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Meet Nat, ‘The Mary Poppins of Celebrants’

Humanist Celebrant, joyful human and all-round YOU enthusiast.

My intention for this post is to help demystify the differences between various wedding types, explain the ins and outs, the legals and open your eyes to orchestrating the most personal celebration of YOU possible.


What is a humanist wedding and is it legal?
Nat Raybould. Credit Faye Wilde Photography.

Therefore, I have the immense pleasure of introducing you to Nat Raybould.


Nat is a humanist celebrant, and can help you with an area of your wedding which is so often overlooked and, in all honesty, (and IMO) THE most important part of your day; your wedding ceremony. And I can promise you this, once you have met Nat there is no other option than to jump aboard the magical rollercoaster.


So do up those seatbelts and off we go…


What is a humanist wedding and is it legal?
Nat Raybould with Laura and Nick. Credit Rebecca Searle Photography

Nat, firstly – I don’t think I have ever met someone with so much love to give. Before we deep dive in ceremonies can you give me a little overview of you, what brings you joy and what gives you the energy to be so incredibly audaciously fabulous?

Ahhhhh that’s very kind of you! Well, I have always been a glass-half-full kind of woman, which definitely helps – but I also try to be realistic with that too (personally I think a “no bad vibes” approach isn’t the healthiest). As a humanist, we believe that this life is the only one that we have, so we should appreciate every joyful thing within it, big or small – it just makes sense to me. It also helps if you love your job too, of course.

Gosh, that was a bit deep for an opening question, ha!


Ok, so let’s break this down and start with the basics.

Grouping religious celebrations together, there can be three types of wedding ceremony:

1. A faith-based ceremony where the format and content are usually determined by longstanding traditions performed by a religious lead usually in a place of God or Gods. It will most likely include traditional faith-led readings and religious music / hymns. The general format for a faith-based wedding is:


~ Pre-celebration (and depending on your religion, various traditional events) these can be the day before or the morning before the ceremony.

~ Followed by a gathering of guests and a ceremony where a priest, vicar or head of the religion will perform a ‘marriage’ of the couple. ~ A certificate of sorts is sometimes signed – this is the legally recognised part of the ceremony. Only Church of England, Jewish and Quaker faith ceremonies are legally recognised. All others require separate legal registration via a registrar as well (see 2.)

~ Then there will be a post wedding celebration / dinner and dancing into the evening.


~ Sometimes (again depending on your religion) there can be traditional events over the following days. Or some people decide to invite guests back for a breakfast or recovery brunch the day after.


2. A civil ceremony is performed by a registrar, has to take place in a registered building.

The format for a civil ceremony is usually shorter than a faith-based celebration and will have no religious readings of songs although you can include non-religious options. Legally the bride and groom only require 2 witnesses and the registrar to be present but many choose to hold a short ceremony with guests followed by a celebration of choosing. Many follow a more traditional format similar to above but with a civil ceremony.


3. Finally, you can choose a celebrant ceremony, where quite frankly the world is your oyster. These are conducted by celebrants who fall into roughly two main categories – humanist celebrants, who are trained and accredited by the charity Humanists UK, and independent celebrants, who can be trained or not trained depending on their individual preference, and will vary in their religious and/or spiritual stance, hence “independent”. These ceremonies can take place any time and anywhere, from a registered venue to the top of a mountain.

What is a humanist wedding and is it legal?
Nat Raybould with Laura & Daniel. Credit Emily & Steve Photography

Nat, in your words can you describe the format a humanist ceremony takes and what the main differences are?

A humanist wedding ceremony is a non-religious wedding ceremony that centres the couple getting married. The format is up for grabs, depending on what the couple themselves would like: the majority of my couples opt for a ring exchange, and all of my couples make some sort of promise or promises to each other, but other than that – let’s explore possibilities! All celebrants work differently, but I structure my ceremonies to highlight each individual couple’s values and passions, whilst also being mindful that their guests will need a helping hand being guided through an unfamiliarly-worded ceremony. Flow and comfort are primary considerations for me, as well as truth and fun.

So is a humanist wedding recognised as a legal marriage?

Humanist ceremonies are legally recognised in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Guernsey, Jersey, Sark, and Alderney, but not currently recognised legally in England, Wales and the Isle of Man. Independent celebrant ceremonies are currently not legally recognised anywhere in the UK. Despite this, every celebrant ceremony, whether legally recognised or not, confer myriad benefits to every marrying couple, and, in my opinion, is the only way for couples to have a truly unique wedding ceremony.

How can couples overcome this and make sure their marriage is legal?

I wouldn’t look on it as something to “overcome”, per se. Funerals are not connected to the signing of the death certificate; namings and baptisms are not connected to legally registering a birth. So why is it that suddenly when it is a wedding, the paperwork has to be coupled to the personal, emotional marker? It never made sense to me, and that’s why my husband and I chose to have a humanist wedding ceremony in 2012. We wanted our values, and our sense of personality and fun to illustrate our vows of love and commitment – to make it “us”.


As soon as you mentally separate the need to align standard paperwork with your real humanist wedding, everything becomes very easy!


