Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Humanist weddings up 64%!

I'm a bit past being excited about the pop charts these days (or the 'hit parade' as my dad calls it) but one chart we humanist celebrants have been looking forward to is the annual Registrar General of Scotland's marriage statistics.

In the year of 2007 The Humanist Society of Scotland married 710 couples last year, up from 434 in 2006. This figure puts us at number 4 in the wedding charts. The Church of Scotland are still at number one, the Catholic Church at two and the Episcopalians, with only 38 more weddings than us at number three. We still have a long way to go - this chart is for the 'faith' groups and registrar weddings are by far the most popular of all.

The press coverage in the last week has been awesome. My favourite piece of coverage is a thoughtful article by one of my favourite philosophers Julian Baginni in The Herald. I was interviewed by Craig McQueen in The Daily Record and Shan Ross in The Scotsman.

Of course, not everyone is pleased that our weddings are becomming more popular...

On Tuesday's Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland, contributor Alistair McIntosh, a Quaker said that he felt our ceremonies were 'missing something'. I think Alistair Mackintosh himself missed an important point when he said:

"Marriage poses fundamental questions about what it really means to be in a profound relationship with another human being."

In a humanist wedding we don't give couples reasons for getting married but ask them to work out why is is they feel marriage and commitment are important to them. Humanists think that marriage is a choice not a necessity and don't think that a couple who choose not to marry would be living in sin. Therefore couples who marry in a humanist ceremony are making a commitment for reasons that are, deeply considered and 100% positive.

Alistair Mackintosh goes on to say that Humanist weddings have no 'spiritual element'. It is true that humanist weddings do not focus on spirituality but that doesn't mean some humanists wouldn't describe their thoughts on the world around them and their feelings towards their fellow man as 'spiritual'. However it is described, we think that being thoughtful about the world and open to new ideas is a more positive lifestance than accepting dogma.

The Registrar General defines Humanist Society of Scotland weddings in its faith group for statistical purposes. It is ironic that if Alistair Mackintosh was criticising any of the faith groups in those statistics they would have a chance to answer him on Thought for the Day, but we don't because we think rather than believe.

Of course Alistair wouldn't talk about any of the others because their marriage figures are falling or at best stagnant. Perhaps with more people choosing humanism as a positive way of life, it is time for the BBC to rethink its Thought for the Day policy.

I will look forward to tuning into Thought for the Day in 2010, because we estimate that by then we will be a more popular wedding provider than the Catholic Church. I wonder what their contributors will think of that and whether there will be a humanist on talking about it?

Hey, its better to be criticised than ignored, don't you think?


Katherine said...

This is great news Juliet, and good to read some positive links. Jon and I made the stupid mistake of reading the comments on the Scotsman article (not your interview) which were of the usual low quality. Good to hear there is a recruitment drive in Skye and Orkney, two places we considered getting married in but (along with other reasons) weren't sure any celebrant would be willing to travel or if we could afford the associated expenses.

Juliet Wilson said...

Hi Katherine! Thanks for commenting. The HSS is going to train celebrant in the remore areas to do weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies all in one go. I think that once the celebrants are there quite a few people will travel to those areas to get married. One of our celebrants is doing two weddings in Orkney next month and he will be travelling from Inverness. Luckily they are on consecutive days so the couple's are splitting the expenses. We are getting busier down here too. I've already got 15 wedding in the diary for next year - which gives me a lot to look forward to!

j xxx