Martha Lawton - Humanist Celebrant


welcoming your guests

Each ceremony begins with a short introduction, welcoming your guests and setting the tone for the ceremony. It also serves a number of other purposes which usually include:

  • Introducing me and my role;
  • Explaining why you're holding a Humanist ceremony;
  • Giving any necessary housekeeping information;
  • Telling your guests a little bit about your family;
  • Telling your guests a little bit about your child.


beautiful words to show how you feel

Your choice of readings are key to making your ceremony unique and personal. They can be moving, uplifting, or playful, or some combination of the above. Readings are a great way to involve grandparents, older siblings, and other relatives and friends in the ceremony. Some things to considering when choosing readings:

  • Match the reading to the reader so each person feels comfortable with the words they are going to say;
  • Try reading each piece aloud yourself, sometimes beautifully written words can be hard to speak;
  • Unless someone is an exceptional reader, shorter pieces tend to work better;
  • Many people choose poems, but you can also look for extracts from novels or even non-fiction works, such as biographies or philosophical writing;
  • It's good for a ceremony to include both serious and lighthearted moments, readings can give us this.

Parental Commitments

your promises to your child

Often one of the most moving moments of a ceremony is the parents' commitments or vows to the child. Although I can help with writing these, they're much better coming directly from you in your own words. Think about:

  • Your ideals for yourself as a parent;
  • Your hopes for your child's future and how you want to support them;
  • What sort of ethics you want to raise your child will live by.

Guideparents' Commitments

providing your child with mentors

Parents often wish to name one or more people to have a special role in their children's lives, equivalent to godparents. You can choose any number of guideparents (mentors/ godlessparents/ supporting adults) but parents typically go with two or three. These are people who will be your child's sympathetic listeners, advisers, and cheerleaders. As with parental commitments I can write the guideparents' vows for you, but they are better coming from you or the guideparents themselves. Think about:

  • Why you asked each person to be a guideparent;
  • What role do you hope they will play in your child's life;
  • How confident they are at speaking in front of a group.


more than words can say

Just as with readings, music is another great way to personalise your ceremony. Whether you ask a musical friend to give a short performance, lead all your guests in a sing-along, or simply play your favourite songs at the start and end of the ceremony, music can bring people together in ways that words often cannot. When choosing to have music in your ceremony think about:

  • Whether the venue allows amplified music;
  • What equipment is needed and where it will be placed;
  • What mood you would like the music to express and when it would be appropriate to play that music.

Symbolic Gestures

an element of ritual

We hold ceremonies because human beings have a love of ritual. Taking time to include a symbolic gesture can add a sense of depth and timelessness to your ceremony. Potential symbolic gestures can include:

  • Planting seeds, trees or bulbs, or watering and feeding plants;
  • Asking guests to write messages to your child and place these on a 'wishing tree' or in a box or jar;
  • Collecting wisdom for your child in the form of gifts of books;
  • Asking guests to place their thumb prints onto a outlined picture to make a beautiful memento of the day.

The Naming

the heart of the ceremony

Usually taking place at the end of the ceremony, the naming is the crowning moment. The celebrant leads the naming but the name is given by the parents and often their guests. Often there will be a spontaneous cheer after the naming. After the naming it is nice to end with a round of applause, three cheers or a toast.