• The Festival Celebrant

Independent Celebrant or Humanist Celebrant. What??.... Help!

Updated: Mar 4

There's a lot of coverage about Celebrants in the British press and media at the moment. Six couples are appealing for reforms that would give Humanist 'weddings' legal status in England and Wales (The law has already been changed in other parts of the UK).

Now, I'd just like to draw your attention back to the Humanist bit of that last sentence, because the proposed legal reform would only apply to Humanist Celebrants and the wedding ceremonies they conduct.

Why I am I mentioning this?

Because Humanist Celebrants aren't the only Celebrants. There's also a legion of Celebrants who're commonly called Independent Celebrants. And the proposed legal reforms would continue to withhold legal status from the 'wedding celebration' ceremonies conducted by Independent Celebrants.

"So what?" You might say. "'Humanist Celebrant', 'Independent Celebrant' blah! Does it matter? If the law is changed just hire a Humanist Celebrant if legal status is important to you."

Let me unpick that.

It may not matter to many aspiring couples. If you're considering a Celebrant for your 'wedding' you've probably already decided not to have a traditionally religious ceremony. You may be an Atheist and opposed on principal to religious philosophies and beliefs. Perhaps you're a convinced Agnostic and feel that a religious ceremony would be a bit hypocritical.

Then again, you might be 'people of faith' but not the same one, and to avoid causing awkwardness or offence, you've plumped for a Celebrant-led ceremony. Fine.

But what if it does matter? What if you're a couple whose beliefs do not conform to 'Religion' but are none-the-less decidedly spiritual? What if you aren't big on 'God' but you are deeply metaphysical? What if you positively identify as Pagan, Heathen, Druid, Shaman, but don't adhere to any particular creed or tradition and consequently don't have access to an 'officiant' for your ceremony? What if you follow diverse New Age beliefs and are similarly unrepresented?

This is your Big Day we're talking about. You want it to scream of YOU! You want it to be an undiluted, glorious expression of your soul, your truth, your essence. So tell me; are you going to be genuinely happy and fulfilled with a Humanist ceremony? No 'Religion' allowed. Nothing 'numinous'. No supernatural references. No Metaphysics. No invocations. No spells. No 'Guardian Spirits'. No 'Guides'. Many Humanists will incorporate 'secular cultural traditions' in your ceremony but in truth, many of those are based on 'superstition' and folk magic, and they'll be reluctant to include those.

Don't get me wrong. I have no issue with Humanists. None at all. It's just that I'm simply not one. And the thousands of people who choose an Independent Celebrant over a Humanist Celebrant every year probably aren't either. And I yearn for the legal reform that will allow people of all belief systems to enjoy a personal union that is recognised in law. But the proposed changes will not achieve that. If they happen all they will do is take us one step to equality. Welcome yes, of course, but certainly not the end of the matter.

Some Humanists genuinely believe they can provide for all people who aren't 'Religious'. The Humanist UK website, commenting on the current legal challenge, even says it's campaigning for the day when the relationships of people of all faiths and none have parity. I'm sorry Humanists, but you can't provide for everybody. You can't provide for me any more than a Catholic priest or an Imam could. And I know I'm far from being alone.

I'm glad you're campaigning for reform and I wish you luck. But can I mention that the Wedding Celebrancy Commission (WCC), which represents Independent Celebrants, has also been campaigning long and hard for reform of Marriage Law. You'd think that everybody campaigning for this laudable end would pull together, wouldn't you? But when Humanists UK were invited to join the WCC, they declined. I'm sure they had their reasons at the time. But whatever they were, there's now a real chance of getting this issue over the line, so wouldn't it be better for everybody if you were to reconsider?

So I'm throwing this challenge out to Humanists. If you really are working for the day when ALL marriage ceremonies, for people of ALL belief systems are legal, please use the platform you now enjoy to argue for us Independent Celebrants too. We're not enemies or competitors. We're partners, along with Registrars and 'Ministers of Religion' (and btw, I mean Ministers of ALL Religion), and we should be striving TOGETHER for the rights, choices, dignity and equality of EVERYBODY.

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