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This is the most popular type of wedding, so why isn’t it legally recognised?

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Hollie Richardson
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humanist weddings

Humanist weddings are on the rise, so why are so many couples opting for them over religious ceremonies? 

Wedding season is here, and you probably have the panic-bought ASOS deliveries to prove it.

To get into the spirit of things, we’ve already rounded up Stylist’s best (well, worst) wedding horror guest stories. And we put together a guide on how to make your wedding day one to remember for the right reasons. Oh, and if none of those ASOS parcels delivered the goods: here are 27 impossibly cool wedding guest dresses to save the day.

Now, the latest wedding trends news shows that the fastest growing type of wedding is one that isn’t even legally recognised in England and Wales.

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New figures from the Office of National Statistics report that humanist weddings rose by 266% between 2004 and 2016. Meanwhile the popularity of faith ceremonies has plummeted, with Church of England weddings falling by 28%, Catholic by 34% and Baptist by 42%.

This is perhaps quite surprising as humanist weddings aren’t actually officially recognised. In fact, couples who choose to have this type of ceremony must also go through a legal process at a registry office either before or after – which they also have to pay for.

So, what exactly is a humanist wedding and why do couples choose to have one?

These non-religious unions are conducted by a celebrant rather than a vicar or priest, which makes them a popular choice for atheists who don’t want to wed in a registry office.

Humatnis weddings
Wedding trends: couples are opting for humanist weddings to create unique ceremonies

According to Humanist Ceremonies: “A humanist, non-religious wedding ceremony gives you the opportunity to marry where you want, when you want and how you want. There’s no set script: it’s too personal an occasion for that. Instead, each wedding is tailored to meet the particular couple’s requirements. You can set the tone that’s right for you and choose your own words and music.”

They’ve been legally binding in Scotland since 2005 and in Northern Ireland since 2018, following a ruling by the Belfast Court of Appeal.

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Campaigners are now calling for humanist weddings to be legally recognised in England and Wales, so that couples don’t need to pay double the cost of a ceremony.

“It is high time such marriages were given full recognition by the state … so that couples are not obliged to go through a civil registrar marriage as well, which are not only devoid of meaning for them, but take up unnecessary time and money,” atheist campaigner Joan Bakewell told the Guardian.

Earlier this year, more research showed that couples who marry through a humanist ceremony are also the least likely to end up getting a divorce. Clearly, it’s an option definitely worth looking into. 

Images: Getty

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