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Unitarian Wedding Ceremonies

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Author: Mavis Elliot

What do Unitarians believe?

The ultimate broad church, Unitarianism is a historic non-conformist faith, which emphasises individual choice and deciding for yourself in spiritual matters.

Today's movement emphasises the shared quest for meaning, rather than any specific beliefs. Members may come from a variety of religious backgrounds, their beliefs ranging from liberal Christian to religious humanist to New Age.

About 900 wedding ceremonies take place in Unitarian churches each year.

What's a Unitarian ceremony like?

Flexibility is key. The exact form of and content of your ceremony is individually agreed between you and the local officiant - not any supervising body. Most Unitarian ministers and lay officials are happy to supervise "personalised ceremonies", where the aim is to "do justice to the beliefs of a couple, rather than seeking to use set religious language which may have little to meaning for those taking part".

Unitarians are happy to perform ceremonies for couples of different faiths - e.g. Christian and Jewish - and for divorcees. In Britain, divorcees actually form a higher percentage of those getting married in Unitarian churches and chapels than for any other denomination or faith.

In the ceremony, references to God may be omitted in favour of other material, such as poetry, which may reflect your beliefs. Couples can choose their own readings and write their own vows - provided that the marriage wording remains. For Unitarians, such ceremonies remain deeply "religious" because they deal with people's personal beliefs and convictions (conventional or otherwise) about life issues.

What's the legal position?

Wedding ceremonies in Unitarian churches are legally recognised by the state, provided there is an authorised person present - often a Unitarian minister or member of the congregation - and the minimum legal contracting words are included.

Do I have to be a member?

No. You do not have to be a Unitarian or belong to a Unitarian congregation in order to be married in a Unitarian church, chapel or meeting house.

How much does it cost?

The fee is usually set locally, but is likely to be comparable to what you'd pay for an Anglican vicar.

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