Scottish couples who have Humanist ceremonies less likely to divorce, says new study

A new study has found that Scottish couples who had a Humanist ceremony were less likely to divorce than couples who had other types of wedding ceremonies.


Statistics from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) acquired in a freedom of information request by Humanist UK found that couples who married in a humanist ceremony were two times less likely to divorce than Church of Scotland marriages, three times less likely than Roman Catholic marriages and four times less likely than civil marriages.

However, Harry Benson, research director at the Marriage Foundation, says that the socio-economic background of the couples should also be taken into account. “It may be that humanists are older or richer than most, either of which would account for their apparently lower divorce rates,” he told Radio 4’s Sunday programme.

“Couples with a shared faith or worldview tend to do better, which might well also apply to Humanist couples. And as social pressure to marry has reduced, divorce rates have been tumbling across the board as fewer couples ‘slide’ into marriage and more ‘decide’.”


Tim Maguire of the Caledonian Humanist Association says that he thinks that his organisation’s ethos of letting couples decide what they want from marriage themselves rather than being ‘guided’ by a religious leader is the reason for humanist couples’ success.

“I ask my couples to do ‘homework’, and get them to write down what they want from a marriage and what they would like their marriage to achieve separately, and then compare it,” says Tim.

“[I tell] every couple I meet that I’d rather they shared their homework, had a screaming row, and never spoke again than go through with their wedding and find themselves 10 years down the line realising that they’ve made a big mistake because divorce – however amicable – is painful.”

But if you’re having a religious or civil ceremony, don’t panic – the divorce rates for these types of ceremonies are still relatively low.

Divorce rates for Church of Scotland were 5.8 out of 1000, for Roman Catholic marriages it was 5 out of 1000, and for civil ceremonies, it was 7.3.


Still looking for your wedding celebrant?

Check out our online directory!