5 reasons humanist weddings totally slay civil ceremonies

It was my five-year wedding anniversary last week. Five years! It's like we blinked, and here we are - five years, two stone and one bubba later - wondering when the DJ packed up for the night.

That's bloody time for you eh? 

As is wedding anniversary tradition, my husband and I got out the photo album to reminisce about our day, which mostly consists of my banging on about how brilliantly skinny my ankles were, while my husband tries to watch a BBC Four documentary about rivers/ still-life paintings/ railways (we're endless fun aren't we!?).

Aaaanyway, our wedding day was pretty much perfection: my dress, the colour scheme (BUTTERCUP YELLOW FTW!), our amazing photographers. There's so much we got right but, of course, with hindsight (and a great deal more wedding industry knowledge) there are definitely certain things I would do differently if we were to get married all over again.

Most of those are inconsequential. Just a little tweak here and there. (Oh, go on, since we're chatting about it... let me go off on a self-indulgent dream wedding tangent.)

  • My hair would be in a super-cute bob (I grew my hair out because I was weirdly set on plaits, but I hate having long hair and kept self-sabotaging by going for sneaky haircuts in the lead up to the day. JUST CUT IT ALL OFF YOU MORON.).
  • I would have even MORE bridesmaids (I left a couple of good friends out because I thought seven was too much but, come on, the more the merrier!)
  • I'd treat myself to a pair of snazzy yellow Converse (I had THE MOST GORGEOUS yellow LK Bennett stilettos which I was convinced I'd be able to keep on my feet until at least the evening do. Being totally useless in heels, they obviously came off pretty much straight after the ceremony. In nearly all our photos, I'm wearing a pair of hideous plimsolls that I never thought would see the light of day. What an error!)

So... y'know. Not too many regrets, considering the epic wedding shiz I see on a daily basis in my work as a wedding celebrant! I suppose the BIG change I'd make, were we to have a second go at it, would be to the actual wedding ceremony (Here we go. She's getting back to the point!).

Register Office Wedding Vs Humanist Wedding Ceremony

Similar to many couples getting married, my husband and I barely gave a thought to the wedding ceremony itself, which is mad because - like, DUH THE WEDDING CEREMONY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT!!!! Without it, your day is just everyone you love (as well as some you definitely don't) freeloading a wicked party off you! Back in 2013, I'd yet to hear of humanist weddings and, being non-religious, my husband and I just assumed (WRONGLY!) our only option was to suck it up with a tedious civil ceremony.

Get it over and done with, I thought, then on to the party! 

Flicking through our wedding photos the other night, I remembered how unexpectedly freaked out I'd become on the morning of the wedding when I started thinking about the actual 'marrying bit' of the day ahead.

As I got my hair done (poor hair stylist yanking my too-short hair into the miserable plaits I'd insisted on!) it suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea who would be marrying us or what we'd be expected to do during the ceremony (sit/ stand/ hold hands/ kiss???). I wasn't even clear on what my husband and I would be saying to each other as we'd spent about five minutes, six months prior to the day, picking our 'vow options'... and hadn't given it a second thought since.

 

Katie Matthews Wedding Day Getting Ready

Gaah! I got myself in a right old tizz and downed a whole bottle of Prosecco to 'calm the nerves'. Fill her up, I kept ordering my nervous sister-in-law, brandishing my lipstick-stained Champagne flute under her nose (what a classy bride!). You can see from the photos at the register office just how drunk I am!

As my husband and I walked/ staggered down the aisle, I got an awful fit of the giggles. It was so bad that I thought the Registrar might actually refuse to marry us when we reached her! I just about kept it together until the end when, after the BIG KISS, and with everyone cheering, the Registrar hissed in my ear 'You are changing your surname aren't you?'. There didn't seem to be time, in that split second, with the clapping dying down, to explain that 'No, I'm an independent woman with strongly-held feminist principals etc etc.' before she was asking everyone to please stand for 'Mr and Mrs Woosnam'. 

BUT I'M KEEPING MY SURNAME, I harrumphed as we headed back down the aisle and the next wedding party promptly filed in behind us to fill our seats (Hey! Would you jump in my grave as quick!?). So, yeah, it kind of ended on a bit of a bum note...and started on one, to be honest. Drunk hysteric cackling is not how I imagined starting married life!

Super personalised Humanist Wedding Ceremony Experience

Looking back on our register office wedding, I obviously compare it with the experience I create in designing one-of-a-kind humanist wedding ceremonies for my couples. Here are the top five reasons I reckon a humanist wedding ceremony will always beat a civil ceremony.

