The Polish Rationalists Association helped organize the wedding of Monika Szmidt and Milosz Kuligowski, both 24.
The difference between a civil ceremony and a humanistic ceremony is that a civil ceremony takes place at a government office while a humanistic ceremony takes place in a non-government venue that the couple decides.
A humanistic ceremony is an alternative for those who don’t want to be married in a church because they are atheists or couples of mixed religions. Polish law has yet to accept a humanistic marriage, so to be legally married a couple also has to go through a civil ceremony.
The Szmidt-Kuligowski wedding was held in the former Museum of Agriculture and Industry. When it began the only light in the room was from candles. The bride and groom walked in to the accompaniment of violin music. All guests received red tulips, which they gave the newlyweds after the ceremony. The ceremony was conducted by what are known as celebrants – a man and woman – rather than clergymen.
“That marriage was special not only for the couple but also for all of us gathered here because it was the first humanistic wedding in Poland,” said celebrant Krzysztof Panecki. Having both men and women celebrants emphasized the equal positions and rights of “both sexes in society”, he said.
The most important part of the ceremony was the marriage vows, which were the same for both bride and groom. Each said:
“You may love me when I’m happy and when I’m sad, when I’m successful and when I’m defeated. If you want to, you can miss me when I go somewhere, even if it is just the next room. I promise we will watch movies together, sing, dance, laugh and cry together. I promise to share everything with you, my thoughts, my property and everything you want.”
After the vows the couple placed rings on each others’ fingers and signed a symbolic marriage compact. The newlyweds said a humanistic ceremony fit their values. “We want to live our lives this way,” Monika said.
Humanistic marriage services have the same legal status as traditional church weddings did before 1998, when the institution of concordat marriage was launched. Since then, a church ceremony is enough to be considered legally married.
Humanistic ceremonies are legal in the U.S., Norway and Scotland. In many countries it is common to have a humanistic ceremony immediately after a civil ceremony.