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Who Can Officiate a Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony?

Published Thursday, Dec. 7th, 2023


A young bride places the wedding ring on the groom's hand during a non-religious secular wedding ceremony. The officiant is behind the groom and can't be seen clearly. Both the bride and groom are smiling, wearing a white dress and a dark suit, with earrings and young alternative styles.
Who officiates a civil or secular wedding ceremony? (Photo cropped: martinedoucet / iStock)

Who officiates a secular or non-religious wedding ceremony? You've got options!

 

 

Weddings performed in churches or temples are officiated by clergy belonging to specific faith denominations, but who officiates civil weddings for nonreligious, agnostic, or atheist couples? 

 

If you’re not religious and want to have a civil or secular marriage ceremony, you have several great options for officiants. Consider the three suggestions below to get started and choose the best officiant for you and your wedding. 

 


3 Types of Officiants for Non-religious Weddings & Elopements

 

 

1. Ask a friend or family member to officiate

 

Friends and relatives can get ordained online through American Marriage Ministries (AMM) for free to officiate your wedding as an AMM minister. They don’t have to hold any specific religious beliefs, or have any spiritual beliefs at all, to become ordained with AMM. (Atheists and agnostics are welcome!) 

 

All that’s required for ordination is belief in AMM’s three tenets, which are founded in marriage equality for all people: 

 

1. All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, have the right to marry.
2. It is the right of every couple to choose who will solemnize their marriage.
3. All people have the right to solemnize marriage.

 

 

Your loved one can perform any type of wedding ceremony you want – in almost any location, and including any wording, special readings, or unique traditions you want. They may need to register with the clerk’s office ahead of time, but this only applies in some states. After the ceremony is complete, they have the legal authority as a minister to sign your marriage license.  

 

 

 

After the wedding ceremony, the wedding officiant and newlyweds smile and mingle with friends and family members

Photo: Anchiy / iStock

Ask a close friend or relative to get ordained online to officiate your wedding exactly how and where you want it to be.

 

 

2. Get married by a judge or clerk at the courthouse

 

Many courthouses and county clerk’s offices offer marriage ceremony services. A courthouse wedding is usually officiated by a judge, county clerk, or city clerk, who is familiar with the legal requirements. 

 

During the ceremony, they’ll read from a simple script, ask if you wish to marry (the declaration of intent, or the familiar ‘I do’s of weddings), and pronounce you married. After the ceremony, they’ll sign your marriage license. 

 

Contact a location directly to find out if marriage services are offered there, and ask about civil ceremony fees. 

 


3. Hire a professional wedding officiant

 

You can also hire a professional wedding officiant to perform your ceremony. Professional wedding officiants often specialize in specific types of ceremonies, including secular and civil weddings. 

 

If you decide to go this route, interview a few potential officiants to determine how well they’ll fit your needs. Ask if they’re comfortable performing a non-religious wedding, and discuss any phrases or words you want to avoid during the ceremony (such as ‘holy matrimony’ or ‘sacred union, which have a religious connotation).

 

Related: Are there legal wording requirements in a wedding ceremony?

 

You can search for professional officiants online using Google Business Profiles (just type in “wedding officiant near me”) or on vendor websites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, The Officiant Directory. Wedding planning forums on FaceBook, Discord, and others can also be a good place to start; talk to other soon-to-be-weds and newlyweds for recommendations.  

 

Consider these resources to get started: 

 

 


 

You might also like: 

 


 

Browse Non-Religious Wedding Ceremony Scripts

 

 

An older man officiates a wedding on a beach, standing with the bride and groom. Everyone is laughing and wearing formal wedding attire, in the background is the ocean

Use one of our sample wedding ceremony scripts to get started planning the perfect wedding.

 


 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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