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The Friday Fight-Out: Humanist Ceremony Vs Civil Ceremony

Once upon a time the words “humanist ceremony” seemed to court many a raised eyebrow and hushed conversations with words like “hippy” and “strange beliefs” right up until the moment anyone actually attended one, at which point the words bandied around changed to “lovely”, “special” and “cool”. Humanist ceremonies are definitely on the rise, with more and more couples finding humanist ceremonies to give them the flexibility they crave on their wedding day. But do humanist ceremonies really offer more than a perhaps more orthodox civil ceremony and which is right for you? Our resident expert debaters decided to go head to head, Humanist Ceremony Vs Civil Ceremony,


In the Red Corner, she’s all about the bride and groom focussing on expressing their personalities, representing the humanist ceremony, it’s Dom “The Tog Bride”.

In the Blue Corner, as a filmmaker he’s experienced all kinds of wedding ceremonies but this time representing the civil ceremony, it’s Matt “The Gormless Groom”.


Humanist ceremony

Dom: Humanist ceremonies are so relaxed and personal to the couple whereas aside from the readings civil ceremonies are much more regimented and offer little flexibility to adjust to your specific desires

Matt: Civil ceremonies may have to include certain wording but you can add your own readings and often your own vows on top of those words that make up the legal contract.

Dom: At a civil ceremony you may not have even met the person leading the ceremony beforehand, whereas with a humanist ceremony you could have a friend or someone important to you which can make it even more special.

Matt: Humanist ceremonies are not legally binding so you need to complete the legal parts of the ceremony separately and that is the point when you will technically be married, whereas the civil ceremony is the actual legally binding ceremony meaning that you truly become husband and wife there and then.

Dom: The wording for civil ceremonies is very inflexible with specific wording having to be used for legal reasons even when not necessarily completely appropriate. For example until the law changes next year words along the lines of “marriage is the union between one man and one woman” still have to be used rather than between “two people” which may be offensive to any same sex couples attending your wedding.

Matt: Humanist ceremonies are an awful lot of work as you need to plan and write the entire ceremony from scratch. Civil ceremonies have a set structure which is proven to work and provide a good flow through the ceremony and require a lot less work on your part.

Dom: But the fact that you can plan and write it all yourself is a huge selling point of the humanist ceremony – everything that is said and done during the ceremony can be personal to you, from the vows to the stories the officiant tells during the ceremony – it’s so special for the Bride and Groom and much more entertaining for all the guests too!

Matt: With a civil ceremony you can have the full signing of the register and take away your marriage certificate signed on the day of the actual wedding.

Dom: Registrars are very busy people and will generally be doing more than one wedding per day, often several, and consequently sometimes put a big time restriction on your wedding and if running late even rush through the ceremony so that they’re not late for their next appointment. With a humanist ceremony you know you have the full attention of the person leading the ceremony and don’t have to be so concerned about time restrictions as no-one is waiting to rush off.

Matt: Having a unique wedding is great, but sometimes some of the traditions can help it to feel more special. Ceremonies are ritual and for some it’s important that the wording is all the same – that you and the registrar are saying the same words that your parents spoke before you and their parents before them.

So those are our thoughts but where do you stand on this debate? Register your vote on our poll or leave a comment to join the debate!

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