You may have seen the BBC News reports this morning about the High Court Challenge in respect of humanist weddings. There is, in fact, an ongoing Law Commission Review which is taking a full and rounded view of ALL celebrants in connection with their work on current laws.
We at Kate and Kate would like ALL celebrants to have the same legal rights – not just those that are signed up Humanists. We get this is a niche issue… so to help you see why it gets our goat, here’s a wee insight into the difference between Humanist and Independent Celebrants.
So, you may already have gathered that Kate and Kate are not Humanist Celebrants… we are Independent Celebrants. Now, to help you wrap your head around that, we’ll do a bit of explaining.
Please bear in mind we can’t speak for all Humanist Celebrants here, only from our own experience with some of them and from our own practise.
What is a Humanist Celebrant?
A Humanist Celebrant is someone who has trained with the Humanists UK. They will have completed a specific learning programme that is tailored to reflect the beliefs of Humanism and, in theory, they will create and conduct their ceremonies according to those standards and beliefs.
It is common however for all Celebrants to be referred to as ‘Humanist’. This is probably because when Celebrants first became a thing the Humanists were the most well-known organisation to train and advertise as an alternative to a religious ceremony. We at Kate and Kate are often told by wedding, funeral or baby naming guests ‘So, you’re a Humanist then…’ Meaning, ‘So, you’re a celebrant then….’ A bit like ‘Hoover’ has become the generic term for Vacuum Cleaner… and, like those appliances, we do our best to suck it up!
What is a Humanist?
Humanists are people of a secular persuasion who, in the organisation’s own words:
“shape their own lives in the here and now, because we believe it’s the only life we have. We make sense of the world through logic, reason, and evidence, and always seek to treat those around us with warmth, understanding, and respect.“
There is a lot more to Humanism than simply a lack of religion, it is a belief system with its own morals, ethics and pastoral elements. It is a belief system with a strong moral compass and ethical backbone. We would, in fact, encourage you to visit their website if you’d like to find out more. We think the Humanist way of thinking and being is pretty fabulous…. It’s just not for us!
It’s not that we disagree with Humanism… we clearly don’t – in fact a lot of what those lovely Humanists believe marries nicely with what we believe too. However, we didn’t want to sign up to any sort of doctrinal belief – we don’t want to be anything-ist… We didn’t train with Humanist UK so we have no claim to the title and nor do we want it as it would be disingenuous of us to portray ourselves as something we’re not.
Some celebrants cannot square their personal beliefs with the Humanist doctrine because, whilst not being religious per-say, they do have a sense of spirituality or a belief in a ‘higher power’ – be that through nature or some other realm. Neither Kate claims to have a take on spirituality – although Kate D does claim to have some sort of sixth-sense witchy twitch about things (Kate T is highly sceptical!) But our lack of spirituality doesn’t mean we want to become card-caring Humanists, either. Because just as we don’t want to be defined by a belief system… we don’t want to be defined by our lack of belief either because, at the of the day, it is NOT ABOUT US!
We are all about creating ceremonies for anyone and everyone and attempting to facilitate how they feel and what they believe. As independent celebrants we are able to work with couples and families without bringing any of our own beliefs to the table. If you want a Buddhist chant, knock yourself out, if The Lord’s Prayer is important to you when saying goodbye to someone you love, we are more than happy to share that. We want to be able to embrace and reflect all the wide and varied levels of human experience that are brought to our door. And this is where the fundamental difference lies:
Humanist Celebrants may be unwilling to perform certain acts or reference ideas/concepts that are seen to be part of or embody any sense of spirituality. This contravenes their personal beliefs and the beliefs of Humanists UK (their training body); to do so will likely be uncomfortable or impossible for them. Instead they may ask you to invite a friend or family member to take on these particular roles or words, if you choose to include them.
An Independent is more likely to fully commit themselves to the embodying your view of what your ceremony should contain as they have no external restrictions of belief or policy.
That said, it’s horses for courses…. If you want a full-blown pagan ceremony we’re probably not the celebrants for you, if your Jewish beliefs are the driving force behind your marriage – call the Rabbi, if the Humanist philosophy is what floats your boat – go for it!
We really do think for every Jilly there’s a Johnny, for every pot there’s a lid, and every couple should be able to be LEGALLY married by the celebrant that suits them.
So, we hope that’s helped with the Hoover/vacuum cleaner Humanist/Independent Celebrant conundrum. At the end of the day, there are officiants and celebrants of every hue out there… so take your time, do your research and find the one that’s right for you (especially if they’re called Kate!). X