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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018
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The North's first legal humanist weddings take place this weekend

The law change followed a challenge by an Ireland footballer.

Image: Shutterstock/aprilante

THE FIRST HUMANIST wedding ceremonies in the North will take place this weekend, following a campaign by an Irish international footballer.

The issue of humanist marriages in Northern Ireland was brought to the fore by Republic of Ireland international Eunan O’Kane and model Laura Lacole who launched a court bid to allow their humanist marriage to go ahead.

As it stood, a couple that wanted a humanist ceremony must also have a separate civil registration for their marriage to be legally recognised.

The High Court ruled in June that O’Kane and Lacole could have the humanist marriage that they wished for.

Today in Queen’s University, Belfast Emma Taylor and Paul Malone will get married, while Alanna McCaffrey and Ronan Johnson will get married in Fermanagh.

Both ceremonies will be overseen by celebrants trained by Humanists UK.

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is personal to the couple and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.

The only previous legal humanist marriage to have taken place in Northern Ireland before this weekend was when the couple who took the court case, Lacole and O’Kane, got married last summer.

They were supported in taking their case by Humanists UK. Their marriage followed the High Court ruling in their favour last year, but no further couples were allowed to have humanist marriages while the Court of Appeal considered an appeal to the decision. Now that that appeal has concluded in their favour as well, other couples are at last able to start also having humanist marriages.

Emma Taylor and Paul Malone, who are getting married on Saturday said:

“We’re tremendously excited to be one of the first couples to be having a legal humanist marriage. When we started planning our wedding, we knew we wanted something highly personal that is all about who we are as a couple, and that’s what humanist marriages offer. We think that many people in Northern Ireland will have the same view, so we’re very pleased that the law is changing.”

Alanna McCaffrey and Ronan Johnson, who are getting married on Sunday said:

“We’re a non-religious couple and we want a very personalised and meaningful ceremony for our marriage. That’s why we want a humanist one – because you can customise it to suit yourself. It seemed the most meaningful option for us, and we’re delighted that such ceremonies will now be legally recognised.”

Laura Lacole, who took the legal case, said she and her husband wanted to change the law.

“Congratulations to Paul and Emma and to Alanna and Ronan on their impending nuptials, and to the many other couples who will follow them. In taking our legal case, we weren’t simply looking to change the law for our own wedding, but we wanted to change the law for others too. Knowing that come this weekend these couples will have a wedding ceremony that reflects precisely who they are as a couple, just as we did, makes us truly jubilant. It’s a huge progressive reform and I hope this helps pave the way for further change in Northern Ireland.”

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