What is an Agnostic Celebrant?
An Agnostic Celebrant is someone who can offer independence and autonomy to people and families who are looking for more nuanced ceremony that is unique to them, their beliefs and values. The ceremony may embrace elements of faith, spirituality and ritual. Couples and families should be able to decide how they choose to mark their moments in life with ceremony that’s religious or secular, mixed faith, traditional or unconventional and I don’t believe they should need to join organisations or become something they are not to do this. Read more about Agnostic Scotland here
As an Agnostic Celebrant a priority for me is to consider, and learn from, others and do no harm, so I feel it’s how I behave, the language I use and how I treat others that’s important not what I believe or don’t believe. Choice underpins my practice and I feel an informed choice is key in the process of co-creating a ceremony that reflects and resonates.
My way of thinking about individual belief is strongly agnostic. Individual human’s thoughts, feelings and observations about god and spirituality, indeed about everything, are highly subjective and I really respect, value and am comfortable with that.
My practice as a Celebrant is underpinned by developing relationships, supporting choice, collaboration and creativity. I feel that there is an increasing need, and demand, for this type of practice and ceremony.
How would you describe an Agnostic ceremony for people who have never heard of it?
It’s all about you.
As individuals, as a couple, as a family or a community.
It’s non-dogmatic, inclusive, open-minded and collaborative. It’s not about what I believe or what my organisation believes.
Every element of the ceremony is woven with your own unique blend of hopes, beliefs and values, whether these include elements of faith-based, spiritual or secular. All the sentiment, rituals, music and much loved traditions included are entirely your choice.
Some couples and families I work with do wish to include or recognise an element of faith or faiths in their ceremony, often this is in a bid to offer a beautiful embrace to their faith, their family, upbringing and culture. They don’t want their officiant to have a dogma but they may want to give a nod to a faith or a spiritual element that they are aligned with through family, culture or their life’s journey.
My role is to hold space, advocate, inspire and guide as we co create the ceremony and then to hold the ceremony space for everyone on the day, not just to speak or share your chosen words, but to offer a pause, a moment to feel them in heart, body and mind
What should we know before choosing a celebrant?
Firstly, and it links to number one, there is such a lot of choice for non religious ceremony here in Scotland.
Secondly, Humanist is not synonymous with Celebrant. This will help widen your search if you are looking for a Celebrant rather than a Humanist Celebrant.
As I mention above, I feel it is so important to me that people are aware they have a choice. I would encourage couples and families to do their research, talk to people who have worked with a Celebrant, search on the internet, social media, educate themselves and try to get an understanding of what the different choices and belief bodies are in Scotland.
In regard to Funerals, Memorials or Celebration of Life ceremonies families can find their own Celebrant or they can ask their Funeral Director to recommend a Celebrant that aligns with their norms, beliefs and values (see below for different styles of celebrants). Families can handle all or some of the funeral arrangements themselves. Funeral Director’s are useful, very experienced and helpful but they are not in charge. You are. For independent funeral guidance, advice and advocacy http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk.
In regard to legal Marriage or Civil Partnership there are Civil Ceremonies with Registrars, there are different branches of Humanist Celebrants, there are also Interfaith Ministers, Pagan Celebrants and of course, Agnostic Celebrants.
There are also Independent Celebrants – many couples choose to register their marriage or civil partnership with the Registrar, just as you would a birth, then have a non legal Ceremony led by an Independent Celebrant at another date.
It’s fantastic that their are so many options.
It is so important to choose the Celebrant, the practice and belief system that is right for you.
What can we expect from an Agnostic Marriage or Civil Partnership Ceremony with Soulful Celebrant?
No dogma, I don’t stand up for 5 minutes sharing my views on Agnosticism before your ceremony starts. It’s your ceremony.
Facilitation, co-creation (couples I work with are happy to co-create their ceremony and are very creative, even when they declare they are not creative. I find everyone is in their way) inclusion, choice, support, guidance, community, along with awareness of sustainability and passion for supporting small local business
You’re free to create the ceremony you want for your marriage or partnership. I would describe my ceremony style as heartfelt, with a light touch, feminist, creative and inclusive. My practice as supportive, informative and fun. Here is a blog that shares my practice and process
My boundaries, are, that the ceremony and its content is safe, respectful, does no harm and leaves no trace.
Oh and you have a native sapling planted in the Caledonian Forest dedicated to you both, your family, person or community.
Are there any requirements we need to be aware of?
For everything you need to know about marriage or civil partnership registration in Scotland please click here.
As a Celebrant authorised to conduct legal marriages there are short sentences of legal vows/declarations and pronouncements that must be included in your ceremony but they are beautiful and exciting. You’ll know them well. These are not required in a Civil Partnership but many choose to add their own vows and declarations.
