Most folk getting married have never been married before and, if they don’t fancy a religious wedding, it’s confusing- what exactly is the difference between a Registrar, Humanist Celebrant, Marriage Officer, Interfaith Celebrant, Officiant, Spiritualist etc?
Glad you asked. Let me try to explain.
In Scotland, you can only be married by someone who is authorised under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 and/or by the Registrar General of Scotland. This basically means that your pal who is really good at speaking loudly in front of people can’t do it, not unless they are affiliated to a religious or belief body and supported by office bearers of that body to conduct a marriage ceremony on its behalf. Hope that clears that one up.
One option is a civil ceremony. That’s one that’s conducted by a Council Registrar. They’ve changed a wee bit in recent years. I was always under the impression that they were completely non-religious ceremonies, reflecting the official, council, non-church-based nature of a civil ceremony, Turns out hymns and religious readings can be included as long as they aren’t delivered by the registrar. Who knew?
A civil ceremony can take place at the Council Marriage Suite or anywhere the Registrar is happy to travel to within their registration district and on a day and at a time they are paid to work. Some registrars will only conduct weddings at very specific times of the day and their ceremonies may be a prescribed length of time; they are council employees and their job is to provide a council function- to register births, deaths and marriages. I have met some really very lovely Registrars who are doing their best to make ceremonies less ‘council’ but, regardless of how lovely they are, they are very restricted in the time they have to create a ceremony and their flexibility is limited.
You might consider an Interfaith celebrant and they are usually happy to include religious content or not, they can have hymns and prayers or not. Let’s call them Religion Lite. Spiritualists rip ma knitting and I don’t know what a Marriage Officer is but they sound stern.
Humanist Celebrants are easy. I don’t mean easy easy, although some probably are. I mean, I know what I am talking about with Humanists, in particular, the ones who are my amazing Humanist Society Scotland colleagues.
First things first.
There are a number of Humanist organisations in Scotland. I am a member of Humanist Society Scotland (HSS from now on to save my carpal tunnel) and we are the only Humanist organisation allowed to authorise our own celebrants. This is a big deal. HUGE. HSS HQ recruits, trains, mentors and assesses the very best funeral, naming and wedding celebrants and the Scottish Government has recognised that we can be trusted to authorise them too. Wee proud face for our historic place in Scots’ Law.
What does this mean to you? Well, as long as the HSS will have me, I will be authorised to conduct your wedding. Most organisations are restricted to either a fixed term of a few years or they can be authorised on a wedding-by-wedding basis but, when you book me, I am authorised to legally marry you whenever your wedding is, regardless of how far in the future it may be.
(Just while we are on the subject, always, always check that your celebrant, whichever organisation they hail from, can legally marry you. Ask them outright. I’ve spoken to (and subsequently married) too many couples who have been misled by celebrants who don’t have authorisation and who fudge their way through the awkward questions until it’s too late and you find yourself having to have two ceremonies or looking for someone like me, at untenably short notice).
HSS has over 120 celebrants based all across Scotland and our workloads and expenses vary but we’re all superconscious that planning and budgeting for a wedding is difficult, especially when inflation sucks, so we’ve not increased our basic rate since 2017 and it will remain the same until at least 2020.
We do ask you to join the HSS and your two year membership is a bargain at £43 per couple. We ask you to join for two main reasons, the first being, when you join, you are then covered by our HSS promise. It’s a good thing. Makes me happy.
The second reason is that the HSS isn’t a wedding business or company, it’s a charity and its main function is to provide a secular voice in Scotland. Take away weddings and the HSS would still exist and would still be campaigning.
It’s so important to me that Humanist Society Scotland isn’t just a provider of weddings. I love that I am part of a much bigger thing; a worldwide Humanist family and a Scottish charity that does stuff. It takes your membership fee (and the money I give back from every ceremony I do) and uses it to SHOUT VERY LOUDLY in the face of some equally shouty people who would otherwise get their own way. And yes, shouting is rude but, believe me, some of these guys dinnae listen. Not one bit.
Did you know HSS were involved in the discussions and law-changing that ensured Equal Marriage in Scotland? I know! We monitor religious involvement in education and raise loud objections when lines have been crossed. We are part of a working group looking at Funeral Poverty, working with Funeral providers, Charities and Bereavement groups to address problems and advise government.
We campaign for Women’s Rights; I gave a speech on a wall outside the Scottish Parliament about threats to abortion law from religious
nutters men campaigners. I did the same thing on the steps of Glasgow Concert Hall. I get about.
We work with the homeless in Glasgow (and now Edinburgh and Stirling too) through our Streetcare initiative. It’s proper hands-on volunteering and it’s local and visible and not just waving a Great Big Cheque at a camera and you can learn more about it on the HSS website. Several of my wedding couples have gone on to volunteer on our TRun and TWalk. Maybe you would like to too?
Further afield, we support and mentor colleagues in Malawi and beyond. The first humanist wedding took place in Kenya recently, the celebrant expertly overseen by our own Gary Smith in Monifieth. What a fabulous thing to be part of!
So, when you book your wedding with me or one of my Humanist Society Scotland colleagues, you are contributing to change, to making a difference and making other human lives better. That’s Humanism for ya. Gives you all the feels AND you get a legal wedding full of personality and warmth.
You get a flexible approach to timing and location (I am the actual Martini* wedding woman) and you have input and control over the content of your ceremony. We want you to create something wonderful and personal and very ‘you’.
Me? I don’t want to fill in blanks with your names and read the same thing every time; I want to be laughing and/or weeping in Costa because you’ve written the most beautiful words and I want to hear all the chat about your adorable furbabies and havoc-wreaking human babies and I want to encourage you to do what you want when it comes to your wedding because you are awesome humans and life’s too short for traditions that aren’t for you. Bin them. Do something better.
What was that? You want to arrive in a unicorn carriage suspended by glitterbees, preceded by eight flowergrannies on rollerskates? Do it. I’ll bring my own skates.
Wait. What? You want to climb a modest hill with an amazing view and get married at sunrise? Sounds like an absolute treat.
Now, you’ve read enough. You must be knackered. Take a break and go do something good and worthy and send me cake.
*ask your grandparents.