|Part of a Philosophy series on|
A humanist celebrant or humanist officiant is a person who performs secular humanist celebrancy services for weddings, funerals, child namings, coming of age ceremonies and other rituals. Some humanist celebrants are accredited by humanist organisations, such as Humanists UK, Humanist Society Scotland (HSS), and the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC).
Humanist ceremonies are conducted in every part of the world by humanist organisations, although the legal status of non-religious ceremonies of different kinds varies from place to place. In general, funeral ceremonies are not typically regulated by states, but many countries with a religious history have stricter guidelines on who can perform legal marriages. Naming ceremonies, similarly, can be held anywhere without legal implications. In countries where legal marriages can only be performed by religious institutions or the state (such as England), humanist weddings are often performed before or after a civil legal proceeding, but presented as the more meaningful or significant of the two events.
As of 2018, humanist celebrants can conduct legally binding marriage ceremonies in Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and the United States. The British island of Jersey legalised humanist marriages in 2018, but the civil service has yet to authorise any celebrants.
The charity Humanists UK (formerly the British Humanist Association) pioneered the practice of offering humanist ceremonies, and today organises a network of celebrants or officiants across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A similar network exists in Scotland, where, following a June 2005 ruling by the Registrar General, celebrants belonging to Humanist Society Scotland have been permitted to conduct legal wedding ceremonies. Humanists UK celebrants in Northern Ireland were given the same rights in 2017 following a court case supported by Humanists UK.
In England and Wales the current legal position is that a humanist wedding or partnership ceremony must be supplemented by obtaining a civil marriage or partnership certificate through a Register Office. In December 2014 it was reported that the Prime Minister's Office was blocking the implementation of a change to give legal force to humanist weddings in England and Wales. That same year in Scotland, when same-sex marriage was legalised, the First Minister of Scotland attended the legal humanist marriage of a same-sex couple. In 2015, humanist weddings became more popular in Scotland than Church of Scotland weddings, or those of any religious denomination. Humanist Society Scotland's status as a trusted provider of marriages was written into Scots law in February 2017.
Non-religious funerals are legal within the UK. Humanist celebrants are familiar with the procedures of cremation and burial, and are trained and experienced in devising and conducting suitable ceremonies. The British Humanist Association has in the past described officiants as follows:
Officiants are generally at least 35 years old, have experience of public speaking, and have probably had paid or voluntary experience in a caring/supporting profession – such as nursing, teaching, police or social work, for example. They must be able to cope with the emotional burden of regularly meeting and working with bereaved people - often in relation to particularly difficult or unexpected deaths, such as the death of a child in a road accident. Funeral directors are able to make arrangements with trained officiants in their local area.
Humanist funerals have reportedly been held in recent years for Claire Rayner, Keith Floyd, Linda Smith, Ronnie Barker, and Lynsey de Paul, among others. The humanist funeral for former First Minister of Wales Rhodri Morgan in 2017 was the first national funeral in the United Kingdom to be led by a humanist celebrant, former AM Lorraine Barrett, as well as the first national funeral held in Wales.
Celebrants also undertake humanist baby namings as a non-religious alternative to ceremonies such as christenings. The purpose is to recognise and celebrate the arrival of a child, and welcome him or her in the family and circle of friends.
In Ireland, the Humanist Association of Ireland manages its own network of humanist ceremonies. Since 2012, these have been legally recognised, as in Scotland. In 2015, humanist marriages accounted for 6% of all marriages in Ireland, making them six times more popular than the Church of Ireland's weddings.
United States and Canada
Laws in each state of the United States vary about who has the right to perform wedding services, but humanist celebrants are usually categorized as "clergy" and have the same rights and responsibilities as ordained clergy. Humanist celebrants will perform both opposite-sex and same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, maintains a list of humanist celebrants.
Humanists conduct wedding ceremonies across Canada. These typically happen under the auspices of the national Humanist Canada group or through one of the province-level groups such as the British Columbia Humanist Association.
