Margaret Downey and Secular Celebrations

What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other.”  -- George Eliot

In every life, there are certain occasions that call for ceremonies -- weddings, the arrival of a child, the onset of adulthood, marriage, separation and finally, death.  Recognition of these milestones mark one's passage through life and gives community and family the opportunity to come together. 

As our society grows increasingly secular, so grows the need for personal celebrations that accurately reflect the beliefs of the individual.

Margaret Downey is a recognized Secular Humanist Officiant. After attending Humanist leadership classes at The Humanist Institute and training sessions through the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), Council Chairman Paul Kurtz certified her to conduct marriages and other secular ceremonies.

The current rate schedule for weddings is as follows:

Letters of Thanks

The Wedding of

Nathan And Michelle

Nathan and Michelle's Wedding

Dear Margaret:

Thanks again, for performing our wedding ceremony. It was everything we wanted, and your delivery was excellent. Your website was very helpful and inspired us to have a non-religious ceremony, which all our family and friends thought was great. We are very happy we could work with you to create a special personalized ceremony.

Nathan and Michelle

Lisa and Dan

The Wedding of

Lisa And Dan


Thank you for helping us create such a unique and wonderful wedding ceremony. We truly believe our wedding day was all that we could have hoped for and was a reflection of who we are and what we wanted.

We appreciate the time and suggestions you offered along the way to make the day calm and relaxing-- knowing that the details were taken care of. We look forward to sharing the photos with you when they are received.


Lisa and Dan

The Wedding of

Joi and Dave

Joy And Dave

Thank you so very much for helping us fulfill our dream wedding. It means very much to both of us to have someone with similar beliefs partake in our ceremony.

We thank you for helping us with everything from the marriage license to the ceremony. We wish there were more genuine people like you out there. You will forever be party of our marriage memory.


Joi Manbeck-Leichter and Dave Leichter

The Wedding of Sonja and Ladislav

Dear Margaret,


Ladislav and I would like to express our gratitude to you for performing our wedding ceremony so eloquently. We also appreciate all your preparatory work; meeting us at the courthouse for the marriage license; helping to create our ceremony yet giving us the freedom to make it unique; and for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet us on rehearsal night to eliminate any last minute questions.


Because of your communication with us prior to and throughout the wedding ceremony, we were confident that our special day would flow smoothly and without flaws. Your words of wisdom were a big part of that day being a success. We will read it over and over again, but we will also live by it.


Thank you, Margaret for conducting the most important moment in our life. We will always remember that day and smile.


With love,


Ladislav and Sonja Kotoulek

 Roberto, Lindi, and Margaret The Wedding of Lindi and Roberto

Dear Margaret,  

Roberto and I would like to thank you for the wonderful job you did conducting our wedding ceremony. The most significant part of our wedding planning was deciding what we want to express to each other and to our families and friends during the ceremony. We wanted the freedom to be creative and not be restricted to any preconceived format or obligatory sayings. However, it was difficult to start from scratch. We therefore greatly appreciated your guidance in bringing our ideas together and making the ceremony flow nicely. The calmness and sureness of your manner also put us at east during the ceremony.

In addition to helping us create and then conducting the ceremony, you were an indispensable help with all the legalities surrounding a marriage, especially since we were planning our wedding all the way from Switzerland . We were very grateful that you met us at the courthouse to fill out papers and that you took care of all the paperwork after the wedding, while we were lying on the beach.

Thank you again, Margaret, for the interest you took in us and in making our wedding day special and unique.


Lindi and Roberto Dotta-Trinsey

Wanda And Jonathan

 The Wedding of Wanda and Jonathan

Dear Margaret,

Jonathan and I were so pleased with the Humanist wedding ceremony you wrote with us and performed. The ceremony was a beautiful expression of humanist values while it was also individualized for our own relationship. We appreciated our inclusion on the writing process as it gave us an opportunity to open a dialog of our individual thoughts on marriage. It was a joy to work with someone who shared our enthusiasm for developing new humanist rituals, such as tossing rose petals over the balcony, representing embracing the world from the foundation of our marriage. Your poised, warm delivery invoked a very moving experience for both of us.

We appreciated your understanding of the challenge of marriage by extending yourself to us, not only as a Celebrant, but as a friend to call upon during difficult times. As a woman and as someone who has an appreciation for aesthetics, you added so many little extra touches to both the ceremony and the reception (the white ribbons for the candle lighters, the chime to start the ceremony, the scrolls of the Ingersoll poem with the little bells attached). I think our favorite was the personalized wedding sign you held up for the guests to pick up their boarding passes for the cruise! It was such a creative way to make the guests feel welcome from the beginning.

