Humanist marriages

What is a humanist marriage?

A humanist marriage is a non-religious ceremony where you are effectively in control of the format and structure of the day. This type of ceremony is not legally recognised in England and Wales. Unlike a humanist marriage, those that are recognised in this country have religious connotations to them as well as rules and procedures that must be followed, for example, the ceremony must take place at a registered premise and specific wording must be used during the ceremony.

Are humanist marriages legally recognised in the UK?

Humanist marriages are legally recognised in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In fact, a humanist marriage carried out in either of those countries will be recognised in England, but not one carried out in England. As a result, it is absolutely crucial that if you plan on having a humanist wedding in England, you also arrange a civil ceremony either before or after to ensure you are legally married. This could be as simple as carrying out a small ceremony at a registry office, but it is nonetheless necessary. A recent case brought by six couples before the High Court in an attempt to legalise humanist marriages was unsuccessful, so couples need to be alert as to what is and is not recognised in England and Wales as a legal marriage.

Failing to have a civil ceremony can have serious implications, not least because you technically won’t be married. The implications can impact on many different aspects but, to list only a few, your financial claims on separation may be seriously limited, you may not be entitled to the spousal element of your other half’s pension and you might not enjoy some of the inheritance tax benefits a legally married couple would usually benefit from.

In England and Wales, anyone considering a humanist wedding must cover their bases and carry out a civil ceremony if they want to be married as far as the law is concerned.

If you need legal advice or further information, contact family law solicitor, Sahil Aggarwal on 020 8332 8675 or by email at