December 3, 2020 Before you say ‘I do,’ give a little thought to ‘I believe’…

Dec 3, 2020

Here’s a question for you.  On a scale of 1 – 10 where 1 is atheist and 10 is a deep spiritual or religious belief, where would you place yourself? And, equally importantly, where do you think your partner sits on that scale? Being at point 10 doesn’t necessarily mean going to church every week, but can be about your perceived place in nature, the world around you, and the concept of whether there’s something bigger than ourselves, so it’s a pretty wide scale.

I ask because it’s a question I put to all the couples I’m marrying and its surprising how many don’t know what the other’s belief system is or have even really thought about their own.  Religion, spirituality – call it what you will – is an area of discussion that few couples venture into, but it can be crucially important in getting a ceremony just right.

I suppose the biggest challenge for me, as a celebrant, is helping couples find a compromise for the ceremony when one half a partnership sits at 1 on that scale, and the other sits around 8 or higher, even more so when the partner who sits at the top end of the scale wants a church wedding.  And, although many couples may have no belief system whatsoever, they’d still like to include a spiritual or religious reading because their parents, or grandparents are religious and want the words of their ceremony to mean something to everyone who’s sharing their special day.

A spiritual ceremony doesn’t have to be religious in any way and it’s only by us discussing it at a pre-wedding meeting, that we’ll be able to work out something that’s perfect for you both. So why not have a go:  work out where you think you are, where you think your partner is and then compare notes. The answer may very well surprise you.

The question I’m most often asked is why I chose to become a celebrant, and the answer to that is really easy. I’ve attended many weddings and funerals in my life, the majority of which have been full religious ceremonies, but which were much more to do with dogma and religious tradition than the individuals at the centre of the occasion.

I conduct ceremonies which have individuals at the centre of them – in other words, human-centred. People nowadays have a wide range of personal belief systems, and so the ceremonies I conduct are hugely varied: sometimes they’re entirely non-religious, sometimes they have a little bit (or quite a lot) of religious content, and sometimes they’re interfaith (where more than one belief system is represented). So whether you have no belief whatsoever, or you have religious or spiritual beliefs, the most important thing is that I will deliver your ceremony exactly as you want it.

Glynis Woodhead is a OneSpirit interfaith minister based in the highlands of Scotland. This article first appeared on

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