You were a real natural for the role of Wedding Coordinator, too. Your vivacious personality kept the cruise events going all evening and enabled us to completely relax and enjoy our guests. The spontaneous toasts were heart-warming and created such an atmosphere of intimacy. Several guests later remarked on how fun and intimate the reception was. My brother said it was the most original reception he had ever attended. Thanks for being partners with us as we dared to be different and created a day of memories we will always treasure.

Your Newlywed Friends,

Wanda and Jonathan Alexander

Maureen and Matt

The Wedding of
Maureen and Matt

Dear Margaret,

I apologize for the extended length of time it has taken us to put in writing to you our sincere appreciation and thanks for helping to make our wedding day such a special, special day for us. 

Your guidance and assistance was a huge part of making that day so memorable for us; in fact, without you the day would not have been what it was. Our ceremony was spiritual, loving, unique and wholly something magical for us both. Your help in writing our vows and your guidance in planning the ceremony itself was invaluable.  You helped us to turn our vision for a perfect ceremony into reality. Needless to say, we are thankful for your enthusiasm and support in performing a dawn ceremony!  

We also value the friendship that began with the time we spent with you.  You are a just such a wonderful and accomplished human being.  We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know you a little, and look forward to getting to know you better.

We admire you for standing up for what you believe in, though it may be unpopular and not politically correct.  Your sense of humor and steadfastness in your beliefs in the face of ignorance and intolerance is remarkable.  Please know you have our support!  

So, again, we thank you for helping to make our wedding the perfect expression of our personalities and our passions, and of our love for one another.

With love,

Maureen McMenamin and Matt Godo

Deepak and Kelly

The Wedding of
Deepak and Kelly

Indian Wedding

Dear Margaret,

Kelly and I, and our families deeply appreciate the wonderful job you did at our Secular Humanist Ceremony.  Our aim was to combine some traditional aspects of ancient Indian wedding rituals with rational humanist values and the manner in which you undertook this enterprise helped make the entire event a great success - we have had uniformly rave reviews from our friends and families.   

Your personable and professional manner, and your ready adaptation to non-Western customs especially helped conduct the event smoothly.  Thanks in large part to you - we believe our wedding ceremony was a truly memorable event for both of us and to all who attended.   

We hope you will continue the great work you've been doing in fostering humanistic ideals in this far too irrational world. 

With warmest wishes, 

Deepak & Kelly


Secular Student Alliance Advisors, Allies, and Employee Participate in Secular Baby Naming Ceremony

Secular Student Alliance Advisors, Allies, and Employee Participate in Secular Baby Naming Ceremony

At the recent Crystal Clear Atheism conference, Secular Student Alliance Advisory Board member Margaret Downey performed a secular baby naming ceremony.  The ceremony was for the twin daughters of Secular Student Alliance Advisory Board member Shannon Cherry and Institute for Humanist Studies Executive Director Matt Cherry.  Matt wrote a piece about the ceremony that was published in the Washington Post.

Secular Student Alliance Advisory Board member Richard Dawkins also participated in the ceremony along with IHS President Larry Jones, IHS Legislative Liaison Jennifer Lange, Camp Quest Director Amanda Metskas, IHS Board Member Bobbie Krikhart, Camp Quest Co-founders Edwin and Helen Kagin, and Secular Student Alliance Executive Director August E. Brunsman IV. Shannon's mother also participated in the ceremony--to the best of our knowledge, she is not officially affiliated with any freethought organizations.


Atheist baby naming ceremony

More information about this atheist baby naming ceremony is here.

Washington Post and Secular Celebrations

From the Washington Post:

To help nonbelievers maintain tradition while preserving integrity, Margaret Downey, president of Atheist Alliance International, set up, a web site outlining nonreligious ceremonies that mark birth, marriage, and death.

Downey, who presides over the ceremonies for a fee as a certified secular humanist officiant, recently organized an atheists convention in Crystal City that drew more than 500 people. It featured a naming ceremony for young children as an alternative to baptism.

Such ceremonies include remarks on the significance of the child's name as well as vows taken by parents and "guideparents" to teach and nurture the child. In the text of a sample ceremony on Downey's site, parents vow to help their child "learn to love truth, even when it goes against" them.

"Celebrations and holidays and traditions serve dual purposes," Downey said. "Instead of godparent, [we say] guideparents or mentors, and that way we could participate honestly but under the terms of a secular participation. Now, that might not satisfy the religious component, but it certainly would offer a branch of unity when philosophical differences would tear people apart.''

"We are social animals," she said. "We need these occasions to bring family and friends together into our lives."