West London Humanists and Secularists

Humanist Ceremonies

Why have Humanist ceremonies?
Most of us want to mark important events in our lives such as births, marriages and partnerships as well as to commemorate people we have loved when they die. For those of us with no religious belief it's important that we can mark these occasions with honesty, warmth and affection, using words and music that are personal and appropriate to the lives and the people involved.

What's different about Humanist ceremonies?
Every humanist ceremony:

  • is special, created specifically for the people involved
  • based on shared human values but with no religious elements
  • focuses on the occasion and the people involved
  • has no strict rules beyond basic legal requirements
  • will ensure the occasion is exactly what you and your family want.
Humanist ceremonies can take place almost anywhere and whenever you wish and are designed to strike the right note of celebration, dignity and importance.

The three types of Humanist ceremonies
BHA trained celebrants conducted almost 7½ thousand ceremonies in 2012 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. By far the greatest proportion was Funerals but Weddings and Namings are growing fast in popularity.

Non-Religious Funerals and Memorials
The death of anyone we have known and loved, whether someone in our extended family, a friend or colleague, an elderly person, a parent, sibling, child or baby, is no less sad, shocking or painful for those of us who choose to live without religion. A funeral director is the professional most likely to deal with all the practical arrangements of a funeral, but families are all entitled to specify the kind of funeral ceremony they want. A Humanist, non-religious funeral or memorial ceremony will:
  • focus sincerely and affectionately on the person who has died
  • allow friends, relatives and acquaintances to express their feelings and to share their memories
  • have warmth and sincerity: many bereaved people find them helpful and are pleased to have provided a ceremony their loved ones would have wanted
  • celebrate the life of the person who has died by paying tribute to them, to the life they lived, the connections they made and left behind
  • be simply more appropriate for those who have not lived according to religious principles, or accepted religious views of life or death.

Humanist Weddings and Partnership Celebrations
In England and Wales, most couples who choose to have a Humanist wedding or partnership ceremony complete the legal formalities and obtain a civil marriage certificate in the usual way at a Register Office first. A Humanist, non-religious wedding or partnership ceremony held after this formal requirement is the one which can truly mark your life-long commitment to each other. This ceremony is special to you and your guests, at which you make your vows and during which you may choose to exchange rings. A Humanist celebration means that you can:
  • get married in a ceremony that reflects your own beliefs
  • express your vows to each other in your own words; be formal, or thoroughly informal
  • invite more friends and family people to share in the ceremony
  • use a place which is special to you - on a boat, in a garden, on a beach, in your favourite restaurant, in your own home
  • choose readings and music which mean something to you, as a couple.

Celebrating the arrival of a new baby into your family and circle of friends is both a joyful and serious occasion. You are not only introducing them by name, you may also want to mark your commitment to their welfare and to them as significant people in your lives. You might also wish to take the opportunity of including older children in a ceremony. A Humanist naming ceremony is most often held in the home of a family member or close friend. With the help of a Humanist celebrant you can:
  • plan the ceremony that is right for your family and your situation, as short or as long as you like (bearing in mind the attention span of small children)
  • choose the words that you feel best express your hopes and promises
  • decide who to include in the ceremony such as brothers and sisters, family or friends
  • choose 'Special Friends', 'Guide-Parents' or even 'Odd Parents' to act as supporting adults with a special interest in your child.

For more information, contact our local humanist celebrant Oliver Murphy or go to the Humanist Ceremonies page of the British Humanist Association (BHA) Website.

Humanist CeremoniesTM is the BHA's network of trained and accredited Humanist celebrants throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For celebrants in Scotland, please consult the Humanist Society of Scotland .