Northern Ireland

Model Lacole and footballer O'Kane in humanist marriage

Eunan O'Kane and Laura Lacole Image copyright Laura Lacole
Image caption Earlier this month, Ms Lacole and Mr O'Kane won legal recognition for their marriage

A couple have married in a humanist ceremony in Northern Ireland after winning legal recognition in a landmark case at Belfast's High Court.

Model Laura Lacole and Republic of Ireland midfielder Eunan O'Kane tied the knot in a ceremony conducted by Humanists UK celebrant Isabel Russo.

Previously humanist weddings were not recognised by NI law, so couples had to conduct a separate civil ceremony.

A judge ruled this unlawfully denied them equality with religious couples.

Some 200 guests attended Thursday afternoon's wedding at an undisclosed location outside Belfast.

He ordered the granting of temporary authorisation for a British Humanist Association (BHA) celebrant to perform a legally valid and binding wedding ceremony for the bride, 27, and groom, 26.

The personalised ceremony involving bespoke vows, music from a string quartet and hand-fasting, in which the couple's hands were tied together with ribbons as a symbolic gesture of their wedding bond.

Isabel Russo, the celebrant, said: "It was a beautiful ceremony with all the components of a proper humanist marriage, including vows written by the couple themselves and contributions from their family.

"While people in attendance were of all views and backgrounds, the consensus is that it was a profound and moving occasion."

Image copyright Twitter

The British Humanist Association congratulated the couple on "a lovely occasion that has been a joy for all in attendance".

"Laura and Eunan's wedding today epitomises what marriages should be all about: beautiful, hand-crafted occasions that match perfectly to the deepest beliefs and values," said Andrew Copson, Humanists UK's chief executive, who was a guest at the wedding.

"We hope it proves to be the first of many such legal humanist ceremonies."

Landmark ruling

Ms Lacole, and Mr O'Kane both describe themselves as humanists, with a non-religious combination of attitudes, ethics and beliefs centred on human experience and welfare.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Ms Lacole had claimed she was being discriminated against under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)'s protection for freedom of belief

Humanists adhere to a scientific view of the world and believe humans steer their own destiny.

The 27-year-old model is also vice-chair of the organisation, Atheist NI.

She had claimed she was being discriminated against under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)'s protection for freedom of belief.

Ms Lacole welcomed the ruling, which could now be used by others seeking the same status.

Speaking outside court, she said: "It's amazing now that we are being recognised, it's not just a privilege applied to religions.

"I'm just so pleased, what this means for us and to other people in Northern Ireland," she said.

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