Weddings and other Rites of Passage
Unitarians offer special services to celebrate birth and naming, marriage or partnership, or a life that has ended. These are arranged as far as possible to meet the needs of those most closely involved. Unitarian ministers are free and yet also have a responsibility to try to meet the spiritual needs of people whether or not they belong to Unitarian congregations. Ministers will help facilitator you to build your service that meets your believes, needs and wants, e.g. incorporate words and music important to those involved - or help people create, and sometimes even conduct, their own form of ceremony or celebration.
Birth and Adoption
A ceremony to celebrate the birth or adoption of a child may be called a Welcoming, a Naming, a Dedication, a Blessing, a Thanksgiving, or, more traditionally, a Baptism or Christening. Accordingly, the form and content will differ - e.g. water may or may not be used. The ceremony may take place in a Unitarian place of worship or the home if this is more appropriate to those involved.
The form and content of Wedding or Marriage services are usually arrived at by the minister working together with the couple concerned according to the couple's needs and wishes, though here there are a few legal requirements. Where the law allows (as in Scotland and Northern Ireland), the service may take place somewhere other than in a place of worship. Similarly, a religious blessing of a civil marriage ceremony may take place anywhere. Unitarian ministers regularly conduct Marriage ceremonies where one or both of the parties are divorcees. Unitarians are virtually unique in devising personalised ceremonies in cases where the couple are from mixed faith backgrounds (e.g. Christian and Jewish) or none.
When someone dies
Whether at a crematorium, place of worship, home or graveside, Unitarian ministers are concerned primarily with the needs and wishes of the bereaved, and seek to reflect the life and beliefs of the dead person in a personal way.
The degree of freedom permitted to Unitarian ministers, as to Unitarians generally, means that beliefs and practices vary significantly. However, ministers are usually willing to consider other ceremonies which mark significant occasions in people's lives. Examples of services which some Unitarian ministers will consider are: a rededication of a marriage; a blessing of a same-sex union or friendship; a ceremony to mark a separation when two people decide to part amicably; and other ceremonies to mark lesser but nonetheless significant moments in life like moving or retirement. In all these situations Unitarian practice starts from human needs rather than fixed religious ideas. The ceremonies which result are often, in their preparation and enactment, deeply spiritual and memorable, being firmly based on the integrity and compassion of the minister and the deep needs of those for whom the service is conducted. If you think that a Unitarian minister may be the best person to serve you on one of these highly important occasions you can get in touch with him or her through Unitarian Headquarters.