Here are a few tips to consider if you plan on officiating an atheist wedding, ideas for what to say, and suggestions on what to avoid:
Know the law of the land
The anti-federalist spirit of America is alive and well in our nation’s marriage laws. Fifty states have produced fifty different standards, and sometimes they even differ on the county level. Before you agree to officiate a wedding, make certain that you fully understand your local laws. Call your local marriage licensing office to gain some insight and see what steps you need to take to help people get hitched.
In many states like Texas, Colorado, and Washington, all you need is your FCA minister title and your signature on the marriage license. However, more restrictive states require additional paperwork, including showing some sort of certificate, identification, or letter of good standing. States like Nevada require that you register with the state, and the application may take several weeks to process, so some due diligence is necessary for you atheist Elvis impersonators before your first Vegas wedding.
What the heck do I say?
In case you didn’t realize it when you decided to use your ordination, officiating a wedding requires public speaking. Hopefully, this is an activity that you are comfortable with already. (If not, you may want practice speaking in front of friends, family, and/or pets right away.) Preparing what to say during a wedding takes some careful planning, join the minister group Wedding Ceremony Ideas and check out the files section, Rev. Katherine Parks did a great job putting together a list of sources for ideas. Be sure to involve the bride and groom in this conversation. Ask them questions like, “How focused on atheism do you want the ceremony to be?”, “What ideas have you always wished for?” These open ended questions will give you more insight into what you need to incorporate into your presentation.
In the end, don’t stress out about the exact wording. Five years from now, few people will remember what you said during the ceremony, but rather how you said it and how you made them feel. Stand tall, use dramatic pauses, and make eye contact with as many people as possible. As the ceremony’s host, you hold the steering wheel of the crowd’s emotions. Make certain that you project the mood you want everyone to be in.
Represent the A-Team proudly
No pressure or anything, but you are a diplomat for the atheist community. We at the FCA know all of you atheist ministers are hip, fun, articulate people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misgivings and myths about atheists. It is important to remember that we are an underrepresented minority in most public settings.
You don’t need to wear an armband to adequately declare your atheism. This event is not about you; it’s about the love of two people. If you are approached by wedding attendees after the ceremony, a good rule of thumb is to keep your religious affiliation secondary. However, if people ask where you were ordained, there is no need to conceal your affiliation; feel free to name drop the FCA. This might spark a civil dialogue with a person who knew nothing about atheism before.
Hopefully, you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your upcoming wedding. Many of you were asked to consecrate this event for a specific reason – most likely a close relationship with the bride and/or groom. You are a part of a chosen few. Relish in this unique opportunity to help two people express their love, because it is a moment that you won’t soon forget.
How can I help the FCA?
Help support the FCA by heading to our online store now.
What better way to demonstrate your official title as an atheist minister than an ID card to carry in your wallet or a Certificate of Ordination to proudly hang on your wall? (In fact, if you buy both, you get a discount.) As a community, the more that we can do to show off our status as ministers, the better our chances of gaining more complete acceptance and attracting new members.
Encourage your friends and family to get ordained today!
Becoming ordained online is a free and simple way to join an emerging community of like-minded religious skeptics. As more people become comfortable in expressing their atheism, the FCA continues to offer a virtual sanctuary for this growing community of non-believers. It’s important to send a simple message: You are not alone in your skepticism.
For all of those who have already supported the First Church of Atheism, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. We wouldn’t be where we are without you. We encourage you to keep up the good work that you do. You are proof that science and reason can make our world a better place.