1. You get to build a relationship with your Celebrant

When it comes to marrying my couples, I know them. I've spent a tonne of time digging into their relationship, exploring their values, finding out what makes them tick. I understand what they love about each other, how exactly they get on each other's nerves (because c'mon, love ain't always a Westlife album), why they WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF THEIR LIVES TOGETHER.

I know it all. I'm totally invested.

When you pick your wedding celebrant you're making the (very sensible) choice to KNOW the person marrying you. There's none of this coming down the aisle to a total random. You get to choose someone you could actually see yourself being friends with; whose face you'll be absolutely delighted to see beaming back at you on the biggest day of your life, who'll squeeze your hand and remind you to BREATHE.

As a bride, I would have found that hugely reassuring!

2. You consider what's *actually* important to you about marriage

So much of the time we're on life's treadmill... work, eat, gym (maybe!), bed, wake up, shower, work again. We're functioning on auto-pilot. Milestone moments, like a wedding day, offer us the chance to hit Pause and reflect on where we are, and where we're heading.

In order to truly do your wedding day justice, I think it's critical that couples spend a good amount of time in the lead up to their wedding actually considering *why* they want to get married so this can be discussed during their wedding ceremony. You're promising, ultimately, to spend the rest of your life with this one person. Why is it important to you that you do that??? Have you just been culturally brainwashed to think marriage is where it's at? Or is there more to it than that? (Hopefully there is, or else I'll be out of a job pretty quickly!).

Religious couples are accustomed to this thought process as pre-marriage guidance is a condition for many religious services, but it's usually something that goes amiss for those pursuing the civil route. Our civil ceremony was over all too fleetingly and the process of getting married gave my husband and I no opportunity to unpick why we wanted to do it (beyond getting some great pics of us and all our family and friends).

3. Totally personalised wedding ceremony (UNIQUE TO YOU!)

You know you want your wedding day to be one-of-a-kind, an authentic reflection of your relationship. That's why you've spent 10,000 hours on Pinterest sourcing the perfect paper for your origami cranes. Seriously, couples spend so long on the brilliant bells and whistles without realising that the ceremony - THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT, yeah? In case you'd forgotten - can be just as unique and special to you (I know all this because I was *that* bride!).

Humanist weddings are concerned with telling the couple's story, which means every single one you go to will be as different as the people getting married. The wedding ceremonies I write are all written from scratch to reflect that couple and their relationship. Not a yawnsome template or Pick 'N' Mix vows in sight!

That wouldn't be fun would it!

4. Writing your own Vows

Unlike civil ceremonies, you can exchange promises that you have decided upon in a Humanist wedding. Because humanist ceremonies are still not legal (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), you can say whatever you like to each other!

I can't tell you how special wedding ceremonies are where the couple has written their own vows. Honestly, I'm sitting here typing this and bursting with LOVE. It's THE BEST BIT of the humanist wedding ceremony. Just think about it. The whole wedding ceremony has been about you, your love story, why you want to get married. It's all leading up to this. THIS MOMENT. This incredible moment. The vows couples write are always a billion times better than anything I could create for them, and the emotion behind them is such a power punch. EVERYONE CRIES. 

5. Hold your ceremony where you like, when you like!

On a cliff top, in a forest, in your back garden - there are no restrictions on where you hold your humanist wedding, which is why they're very popular with couples wanting an outdoor ceremony. I've thrown in 'when you like' because you'd be surprised at how limiting civil ceremonies are. It turns out that there's a national shortage of registrars and, unless you book your registrar ten years in advance, you're unlikely to get your preferred ceremony time slot (although, Shush, no one flag it up. This is how most couples, on looking into it further, discover the infinitely preferable option of a humanist ceremony!). When I book a wedding I leave the entire day for that couple. I arrive an hour early and can be flexible with timings if, for any reason, we need to push start times back.

Personalised Wedding Ceremony + Shit Hot Party = Freaking amazing Wedding Day

Everyone - and I mean EVERYONE - in the wedding industry bangs on about creating a wedding day that is unique and personal to you, but what does that actually mean? To me the perfect wedding day formula looks like the above i.e. your ceremony is 50% of the magic. Minimum. So it's worth thinking about how you want to create a ceremony that feels truly MAGICAL to you and really does your unique relationship justice (with a humanist wedding would be my, very predictable, recommendation!).

Ending on a gratuitous wedding shot here. JUST LOOK AT DEM ANKLES!

Ending on a gratuitous wedding shot here. JUST LOOK AT DEM ANKLES!