Figures reveal more humanist than Catholic weddings in Scotland

Newlyweds are increasingly choosing alternative ways to tie the knot. Picture: Jane Barlow
Newlyweds are increasingly choosing alternative ways to tie the knot. Picture: Jane Barlow
Have your say

The number of Scots getting married is on the rise again after a surge in non-religious ceremonies in recent years.

There are now more couples choosing humanist ceremonies than Catholic weddings in Scotland, according to official figures published yesterday. If the trend continues, there will be more humanist wedding celebrations than Church of Scotland marriages in three years’ time.

The family remains strong in Scotland according to registrar general George MacKenzie in his latest annual report, with a growing number of fathers appearing on birth certificates.

The ongoing rise in immigration from overseas has seen Scotland’s population reach a record high of 5.25 million.

Births still outnumber deaths, although both have been falling in recent years.

More than half of all marriages in Scotland last year (52 per cent) were civil ceremonies, in contrast to 1971, when a third of marriages were civil and two-thirds were religious.

There were 29,135 marriages in Scotland in 2011, a rise of 655 the previous year.

This is well down on the peak of about 40,000 marriages a year in the 1970s, but numbers are recovering from 2009 when they slumped to 27,524, the lowest since Victorian times.

About half of the civil ceremonies took place in register offices and the rest in “approved places” such as hotels or castles.

Most of the religious marriages, 5,557, were Church of Scotland, with 1,729 Catholic. Humanists presided over 2,486 ceremonies.

Steve Chinn, secretary general of the Humanists Society Scotland, said if current trends continue, humanist ceremonies will overtake the Church of Scotland in 2015.

He added: “There’s undoubtedly a long-term decline in religiousness if you look at the census data and social attitudes surveys – there are fewer and fewer people being religious.

“Humanist ceremonies are also very highly tailored to the couple. They don’t follow a strict formula like a lot of religious ceremonies. They’re all about celebrating the couple having that marriage and it can be anywhere the couple likes.

“We do marriages on the tops of Munros, we do them on beaches on the islands. We did one a couple of years ago when the couple got married in their scuba diving equipment and ­immediately afterwards went off diving. But you can do them in your own back garden.”

There are just over 110 humanist celebrants across Scotland who can carry out ceremonies.

Humanism is a belief system grounded in the doctrine that humans can live ethical and fulfilling lives based on reason, without reliance on religion or superstition.

Mr MacKenzie said: “We would normally authorise clergy of churches but Humanists also come into that category because they have a belief system, albeit it’s not a religious belief system, and it seems to be very popular indeed.”

The decline in religious marriages has been a long-term trend in Scotland throughout the past 30 to 40 years. The numbers did increase slightly between 1997 and 2002, but this was attributed to the tourism marriages.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of couples who got married last year were people from other countries coming to get married in romantic spots.

Mr MacKenzie said the family unit appears to be getting stronger in the 21st century, with fewer babies being registered under just one parent.