Wedding Ceremony

Feb 28, 2013

Discussion by: jennystephenson
Hello all-

My little sister is getting married later this year, and she wants me to officiate at the ceremony. Neither she nor her partner is religious, and they want a secular ceremony. However, according to the law, I need to be ordained in order to perform the ceremony. I am aware of an easy and cheap way to get ordained by a church, but is anyone aware of a way to get a non-religious equivalent? (Other than becoming a Justice of the Peace). I appreciate in advance any help that you can provide.

16 comments on “Wedding Ceremony

  • 2
    Alan4discussion says:

    If there is a legal provision for civil marriage where you live, you could be a “maid of honour” (ie bridesmaid), while a registrar actually conducted the ceremony. She could then have a secular wedding reception at a hotel as the main feature.

    Most jurisdictions require some sort of qualification for people conducting wedding ceremonies, but the ceremony can be separated from the legal contract requirements.

    You could also see if a Humanist celebrant would help you, of even if you could train as one.

    In England and Wales, most couples who choose to have a Humanist wedding or partnership ceremony complete the legal formalities and obtain a civil marriage certificate in the usual way at a Register Office first.

    A Humanist, non-religious wedding or partnership ceremony held after this formal requirement is the one which can truly mark your life-long commitment to each other. This ceremony is special to you and your guests, at which you make your vows and during which you may choose to exchange rings.

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  • 4
    jennystephenson says:

    The wedding is to take place in Wyoming, USA.
    In reply to #1 by canadian_right:

    Where do you live? The law is different in different countries.

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  • 5
    DMantisToboggan says:

    If you REALLY need to get ordained, the Universal Life Church ( will do online ordination without asking you to do really anything or to affirm any actual spiritual belief. I officiated a secular wedding in Virgina 4 years ago, and I was considering going this route, but I found out that I could actually legally perform the marriage without any ordination by filing paperwork to be a 1-time officiant. You might want to try and see if that is an option where you live. Either way, I hope that you are able to find a convenient solution, I had a great experience being an officiant and I actually think that my parents’ experience as guests at that wedding helped to ease their fears about me not wanting a church wedding myself.

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  • 7
    whiteraven says:

    If you go through the hoops to be the legal officiate, you’ll probably be responsible for making sure all the paperwork is in place and then submitting something after the ceremony. Wouldn’t life be simpler if they used whatever civil options are available (can’t imagine that any state doesn’t have provision for civil ceremonies) to get the legal part done with someone who is familiar with the procedure? Then you can do whatever you want for the “real” thing. More fun, freedom, less stress, just friends and family, no unconnected strangers … You can’t get any more secular than doing the part that really matters without getting permissions and credentials just to make the state happy.

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  • We are getting married this month in a civil ceremony at Oxford. We are both atheists and have carefully removed all potentially religious/mysogynistic elements from our ceremony. We chose Carl Sagan’s Pale blue dot and a Tamil poetry from Sangam literature as our choice for the reading.

    Apparently our registrar told my fiance to remove “Till Death Do Us Part” from her vows as the “church wouldn’t allow” us to have it in a civil ceremony. And we have chosen “The Three Passions” of Bertrand Russell as the opening words and our registrar has stricken off heaven and saints from the following,

    I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined.

    We are flabbergasted! So the church can dictate what we can and cant say in our own ceremony?

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  • I looked into this, and it varies by locality of course, and I am no lawyer. I was thinking of becoming ordained in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (there are certificates available for sale on the website) and then I guess you see how it can be done from there.

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  • For the experts in the UK law, is this true? Seems a bit odd that Scotland would recognize humanist ceremonies but not England!

    As humanist ceremonies are not legally recognised in England, in order for your wedding or civil partnership to be legally recognised you would need to have a civil ceremony. Many people choose to have a quiet civil ceremony in advance of their humanist ceremony which is the ceremony in which they make the promises and commitments they have chosen to make, in front of their family and friends.Humanist ceremonies are legally recognised in Scotland and in a number of other countries around the world.

    Source: Ros Curtis, Humanist Celebrant,

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  • 11
    Thonord says:

    Forget about the theist – atheist and secular crap.

    Priority 1. The issue is that the marriage is recognised by law!

    Do what ever you want, as long as pri1 is fullfilled, but make it THE MOST memorable day for the lucky couple.

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  • 12
    Thonord says:

    In reply to #11 by Thonord:

    Forget about the theist – atheist and secular crap.

    Priority 1. The issue is that the marriage is recognised by law!

    Do what ever you want, as long as pri1 is fullfilled, but make it THE MOST memorable day for the lucky couple.

    I’m sure you will find the answer at City Hall.

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  • 13
    steve_hopker says:

    So the church can dictate what we can and cant say in our own ceremony?

    • I am no legal expert but could this be that England has an established church with laws – canon laws – tied to parliament. I only suggest this as there seemed to be legal tangles for same sex marriage in England (and Wales?) that the proposed act has had to work around.
      Overall I am offended by how churches have claimed authority over marriage (although I write as a gay man ie with an axe to grind at the moment, the church has equally invaded opposite sex marriage). I gather (others may know more) but I think couples in England only start seeking priestly blessing towards the end of medievalism with increasing fears of evil spirits etc (perhaps triggered by plague amongst other turmoils) that needed warding off (wedding rings being blessed is or was a way of having a talisman blessed). So the church, keen to take more control over people’s lives, especially their private lives, took over conducting marriages and of course, until civil registrars, gave themselves a monopoly of the fees.

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  • 14
    MountainSufi says:

    Howdy from Jackson Hole!

    If you check out the Universal Life “Church”, you’ll find belief in god is not requisite and the cost of becoming credentialed to perform legal marriage is ZERO. My advice: Get their credentials and ignore the word “church”.

    I did this when friends with a dying dog wanted to become legally married. I quickly performed the ceremony quickly in front of the Teton mountains (it was 20 degrees below). After they tied the knot, I did a surprise addition where I made the mutt part of their pack. Forever! Everyone was crying, and at those temperatures, tears froze to faces.

    Afterwards, I hosted a reception of chips, dip, cheese and Pabst Blue Ribbons at our house.

    Hey, somebody had to do it!

    If this Wyoming wedding is in the Jackson Hole Valley, I’d love to be invited.

    Happy Trails!

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  • 16
    SteveR says:

    In the UK it’s easy, just hire a registrar from the local authority and book the wedding at one of the many designated wedding venues. Anyone can “be in charge of things” but for legal reasons only the registrar can conduct the actual marriage and the signing of the registry. I went to a fantastic wedding last year that took place in a barn!

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