There is also the signing of the marriage or civil partnership schedule with two witnesses over the age of 16.
This website is very important to read as soon as you start formulating plans, especially, if you are not a UK National, you will need a special Visitor Visa (Marriage or Finacé(é) to get legally wed or partnered in Scotland.
Consider any permissions in regard to land and premises required too if planning your ceremony outwith a venue.
What is your favourite part of a ceremony?
I love ritual, any ritual.
The whole ceremony can be made of ritual whether it’s a wedding or a funeral.
For weddings using an Oathing Stone is my favourite, and anything that brings in the natural elements and the cardinal directions is wonderful. Many couples choose hand fasting, sharing the Quaich or loving cup and this can be individualised and personalised in many subtle, non-performative, and even, private ways.
When couples choose to come to Scotland from overseas it’s so good to learn about, and include any rituals from their culture too.
At the moment I also love surprises. For example a couple may choose to include ‘5 things I love about you’ or a ‘Love Letter’ Here, the couple share 5 things, it can be more, that they love about their partner with me, only with me, and we may edit, tweak a little but these usually align beautifully. Then during their ceremony they share these with each other.
Love letters are words of love spoken to, and heard by, each other for the first time during the ceremony – oh my heart! Such a privilege for all present.
I really find it rather moving, and fun, when the couple invite someone to write, read or recite poetry. Most people are honoured to be invited and I’d say more than 50% write their own words, which is utterly beautiful.
How would you treat our elopement differently to a bigger wedding ceremony?
I wouldn’t treat the process, co-creation and collaboration any differently but what I do find is, if the ceremony is really intimate, so just includes the couple and two witnesses, it doesn’t have to be quite as performative in the way a ceremony may tend to be when there is a larger group of guests. At a larger gathering some guests won’t know the nuances of the couples story or indeed only know one half of the couple. I feel intimate ceremonies have potential to be a more personal and in the moment, but fundamentally, it is about what the couple want. So whether it’s an elopement or a large gathering, ‘the love homework’, which is what I call the couples part of the work, the collaboration and the relationship I build with the couple guides us to creating the ceremony that is right for them.
Do you have any additional advice for couples eloping to Scotland from overseas?
First of all have a good look through the National Records Scotland website. It tells you everything you need to know and don’t hesitate to telephone them if you need clarification.
You will need a Marriage Visitor Visa or Fiancé(e) Visitor Visa to get legally wed here in Scotland and that can be a timely procedure. Many couples from outwith Scotland choose to do the legal bit before they come and have their very own Wedding Day here with a ceremony of unity, commitment or blessing as a part of it.
Take your time to find a local Elopement planner, photographer/videographer. Look at Social Media as well as websites. You want someone who knows Scotland, the lay of the land, the elements, the sunrises, sunsets, light levels and beasties. Also consider using all local businesses as well as intimate unique accommodation too. Embrace Scotland and all it has to offer and it will embrace you and your love.
As well as my Celebrancy practice I offer Soulful Celebrant Plus this is a service where, with my local knowledge, head for logistics, planning, permissions, facilitating, love of connecting and networking with local ceremony sector businesses I can help you organise your elopement – just ask.
Do you have a favourite place where you have conducted a marriage or civil partnership ceremony?
I don’t know if I will ever have have a favourite place but I must say I love outdoor ceremonies amongst mountains, woodland and on the fantastic beaches. I recently conducted an Elopement Ceremony on an island in the middle of Loch Lomond which was so special and the speedboat ride there was fun. In Scotland you can get married outdoors, anywhere but on occasion permission must be sought.
As for indoor ceremonies I’m really excited when couples go for different spaces and places for ceremony such as a vintage double decker bus, a micro brewery, or places that are meaningful to them like a bookshop, their university oh and I love a glasshouse, greenhouse or poly tunnel.
What do you think makes Scotland such a special place to get married?
Oh my…. I am totally biased here because this is my home and I so love everything about the place, (I didn’t always feel this way, when I was a teenager I could not wait to leave Scotland. I travelled for 10 years then came home one November from India and fell in love with my home) but I’d say:
the rich history
and the mystery,
the diverse landscape ….
oh my, the beaches …
I have travelled a lot and Scottish beaches are just stunning,
the people, the politics
the quality of the light,
the clear bright blue winter skies,
and our passion
and L O V E.
What would it cost to invite you to be our Celebrant?
For 2023 legal and non-legal wedding and elopement ceremonies are £550 (mileage charge added if over 50 miles)
Celebration of Life, memorials, Funerals are from £200 – £400 depending on the families vision and (mileage charge added if over 50 miles)
Please note Agnostic Scotland has a Community Fund offering affordable ceremonies to those who would otherwise find it hard to pay for them.
If you have any questions or want to chat ceremony please reach out in whatever way you feel comfortable.
My contact details are here