More couples choosing Humanist weddings

Humanist weddings are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland (Photo courtesy of Humanist Society Scotland)
Humanist weddings are becoming increasingly popular in Scotland (Photo courtesy of Humanist Society Scotland)

More humanist weddings took place in Scotland last year than those conducted by any single religious denomination for the first time ever, new figures show.

A total of 4,290 weddings were conducted by humanists in 2015, figures from National Records of Scotland revealed. The Church of Scotland had always carried out most of the country’s weddings, other than civil ceremonies, but last year saw the Kirk fall back to 4,052 ceremonies.

The move towards humanist celebrations shows more and more people in Scotland are opting for a rational and empathic approach to life

Gordon MacRae, HSS chief executive

Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) conducted more than three-quarters of all humanist marriages in Scotland, with others being conducted by two independent providers.

The society secured a change in policy in 2005 which allowed Scotland to become one of the first countries in the world to permit humanist weddings.

In the decade since it secured the landmark ruling, the society has seen the number of weddings it carries out increase every year.

HSS chief executive Gordon MacRae puts the rise in popularity down to the “values of equality and human rights”, which he says are at the heart of the humanist movement.

He said: “The phenomenal rise in humanist ceremonies is being fuelled by the desire of wedding couples for a non-religious ceremony that provides a day reflecting their personalities and can be inclusive of their friends and family.

“The move towards humanist celebrations and away from religious ceremonies mirrors the changed demographics of Scotland in 2015.

“It shows that more and more people in Scotland are opting for a rational and empathic approach to life.

“Our approach is to celebrate the one life we have and clearly this is resonating with thousands of couples all across the country.”

Since 2005 the HSS has carried out more than 20,000 weddings with ceremonies talking place in a range of venues including football grounds and people’s back gardens.

The organisation now has 115 celebrants – who also carry out funerals and baby-naming ceremonies – across the country and is set to run a campaign to recruit more.

Meanwhile the two other Humanist organisations – Independent Humanist Ceremonies and Humanist Fellowship of Scotland – have also both seen a rise in popularity. Combined, they carried out 912 weddings in Scotland last year – compared to 382 in 2014.

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Taylor Wimpey have confirmed directly with local Councillor Nathan Wilson that the organisation retains its commitment to building a park and ride at Shieldmuir Train Station. In response to recent enquiries made by Councillor Wilson, Taylor Wimpey have advised that engagement is taking place with Network Rail over the latter’s approval procedures and that once this process is complete, work will be able to begin on site. The developer has informed the Motherwell Councillor that during the period of investigation undertaken since the commencement of building work was delayed in January 2018, an unrecorded service chamber has been discovered on site. The project cannot move forward until further clarification is provided on the nature of the service chamber and Taylor Wimpey are in the process of commissioning a contractor to assess the situation. The developer’s initial judgement is that this is likely a redundant service. A senior representative of the organisation has also informed Councillor Wilson that a member of the Taylor Wimpey production team will be sent out to inspect the vacant land following a request he made at the beginning of 2019 for maintenance work to be carried out on site should construction of the park and ride remain some time away. Councillor Nathan Wilson said: “Taylor Wimpey have communicated to me directly that the park and ride facility is a project that the organisation remains committed to delivering. “However, it goes without saying that the lengthy delay is still very disappointing and frustrating. “An unrecorded service chamber has been identified on site and progress is unable to be made until this has been investigated. “Taylor Wimpey have relayed to me that an on-site inspection of the vacant land will take place and I hold to the view that maintenance work should be carried out in the short term to improve it’s current condition. “I will continue to engage with the relevant stakeholders and re-inforce to them the importance of the park and ride project locally. Motherwell and Wishaw CAB takes home 40 per cent of the prizes

Overall in 2015, 29,691 marriages took place in Scotland. More than half of that number – 15,583 – involved civil ceremonies. In line with an ongoing trend, the total number of marriages carried out dropped as fewer couples opt to tie the knot.

Despite fewer couples marrying and the rise in humanist weddings, the Church of Scotland says many couples still prefer to wed in their local church. The Kirk points to the fact that Church of Scotland marriages topped the list of ceremonies conducted by religious and beliefs-based celebrants - with the total of humanist ceremonies split among three bodies.

Rev Norman Smith, Convener of the Kirks’ Mission and Discipleship Council, said: “When couples stand in church where generations have stood before pledging their love to one another, it is a reminder that human love endures.

“The Church of Scotland has always stood with the people of Scotland and helped them take this step together.

“That is still the case and we would encourage anyone considering marriage to remember their local church.”

Despite growing in popularity in Scotland humanist weddings have yet to be made legal anywhere else in the UK. Currently only seven other countries have legalised them – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Ireland, Iceland and parts of the US.

Roman Catholic Church weddings were the third most popular in Scotland last year with 1,438 taking place.