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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.

Highlands Islands and Moray team at their recent gathering in Strathpeffer
L to R Janet Donnelly, Elgin, George Caldow, Elgin, Jackie Goode, Rosshire, Kate Buchanan, Caithness, Mairi Ross, Rosshire, Alan Smurthwaite Inverness and area, Penelope Hamilton, Sutherland, Sylvia Cameron, Inverness and Northern Co-ordinator. Missing from the photo is Dagmar Sitte from Orkney.

Namings & Welcomings
Anyone who wants to celebrate the birth of a baby, the adoption of a child, or a change of name, can ask a Humanist celebrant to organise a Naming or Welcoming ceremony. The celebrant helps with the choice of readings and music for the occasion, and advises on the wording of promises to the child. Guide parents, or mentors, can also be involved, pledging to assist the child in his or her development, and the family can choose from a range of traditional symbolic gestures to mark the occasion.

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!

Before 2005, couples could be married in Scotland only by a minister of religion or a registrar. Since 2005, they can also choose a Humanist celebrant and have a unique, non-religious ceremony.

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 doesn�t need a licence. That�s 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 they�ve 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. It�s just as well that the Highland, Islands and Moray team of celebrants has increased from two in 2007 to nine in 2009!

People who have no religious faith are often given religious funerals because their families think there�s no alternative. But there is: a Humanist funeral.

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 deceased�s 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.

Kate Buchanan, Registered Celebrant
The Humanist Society of Scotland
29 Davidson's Lane
Tel: 01847 895144
Mob:07895 024065
[email protected]
The HSS is Scottish Charity Number SC026570