raybould

The legalities of a humanist or celebrant led wedding

Thank you, Natalie! Now, that all sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, there are things to consider before you book your celebrant. The main being that Humanist and Celebrant led weddings aren’t legal (yet!). What a lot of my couples tend to do is pop off to the registry office a few days before their wedding day, to have a legal ceremony either on their own (you’ll need a couple of witnesses!) or with their close friends and family.

The wonderful side effect of this is you effectively get two weddings! A lot of my couples tell me they expected the legal bit to feel very functional but, in actual fact, it’s emotional in a different way.

Dubai Humanist Wedding

Laura and David had two weddings. They did the legalities in the UK with their immediate family and then had a humanist wedding in Dubai, where they live.

Another thing to consider is whether you work with a Humanist Celebrant, a non-affiliated Celebrant or whether you get a friend or family member to conduct the ceremony. I’ve worked with amazing Humanist and non-affiliated celebrants and I’ve also seen family members do an amazing job of conducting the ceremony. What I would say is an experienced celebrant will be really skilled at working with you, over a period of time, to draw out what makes your relationship special and to formulate that into a ceremony that’s uniquely about you.

Andri Benson wedding celebrant humanist and celebrant led weddings

Wedding Celebrant Andri Benson, getting ready to lead Mark and Claire’s vow renewal in Essex 

If you’d like to see more Humanist and Celebrant led weddings that I’ve photographed, head here and if you’d like me to photograph your humanist or celebrant led wedding, I’d absolutely love to. Get in touch and we can have a chat!

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