Demand for secular ceremonies creates shortage of Humanist celebrants

The Scotland on Sunday reports that the Humanist Society Scotland nationwide search for new celebrants as they face a shortage of trained officials required to satisfy Scotland’s growing demand for humanist and secular ceremonies.

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The dramatic rise in the popularity of secular and humanist ceremonies in Scotland has led to some celebrants being asked to conduct as many as three ceremonies a day and couples having to delay their weddings until the celebrant of their choice is available. Humanist celebrants are taking bookings up to two years in advance of the big day.

The organisation provides weddings, funeral and naming ceremonies as well as affirmation services for people who are not religious but understand the important role ceremonies play in their own life and in their community.


Since 2005, secular weddings have grown from 50 to 58 percent of wedding ceremonies in Scotland. Last year, the number of weddings performed by the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) grew by 13 percent which saw them conduct one in 12 weddings. They are now the third most popular choice of wedding behind civil and Church of Scotland weddings, ahead of the Catholic Church.

In 2011. HSS conducted one in 18 funerals in Scotland and in the last five years, demand for humanist funerals has grown by 57 percent. Humanist naming ceremonies, the equivalent of a christening, have almost doubled since 2007.

The rise in popularity of humanist ceremonies reflects a significant shift towards secular ceremonies in Scotland. Of the 31 Scottish council registration areas, 25 recorded more secular that religious wedding ceremonies.

There are currently 98 qualified humanist celebrants practicing in Scotland however for many it is not their full-time occupation and in certain locations at busy times, celebrants can be asked to conduct as many as three ceremonies a day or 20 funerals a month.

Currently there are 13 potential celebrants undergoing the funeral training and mentoring process. When registered they will conduct a substantial number of funerals before being eligible to apply to train as a wedding celebrant. Couples who have had a humanist wedding, often contact their celebrant again when they have children and naming ceremonies, which replace the traditional christening service, are an increasingly important part of a celebrant’s work and training.

Les Mitchell, Convenor of the Humanist Society Scotland said: “Ceremonies to mark life’s milestones are important to us as social beings. Historically, religious ceremonies were used to mark these occasions, but this that has now changed.

“Our society is less religious and many people are drawn to humanist ceremonies because they are centred on the people involved. Be it a marriage, a naming ceremony or a funeral, our celebrants focus on the individuals and personal stories behind the ceremony, which many find more meaningful than a religious ceremony in reference to a being they don’t believe in.”

“The humanist ceremony also offers a warmer and more personal experience than a civil ceremony”.

“Ideally we would have more full-time celebrants in Scotland to meet demand but we have strict selection criteria and are looking for particular qualities and life stance. In addition, our training and review processes are rigorous, so finding and training new celebrants is a lengthy process.”

Click here for more information on joining and becoming an HSS celebrant.



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