A humanist Wedding or a Spiritual Wedding?
When I was searching around to marry again I found the whole area really confusing. We were looking at humanist weddings and spiritual weddings. It was positively difficult to navigate the various terms and offerings out there. If we choose to marry in a spiritual wedding did that mean we needed to join the cult? For us the uninitiated at the time, a humanist wedding just meant that it was not a church wedding.
To add to the confusion many of the terms are conflated and confused and used interchangeably. For example I call myself Cork Celebrant and my website is www.interfaithcelebrant.com. However there are celebrants out there who cannot marry you legally. They can do a wedding ceremony or a wedding commitment ceremony. However, they are unable to marry you legally. A celebrant is not a legal term and a celebrant must be a HSE registered solemniser to marry you legally.
On the other hand as a religious solemniser I can marry you legally and so too can a humanist solemniser and to add to the confusion so can a civil solemniser in a civil ceremony. But all ceremonies whether religious, secular or civil have a civil element as it is important for the State and society to regulate marriage.
But to be fully informed we need to explain the differences between a humanist wedding, a religious spiritual wedding and a strictly civil wedding with the Civil Registry Service overseen by the HSE.
WHat is a Humanist Wedding?
Humanists do not believe in God, the supernatural, spirit and base all their beliefs in known scientific facts.
Humanist beliefs are therefore based on scientific principles proven by fact or scientific proofs. For them evolutionary principles rule supreme. There is no room for God, supernatural force, deities, luck or spirituality. In fact for a humanist there is no such thing as God, spirit or supernatural force.
Therefore a humanist wedding will have no mention of God or Spirit or life energy that may come down through our ancestors. The afterlife does not exist and Angels cannot be mentioned either because they believe they do not exist either because there is no scientific proof.
So a humanist wedding will have the civil element and you will be legally married but because humanists have strict beliefs there is no room for any ritual involving prayer, spirit, energy or the supernatural. The wedding solemniser that will marry you will be classed as a secular solemniser. Humanism is a belief system which reflects the individuals own beliefs. Sometimes this can be the transformative power of the arts. Humanism allows people the freedom of choice in all the decisions made between birth and death. But in the end we die and there is nothing else.
What is a Spiritual Wedding?
A spiritual wedding will also have a civil element. This means that you will be married legally. However a spiritual solemniser is a religious solemniser. Religion in this context is a wider concept. For example if you use a OneSpirit religious solemniser we minister to all faiths and none. This in essence means that we can do a humanist wedding as we accept you as we find you.
Unlike the main churches we do not have a strict belief system and strict rules around marriage or rules around who we will marry. OneSpirit Ministers do not have a creed or code but a code of ethics where we adhere to general ethical principles. This is similar to Humanists.
We believe in truthfulness and speaking our truth. To that end personally I am not sure if God exists or not. This is a truth to me, but it does not matter to me whether or what you believe or not. Therefore if you are a humanist I am happy to respect you and your beliefs.
A Spiritual wedding will then have whatever elements you want to have and whatever resonates with you. You can have prayers or not. If you believe in God, spirit, angels, the supernatural we can include those kind of elements. However if you don’t we only include what you want.
What is a Civil Wedding?
All weddings no matter whether they are religious, secular or purely civil have a civil element. A purely civil wedding is a wedding solemnised by a civil solemniser. This will be done by a HSE Civil Registry Service solemniser and the default location for them to marry you will be their offices or a location near their office. See pictures below of Grattan Street in Cork where civil marriages take place.
The ceremony will be legal and you will be legally married. However there will be no element of ritual, or rich ceremony. It will be a short, and a matter of fact legal wedding. For many couples it is a perfectly fine way of getting married.
A secular or religious wedding ceremony on the other hand will have ritual and ceremony. As stated above a religious ceremony can offer more in terms of elements of ceremony as we can draw from more.
So should I choose a Civil, Humanist or Spiritual wedding Solemniser for my wedding?
Be informed and knowledgable and you are half way there already. Know the different options and this will allow you to make an informed choice. Unfortunately sometimes we do not know what we want until we know all the options. Wedding law is fairly nuanced and the devil is in the detail.
Luckily in Ireland our laws around getting married and who can marry have been modernised and in fairness are quite progressive. No longer is it just the preserve of just a man and a woman. Since the marriage referendum in 2015 gay couples can marry and thankfully love is not exclusive any more.
The next difference is the time you can get married. If you get married in a strictly civil ceremony you will be restricted to Monday to Friday office hours. They will marry you outside of the Civil Registry Office but the venue will need to be pre approved and there is an extra fee.
