Weddings. I've just seen another post that suggests humanist weddings should be a preferred option for any couple. The sub-text is that their ceremonies are far superior to anything else, full stop! Well, let’s have a look at some of the points they put forward.
Venue. In Scotland, the licence to marry is with the celebrant and not the venue. This means that anyone licensed by law can carry out the wedding ceremony in any reasonable venue. This is not exclusive to humanists. While I’ve been here there have been weddings in many different venues, as well as in church buildings; for example and amongst other venues, there has been a wedding at the top of the lighthouse, under a tree and quite a few on beaches ( after checking tide times! ).
Spiritual aspect. Unlike a Humanist ceremony, a faith based religious ceremony will not ignore that part of a couple's relationship. Church congregations may be at an all-time low but that doesn’t mean couples don’t want a faith element in their special ceremony. If fact, there are many, many people of faith who have no formal religious affiliation who still choose to be married by a religious celebrant.
Religious differences. Faith ethos is centred around being kind, treating people with respect, and so much more. The faith celebrant, ( I write from a Church of Scotland tradition ) has the best interests of the couple very much at the centre of the ceremony. If the couple are from different religious traditions, weddings are a chance for couples of different faith systems to come together, discuss their own faith traditions and to incorporate these into their wedding ceremony developing a ceremony that accommodates most main-line faith traditions. Being open and honest with the celebrant will help for the day and, so important for their future, help the couple understand each other better.
Content of the ceremony. Each wedding is crafted ( very deliberate use of this word ), with the couple very much at the heart of the ceremony. This doesn’t mean ignoring the formal legal requirements of the wedding ceremony but it does mean these are incorporated in a way that suits each couple. There can be singing, dancing, pet ring-bearers ( though I’ve not experienced those last two … yet ), symbolic gestures, etc, all worked into the celebration. I know of ministers who have incorporated hand-fasting and, this summer, one wedding here included drinking from a quiach.
Inclusion of family. This has always been part of religious traditions. How family is involved is up to the couple and their families. Children are very welcome to be involved in the wedding of their parents!
Drama. Most dramas are caused by what goes on around the wedding at the core of the day. Who to invite, where to have the wedding worries about the party / reception, family tensions - these are what causes most drama!
Cost. If a couple decide to hold their wedding in a church building there will be a charge for the use of that venue, as there would be for any building. There would be charges for any organist and, occasionally, for the person who helps prepare the building for the day. Beyond that, there is no charge for the minister ( remember, I write from a Church of Scotland tradition ), but it’s nice to receive a donation towards the costs of ministry. Donations are charitable and alturistic, not fees or charges. Donations help with the cost of ministry in supporting the communities they are part of eg to enable other weddings, or baptism or funerals, of those who are less fortunate, and to provide ongoing pastoral support of all in their care.
Same-sex weddings. This is the only point on which humanists can claim to provide a service a Church of Scotland minister cannot.
After all that … is a humanist wedding best? Well, they certainly seem to believe that! I don’t. What is best for the couple is very much a reflection of who they are and what they would like on the day. Any Church of Scotland minister will work with the couple to achieve the best for them on the day - and, as mentioned above, continue to provide ongoing pastoral support as necessary. Perhaps humanists could be aware that others are just as good and offer the same range of services, with the addition of being open to acknowledging people of faith have value too.