An increasing number of the Irish population are opting to have funerals and weddings outside of religious traditions. Many civil servants are creating new business to fulfill the increasing demand.
New data shows that the number of non religious funerals is increasing. Of almost 30,000 funerals annually, Irish funeral directors estimate that nearly 10 percent were non religious. Government data shows that non religious weddings have increased. Nearly 30 percent of 21,000 annual weddings are celebrated outside an organized religion. The trend shows a five percent increase over two decades.
With an increase in the number of non religious ceremonies, some of the few dozen civil servants have turned full time. Director of ceremonies for the Humanist Association of Ireland Brian White led more than 100 weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies in 2012. He told the Washington Post, “We’re busier than we ever thought we would be. I thought I would do this as a sideline, but it’s taken over my life.”
Hotels and funeral homes are also changing to meet people’s new preferences. Hotels, which are becoming a popular location for civil wedding ceremonies, now host wedding fairs. Dublin funeral home Massey’s spent $200,000 last year to open a new venue designed specifically for civil funerals. The new venue is the first of its kind.
These civil ceremonies are filling a gap from growing disillusionment with the church and a decreasing number of celebrants available to perform ceremonies. Due in part to the recent child abuse scandals, the number of people who identify themselves as Catholic is at an all time low.
One estimate suggests that the number of priests in Ireland will decrease from its current level of 2,000 to a couple hundred by 2042. Patricia Wojnar, a civil servant who presides over weddings and funerals, says that people who wish to put a loved one to rest without a long wait chose to hold a ceremony officiated by a civil celebrant in lieu of waiting for a religious officiant.
Those who favor religious ceremonies believe that these civil ceremonies will pass as a fad and religious will become more popular. David Quinn, who runs the Iona Institute said, “It will eventually dawn on people that our dominant philosophy of individualism at all costs is doing no good.”
Coming years will show if Quinn is right. For the present, civil servants fill the increasing demand for civil ceremonies for some of life’s biggest moments.