In contrast a humanist wedding celebrant or a spiritual wedding celebrant can marry you at a time of your choice. They can marry you on any day of the week. You may also marry at a venue of your choice subject to a few legal restrictions. In terms of a religious solemniser or spiritual celebrant they will approve the venue. Once the venue is open to the public and meet a few other legal criteria you will be good to go.
Sometimes it is a matter of providing a wedding ceremony for a couple even where they know what they want but cannot articulate it. Other times a couple will most definitely know what they do not want. However sometimes a couple may exclude things by being blinded by pre conceived conceptions and sometimes it is a matter of knowing all the ins and outs.
A OneSpirit Spiritual Wedding
Unlike a mainstream Church wedding your religious OneSpirit, Interfaith Minister and wedding celebrant will really get to know you and make your wedding ceremony all about you. The wedding ceremony will be about your love and your story. The wedding will be constructed and weaved around the necessary legal elements.
Your Celebrant will tell the story of your relationship in an authentic and meaningful way. This will usually involve meeting with you and finding out the story of your relationship. The more you share before the wedding the more your celebrant will know. We will ask you questions and together we will shape your story. Your story will turn into a bespoke script for your wedding ceremony.
Different elements will be added to this in terms of ritual. The purpose of the ritual is to bring meaning to the words and to demonstrate the joining of two hearts and lives.
In short your wedding can be a small, intimate, traditional affair or a huge, elaborate, fun-filled celebration. The choice is yours!
A Traditional Wedding Party?
You can stick with tradition or mix it up. The choice is yours! If you’d rather have a Best Woman then do it. What about one of each? You decide. Do you want to involve your pets or children in the wedding ceremony somehow? No problem. You’re in control.
With a spiritual wedding, it’s your day, your way. We can help you bring your loved ones and pets into your ceremony in a natural and inclusive way. Elements will also be included to enhance the words and make your ceremony special and personal to you. Unlike a humanist wedding being all faiths and none, we can draw on humanist materials and also draw from any faith or tradition including native Indian and indigenous people.
We are committed to helping you create a personal, meaningful wedding ceremony. A celebration that tells your story in a way that no other kind of wedding ceremony can. It will be as religious as you want it to be and as humanist as you want it to be, because we are about all faiths and none. This means everyone, without discrimination.
Can a Same Sex couple marry in a religious ceremony?
Yes, of course. We are religious Interfaith Ministers and we minister to all faiths and none. We are inclusive and do not discriminate against anyone.
Over the last few years and during my lifetime the whole landscape is changed completely in relation to marriage. We now have divorce, gay love is recognised and we can marry gay couples. In contrast to a mere 20 years ago many couples now choose to marry outside of the Church. The opening up of weddings to organisations such as ourselves and also humanist weddings being allowed is a very positive thing for all of us.
In the space of a few years Ireland has become more open and liberal. Our wedding laws are reasonably modern and couples are free to choose where they wish to marry. There may be a few other areas that need tweaking but in the main couples can now marry in a ceremony of their choice. It has been wonderful for me personally to see the joy of two girls being married. Their love is just as valid as mine is for my now second wife.
Do I need to Join OneSpirit to marry?
Aside from being able to marry on any day of the week including bank holidays, Saturdays and Sundays you do not need to join us. In fact as an organisation we are a disparate sort, each of us trying to do our best and bringing our humanness into our Ministries. Unlike some of the humanist associations we do not require you to pay a membership fee or join us.
When investigating the possibilities for myself a few years ago, I was concerned that OneSpirit was some sort of cult. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. OneSpirit Interfaith Foundation is an educational charity based in the UK with links to a similar organisation based in New York. OneSpirit Ireland is an independent organisation, independent of the UK and also each Minister has the freedom to believe what they wish to believe. There is no catechism, no rules about limb or other man made “mumbo jumbo” just a realisation that none of us really knows what the truth is.
The truth is that each of us has the freedom to be ourselves. Each of us believes what we believe and we are at different stages of our journey. None of us has a monopoly on the truth and what lies beyond, in truth none of us knows.
Will using a Celebrant cost a fortune?
Everything is relative and as the old saying goes you get what you pay for. You can keep it basic and marry in the civil registration office but if you are going to go for something to eat afterwards why not get married there?
A civil, Humanist or Religious Wedding?
Honestly to choice is yours! It’s your day lets do it your way. Below are pictures of HSE Civil Ceremony offices in Grattan Street Cork…