Humanist weddings grow in popularity in Scotland

By staff writers
October 27, 2008

The recent growth in humanist marriages in Scotland means they have overtaken Episcopal ceremonies for the first time, say organisers of the ceremonies. Since they were first made legal their number rose from 82 in 2005 to 710 in 2007.

The Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS) now says it expects to marry over 1,000 couples this year and predicts it will help 1,500 more to tie the knot in 2009, reports Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

These increases mean that humanist wedding numbers have "almost certainly" leapfrogged those of the Scottish Episcopal Church (Anglican), which hosted 758 marriages in 2007, and brings them within striking distance of the 1,953 conducted by the Catholic Church in Scotland.

Last year the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), the country's largest denomination carried out 8,000 weddings. It is therefore by far the largest provider, though its numbers have declined year on year.

Humanists espouse living a moral life without religious or supernatural beliefs, and couples looking to marry need only express a faith in each other.

Gordon Ross of the HSS said that the organisation had become a victim of its own success. "Our biggest problem now is how we are going to cope with the demand," he said. "We are training as many celebrants, who carry out the weddings, as we can."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Episcopal Church told Scotland on Sunday that the official wedding figures would not be released by the General Register Office for Scotland until the end of the year, but said they were working hard to broaden their appeal.

She said: "Earlier this year we were the first Scottish church to take part in the Scottish Wedding Show. We have also reviewed our marriage liturgy to create a balance about what the Church wants to say about God's love and what couples getting married want to say about their love and commitment to one another."

The Catholic Church in Scotland declared: "Christian marriages are currently well ahead of Humanist ceremonies and in reality are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future."

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: "We still consider there is something beautiful and profound about two people wanting to commit to each other in the sight of God and we believe that they will continue to want to do so."

The HSS is also considering the idea of running a publicity campaign on the sides of buses in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

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