First Sunday Meeting Report – 7 September, 2014
Eithne Dempsey chaired the meeting and introduced Brian Whiteside, HAI Director of Ceremonies.
Brian’s journey to becoming a celebrant began in 2002 when he attended a funeral in London. Expecting a religious ceremony he was surprised to find it was more a celebration of the person’s life and was conducted by a woman. His first humanist ceremony. On his return to Dublin, he joined the Humanist Association of Ireland and in due course became a celebrant
Dick Spicer was involved in the Campaign for the Separation of Church and State and set up the HAI 21 years ago as he felt it was a more appropriate organization for the ceremonies that he was being asked to conduct. In 2006 he asked Brian to take over as Director of Ceremonies and Brian then worked with Brendan Sheeran to put together an accreditation process which still holds today.
In Britain prospective celebrants pay to go on weekend courses. In contrast, the HAI requires a person to have been a member for two years; they are then accessed by a Selection Panel and, if approved, go through a mentoring process leading hopefully to accreditation.
After years of campaigning, in 2012 the law changed to allow secular bodies perform weddings. This has led to a huge demand for our services and we are struggling to keep up with demand. (See our HAI Ceremonies statistics 2013) We have fifteen celebrants but this is not sufficient to provide all-Ireland cover. One of the reasons is that state registrars do not work on Saturdays which is the day most couples want for weddings.
36% of people chose non-religious ceremonies. When it goes up to 50%, it will be significant educationally as those people will be seeking non-sectarian schools for their children. Close to 100,000 people attend our ceremonies annually and this creates awareness of humanism. Each celebrant agrees to pay an amount to HAI for each ceremony performed. For first half of this year it was €18,800 which provides funding for the HAI’s campaigns.
Brian then went on to describe the ceremonies we conduct.
Humanist weddings provide a couple an opportunity to celebrate their love for one another with words, poems, music and a lovely venue all of their own choosing. Planning of the average wedding takes about 10 to 12 hours of a celebrant’s time.
Funerals started very few and far between but, as our reputation grew so did the numbers and this year we will conduct over 100. We have had some high profile funerals.
Naming Ceremonies represent the smallest number as parents are afraid that if they don’t have a baptismal certificate for their children, they will not get them into schools. We continue to campaign on this.
Coming of Age: There have been enquiries about this to match the communion ceremony. The HAI are looking into this but feel that 15 is a more appropriate age.
The talk finished with a Q&A session