At the Backbencher Sam Woolfe is busily promoting the interests of vaguley-leftist humanist group the British Humanist Association (formerly headed by Polly Toynbee) by mistakenly selling state-free and priest-free weddings under the label “humanist” as if specifically humanist weddings were the only state-free and priest-free weddings available on the market.
Such weddings have distinct advantages. Churches are obviously not everyones cup-of-tea so binning the religion is an obvious plus point but official secular weddings also have limits on where they take place. Licensed (i.e. state compatible) venues must have a permanent roof, and sign-posted parking spaces so that artificially-scarce and over-worked state employed “registrars” can zip in and out. These are a couple of reasons why state-approved marriages in the UK cannot take place outside, or on the beach, or up a mountain, as you might like. Sam Woolfe recognised these advantages, but does liberty a disservice by wrongly associating these advantages with organised Humanism.
In fact, it is not neccessary to have a recognised –ist or an –ism label on your wedding in order to have a non-state and priest-free wedding. There are even advantages to doing so that athiestic humanists will not readily offer you. My own wedding, conducted by politically-neutral Yvonne Dobbs, was loosley based on David Veksler’s objectivist ceremony (i.e. it was broadly athiest) but had surprise-twists inspired by Hindu tradition. At one point while planning the affair, we were even going to light a fire and invite Agni, and this would have been fine by Yvonne. The text aimed to avoid preaching but to include the ideas and sentiments that were central to our particular set of shared values as they applied to our day – including those ideas that were clearly derived from religious tradition. In contrast, a state-wedding, in some counties, cannot even take place in the presence of stained-glass windows and the content of readings is vetted in advance by the registrar, and we would not (and chose not to) trust a humanist to keep their ideas to themselves.
Using an ism-free professional celebrant gets you out of this bind. Religious influence is welcome, and state-censorship avoided. The words of your ceremony script are your own, written in collaboration with a professional, and are not laden with the ideological baggage of Polly Toynbee or blanched clean of any traces of your upbringing.
Lists of professional celebrants are published by the Fellowship of Professional Celebrants and Association of Independent Celebrants. Hiring one generally costs a few hundred pounds, including some travel expenses. As it is a simple commercial transaction you may (or may not, as it is supposed to be) get married this way as a homosexual couple as well. Conveniently, most will refuse to take more than one job at a time so they are at your beck-and-call all day – no need to rush your ceremony.
Of all the celebrants we interviewed, none of them asked us for reserved parking spaces.
Photographs stolen shamelessly from Brian Micklethwait and Clarissa D.