HUMANIST celebrants in Herefordshire are backing a landmark challenge to have non-religious humanist wedding ceremonies legally recognised.

Jennie Hermolle and Alison O'Grady have spoken out as six couples gear up to head to the High Court on July 7 and 8 to try to compel the UK Government to change the law to recognise humanist weddings as legally recognised marriages, as is the case with religious weddings across the UK and humanist weddings in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

They say the current law discriminates against them because of their humanist beliefs and is incompatible with human rights legislation.

A humanist wedding is a non-religious ceremony conducted by a celebrant who shares the beliefs and values of the couple.

It differs from a civil wedding in that it is entirely personalised and reflective of the humanist beliefs and values of the couple.

In England and Wales, over 1,000 couples a year already have a humanist wedding, but all must also have a separate civil marriage, usually at a registrar’s office, for their marriage to be legally recognised, even though it is not what they want.

Couples must go through formalities twice, leading to financial strain, and distress over the state failing to recognise their humanist wedding as their ‘real’ one.

Jennie Hermolle, an accredited celebrant who conducts humanist ceremonies across Herefordshire, said: "Having to separately legally register their marriage puts an extra burden on couples at a busy, sometimes stressful and certainly expensive time in the run-up to their wedding.

"They worry about when they should book the legal registration, who they should invite, and how family members may feel if they are not included.

"The availability of simple marriage registration in Hereford is restricted to 9.30am on a Tuesday morning. The couple has to take extra time off work, and if they want more than two people, such as both sets of their parents or their own children to be present as witnesses, they are forced to book an expensive package."

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Couples who have humanist weddings see that day as the epitome of their love and commitment to each other, and all they want is the same legal recognition for that as is given to every religious person in our country. We have tried for decades to address this glaring double standard. Government has dragged its heels and that’s why it’s been left to these couples to bring this case. As more and more non-religious couples choose to have humanist weddings, we need a law that works for all people who want to marry and we hope this case will lead to reform.’