The Fox and Bear Guide – What is a Humanist wedding? – Guest post
We have something a little special today, a guest post from Maxine Beech, a humanist celebrant based in the North West. Wondering what a humanist celebrant is? Well we’ll let Maxine explain…
One of the best compliments I’ve had was actually from a photographer. After the ceremony he admitted to me that he almost forgot to take photos during some parts because he was so captivated and absorbed in listening to the story of the couple. If you’ve been to a humanist wedding or are in the middle of planning one, that will probably come as no surprise. But for this photographer, it was the first one he’d photographed. He was blown away by the opportunities he was given to get the most moving, hilarious, genuine and emotive photographs.
So, for those that are unfamiliar, what exactly is a humanism, and what is a humanist ceremony? Humanism is, quite simply, a worldview that promotes the use of human reason, empathy and compassion to make the world a better place. Part of the way we can live a meaningful and enriching existence is by celebrating and sharing important life experiences – such as weddings. Rather than being led by religion or the law, a humanist ceremony places the couple at the heart of the wedding. They set the tone, content and structure of their script. Each ceremony is expertly tailored and no two weddings are the same. Humanist celebrants work very closely with their couples to help them start their marriage in a way that is authentic and genuine for them, which usually includes a great deal of fun. We don’t do stuffy, impersonal or boring!
In England and Wales, humanist weddings are not yet legally recognised (even though we’ve been performing them for 120 years), so couples will also need to attend a register office to sign the official paperwork to be married in the eyes of the law. This is a simple procedure and your celebrant will be happy to guide you. The upside is that with the legal aspects removed, you have a free rein when it comes to designing your ceremony. You aren’t restricted to a licensed venue (think secluded beach, family farm, urban warehouse…), and there is no set format or compulsory wording. Whilst a humanist wedding is filled with sentiment, you don’t have to follow tradition for the sake of tradition. You can ask of every element; ‘is it right for us?’ Couples will often choose to write their own vows, creating promises that are heartfelt, specific and say what they really want to say.
Alongside your photographer, your celebrant is one of the most valuable wedding contacts you will book, and they’ll be with you for the whole journey. Humanist celebrants don’t just turn up on the day and read a script. We are creative designers, planners, writers, on-the-day co-ordinators and public speakers. And what’s more, we’re all warm, genuine human beings who adore what we do. All Humanists UK celebrants are selectively recruited, trained to a very high standard and undergo continued professional development. So whoever you choose you know that you’re in the hands of experts.
Every aspect of a humanist ceremony is carefully planned over a significant period of time and that includes your photography. In our consultations I talk to my couples about where they want to stand and face during the ceremony to feel relaxed and also get the most from their photographs. All the photographers I’ve worked with seem to love the relaxed, fun and personal feel to a humanist ceremony. They always have complete freedom to shoot your wedding the way they know best. We’ll always have a quick run-through ‘behind the scenes’ whilst you’re still getting ready so that everyone knows what to expect; whilst you’ll probably spot a lot of traditional elements in a humanist ceremony, we also like to do things differently too – there might be a ring warming, hand fasting or sand-blending, or even a surprise flash mob! I love seeing the creative flair of photographers in action and time and again I’ve seen some of the very best photos of the wedding day taken during the ceremony. When you opt for a humanist ceremony, expect to receive plenty of photos of you and your guests crippled with laughter, eyes shimmering with tears of joy, glimpses of your guests holding hands with their own loved ones as they find that the words that are spoken resonate with them as well.
And what do photographers make of humanist ceremonies? Well, I’ll hand over to Fox & Bear to comment here, but I can reveal that many of the photographers I’ve worked with ended up booking me for their own weddings. And when you think about how many hundreds of ceremonies they must have attended, that’s surely the biggest endorsement I could hope to receive.
We worked with Maxine earlier this year and it was our first experience with a humanist wedding. We LOVED it. Weddings are amazing and crazy and complex. We will always encourage our couples to organise the wedding that they want to have; something that reflects them. If you are looking to celebrate your marriage with something a bit different, maybe you want to get married somewhere no-one else has before, then its worth considering a humanist wedding. This is when you call on Maxine.
All the photographs in this blog are of Helen & Steve’s wedding in Hafod Farm. Check out more from their day on our blog.