I READ with interest Rosemary Goring’s article ("No wonder humanist weddings are putting church in shade", The Herald, August 3) and the subsequent comment by the Rev Gordon W. Smith (Letters, August 4)

In the late 1970s as part of Strathclyde Region’s quality management programme I was part of a registration group charged with improving the standards of civil marriage ceremonies. Such was our success our wedding ceremony format was taken up by other authorities throughout Scotland. It also paved the way for outside marriages which received governmental approval in the early 2000s, for we had allowed registrars latitude in their ceremonies to meet the demands of the bridal couple. Registrars throughout Scotland embraced the outside marriage concept when it was introduced; I know for I prepared my council’s guidelines for such weddings. Today, despite the adverse comment on the Humanist wedding web page, every fully trained registrar will go out of their way to meet the demands of wedding couples, within reason, and I know that in a 10-day period my local registrar will have performed two office weddings, an outside hand-fastening, quaich and sand ceremonies.

The Humanists also comment on their website about their competitive wedding fee structure (ceremony £410 plus £43 membership of their society) but registration fees of £70 have to be added to that sum, giving a total of £523. An outside registrar’s wedding will cost £415, a saving of £108 which would pay for a few extra bottles of bubbly. In addition they do not and cannot handle the marriage application or schedule issue and have no involvement in the registration process, these duties still have to dealt with by the local registration service, so without the service they claim is "insensitive", the Humanists could not operate their stand-alone marriage ceremony. On this basis a marriage ceremony conducted by any registrar is more cost-effective, as personal and can cater for the demands of today’s bride and groom in any suitable venue or registration office. In fact, both my daughters chose to be married in the registrar’s office and I personally conducted an outside marriage for the daughter of a family friend.

The superior, competitive attitude of the Humanists is rather sad for they are just one cog in the marriage wheel and should fully respect the other religious groups and registrars who have been undertaking the task for decades before them.

George B.McKenzie,

Former registrar,

Rubha nan Gall, 48 Ardbeg Road, Rothesay, Bute.