Humanist Marriages in Scotland

Humanist marriages, permitted in Scotland since 2005 (but not elsewhere in the UK), were the second most common form of ‘religious’ wedding ceremony in Scotland in 2011, with 2,486 marriages by Humanist celebrants compared with 5,557 conducted by Church of Scotland ministers and 1,729 by Roman Catholic clergy.

The figures are contained in Scotland’s Population, 2011: The Registrar General’s Annual Review of Demographic Trends, 157th Edition, which was published on 2 August 2012 and is available at:

There were 18.8% more Humanist marriages in 2011 than in 2010, against more modest increases of 2.3% in all Scottish marriages and 0.1% in religious marriages. Excluding Humanist ceremonies, there were actually 3.2% fewer religious marriages.

Scottish Humanist marriages grew by an astonishing 472.8% in the five years since they were first fully recorded in 2006. There were 434 in the latter year, 710 in 2007, 1,026 in 2008, 1,544 in 2009, and 2,092 in 2010.

The overall proportion of religious marriages in Scotland in 2011 was 48.2%, the remainder being civil weddings, performed by registrars and with no religious references. If Humanist ceremonies are removed, then religious marriages constituted 39.7% of the national total.

Neither does it follow that religious ceremonies are always performed in places of worship. Far from it, in fact, the annual review stating that ‘around 48 per cent of religious marriages were celebrated in places of worship’.

This was very similar to the percentage of civil marriages occurring in registration offices. Other approved (mostly secular) premises, permitted in Scotland since 2002, are evidently as attractive to couples wishing to have religious as civil weddings.

It should be noted that Scottish marriage statistics are somewhat skewed by the large number (23.4% in 2011) of ‘tourism’ marriages in which neither party resides in Scotland, almost half of which take place in Gretna Green.

In particular, the apparent rise in religious marriages in Scotland between 1997 and 2002 was largely associated with a growth in these ‘tourism’ marriages. The tourism effect has been less marked since, religious marriages falling by 16.9% between 2003 and 2011.



British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

This entry was posted in Official data and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.