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The UK government claims to be in favour of marriage as an institution and seems keen to do what it can to strengthen it. But as new statistics from Scotland reveal that humanist marriages are the type of marriage most likely to survive, why has the government repeatedly stalled on extending legal recognition to such marriages in England and Wales?

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony that is deeply personal and conducted by a humanist celebrant. It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely hand-crafted and reflective of the beliefs and values of the couple, conducted by a celebrant who shares their beliefs and values.

Humanist marriages have been legally recognised in Scotland since 2005. They gained recognition after the Scottish Registrar General concluded that refusing to give them recognition, when religious marriages are already recognised, would be a breach of the Human Rights Act. The result since then has been to see them skyrocket in popularity, from a handful a year to our sister charity Humanist Society Scotland now being the biggest provider of marriages in Scotland other than the state itself.

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AtheistNews 6 Mar 11

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It’s time all four countries of the UK had the same regulations regarding what constitutes a legal marriage. England and Wales need to adopt the same ones that Scotland and N.Ireland have. They will wait until there is a legal challenge like we had in N.Ireland before doing so.


I don't get this, you can have any sort of marriage you want. My friend had a pagan hand fasting. All you need is a civil registrar to conduct it but the ceremony can be anything. You can dress up as easter eggs if you like!

Yes...that is true, but you still need to have a civil registrar, because a Humanist ceremony is not recognised as an official marriage. This anomaly needs to be redressed, I’m surprised nobody has taken this to court, like they did in Northern Ireland. All the countries of the UK need to have the same regulations around what constitutes a legal marriage. If couples in England want a Humanist wedding with a properly trained celebrant, they have to have a Register Office wedding first, if the Humanist wedding was legalised it would eliminate this additional red tape.

@Marionville All weddings have to do this, except church of england/scotland/wales/NIs. Jewish, Islamic, Pagan, Hindu weddings all have two ceremonies. Its probably not gone to court as no one has seen it as an issue (Plus we are British, two excuses for parties!)

@Amisja Our laws are archaic in a large number of cases, and are not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

@Marionville I totally get it, I just don't see why its more of an issue for humanists than anyone else? Its not saying humanists can't marry, lots and lots of people have non-religious marriages all the time. It just doesn't seem to be an issue

@Amisja It was an issue for the pair who took the court case in Belfast....they felt that their Atheist beliefs and desire to have a Humanist ceremony without the need to also go to the Registry Office was discriminatory....the Court agreed. I am surprised that we are actually ahead of England for this case at least!

@Marionville Maybe because no one has seen it as an issue here. English are very apathetic 😉

Coming late to this but... we’ve got legally recognised non-religious marriage in Jersey now too. I qualified to do them as well with the humanists. Thankfully so did a few others so I’ll never have to actually do one! What a total pain it is to be a celebrant.

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