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Filling out a Marriage License: What religious denomination do I write down if I’m an atheist?

Published Tuesday, Apr. 20th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

You’ve just performed a fun and joyful wedding ceremony for two dear friends… such an honor and something you’ll remember forever! 


Now it’s time to fill out the marriage license and make things official… except… the license asks for your religious denomination, and, well, you don’t have one. 


You’re an atheist! 


So what denomination should you write down on the marriage license? 


This is actually no problem at all! Here’s what to do: 




In most cases, you’ll write in ‘Non-Denominational,’ unless the marriage was celebrated in accordance with a specific denominational rite. In those cases, you should specify that tradition. 


By filling the marriage license out in this way, it reflects the spirit of the couple’s ceremony. 


(There are a few other special cases where you may not want to or be able to write in non-denominational. You can find more information on these examples below.)


To clarify: 


If your friends’ ceremony was civil, secular, non-religious, atheist, humanist, or otherwise non-denominational: 


Write down ‘Non-Denominational.’




If your friends’ ceremony was celebrated within a specific spiritual tradition, such as Wiccan, Unitarian, Baptist, Satanic, or otherwise spiritually-inspired: 


Write that specific tradition’s name down instead. For example, ‘Wiccan,’ ‘Baptist,’ etc. 


If you’re worried that the county office will refuse to recognize the couple's non-mainstream faith, you might choose to write ‘Non-Denominational’ to ensure the license is filed without issue (see more below).



illustration of a blank marriage license with a close up of where to fill out the religious denomination of the wedding officiant, even if you are atheist or not religious, this illustrated license is from california

Not all marriage licenses will ask for the officiant's religious denomination, 

but if it does, it might look something like this.




In those unique cases where a couple chooses a specifically atheist wedding:


In the case of a specifically atheist wedding or atheist marriage ceremony -- one that focuses and talks about the couple’s atheism during the ceremony itself, rather than simply being non-religious or non-spiritual -- we recommend that you write down ‘Non-Denominational’ or ‘American Marriage Ministries’ (see our answer below).  


This will help ensure that the license is filed without issue. 




Some counties will not allow you to write ‘Non-Denominational’ on the marriage license. Or maybe you just don’t want to. 


If you’re in one of these counties, we recommend that you write ‘American Marriage Ministries’ as your denomination. 


As an ordained minister with American Marriage Ministries, this is an acceptable answer -- and we don’t require you to hold any specific religious or spiritual beliefs to belong to our community. 


We also understand that writing ‘non-denominational’ might feel uncomfortable (or even offensive) to some wedding officiants and some couples. For people with an abusive or unaccepting background with a certain faith, even ‘non-denominational’ might feel off-putting, or too closely related to religion. In these cases, write ‘American Marriage Ministries.’ Again, this is a totally acceptable answer! 



If you need more help completing the marriage license, read


How To Fill Out a Marriage License. 


We cover it all! 




P.S. Congratulations on being asked to officiate a wedding! It’s quite an honor, and a whole lot of fun.


You can get ordained online with AMM in minutes.


Then, visit our training pages and check out our wedding books if you need more tips on being an amazing officiant. 



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