By Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson (University of Regina)
Marriage Acts in all provincial jurisdictions recognize two types of marriages: 1) weddings solemnized by religious organizations and 2) civil ceremonies administered by appointees of the state. While humanist organizations may perform weddings under the section of the Ontario Marriage Act governing religions, this service is not available in other provinces. Despite increasing societal secularization, little research has been undertaken on the need for secular wedding couples to engage in ceremony or the means by which such needs are met. Using a jurisdictional scan, local focus groups, and a national survey, this exploratory study argues that marriage ceremonies have persisted among the non-religious due to needs to authenticate or recognize transitional changes to the self. It suggests that humanist and other secular couples have met this need in most jurisdictions through ad hoc strategies based on available local resources but that this has not translated into political action. It is suggested that Humanist Canada needs to support educational efforts promoting secular, and in particular, humanist ceremonies.