Popularity of humanist weddings in Scotland is soaring

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

IT became a legally recognised ceremony in Scotland just 12 years ago, and a mere 82 couples enjoyed a humanist wedding in the 12 months that followed.

But the popularity of the non- religious ceremonies has now soared, and the number of people married in this way is set to top 50,000 in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, weddings conducted by Scotland’s biggest religious organisations have fallen.

In 2010, the number of humanist weddings exceeded the number of Roman Catholic ceremonies in Scotland, and in 2015, they exceeded those by the Kirk.

Lynsey Kidd, Humanist Society Scotland head of ceremonies, said: “The growth has been amazing and for HSS it’s fabulous to see couples being able to celebrate their love in a way that is just right for them.”

The HSS campaigned for years for an amendment to the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 to allow legal humanist wedding ceremonies.

However, in the end it was a decision by the Registrar General for Scotland that allowed the change.

He made the decision after considering Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights on “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”, which includes non- religious belief.

Originally 12 humanist celebrants were granted the power to conduct wedding ceremonies on the same basis as other “belief” systems.

HSS now has over 100 celebrants across Scotland marrying couples.

One of the latest couples to have a humanist wedding is Eleanor Flanagan, 34, and her groom Bryce Penfold, 34. They travelled all the way from their home in Australia to tie the knot in a humanist ceremony in Crear, Argyll and Bute yesterday.

Builder Bryce, who is from New South Wales in Australia, met Eleanor, who is from Dollar, Clackmannanshire, when they were living in London.

Eleanor said: “Neither of us is religious. We like what humanism is about.”

Rev Norman Smith, Convener of the Kirk’s Mission and Discipleship Council, said asking for God’s blessing on a new couple is a joy and a privilege.

He said: “We would encourage anyone considering marriage to remember their local church when thinking about their very special day.”

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland said the growth in humanist weddings “reflects a cultural shift where fewer couples appear to opt for church weddings if they don’t have an active faith commitment”.