Independent Celebrant or Humanist – Confused?




"What is the difference between an Independent Celebrant and a Humanist Celebrant?"...

This is a question I'm often asked. Many people think they are one and the same but in fact, there are a number of differences.



In practical terms, the main difference in the ceremony itself is that Humanists do not allow any religious content. Recently I had a call from a girl (let's call her Emma) who is getting married next year. Emma doesn't want a religious wedding but she would like to have the hymn 'Ave Maria' included in the ceremony.

Emma's mum died a few months ago, and this was her favourite hymn. She had contacted a Humanist celebrant, but as humanists do not allow hymns, they had to turn Emma away. An Independent Celebrant will allow hymns, readings and any other elements of religion that a couple may want. They can combine elements of faith, religion or even more than one religion to design a ceremony which truly reflects your beliefs. And of course, an Independent Celebrant can also offer a completely non-religious ceremony, but without the restrictions of humanism.

So if you are non-religious you could choose either a Humanist or an Independent Celebrant. However, if you want to include any religious elements, including hymns, songs or readings that mention Heaven or God, you will need to choose an Independent Celebrant.



In order to have a Humanist ceremony, the Humanist Society require you to join and pay a fee for membership. There is no such requirements when choosing an independent celebrant.

A Humanist Ceremony must include a short promotional announcement about the Humanist Society. There is no option to have this left out of your ceremony. An independent celebrant will ensure the focus of your ceremony is on you and your partner.



In terms of belief, Humanists believe only in the scientific side of life – that which we can see and prove. Humanists place human welfare and happiness at the centre of their ethics but rule out all religious, supernatural and any belief in the afterlife. Humanists believe we have one life.

In contrast, many Independent Celebrants have their own faith. Some celebrants are of Christian, Islam, Buddhist, Hindu or other faith. Independent Celebrants do all have one thing in common, and that is they want to see their clients celebrate or commemorate events in their lives in a way that is right for them.


Legal Requirements for Weddings

In terms of legalities, at present, there are 2 ways of being legally married in Scotland (it's different in England)...

  • Religious (Church/Chapel) or Belief Group (Humanist)
  • Registrar

There is currently legislation with the Scottish Parliament to allow Independent Celebrants to conduct legal weddings in Scotland, and we hope to see a stamp of approval soon.

This means that if you choose an independent Celebrant, all you have to do is, a few days before your ceremony, pop down to your local registry and sign the paperwork. You don't need to exchange rings or your personal vows, and it only takes a few minutes. Once that's done you can relax and look forward to your 'real' ceremony. Your guests will witness you sign a commemorative certificate as part of your ceremony.

The most important thing is to choose a celebrant who will bring something special to your ceremony. Please don't choose someone just because they can 'legally' conduct the ceremony. This doesn't ensure they are skilled public speakers, who know how to engage an audience and ensure your ceremony is unique and memorable.


If you are planning your wedding and I can help in any way, please contact me using any of the options below

01786 841609 (office)
07845 053509 (mobile)
07800 950647 (alternative mobile)
You can also click here to contact me via the website