Becoming a Humanist Celebrant

by Madeleine Clark, originally published in the 2016 Autumn edition of Humanitie magazine.

So – you are at a Humanist ceremony and you love it. It is personal and meaningful, and really gets under the skin of the person/ couple/ family at the heart of the ceremony. At this stage many people think, “I would love to do that.” But how do you know if becoming a Humanist Celebrant is the right thing for you? Here are a number of things to consider, with tips from some of our wonderful Celebrants:


HSS Celebrant Robert Anthony at a Naming Ceremony

HSS Celebrant Robert Anthony at a Naming Ceremony

It is emotional! You will need to be a rock for bereaved families, a guide for nervous couples, the voice of reason for new parents – a part of the most important days in people’s lives. It takes a special kind of person to be able to take on that responsibility and not be overwhelmed. You also need to remember the day is about them – not you, so the ability to empathise, listen and adapt, and even take on criticism are vital. As one Celebrant advised, “remember it’s their most special of days and although it’s something we do all the time, treat each one as the most important you have ever done.”


It is time consuming. The training is intensive, and spread across a number of overnight sessions. On top of that there is mentoring and continuing personal development training. You will also need to be able to devote time to promoting yourself, and keep on top of any ceremonies. A top tip from one of our Celebrants is “be sure to plan your own holidays well in advance or you will be heading for arguments when you find that there is no space for one!” Another warns, “I work full time and have had to learn how to share my life again with my loved ones.” – It takes a lot of organisation and skill.


It won’t happen overnight! It is worth thinking about how you will be able to support yourself while you undergo training, develop a name for yourself, and work your way up to taking more bookings. A Celebrant advised, “it may take several years to establish effective working relationships that eventually lead to… a more regular and consistent pattern of booking.” This is not a job with a salary – you get the freedoms that come with being self-employed but also the uncertainty, so make sure you are prepared.


It will change your life. It is not overstating it to say that becoming a Celebrant with the HSS really will change your life. If you can accept the challenges that come with it, it can be one of the most rewarding things you will do. One Celebrant told me, it is “genuinely the most meaningful and rewarding work I have ever undertaken.” Another said that, “I now feel I can deal with any situation that the job can throw at me – as well as in life itself.” and yet another said, “It’s the most privileged and honoured role and I just love it!” And finally, “ It’s great fun, and different, and interesting, and flexible, and occasionally ridiculous, but I can’t imagine having another job. Ever. How many folk can say that about their work?”


If you think that you could take on the challenges and rewards that come with being a Humanist Society Scotland Celebrant, we would love to hear from you. You can find more details on how to apply here.


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