Indiana Marriage Law and Secular Celebrants FAQ

Indiana Marriage Law and Secular Celebrants FAQ

What makes a marriage legal in Indiana?
To effectuate a legal marriage in Indiana requires “solemnization” by certain authorized persons (in addition to other requirements involving consent, obtaining a license, age, etc.)

Who is authorized to solemnize marriages in Indiana?
Marriages can only be solemnized in Indiana by certain elected and appointed government officials, and ministers of the gospel or other religious practitioners.

Does Indiana law authorize Secular Celebrants or representatives of secular organizations such as Center for Inquiry to solemnize marriages?
No. Only certain elected and appointed government officials, ministers of the gospel, clergy, and religious practitioners are authorized to solemnize marriages in Indiana.

Are there people who call themselves Secular Celebrants who can legally solemnize marriages in Indiana?
Some non-religious people who identify as Secular Celebrants choose to become ministers, rabbis, or religious practitioners of religious organizations such as the Humanist Society (Quaker), Society for Humanistic Judaism (Jewish), or the Universal Life Church (Non-denominational) in order to qualify as a “minister of the gospel, clergy, or religious practitioner” under Indiana law. These Secular Celebrants will perform a marriage ceremony that has no religious content but can only do so in their capacity as clergy for a religious organization.
Why does CFI have a Secular Celebrants Training Program if its representatives can’t solemnize marriages in Indiana and most other states?
By having a secular celebrant training program CFI is laying the groundwork for a legal challenge to state marriage laws that unconstitutionally show preference to religious organizations.

What kind of organization is CFI?
CFI is a 501c3 non-profit educational corporation. Churches and religious organizations such as the Humanist Society, Society for Humanistic Judaism, and Universal Life Church are 501c3 ecclesiastical corporations.

Can people who are certified through the CFI Secular Celebrant Training Program affiliate with a religious organization in order to solemnize marriages?
No. CFI is not a religious organization, so the management of CFI does not allow anyone acting as a CFI Secular Celebrant to solemnize a marriage under any religious designation or pretense, or using the certification of any religious organization. This includes but is not limited to The Humanist Society, The Ethical Union, the Society for Humanistic Judaism, traditional religions, and so called “mail order” ordinations such as the Universal Life Church. Accordingly, people who conduct marriage ceremonies as CFI Secular Celebrants cannot solemnize a marriage in Indiana. Couples will need to find an individual licensed by the state to legally sign the marriage license.

What are the options for having a marriage ceremony that has no religious content?

Arrange to be married by a federal, district, municipal, or probate court judge or magistrate, city mayor, county clerk, minister of the gospel, clergy, or religious practitioner who will agree to perform a ceremony devoid of religious content. Be aware that there is no requirement for anyone in those positions to perform your wedding or to perform a non-religious wedding. However, many ministers of Unitarian churches, liberal Christian churches, or people who become ordained as a Universal Life Church minister will agree to perform weddings that have no religious content.  CFI Secular Celebrants can perform the ceremony for the couple but they must have a person who is legally authorized to sign the marriage certificate.  Many have a civil authority take care of this at the time they obtain their marriage license and then have a CFI Secular Celebrant perform their ceremony.

Where can I learn more about the CFI Secular Celebrant Training Program?

Visit the main Center for Inquiry hub to find a Secular Celebrant near you and get more info on our training program.