Definition of "Secular ou Non-denominational Ceremony"
The secular ceremony is a symbolic, free and personalized celebration of the union between two people who love each other and have chosen to share their lives, without religious or administrative connotations. It is the modern expression of marriage, the one of the XXI° century, which concretizes this commitment in front of the guests. It has no legal value and, for this reason, it takes place in addition to the civil ceremony.
This notion particularly concerns marriage, but it can be applied to any other type of ceremony: funerals, baptism, renewal of marriage vows, passage of a life stage, etc.
After more than a decade of existence in France, at least in this format, it is becoming very popular because, thus devoid of any rules or traditions, it is 100% customizable: proceedings, texts, music, speakers, rituals, symbols, location, etc.
This does not mean that there are no emotions, on the contrary: families who have attended such a celebration become the most fervent defenders of this concept.
Note that there are also names like “commitment ceremony”, “symbolic ceremony”, “American-style ceremony” or “outdoor ceremony”. Want to know the differences between these terms (secular, atheist, agnostic, etc.): read this article!
You will find on this site the professional officiants and all the information to prepare and organize the most beautiful secular ceremony in the world, yours!
What are the characteristics of a secular ceremony?
The secular ceremony is:
- Unofficial wedding ceremony (For more information on unofficial, click here)
- Organization usually held outdoors
- Definition of the unfolding totally customizable: the rituals are adapted to the beliefs and convictions of the couple, ecumenism possible, etc.
- Schedule developed by the bride and groom themselves (sometimes accompanied by a professional as part of a coaching)
- Freedom to choose the officiant, or celebrant (friend, family, professional)
- Freedom to choose an original, exceptional, unusual or magical venue!
- 100% personalized decoration
- Free choice of readings and music!
- Available for any life event: wedding, baptism, funeral ceremony (under conditions)
Why organize a secular ceremony?
Only the civil marriage held in a town hall, and celebrated by a civil registrar, is officially recognized in France.
For couples who are not satisfied with this single ceremony, it is possible to celebrate a complementary ceremony, more personalized and in line with the couple’s traditions, beliefs or convictions: religious marriage remains a frequently chosen solution. However, some couples make this choice by tradition more than by conviction, and do not feel the need to get married religiously, and this, for very diverse reasons:
- The religions are different;
- One member of the couple has already been religiously married;
- The couple already has a child;
- The couple is not practicing;
- The couple is not religious;
- The members of the couple are of the same sex;
The secular ceremony is an increasingly popular alternative.
This type of ceremony has nothing official: the principle consists of a ceremony for which the bride and groom will have defined the content, so as to present their commitment in front of their loved ones, preferably in an idyllic setting! For more information on the legality of secular ceremonies, read this article…
The secular ceremony also makes it possible to combine substance and form. Because, in practice, it is about keeping the traditions, while dusting them off, and adding the touch of the bride and groom!”
Do you have questions about the lay officiant profession? Who are they, what do they do, how much do they cost? What training is required, who can become an officiant, etc.?
Read this article illustrated with a summary infographic, and you’ll learn more about this very special profession!
To get the full details of the study, read the book :
“Secular Ceremony Officer,
a new profession by the numbers“
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If you want to become a professional officiant, find out what training exists!
Many questions arise for brides and grooms who are interested in a secular ceremony, here are some of the answers.
But before we get to the questions, here’s a general book that’s for sale on Amazon that will help you imagine, prepare, plan and organize those magical moments. It answers all your questions in more detail!
Central element of the ceremony, the officiant conditions the success of your process. We can’t advise you enough to choose a professional officiant who will know how to find the right words, rhythm, texts or music to make this an exceptional event! You can entrust this task to someone close to you, but make sure that he or she is involved, motivated and able to assume this role (beware of the polite “yes”).
The difference is important! The wedding planner helps the bride and groom to prepare and organize the entire wedding, including the ceremony from a logistical point of view. The officiant is only present at the time of the ceremony, he represents the “legitimate authority” and animates its progress. The wedding planner acts in the background and ensures the smooth running of the ceremony, the synchronization of the music, the distribution of the petals, the arrival of the wedding rings, the release of the doves, etc. The wedding planner and the officiant complement each other perfectly! Some wedding planners take on the role of the officiant, but this mixing of roles is not recommended: as mentioned, the officiant intuitively assumes a certain position of authority, even if it is only symbolic. If the officiant starts running around to manage the “day-to-day issues” of the wedding, his image and the credibility of your approach in the eyes of the guests may be altered…
It is recommended that you plan for between 20 and 40 minutes. Anything less and you may be frustrated, and beyond that, depending on the pace you set, you and your guests may find the time long.
The choice is vast, the main thing is to obtain all the useful and necessary authorizations! To help you, you can check out this article
It’s even advisable to reserve this moment for the town hall: this “key moment” will give your ceremony its full meaning. Some brides and grooms prefer the “grand pomp” for the secular celebration rather than the civil wedding!
You have complete freedom to choose the texts that are representative of your approach.
As for the texts, you have the free choice of your music, it is all the interest of these ceremonies: “do as you feel it”! We can’t insist enough on one point: entrust the sound system to a professional! A bad connection or a sound system of random quality are all too common: a technical problem may spoil the meticulousness of your preparations or the emotion of the moment… We also suggest using a live band rather than broadcasting recorded music!
You can either do it yourself or it can be the officiant! It can also be a third person who has writing skills…
Here again, it all depends on your environment and your loved ones, on the reaction they are likely to have: would the surprise be appreciated? Can the preparations be a source of conflict?
The presence of “rituals” is not mandatory. They can bring a solemnity, but also a certain mysticism. Only the exchange of the wedding rings can be appropriate! The other rituals (mixing sand, exchange of roses, etc.), if they are badly carried out, give this “fake” side that we try to avoid…