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Watch humanist celebrants describe the pleasure they get from their work
The choices that I’ve made in my life to become a celebrant, and then to work for Humanists UK as the Head of Ceremonies, are very much driven by the belief that people having the right ceremony for them, that is in accordance with their belief structure, is of profound significance. Not only in terms of making for a much more authentic, integrated, ritual or ceremony but also for a healthier society. I’m a human celebrant largely because I’m fascinated by people and I’m fascinated by what matters to people, and so it gives me a really privileged insight into how different people in different situations think. What they value, how they articulate that.
And it gives me that opportunity to keep understanding more about about the world and those around us. I feel I have deepened my own understanding of what it means to be human and, therefore, what does it mean for me to be a human. As a result of the times that I’ve been entrusted to spend with the families and the couples and the individuals that I work with, and I feel I’ve, in many ways, I’ve gained more than I’ve been able to offer, and it’s undoubtedly the most satisfying thing that I do in my life. I do it because it makes me feel better about me.
Every time I come home from doing a ceremony I feel better, and I walk into the house and hug my partner and tell her how much I love her, because it makes me feel like that. I’d say that pretty much every celebrant has very similar and very different answers to the question of what is it that makes you want to be a humanist celebrant. An interest in people, a fascination in the individual stories in which we all contain and a desire to be able to share them. I have an old-fashioned belief that storytelling is probably one of our greatest gifts as human beings.
Not because they’re necessarily flights of fancy or imagination but because they’re the ways that we get to communicate with one another. By sharing stories we become familiar with each other, we understand what we have in common. We also get to celebrate what our differences are, and being a humanist celebrant absolutely encapsulates understanding and inquiring into all of those things. And so, the thing which gives me the motivation is to help people find their stories, to be able to find the words and to be able to find a way to access the emotions and certainly to be able to find a way to create the moment that is so important to them.
So now that I’m Head of Ceremonies, I don’t get the opportunity to take very many ceremonies anymore, unfortunately, and I say unfortunately because, being a humanist celebrant is an incredible privilege and a wonderful experience. Not only do you get to witness some extraordinary aspects of humanity, and courage in the face of tragic situations and circumstances, and joy and wonder, but you really get to communicate on a profound level with so many different types of people from all walks of life. And I always came away from a ceremony feeling very fulfilled, very connected, and replete. It’s a funny word to use but it engages all parts of you as a human being, I think. Intellectually, physically, emotionally.
And so it’s a tremendously fulfilling role if you like people. It’s a very human thing to do.


  • Humanists believe we should have the freedom to choose how we mark special moments in our lives in ways that feel right for us
  • Humanists will often speak about their fascination with other people’s stories and the value that can be found in sharing them
  • Hearing other people’s stories can help us to see the connections we have with other people and can help us to better understand ourselves

Question: What shared interests, passions, and goals do you think drive the humanist celebrants you have met this week?

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Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

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