'We Still Wanted That Sense of Occasion': Traditions and Meaning-Making in Scottish Humanist Marriage Ceremonies

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Abstract

As a secularising nation in Northern Europe, Scotland has, over the last few decades, experienced a steep decline in religious belonging, church attendance, and beliefs. Ritual participation, which is arguably an understudied dimension of secularisation, follows a similar pattern of decline, with a significant majority of Scottish marriage rituals now being conducted in secular ceremonies. Using data from semi-structured in-depth interviews with 17 married couples, this study examines the decisions that secular Scots make when planning their wedding. Moreover, it places a particular focus on humanist marriage ceremonies, which have seen a noteworthy increase in popularity since they became legally recognised in Scotland in 2005. The secular participants emphasised the role of personal convictions and family expectations in choosing a particular type of marriage ceremony. The narratives also revealed how positive attitudes toward humanist ceremonies, in contrast with civil ceremonies, are centred around their ability to create personalised, nonreligious, celebrations that nevertheless give attention to culture and heritage. Ultimately, the findings suggest that repeating history through cultural traditions are an important aspect of both secular and religious rites of passage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-293
Number of pages21
JournalScottish Affairs
Volume27
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018

Keywords

  • secularisation
  • Scotland
  • rituals
  • marriage
  • ceremonies
  • Humanism
  • qualitative data

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