Every local council in England and Wales has to offer statutory legal marriage ceremonies: a minimal ceremony for an equally minimal fee which is witnessed by two people. This is the barebones ceremony and takes five-seven minutes, if that, with a meeting with the registrar beforehand. These ceremonies are usually not available on “normal” wedding times and days (say for example on Wednesday mornings) and that suits my couples just fine! You can enjoy the paperwork element of marriage for what it is – and legal rights with your partner are important, of course! – but they don’t place a huge emotional weight upon it.

Fairy tail wedding at Soho Farmhouse
Sophie & Gregg asked a family friend to officiate their ceremony at Soho Farmhouse. Credit Claudia Rose Carter Photography.

So, if it is not legal, can anyone conduct my wedding?

Anyone can technically conduct your non-legal wedding ceremony, sure. And that’s exactly the same as for any supplier for your wedding day - you could ask your enthusiastic aunt to take your wedding photos; you could task your best friend to bake your wedding cake; you could get your uncle to sew your outfits. But why do the vast majority of couples engage professional photographers, bakers, tailors, seamstresses? Because they are expert in their craft: they have experience, knowledge, and huge skill sets, and can be confidently relied upon to deliver a wonderful product under any circumstances. Engaging a professional celebrant is no different.

Can you introduce us to the Humanists UK and explain the training a Humanist Celebrant must complete before being able to perform a ceremony and why.

Humanists UK is a UK charity which began in 1896. Current Patrons include Sandi Toksvig, Professor Alice Roberts, Tim Minchin, Shaparak Khorsandi, S I Martin and Sarah Hall. The Charity exists to represent the non-religious in UK society; training and accrediting humanist celebrants is only one part of their overall remit, but it is an important element, accurately reflecting the importance that marriages, funerals and naming ceremonies hold in UK society.


When you apply to become a humanist celebrant of any discipline, you undergo a selection process even before you begin training. The training course is extensive and thorough, taking place over months in a combination of in-person and personal study, and the waiting list to get onto the courses is long, with good reason. You are assigned a mentor and have a team of up to three tutors to support your in-person teaching and assessment, and it is not guaranteed that everyone will gain accreditation: you have to put in the work! Once you are a HUK Accredited Celebrant, that isn’t the end of the matter. You are required to complete CPD to continue to grow as a celebrant, and you are also regularly peer reviewed to check your services are of the highest standards, in order to retain your accreditation.


In short, choosing an accredited HUK celebrant to write and lead your wedding ceremony is a guarantee of quality. A huge relief in an unregulated industry!

What are your favourite ways to introduce your couples’ personalities into their ceremonies?

What is a humanist wedding ceremony and is it legal?
Make your ceremony joyful and personal! Credit Peach & Jo Photography

The only way of introducing authentic personality into a couple’s ceremony is by listening closely to their stories, and endeavouring to understand their unique relationship in as detailed a way as I can. My process is responsive and flexible, and it develops organically depending on each couple I work with. The creative process simply has to be this way, in order to accurately reflect my couple’s unique relationship in every word.

What is a humanist wedding ceremony and is it legal? With Nat Raybould
Nat in the rain with Kurt & Chloe. Credit Philip White Photography

What have been the most memorable parts of a ceremony you have conducted?

Again, here comes the pageant answer, apologies! Every single wedding ceremony I have conducted – which is knocking on the door of one hundred now! – is the most memorable. I have a lockbox of a mind, and I never forget those amazing, emotional, heartfelt moments. Yes, you can include splashy, showy gestures that are traditionally thought of as more memorable – and I absolutely do if they are called for! – but to me it is all about those nuances, those small moments that speak so loudly of what my couples stand for, what their values and passions are. That’s where everything springs from, and what lives in your hearts for decades to come.

What does the future hold for Nat Raybould?

Oddly enough: FEWER weddings! I know, right? But to expand – the last three years post Covid lockdowns have been absolutely amazing in every way, but because I have the most enthusiastic and wonderful couple enquiries, I have found it hard to say no to them even when I am technically fully booked. So for 2024, I am strictly sticking to my couple numbers, so that my husband and son can find out what I look like again 😉

What is a humanist wedding ceremony and is it legal? With Nat Raybould
Nat Raybould. Credit Faye Wilde Photography

Lastly, go on give us a sales pitch – I already know I can sing your praises but let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth

I have the most inspiring, mind-expanding, constantly evolving job, and I am lucky enough to become friends with many couples, year on year, whilst curating their love and commitment with a detailed eye, a nimble brain and an open heart. If you would like to work with me to create the wedding ceremony you deserve, do please get in touch. I cannot wait to hear your love story!

THANK YOU so much to Nat for opening our eyes to the world of celebrant-led weddings. I know I completely overlooked the possibilites of the actual ceremony when Steve and I got married and the 'legalities' of it all made me nervous. I would have loved someone to break it down for me like this.

As mentioned before, Nat is incredible and one of the top in her field so if you have any questions I would fully recommend getting in touch with her or indeed HumanistsUK.


What is a humanist wedding ceremony and is it legal?
Nat Raybould with Z&J. Credit The Curries



" The views and statements written in this blog are my own and mine alone. They are based on my 10 years experience in the wedding industry working on hundreds of weddings with a huge range of wedding budgets, from 12 guests to over 200. The comments will not be relevant to every wedding ever planned. If you require specific costs or have any questions regarding your own wedding stationery please either get in touch using my contact form"

Over and out lovely people... see you next time.

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