Humour and Ceremonies

Humour and Ceremonies

Humour and ceremonies don’t seem to go together, do they?

After all, a life-cycle ceremony is a major event. It can be a Wedding, a Vow Renewal, a Handfasting, a Naming Ceremony, a mixed-faith service, or whatever … If you choose (and go to the trouble and expense) to mark the occasion in public, then it means something to you. (And this also applies to a funeral.)

So you surely want the service to be meaningful and significant. You may well want it personalised, and there are many ways of doing that. Just ask your celebrant.

However, the tone and language can make the difference. What sort of register do you want: formal, informal, or something in between? Must the readings be spiritual? Could any be silly?!

People often believe that, if it’s a formal occasion, humour is inappropriate. If a couple are making their vows, then these have to be serious. I would argue that the tenor might well be solemn, but a bit of humour will simply reflect the good relationship between the couple. It will also lighten the proceedings, which the guests may well welcome too! And humour doesn’t have to equate with insincerity or levity.

Then, surely, even if you accept that some humour might fit in to a happy occasion, you can’t expect humour at a funeral, can you?

Well, it all depends, admittedly. If the deceased was a joker and had a good sense of humour, then they probably would have appreciated a funny story or two about them. If they went around with a smile on their face, then they probably would prefer that everybody remembers the good times, rather than dwells on the loss too much.

I have heard some quite wonderful tales of the deceased, whom I, of course, would never have met. They enabled me to form a picture of the departed as well as reminding the guests of shared good times. If you pardon the dark humour, the stories help put flesh on the bones!

So don’t go feeling that it’s “not the right thing” to include humour. Carefully used, it can have a place at any ceremony and will enhance it.


Wonderful Wedding!

Wonderful Wedding!

A few weeks ago (when the sun still shone!), I was reminded what it was like to conduct a wedding once more. I realise how much I’ve been missing!

Becky and Chris are lovely people and very much in love. They make a perfect couple, especially as they share quite a sense of humour!

humour at a wedding

They were a pleasure to work with, knowing their own mind, yet not averse to taking guidance. The vows were most important to them, so they basically took in hand the composition, They kept the wording a secret from their partner until the moment arrived. Then they got them spot-on.

wedding vows

In addition to the elements you might expect (eg ring blessing), Becky’s brother wrote and delivered an apposite and amusing poem about the couple.

It was all over so quickly (or so it seemed)!

The couple sent me an enormous testimonial, which I was so happy about (for obvious reasons!). I’ve edited it considerably, but this is the gist:

“Michael was amazing … We had so many lovely comments from friends and family about the service and lots of them had said it was the best wedding service they had been to; my father-in-law was the most sceptical as he is a traditionalist and had never been to a celebrant-led wedding before but he was wowed over by the detail and thought put into each element of the service… We were able to add a small blessing and read our own vows, which meant the world, as well as add in some humour in places. We wouldn’t change a single thing about the service … and would recommend Michael to anyone getting married that wants a personal touch to their big day.”

That’s what it’s all about!

Humour and Ceremonies


At first glance, you might think that humour has no place at a life-cycle ceremony. After all, a wedding, say, marks a significant change, so should be solemn. And a funeral is the last place for a laugh, surely.

And yet …

The “fun” in “funeral

A funeral should be a celebration of life (not merely an opportunity to grieve – important as that is). If the deceased was a joker, that’s what people will remember. So why not remind people of a few of the laughs they had with them?

The whole family will fondly recall the time Reg (not real name) attended a bingo session. With his ‘gift of the gab’ he persuaded the organisers that he had won the main prize (a television). Once awarded it, he owned up – but was still allowed to keep it.

Not untypically, Reg carried on drinking. When he it was time to go, the stairs proved too much for him, and he dropped the TV down the flight!

Amazingly, it was undamaged (but for BBC2). But stories like that just sum up the man Reg was!

At another funeral, where I felt I knew the family reasonably well, rather to my surprise, I ad-libbed. The deceased was a rabid Chelsea supporter, and we played the theme tune “Blue is the Colour”. I encouraged those who wanted to, to join in, but pointed out that I was from the wrong side of London and totally refused!


It’s easier to ad lib or include humour in celebratory ceremonies. Gravitas may still be relevant, but not necessarily all the time.

As a celebrant, when I put together a wedding, I normally work with the bride and groom. As a rule, the groom is not always as engaged in proceedings as the bride. On one occasion, the groom left me to work with the bride, and we agreed to include a humorous poem (by Pam Ayres) without him knowing. He didn’t suspect a thing and was completely floored on the day, bringing proceedings to a near-stop!

