Michigan Marriage Law and Secular Celebrants FAQ

What makes a marriage legal in Michigan?
To effectuate a legal marriage in Michigan requires “solemnization” by certain authorized persons (in addition to other requirements involving consent, obtaining a license, age, etc.) (Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 551, Section 551.2)

Who is authorized to solemnize marriages in Michigan?
Marriages can only be solemnized in Michigan by certain elected and appointed government officials, and ministers of the gospel or other religious practitioners. (Michigan Compiled Laws, Chapter 551, Section 551.7)

Does Michigan 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 Michigan.

Are there people who call themselves Secular Celebrants who can legally solemnize marriages in Michigan?
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 Michigan 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 Michigan 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 Michigan. 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–Michigan has a (limited) list of Secular Celebrants and individuals who will perform secular/non-religious/interfaith ceremonies. Email michigan@centerforinquiry.net for information on Secular Celebrants located in Michigan.

Where can I learn more about the CFI Secular Celebrant Training Program?
Visit http://www.centerforinquiry.net/education/secular_celebrants/