Most people recognize the value of marking important life passages with a special ceremony.
If you would like to celebrate the joining of two lives, the birth of a new baby, or pay tribute to a life that has ended, your solution may be a Humanist ceremony.
Humanist ceremonies can be traditional, or pure fun; quietly dignified, or a blending of both. Each one can be tailored to your personal taste and family requirements. In keeping with Humanist values, they are non-religious ceremonies.
Humanism is an ethical philosophy or way of life based on human experience, that calls for a commitment to the betterment of humanity through compassion, reason, the methods of science, respect for the environment, and a democratic, inclusive politics.
Humanist ceremonies are informed by humanist core values and principles. Whether marriage or memorial, ceremonies are secular in form and content. No two humanist ceremonies are the same because each one is composed to reflect the unique character and personalities of the participants.
A Humanist Wedding
All Ontario Humanist Society Officiants are licensed to perform legal wedding ceremonies by the Province of Ontario.
Since the ceremony can take place anywhere, the imagination is set free to make the ceremony very special and unique in every respect. Again, there is no prescribed form or text other than the legal elements. Ceremonies are written especially for the couple or sometimes by the couple themselves. Family members or friends often take part and children, if they are playing a role, add a special sparkle to the day.
The humanist marriage ceremony requires some thought and reflection because it loses meaning if it does not identify the couple as individuals who have come together in love and respect and with confidence in each other, each one bringing to the marriage their own qualities and talents.
A Humanist Funeral or Memorial Service
Humanists tend to say goodbye to a family member or friend with a Celebration of Life service. We are sad that the person is no longer with us. We gather together to remember the person and to share our unique experience and relationship with the person’s circle of friends and family.
A Humanist Child Naming Ceremony
A Baby Naming ceremony is an opportunity for the parents to introduce their baby to the circle of family, friends and community that will help to guide the child as they grow to maturity. In naming the baby in a formal ceremony, the parents are acknowledging that the community has a duty and responsibility to care for all of its members. And the circle of family and friends that represent the community acknowledge their wish to be involved. Best of all, a Baby Naming ceremony is a joyous gathering that celebrates the life of the child and the life of the community with readings, music, pledges, gifts, good food , toasts and fun.
Ceremonies Program Update, 2011
In its first full year of operation, OHS has established a vibrant Humanist Ceremonies Program. The objective is to serve Humanists and the general public who wish to have secular rites of passage ceremonies. We began with five experienced Humanist Officiants who worked together to establish the infrastructure that would support such a program. In November, 2010, we ran a successful training and appointed six additional Humanist Officiants. We also had two more experienced Humanist Officiants join with us and we are planning another training at the end of March, 2011.
Our goal is to expand our program so that Humanists across the province will have access to a Humanist Officiant, that all who wish to celebrate their rites of passage in a Humanist way will be able to do so.
So what is the Humanist way? We mark the passages of life events in a joyous, respectful, community-oriented celebration, reflecting our Humanist understanding of the shared responsibilities of life, the commonality of all persons, and the individual wishes and reflections of the persons we are celebrating.
A Humanist Officiant takes the role of a facilitator of such rites of passage, providing resources, guidance, ideas and original writing for those who wish to design their own ceremonies. The persons celebrating may take an active role, or can help craft the ceremony and ask the officiant to preside over the event in full. The individuals decide what elements to include and what the meaning of the rite has for them.
To further the work of education about Humanist Ceremonies and Humanist Officiants, We hope to take our program out on the road and speak to local Humanist groups and individual Humanists about the range of Humanist ceremonies, and especially end of life concerns, compassionate care, friendly visiting, funerals and memorials, aka ‘Humanist Celebrations of Life’. Please contact us if you’d like to chat about arranging a visit by one of our officiants to talk about these subjects.
Although officiants who perform legal marriage ceremonies in the Province must be approved, trained and licensed by the OHS ceremonies committee to perform weddings, many other ceremonial events, such as memorials and end of life events may also be offered by any Humanist who wishes to learn how to hold such ceremonies. Recently, in Birmingham, UK, Humanist Ceremonies were held for the homeless who died in the cold this winter. In addition to legal marriage ceremonies, such compassionate services should be available for Humanists in all areas of the Province.
Humanists have unique wishes for these events and we want to support them to ‘go out’ in the style they prefer. Religious communities have created traditions and expectations that a religious official will lead a funeral or memorial service. This practice is not mandated by law. Anyone is at liberty to lead a funeral. They need no official sanctions or licenses from the State or a faith-based group. A family member, friend or colleague is often the best prepared to facilitate these events. So if you are interested in supporting Humanists memorials and end of life celebrations, or have a family member who is concerned with planning a memorial, you are welcome to contact us for ideas and resources.
Ceremonies Committee Chair