Humanist weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies are popular throughout Scandinavia, where humanist groups tend to be well-established. Humanist coming of age ceremonies are also popular in thesee countries, and in particular Norway, where humanists also conduct legally binding weddings. In Norway, coming of age ceremonies are a cultural norm dating back to when it was a legal requirement for young people to have a church-led confirmation ceremony. In an increasingly secular population, many Norwegians turn to the Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA) instead for a 'confirmation' that reflects their values. In 2017, 11,000 Norwegian young people registered for their ceremony with the NHA, representing nearly one in five young Norwegians.
Humanist groups providing ceremonies as part of Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands are well-established across Germany and are particularly prominent in many of Germany's cities, where majorities of residents are non-religious. As in Scandinavia, humanist coming-of-age ceremonies are very popular, due to secularisation and a pre-existing tradition of religious confirmation. Jugendweihe ceremonies have been on offer since at least 1852, although these days they are more likely to be referred to as Jugendfeier (youth celebration, as opposed to youth ordination). 8,500 young Germans took part in these ceremonies in 2015.
- "Victory! Court of Appeal in Belfast rules humanist marriage must be legally recognised". Humanists UK. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
- "Icelandic humanist group first to get legal recognition as a "secular life stance organisation"". National Secular Society. 8 May 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- "Humanist/Secular Weddings". Free Society Institute. Retrieved 22 August 2018.
- "Love is special. Make yours unique" (PDF). American Humanist Association. September 2015. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
- "Jersey's humanist and same-sex marriage law comes into force". Humanists UK. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- "Humanist Ceremonies". 26 April 2012.
- Humanist Association of Northern Ireland Archived 2013-10-19 at the Wayback Machine.
- IfIShouldDie.co.uk: Humanist funerals Archived 2010-04-02 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Humanist Society Scotland - Celebrate the one life we have". Humanist Society Scotland.
- "Success! Couple win challenge to lack of legal recognition of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland". Humanists UK. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
- "Humanist Weddings". 21 May 2012.
- Marie Woolf, "Humanist weddings blocked by No 10", Sunday Times, 14 December 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2015
- "Humanists conducting first ever same-sex marriage in Scotland". Humanists UK. 30 December 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "Scottish humanists to overtake Kirk weddings". BBC Scotland. 18 June 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- Brocklehurst, Steven (August 2016). "More than 4200 Humanist weddings took place in Scotland last year". Humanist Society Scotland. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "We 'Heart' Humanist Weddings". Humanist Society Scotland. February 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
- "BBC - Religions - Atheism: Funerals".
- Jennifer Lipman, Agony aunt Claire Rayner dies at age 79, Jewish Chronicle, 12 October 2010
- Haroon Siddique, Mourners pay tribute to TV chef Keith Floyd at humanist funeral, The Guardian, 30 September 2009
- Bristol Evening Post, Keith Floyd funeral in Bristol, 30 September 2009
- "Linda Smith: God, the biggest joke of all".
- BBC, Family funeral for Ronnie Barker, 13 October 2005
- BBC News, "Lynsey de Paul: Singer-songwriter's funeral held", 8 October 2014. Accessed 3 March 2015
- "Public humanist funeral for Rhodri Morgan at National Assembly for Wales". Humanists UK. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "Rhodri Morgan funeral to be held at the Senedd, Cardiff". BBC Wales News. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
- "Namings". 21 May 2012.
- "Weddings - Humanist Association of Ireland".
- Ministries, Rose. "Rose Ministries: Online Ordination, Become a Minister, Women Welcome". roseministries.org.
- "404 - Page Not Found - Humanist Canada". humanistcanada.ca.
- "Humanists Stand Ready to Perform Same-Sex Marriage Ceremonies - American Humanist Association". 3 March 2010.
- "Celebrants - The Humanist Society". humanist-society.org.
- Aslaug Olette Klausen and Kirsti Bergh (10 April 2017). "Rekordpåmelding til Humanistisk konfirmasjon i 2018 (Record Enrollment to Humanist Confirmation in 2018)". fritanke.no. Norwegian Humanist Association. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- "Die kulturelle Bedeutung der Jugendfeier ist kaum zu überschätzen (The cultural significance of the youth celebration is hard to overestimate)". diesseits.de. 1 April 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2018.