In our desire to DIY anything and everything we can, we’re also DIY’ing the ceremony. We’re marrying ourselves.
I don’t mean that I am marrying me and Mr. Wizard is marrying Mr. Wizard (how weird would that be?)—I mean that we are saying vows and pronouncing ourselves married without an officiant to do so. This is something called a self-uniting wedding, and is only available in Pennsylvania, as it originates from the Pennsylvania Quaker tradition. It is just as legal as a “regular” wedding with an officiant, except that it requires a different marriage license. With a traditional license, the bride, groom, and two witnesses sign, and then to make it legal an ordained officiant signs. With a self-uniting license, all that is needed is the signatures of the bride, groom, and two witnesses—no officiant necessary!
In Pennsylvania there are three options for who you can have legally marry you: a judge/justice of the peace, a city or borough mayor, or a minister/priest/leader of any established religious congregation. As atheists, we knew we didn’t want a religious figure to marry us, so that was out. Having the mayor marry us just seemed…weird. And we didn’t really like the idea of a stranger coming and telling us we’re married just because they said so. One of our goals for the wedding, besides all the stylistic/visual stuff, is for everything, especially the ceremony, to be as personal as possible, and none of those three options fit that bill.
Then I found out about self-uniting, found out that you don’t have to be a Quaker to have this kind of wedding (thanks to a local ACLU case), and immediately showed it to Mr. Wizard. He loved the idea, too, and so it was decided: we would have a self-uniting wedding. We love that we get to “marry ourselves,” and we won’t have any strangers present at our ceremony or telling us we’re married.
The other great thing about this is that we have a completely blank ceremony slate. There is no standard self-uniting ceremony, so we can literally do anything we want to. The only legal requirement for this is that you say the words “I take you as my husband/wife” to each other—our ceremony could literally be us saying that sentence to each other and nothing else if we wanted to. Obviously we will flesh it out a little bit more than that, but having such simple legal requirements makes it easy for us to completely customize our ceremony to fit us best.
Pennsylvania brides, are you doing a self-uniting ceremony? Has anyone ever been to one?