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Read Me: Humanist weddings - what are they all about?

The Humanist Association of Ireland’s director of ceremonies Brian Whiteside says that for those who are not religious, it is nice to have an alternative.

Brian Whiteside

TRADITIONALLY WHEN PEOPLE think of weddings they think of them in churches on sunny Saturday afternoons.

But Ireland, indeed the world, is changing and not everyone wants a religious wedding any more.  So what are the options?

Right now if you want a legally-binding non-religious wedding on a Saturday I’m afraid you simply can’t have one. The only people allowed to conduct legal non-religious weddings in Ireland at present are State Registrars who work Monday to Friday.

So this is where the Humanists come in. Couples wanting non-religious weddings which are very personal and meaningful have been availing of Humanist ceremonies for the past couple of decades.  However, in order for the marriage to be legally binding, those couples have had to have a civil ceremony as well.   For the last ten years the Humanist Association of Ireland has been actively campaigning for their marriage ceremonies to be given legal status.

But change is, hopefully, about to happen.  Last October Senator Ivana Bacik introduced a private member’s bill in the Seanad with a view to amending the current legislation so as to give legal status to marriage ceremonies conducted by Humanist celebrants.  This bill went through its final stages in the Seanad recently and is now, hopefully, set for a safe passage through the Dail before becoming law later this year.

So what is a Humanist wedding ceremony like?  A Humanist ceremony is very personal and meaningful; it is essentially two people celebrating their love for each other and making their commitment to one another, in the company of those close to them, with appropriate well-chosen words, readings and music and in a place of their choice.  A couple deciding on this option will work closely with one of the celebrants accredited by the Humanist Association of Ireland and put together a ceremony that is appropriate for them.

‘I conducted a ceremony on a large rock overlooking the sea at Dalkey’

Typical venues for Humanist wedding ceremonies range from country house hotels and castles to private gardens.   Two years ago I conducted a ceremony overlooking the sea in Dalkey – the couple were perched on a large rock while I stood on another rock beside it and my main concern was not to let the rings fall!  It’s not every couple who would like the idea of starting their marriage in the place where, sadly, so many end up: on the rocks!

Some years ago I got an enquiry from a couple in Australia.  She was from Sydney and he was originally from Holland and they wanted to get married in Dublin where they had met – in fact they wanted to have the ceremony in the precise place where they first met: the Youth Hostel in Mountjoy Street.

Humanism, for those who don’t know, is a positive ethical philosophy of life based on concern for humanity in general and for individuals in particular.  It is a view of life which combines reason with compassion.  It is for those people who base their understanding of existence on the evidence of the natural world and its evolution, and not on belief in a supernatural power.

‘Each humanist ceremony is carefully crafted’

As well as weddings Humanist celebrants also conduct funerals and naming ceremonies. Humanist ceremonies are a good blend between formality and informality.  Each ceremony is carefully crafted in consultation with those involved.

Those people who are religious will probably want religious ceremonies to celebrate their milestones of life; but, for those who are not, isn’t it nice to have a good alternative?  We are delighted, not only for ourselves but for all those couples wanting Humanist weddings, that at long last we seem to be well on our way to having legal status for these ceremonies.

Humanists meet on the first Sunday of every month from 4pm to 6 pm in Buswells Hotel in Dublin.

For more on Humanist ceremonies and the Humanist Association of Ireland see our website www.humanism.ie or call Brian Whiteside on 086-3848940.

About the author:

Brian Whiteside

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