Would the Humanist wedding I conduct for you be legal, you might ask?
I’m afraid not – for now! I am not yet able to conduct a wedding that has any legal significance. For this you will need to visit the Register Office. Hampshire and Dorset Registration Services, for instance, offer simple, low-cost statutory ceremonies at which you can complete your matrimonial legalities, allowing you to reserve all the romantic content – the exchange of vows and rings for example – for your Humanist ceremony.
I believe there is an overwhelming case to legalise Humanist marriages. Quite apart from the fact that such ceremonies have been legal in Scotland for ten years now (and in myriad other places as diverse as Ireland, New Zealand and Norway) it would ‘level the playing field’ here in England & Wales. It would give couples like you – with a Humanist life-philosophy – the same choices as couples with a religious belief.
Parliament accepted this view and in changes to the Marriage Act, in the summer of 2013, the government introduced provisions to legalise Humanist weddings in England and Wales. It was disappointing therefore that the government decided, in 2016, to defer their enablement – despite 2014’s consultation being overwhelmingly in support. However, before and since this year’s election the BHA has received very positive feedback from the Ministry of Justice. And there has been a precedent of sorts. In June 2017, the High Court approved the legal wedding of Laura Lacole & Eunan O’Kane, in Northern Ireland – the first legal Humanist wedding in the UK, outside of Scotland. When the arrangements in England & Wales are eventually approved, it will allow me (and other BHA-accredited practitioners) to be both Celebrant and Registrar.
Notwithstanding the success of these changes, there is a silver-lining in this matrimonial cloud. By choosing a Humanist wedding, you continue to have the option of holding your ceremony anywhere: in the middle of the New Forest, on the banks of the River Hamble, in the gardens of Beaulieu Palace, on Hengistbury Head. I’ve performed weddings in all these places and many others, as well as licensed venues such as Weddings-in-the-Wood and Sopley Mill, over the last six years.
David Hewitt July 2017