An independent celebrant has spoken out ahead of a legal challenge which could see humanist wedding ceremonies become legal in England.

Humanist ceremonies are legally recognised in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but not in England and Wales.

Six couples are taking a challenge to the High Court today claiming they are being discriminated for their humanist beliefs.

However, independent Whitehaven celebrant Val Marshall believes if humanist ceremonies are to be legally recognised, so should independent ones.

She said: “Wedding ceremonies performed by independent celebrants are ceremonial and have no legal status, nevertheless they are becoming more and more popular with couples.

“Many people wanting a non-religious ceremony assume that all non-religious ceremonies are performed by humanist celebrants, this is not the case. Most are performed by independent celebrants who offer choice – it could be with some religious inclusion, a ceremony for interfaith couples or non-religious ceremonies.”

Val is an independent celebrant but not a humanist.

She said independent celebrants fear that if humanist ceremonies were to be legally recognised, couples may choose to have a humanist ceremony to save money, instead of having to hold a celebration and a legal marriage, making independent celebrants redundant.

She said: “It’s good for humanist celebrants to get capacity to do legal marriages, but it’s a pity it’s just for them and not for other independent celebrants.

“I am an independent celebrant who leads ceremonies with content that truly reflects the beliefs and culture of the couple.This may include religious content whilst accepting that many, where both are committed to a particular faith, will marry in that faith context.

“We also include ceremonies with no religious content. Many ceremonies reflect humanist values. The Wedding Celebrancy Commission is arguing that to allow humanist celebrants to conduct legally recognised ceremonies that may include religious content makes a mockery of humanist claims in court against Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“The Wedding Celebrancy Commission have suggested that a way forward would be to recognise all celebrants, whether they define as humanist or not, to conduct legal ceremonies. The Law Commission review on marriage law I believe is looking at this situation.”