News and musings about my life as a civil celebrant
Does humour have a place in a Civil Ceremony?
Does humour have a place in a Civil Ceremony?

2 December 2019

Few people expect a civil ceremony to be a side-splitting affair! However, if the person or persons being honoured are something of a ’character’, then the ceremony may well reflect that side of them.

Humour and Funerals

I have conducted funerals where there were many belly laughs (as the deceased’s foibles were lovingly recalled). Of course, there should be an opportunity to grieve, but many believe that a funeral ought to be a celebration of life. So why not laugh, if the deceased merited it? They may even have specifically requested smiles, rather than tears, at their funeral.

However, humour will not always be appropriate at a funeral, and the celebrant has to be careful to get the balance right.


By definition, the chances are that celebratory ceremonies will be jollier affairs. If it’s a wedding, vow renewal, naming or handfasting, there’s a lot to be happy about.

Again, balance is important. My belief (and I’m not alone) is that there are serious, even solemn, parts of a celebratory service. I usually prefer my address and the vows and ring exchange to be earnest, although even here there is room for humour. If the couple write their own vows, these will reflect their personalities, and can therefore be quite hilarious!

I do try and put the couple (or whoever) at their ease, so that is often done via a whispered (or even audible) joke. However, it is important to acknowledge that private jokes should be kept to a minimum. Anyway, the show is not about me – I am not a comedian, but the celebrant! My main role on the day is to facilitate.

My preference is for gentle humour to be scattered across the ceremony, with the more serious bits treated appropriately. However, I always go along with the wishes of the client, so I can offer flexibility.

When I have my discovery call with a potential client, both of us can explore the type of ceremony that is wanted. If it’s an Elvis impersonator that’s required, then I pass it on to somebody else! If the client is after somebody gentle and sincere – and humorous! -, then I’m delighted to help!

As you may have ploughed through this expecting a joke, I suppose I’d better finish with a (bad) one!

“Cashew”: the sound of a nut sneezing!

Featured image: Tim Elwood Photography


Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe. Telephone me now on +44 (0)7931 538487 or contact me directly by e-mail.

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