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A Celebrant for Caithness
On 1st July 2009, Kate Buchanan became licensed to wed!
Kate, who lives in Thurso is neither a Minister of religion nor a Registrar, but a Celebrant for the Humanist Society of Scotland.
Humanism is an ethical belief system which focuses on the things that unite us as human beings rather than those which divide us.
Kate decided to train as a celebrant as she strongly believes that all people have a right to mark important occasions in their lives with a meaningful ceremony, and her own experience as an atheist had highlighted the absence of that for those with no attachment to an organised church.
Humanist Celebrants officiate at non-religious Funeral, Wedding and Naming ceremonies, which are becoming ever more popular. Kate and 4 other newly registered Celebrants join the team for Highland, Islands and Moray, now nine Celebrants in all.
Traditional gestures include lighting candles, making handprints, creating patterns with coloured sand, cutting a cake, planning a tree, and drinking from a quaich. Every ceremony is unique to the child and family concerned, and is enjoyable and fun, as well as serious and meaningful.
Sometimes, a couple will decide to combine their wedding ceremony with the naming ceremony for a child, making an even more moving and joyous occasion for themselves and their guests!
In addition to officiating on their special day, the celebrant helps the bride and groom create a ceremony that is personal and meaningful to them, with readings, music, promises and vows, and any one of a variety of traditional symbolic gestures, from exchanging rings to lighting candles, handfasting and drinking from a quaich.
As the celebrant is licensed to marry a couple anywhere in Scotland, the venue itself doesnít need a licence. Thatís why people can be married in their own home, on the top of a mountain, on a beach, up in air balloon, or afloat in a boat, as well as in a more usual location such as a hotel or Community Hall. As long as theyíve obtained a Marriage Schedule from the local registrar, booked a celebrant, and arranged for two adults to be their witnesses, the bride and groom can tie the knot and, best of all, the bar can stay open throughout, though the registrars require it to be closed for an hour before the wedding!
emand for Humanist weddings has increased exponentially in the past few years. In Scotland in 2005, there were 83 weddings; in 2008, 1025; the projected figure for 2009 is over 1400. In the Highlands, Islands and Moray, there were 65 Humanist weddings in 2008, and over 30 bookings have already been taken for 2010. Itís just as well that the Highland, Islands and Moray team of celebrants has increased from two in 2007 to nine in 2009!
Humanist funerals are centred on the life of the deceased, with readings, poems and music chosen by the family in consultation with the Humanist celebrant. After talking to the family about the life and character of the deceased, the celebrant incorporates the important events in the deceasedís life, and some anecdotes illustrating his or her personality, into a script. The family checks the script, amending it if they wish. The celebrant then officiates at the funeral, working closely with the funeral director through whom the booking has been made.
Celebrants charge a fee, but a far greater reward comes from helping the family pay tribute to the deceased with a respectful, personal ceremony. Amongst the thanks received, there are often complimentary comments from people of religious faith who had worried beforehand that the occasion would have no dignity or meaning.
Often, requests for Humanist funerals come from people who have attended a Humanist ceremony and would like something similar, and for this reason demand is steadily increasing. Anyone who wishes to book a Humanist celebrant for a funeral can either ask their funeral director to make enquiries on their behalf, or get in touch with a celebrant or the Humanist Society of Scotland themselves.