Humanist Wedding Celebrant
Registered by Humanist Society Scotland
Who Am I?
As a Wedding Celebrant with the Humanist Society Scotland I create and conduct beautiful, personal and meaningful non-religious wedding ceremonies
My name is Lucie Johnston and I have been a celebrant since 2014. Over the last few years I have had the absolute joy of marrying hundreds of people from all over the world.
I am originally from England but moved to Scotland in 2004 with my now husband David. Since then life has changed enormously with the arrival of our two wonderful (mostly!) children and our gorgeous (always) rescue greyhound.
When I'm not conducting ceremonies I enjoy spending time outdoors - I have, much to my own surprise, bagged several munros (the Scottish word for mountains over 3000 feet) and completed a few long distance walks, raising money for charity. As a family we love travelling and try to get away as often as possible, whether on a short break in the UK or a grand adventure further afield. I also have several other hobbies and interests from baking, to crafts, to gin tasting!
Whether you’re planning to get married down the road from me, on the other side of the country, or even abroad, I’ll do everything I can to help you create the wedding that’s perfect for you.
What is a Humanist Wedding?
“In a world where we sometimes feel despair about the human race and where differences of race culture and religion are used by the unscrupulous and powerful few to fuel hatred and violence among the powerless, what could be more important than to assert our common human capacity for change.”
– Liz Lochhead, Former Scots’ Makar and Distinguished Supporter of Humanist Society Scotland
What is Humanism? If you are interested in finding out more about what exactly Humanism is, you can read about our ethics, principles and values at www.humanism.scot but, to put it very simply, it's a life stance based on freedom of choice and thought. It holds that we have one life and the duty to make the most of it, while respecting the beliefs of others, and to have a great care for our environment in the name of future generations. Humanism focuses on those things which unite us all rather than those which divide us.
A Humanist wedding is a non religious ceremony but much more importantly, it's one which is centred on the love that you share and the commitment you are choosing to make to each other. In Scotland, Humanist wedding ceremonies have been fully legal since 2005 and since then we have conducted over 50,000 legal wedding ceremonies! In February 2017, the Humanist Society Scotland was granted Prescribed Status by the Scottish Government which means our celebrants are permanently authorised to conduct legal marriages.
Today people marry not for status, financial support or societal expectations, as in previous years, but simply because they love each other. Marrying for love is joyous because it’s a choice - a choice that is made freely and one which we can all celebrate.
Your Wedding Ceremony
Choosing Your Celebrant
Choosing who marries you is a big decision - you need to feel comfortable, relaxed and confident with your Celebrant. The wedding ceremony is the focus of the day, after all, everything else is just a celebration of what took place there!
I'm very happy to meet up, or chat online or on the phone, to talk through your ideas and to tell you a little more about myself with no pressure at all to make a booking. If you do decide to go ahead, then I'll guide you through the whole planning process, and ultimately deliver the ceremony on your wedding day.
Planning your wedding ceremony
Making it yours...
Once you have booked me as your wedding celebrant I will send you all the information you need to start planning.
We will meet up (or chat online or over the telephone if you are not planning to be in Scotland before your ceremony) about 3 or 4 months before the big day to discuss your ceremony in detail. I will listen carefully to all your ideas and make suggestions for you to consider.
After that, I will write your first draft and send it over to you - usually within two weeks of our meeting. Then, it's over to you! You can edit, change and redraft your ceremony as much as you like and I find the draft tends to get passed between us for a while until it's just right.
If you decide to include secret sections (for example your vows, or telling each other what you most love about the other) I'll keep that separate to the main draft so we don't spoil the big reveal... but I will read them very carefully to make sure they match in tone and length!
Ceremony rehearsals are not usually needed but can help you feel more confident on the day. Just let me know if you would like a rehearsal and we'll discuss dates and times that your wedding party are available.
On the Day
Lively and Fun
On the day of your wedding ceremony, I will arrive about an hour before the ceremony is due to start. I will collect the legal paperwork from you (more on that in the 'FAQ' section below) and speak to anyone else involved in the ceremony - musicians, readers, wedding party etc to make sure they are comfortable and know what they will be doing and when.
