Humanist weddings surpass Catholic weddings in Scotland

  • post Type / General news
  • Date / 22 February 2011

Humanist wedding ceremonies are more popular in Scotland than Catholic weddings. Humanist ceremonies are now the third most popular form of wedding in Scotland and they are the only form of marriage ceremony that is growing in popularity. Humanist weddings were made legal in June 2005, making Scotland one of only six countries in the world where Humanist marriage ceremonies are legally binding.

Statistics released by the Scottish Government for the period from January to September of 2010 show that Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) celebrants conducted 1,706 legal weddings between January and September 2010, an increase of 35% on the same period in 2009, while Catholic weddings remained static at 1,506. 11,569 civil marriages were conducted by Registrars, and 5,013 by ministers of the Church of Scotland. Full figures will be released by the Registrar General of Scotland in his Annual Report in August of this year.

Tim Maguire celebrating the wedding of Deborah Suttie and Brian Connolly at Ghillie Dhu in EdinburghHSS media officer Tim Maguire says, “In 2007, just over a year after Humanist weddings were first made legal in Scotland, we forecast that 2010 would be the year that Humanist weddings became more popular than Catholic ones. We’re delighted our prediction has come true. By the same projection, we expect to see that Humanist ceremonies will overtake those of the Church of Scotland in 2015.”

HSS Convenor Juliet Wilson says, “We are very grateful to the Registrar General of Scotland for granting Humanist weddings legal status in 2005, and to registrars around the country for their continuing support. We believe that more and more people are choosing to marry in a Humanist ceremony because they identify with the Humanist values of equality, reason, compassion and tolerance, and these are the values that bind society together.  The rise in popularity of our ceremonies is due in large part to the dedication and professionalism of our celebrants, of whom we are rightly proud.”

There are 90 celebrants in the HSS, almost two thirds of whom are women. While the majority of celebrants live on the mainland, there are now celebrants on Orkney and the Isle of Skye. 71 are currently authorized by the Registrar General of Scotland to conduct legal weddings. A further 24 will be trained this year to meet the ever-growing demand for the range of ceremonies that celebrate life’s most significant events. 

Humanist wedding ceremonies can be held anywhere “safe and dignified” and while many take place in hotels and castles, some couples opt to have their weddings in the open air, on beaches, in their own back gardens, and even on mountains. In July 2008, Edinburgh Celebrant Ken McMillan became the first person to conduct a wedding at the summit of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.


  • The institution of marriage has been in consistent decline in Scotland since the end of WWII. 
  • 43,206 marriages were registered in 1946 but only 27,524 were registered in 2009, the last year for which full statistics exist. 
  • Humanist weddings are the only form of wedding that are growing in popularity.
  • Humanist weddings have the same legal status as civil and religious weddings as long as they are conducted by an HSS Celebrant who has been authorized by the Registrar General of Scotland.
  • Celebrants of the society conduct secular ceremonies that celebrate all the major events of life, from birth to death.
  • Humanist weddings are legal in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and certain states of the USA. 
  • The Humanist Society of Scotland is a charity founded in 1989 and currently has around 6,500 members.
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