My clients are encouraged to write their own vows, and sometimes these can be quite revealing, as well as amusing! I did have to question whether one particular groom really wanted to include public reference to his bride’s arse! (He did!)

I hope this short overview will convince you that humour can have a place in ceremonies – if used judiciously!


Ceremonies and Humour

Ceremonies and Humour

People often ask me if they can include something humorous in a ceremony. “What will people think?” they ask.

Of course, the answer depends on what expectations and intentions they may have. What effect are they looking for?

Initially, my response is “yes”. “Certainly”, if it’s a wedding and “with care”, if it’s a funeral.

The traditional response

How traditional do you want your ceremony to be? If that’s your chosen path, then don’t expect much hilarity from the full Church service.

I officiated at one (secular but traditional) high society wedding, where the family were very keen that all appearances were correct and that guests would have no grounds to find fault with any part of the service.

Actually, I wondered whether it would mean more to the guests to witness a moving, sincere ceremony, rather than a fabulous spectacle. And if it entertained a bit, thanks to a touch of humour, all the better!

An alternative approach

At my “usual” weddings, however, (often, part-religious or secular), there is scope for personalising the ceremony. Normally, I advocate including some “serious” elements but also a few lighter moments. The ring blessing and vows, say, could be earnest – but the vows might include some humorous promises (based on personal idiosyncrasies of one of the couple).

I like to put in the couple’s story, where possible. This frequently offers scope for humour.

Humour in funerals

As I have implied, humour is more likely to be expected – and accepted – at a celebratory event.

However, although funerals should offer the opportunity to grieve, I believe they should also be a celebration of life and therefore should not exclude well-placed and tasteful humour.

Ad-libbing requires great care. A funeral will almost never be the place to be controversial or crude.

The best place for humour is in the eulogy or personal tribute. If the deceased had a special saying, favourite joke or some unique characteristic, reference to that will be appreciated by most who knew them. I loved the lady, who would go ballistic whenever Philip Schofield appeared on TV. When I referred to this, everybody – especially, the family – recognised, appreciated and enjoyed it!

If that’s appropriate for the deceased, why not have it?!

There’s nothing – in theory – to stop you having a whale of a time at a funeral. Sometimes, everyone is encouraged to wear a particular football shirt, say, to mark the deceased’s passion. The tone of such a service is likely to be quite light!

I hope I’ve made it clear that the tone you desire for weddings or funerals is ultimately down to you. Discuss it with your celebrant, and you can have the ceremony that suits and keeps a smile on everybody’s face.


Ceremonies and Humour

Humour at Weddings

It may sound a bit bizarre that I am writing about humour at weddings. However, ceremonies like these don’t have to be solemn all the time. That’s not to say that there aren’t parts that probably should be.

Apart from making the atmosphere lighter, humour can cause the ceremony to be more personal and memorable. (Incidentally, I’m referring to intentional humour here!)

Of course, the celebrant can contribute with touches of wit (as long as he accepts that the ceremony is not a stand-up routine!). But the point is that the whole event is actually about the couple up there with him.

One area where the bride and groom can show their individuality and humour is the vows. Instead of – or in addition to – traditional vows, the couple can write their own.

These are public declarations, so should be primarily serious and sincere. However, the dose can be lightened with a spot of humour. This will help reveal the personality of the pair.

You don’t have to write masses (in fact, less is good). Quite often, the vows can be promises. Some will say what you will do; others what you won’t do. Season with a little humour.

What about a few examples of humour?

Groom: I promise not to leave my empty beer cans in the lounge overnight. I promise not to go out to the pub every night. Not every night.

Bride: I promise to learn to cook at least two different dishes by the end of next year.

Groom: I promise not to leave my shoes all over the hallway. I even promise to take my shoes off when I come in …

Bride: I promise to wait until after the wedding day to tell you what I think of those shoes.

Groom: I promise to ask a passer-by the way, if I get lost.

Bride: I promise we won’t see my parents excessively. Of course, they may visit us the weekend we’re not with them.

Groom: I promise not to clean my football boots in front of the television. I promise not to keep the take-away in business single-handed.

Bride: I promise  not to cancel the Sky Sports subscription without at least a day’s warning.

Groom: I promise to allow you to go shopping at least once when we’re on holiday.

Bride: I promise to make you proud of me by buying a lovely new handbag every month or two.

Groom: I promise to look interested when you tell me about your day.

Bride: I promise to care for you tenderly if your illness is neither man-flu nor hangover-related.

You can work individually or together when writing your vows. The effects may be fascinating!

So don’t go thinking that humour is out of place at a major ceremony. It is if the humour is insulting, offensive or derogatory. Otherwise, be prepared to use it judiciously, and your ceremony may well stand out even more.

For more advice, please contact Michael