Frequently Asked Questions

Why did you become a Humanist celebrant?

Mainly through having an interest in Humanism and the work of the Humanist Society of Scotland. When HSS weddings became legal in 2005 I was working as a freelance writer and was lucky enough to be accepted onto a celebrant training course. I thought I was training to be a wedding celebrant but when the textbook arrived through the post I was rather shocked to find out I was going on a course to be a funeral celebrant. However I thoroughly enjoyed my funeral training and subsequently worked as an almost full-time funeral celebrant for six years, which I found immensely rewarding. I trained and was registered as a legal wedding celebrant in 2006. I also conduct baby naming ceremonies. One of my most memorable days as a celebrant was when I conducted a funeral, a wedding and a baby naming ceremony all in one day.

I've heard that Humanist ceremonies are for tree huggers, is this the case?

The philosophy behind a humanist wedding is that it centres around the couple getting married, their views on commitment and their personalities. So yes, trees can be embraced in a Humanist wedding if the couple are into tree loving. Equally, our ceremonies can be very formal but only if this is suitable for the couple getting married. I find that most people want a sense of occasion, a relaxed and happy atmosphere with a bit of humour thrown in. A Humanist ceremony can definitely be jovial with a sense of gravitas — it's all about getting the balance right and coming up with something that's suitable for you. As the couple drive the content of the ceremony it is almost impossible not to come up with something they absolutely love. Formal or laid back, I like to think all of my ceremonies are warm and friendly.

Do you wear special robes to conduct your ceremonies?

No, I usually wear a black frock or a black trouser suit. However, I've recently gone crazy and splashed out on a dark blue dress. The reason I don't wear robes is that it wouldn't be suitable for a Humanist celebrant to dress with an air of importance and whilst I like to look smart and well turned out I think it makes your guests feel comfortable and relaxed when I look like everyone else. Once, just after I'd conducted a baby naming ceremony the baby's father made a short speech and said: " I know when you all heard it was a Humanist ceremony you expected a woman to turn up in a kaftan and flip flops but I think we all agree that Juliet's ceremony was really great!" Strangely enough it was very hot that day and before I'd changed into my usual black dress I had been wearing... a kaftan and flip flops. So if you want a celebrant to turn up in a kaftan and flip flops, I'm your woman!

Do you stay for the wedding breakfast?

As I have family commitments I am unable to stay for the celebrations afterwards. However, If I have the time I often enjoy having a quick chat with your guests after the ceremony.

What happens if something 'happens' to you and you can't conduct our ceremony?

The advantage of booking a Humanist Society of Scotland ceremony is that we have a lot of celebrants. If I was to take ill before your wedding my partner would swiftly inform the HSS of my dire circumstances and they would immediately seek a replacement from our numbers. If however, I was to have a collision with the number 23 bus on the way to your wedding you would be left wondering where I'd got to as I'm not microchiped. Yet.

How long is a Humanist ceremony?

I think a good time to aim for is 30-35 minutes. I find that this time frame encompasses all the couple want to say in the ceremony and allows for a few readings to add colour. I'm very flexible about the length of ceremonies, my shortest being five minutes and my longest one and three quarter hours.

Are Humanist weddings fully legal?

Humanist Society of Scotland weddings are fully legal. All of our authorised wedding celebrants receive an annual letter from the Registrar General of Scotland with our authorisation — we are the only secular organisation to work to this status. There are other 'humanist' celebrants and celebrants of various denominations who will repeatedly claim to have full legal status, when what they will do is apply for a one off license to conduct your wedding, which they have to do nearer the date of the ceremony. It is up to you whether or not you feel comfortable with this. My advice to you is to properly research any celebrant you book and be wary of donating money to any organisation claiming to be a charity unless they publish annual accounts and can name their board of trustees.

Can we have a hymn or prayer in the wedding?

No. I am licensed to conduct secular Humanist weddings and as hymns and prayers are acts of worship I can't include them in my ceremonies. I make a promise to the HSS and the Registrar General of Scotland that I will conduct my ceremonies to certain standards and I am not one to break my word.

We have some very religious family members, will they enjoy the ceremony?

I hope so. The wonderful thing about a Humanist ceremony is that everybody has the opportunity to enjoy it equally because the couple and their story are at the heart of it. This means that whatever background people come from — of faith or none — they feel they are part of the ceremony because they are an important part of the couple's lives. Of course, for some people nothing but a service in the religion they follow would be enough. However I have had feedback from couples saying that their religious family members were pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable and meaningful a Humanist ceremony can be. One concession I can make to ensure religious guests feel accommodated is to have a point of reflection in the ceremony where people can have their own thoughts about marriage or a private prayer.

We don't live in Scotland, will we have to get married again when we get home?

No. Although Humanist ceremonies are not legally recognised in England and Wales you would still be married when you get back. This is because everyone who gets married in the UK registers the wedding with the registry office nearest to their venue, regardless of what type of wedding they're having. Once your paperwork is processed you are married here and abroad! This also applies to couples traveling to Scotland  from overseas. Some countries require you to fill in some paperwork when you get home to let your own authorities know you are married but you don't have to have a separate wedding ceremony.

Is being a Celebrant your full time job?

No, I'm also a mother, I run my own business and I do the occasional bit of writing.

Do we need to have a wedding rehearsal?

I actively discourage my couples from having a wedding rehearsal because I see them as an unnecessary expense (HSS celebrants charge £50 + travel for a rehearsal). However if you really want to have one I will do my best to accommodate you. There are a couple of venues I go to where rehearsals are helpful because we have to stand in a way which is a bit unusual and a little bit of choreography is involved. I usually cover everything you need to know about how the ceremony will run in our second meeting which is included in the cost of your ceremony fee. If your celebrant says that you don't need a second meeting but encourages you to have a rehearsal it may simply be that they work differently to me but it is my opinion that you should have a chance to catch up with me without having to pay extra for it.

We have heard some celebrants charge extra for meetings, do you?

No. I usually meet up with couples before they book and don't charge for this meeting whether they go ahead and make a booking or not. I do a catch up meeting as part of my ceremony fee and don't charge extra for this. Some celebrants have their own reasons for charging extra fees and they should be upfront about their costs and willing to explain them to you.

Can you recommend a venue/photographer/harpist/cupcake baker to us?

No. I can tell you who I've found to be competent and professional and give my personal opinion but I'm only at your wedding for the duration of the ceremony so I can't give you an overall view. With things like photography so much is down to personal taste and one couple's masterpiece might be another's nightmare. Suppliers should always be willing to meet up with you before you book and you can research them very fully online, especially on places like wedding forums.

If you're not free to conduct our ceremony can you recommend another celebrant?

If I'm already booked I refer my couples to my area coordinator who then circulates their request to all our celebrants. Once she has a few replies she gets back in touch with the couple and passes on the details of the celebrants who are free. All HSS celebrants are highly trained and experienced in conducting ceremonies before they become legal wedding celebrants. Our styles may differ sightly but I am confident that you would be guaranteed a professional and friendly approach from any one of our celebrants. 

What is the best thing about being a Humanist wedding celebrant?

There are so many things that are wonderful about this job but my favourite part is bringing the ceremony to life and seeing the happiness on the couples faces knowing that their guests are really enjoying their wedding.