The ceremony itself usually lasts for about half an hour though there is no real set length. Afterwards I'll make sure your paperwork is safe and then say goodbye - no need to provide me with a meal, just a huge hug please!
There are so many ways in which you can personalise your ceremony - from including symbolic gestures such as hand fasting or drinking from a quaich to including readings, singing and personal sections. Some ideas are below, but remember, the more creative you are the more personal your ceremony will feel so don't be afraid to add your own unique touches.
Hand fasting is an ancient Celtic marriage ritual and it involves tying a piece of tartan (or cord or ribbon if you prefer) around your joined hands, as a symbolic way of representing your union as a married couple. It may well be where the expression 'tying the knot' came from.
There are several different methods of performing this part of the ceremony, you might choose to say your vows with your wedding rings in your clasped hands so that you make your vows on your bands. You may like to officially ‘tie the knot’ yourselves after your vows are said, or you might like to exchange your rings while your hands remain bound. I can talk you through all of these options during the planning for your ceremony.
In the next section, I have added a video of a few different hand fasting techniques that you might like to watch.
The quaich is a traditional Scottish two handled drinking cup. The word quaich comes from the Gaelic word 'cuach' or cup and it is also often referred to as the 'loving cup'. They can be made of wood, pottery, silver or pewter and come in a range of sizes. They can be engraved with your wedding date and some couples then like to bring them out again on future occasions such as anniversaries or baby welcoming ceremonies.
It is unique to Scotland and part of the tradition of Celtic hospitality. King James VI of Scotland presented a quaich to Anne of Denmark on the occasion of their marriage in 1589 and since then quaichs have often been used in wedding ceremonies. Drinking from the same cup is a lovely symbol of the love and trust between the couple. Because it is traditionally 'the cup of welcome', drinking from it can also be seen as a way of welcoming the newly married couple into each others' family too.
The Oathing Stone is an old Scottish tradition where the wedding couple place their hands upon a stone while saying their wedding vows. It comes from the Celtic tradition where an oath given near a stone was considered more binding. It is perhaps the origin of the phrase ‘set in stone’ which is still used today to describe a lasting promise. In some areas of Scotland, the couple would carve their names on a tree or a stone. Some of these bridal stones still exist across Scotland.
To include this in your ceremony, you may choose to hold a stone in your joined hands as you say your vows. You may like to have your initials and the date of your wedding engraved on the stone. To include your guests in this ceremony, some couples like to give everyone a pebble as they arrive which they will also hold as you say your vows to include everyone in the promises you make to each other. If your ceremony is taking place near a river or loch, or perhaps by the sea, you may later choose to throw the stones into the water so that they will keep your promises safely there for all time.
A final example of a beautiful symbolic gesture is a Love Letter Box ceremony which can serve as a lasting reminder of the commitments made to one another on your wedding day.
The couple will each write a letter to the other, encapsulating your thoughts and feelings on your wedding day. Guests can also be invited to add their own letters to the box during the rest of your day.
The box is then sealed and locked away to be revealed some time in the future - this might be on the first morning you wake up as a married couple; on your first anniversary; or perhaps sealed for several years into the future.
You may wish to add other things to the box too, perhaps a nice bottle of wine, or things you might need the morning after your wedding (two paracetamol and some Irn Bru?!)
A few different methods of tying the knot on your wedding day
Comments from happy wedding couples
I’m not happy unless my couples are happy and I'm lucky enough to have been receiving kind reviews and feedback for many years now. I am so pleased to share with you just some of the wonderful things that’ve been said.
What you need to know!
What do I need to do to get legally married in Scotland?
As a Humanist Society Scotland celebrant I am fully authorised to conduct legal marriages but you will also need to fulfil the administrative requirements set out by the Registrar General of Scotland.
Firstly, a maximum of three months before your ceremony and a minimum of 29 days (though ideally you should never leave it this late!) you will need to submit your M10 forms to a Registry Office in the district in which you are getting married. It is important to check with your venue which registry office is the relevant one.
These forms are required for all marriages in Scotland and you will be asked to submit supporting documents proving you have the legal right to be married. For example, they will ask to see birth or adoption certificates, evidence of your nationality, and evidence of your usual place of residence. If you have been married before, they will need to see evidence of divorce or that your previous spouse is deceased. If you are coming to Scotland to get married but live abroad you will need to provide additional documents and also provide translated copies if necessary. For more information on this process visit https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/registration/getting-married-in-scotland/how-do-i-go-about-it
Once you have registered they will ask you to collect your Marriage Schedule a few days before your ceremony. One of you has to attend the Registry Office in person to collect this form and it MUST come with you on the day of the ceremony. If you do not have the Marriage Schedule, you will not be able to be legally married.
On the day, after you have spoken your legal declarations, you will need to sign the Marriage Schedule. This will also be signed by your celebrant and by two witnesses, who must be over the age of 16 and capable of understanding your marriage ceremony.
Finally - you will need to return the signed form to the Registry Office within 3 days of your ceremony taking place in order for your marriage to be officially registered. Anyone can drop the form back for you, for example if you plan to head straight off on a honeymoon, or you can send it through registered post.
What do you charge?
When you book your ceremony through the Humanist Society Scotland you'll be asked to pay a booking fee of £85 - that officially secures the date in my diary. My outstanding balance is £385 plus travel expenses on the day of your ceremony and I will send you an invoice for this amount along with the first draft of your ceremony.
If you wish me to be your celebrant but plan to get married further afield and it requires me to stay away from home overnight (for example, if you're getting married in a location over 3 hours travel time away from my home) I can discuss this with you and suggest a suitable amount to cover accommodation and additional costs.
What do I do if you’re ill?
In the unlikely circumstance that I am not able to attend on the day of your ceremony, as a Celebrant of the Humanist Society Scotland I (and you!) benefit from our Promise: "It is very rare that the celebrant you have booked is unable to conduct your ceremony; and this would only be in extreme circumstances such as serious illness. However, as the largest provider of humanist ceremonies in Scotland we have the network to find you a replacement, even at very short notice. We have office staff available to ensure we can respond quickly to any emergency with minimal stress to you."
Luckily, so far, I have never needed this promise - but it does give everyone complete peace of mind! While wedding insurance might give you your money back, the Promise means your wedding will still be able to go ahead as planned.
How long is a typical ceremony?
This is is always a tricky question as the ceremony length is very dependent on what you would like to include. If you would like a few readings, more than one symbolic gesture and group singing, for example, it may be as much as 45 minutes. If you would prefer a very brief ceremony (perhaps outdoors in February?!) it can still be very personal and meaningful in as little as 15 minutes. However, I would say the average ceremony I conduct is about 30 minutes - any longer and your guests may start to feel fidgety!
What other ceremonies do you perform?
I am registered to conduct both legal and non-legal weddings, naming ceremonies and funerals across Scotland.
Each of these ceremonies is of course very different and yet the focus is always the same - the importance of the lives we are celebrating.
If you would like more information about funerals, memorial services, naming ceremonies, renewing your vows, or non-legal weddings, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
How do we write our vows?
I believe that vows are an incredibly important part of the ceremony. When you stand in front of the people you love on your wedding day and make promises to each other that you intend to keep for the rest of your life, they should be the words you mean, and not those suggested by anyone else.
However... don't panic. I am very happy to send you several examples to start you off and you may find that one of these example is perfect for how you feel. As long as you have made a conscious choice that your vows are the ones you really mean, they will feel honest and true on the day - and throughout your married life!
Don't forget to think about HOW to say your wedding vows too - some people like to have them in the form of question and answer, some like to repeat them a line at a time after me, others prefer to read them from a card. Whichever suits you best is absolutely fine!
Do you have examples of poems and readings?
Yes, lots! Over the years I have compiled quite a collection of readings and poems and I will be happy to send you a selection to see if any might suit you.
The most special readings are the ones that mean something to you - whether that's lyrics from the song you first danced to, a book you both love, quotes from a film you watched together or a poem that simply speaks to your heart.
You might also ask your reader to write something for you, if they have skills in that area, and perhaps keep it as a secret for you on your wedding day?