A DIY Ceremony

In our desire to DIY anything and everything we can, we’re also DIY’ing the ceremony. We’re marrying ourselves.

Wait, what?

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?


Mrs. Wizard

Wedding Date:
June 2012
Gonna' Be All Jersey Shore
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  1. Member
    Teirk 50 posts, Worker bee @ 5:23 am

    We’re Pittsburghers as well (though getting married in Central PA) and we’re less than three months out and still stuck on the officiant question. We’ve considered the self-uniting option, but we still want someone to guide the ceremony, even though we’ll be writing it ourselves. The plus side is it can be anyone — doesn’t have to be legally binding like a traditional ceremony. The down side is we can’t think of anyone we’d be comfortable having do it! We finally thought of someone who would be perfect but they won’t be in the country on the day. Starting to really stress it!!!

    Keep us updated on how you choose to craft your ceremony, I’m sure it will be perfect!

  2. mswizard Bee
    mswizard 554 posts, Busy bee @ 5:40 am

    @Roe: We have definitely done our research, no worries! The county we’re getting married in allows self-uniting licenses, and due to the local ACLU case in which the state tried to prevent a non-Quaker couple from getting that license (which the couple/ACLU won), it’s definitely legal without question for anyone of any walk of faith.

    @village_skeptic: Hahaha I could have written that entire comment myself. Our family have been badgering us endlessly about whether or not it’s a “real” wedding. We put a page on our wedding website about it, but no one seems to acknowledge our website’s existence, even though we put it in big letters right on our STDs… /:

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Christina, Guest @ 11:53 am

    I’m from PA also. We had a Catholic ceremony, but friends of ours had a self-uniting wedding. It was very them – they had written what they wanted to say to eachother and had the MOH hand them the papers at the appropriate time. The MOH also served as master of ceremonies, so to speak, and led them through everything. From what I understand you can pretty much do everything however you’d like, as long as certain things are said, and the correct signatures (bride/groom/witnesses) are there.

    For our wedding, only the priest signed the certificate. I think DH and I signed when we applied for the license, but on the day of, only the priest’s signature was required. No witnesses. In fact, the MOH/BM names weren’t even recorded anywhere on the legal docs, their names only appear on the church certificate!

  4. Member
    Roe 2706 posts, Sugar bee @ 2:00 pm

    @Miss Wizard:
    Phew! I knew a couple that tried it in Allegheny in like…07? and was turned away. Glad to hear that the state is getting on board and you know, ending the discrimination thing….

    We’re having a friend of the family officiate who is a judge, so phew!

  5. mswizard Bee
    mswizard 554 posts, Busy bee @ 7:41 pm

    @Christina: I think maybe I’m thinking of the church certificate then, that the BM/MOH signs as well as the priest and the couple. I know I’ve seen my parents’ and grandparents’ and aunts’ and uncles’ and I always just assumed they were the licenses, but now thinking about it, they definitely weren’t and they were probably their church certificates. Should have thought about that more before I put it in a post! Now I know 🙂

  6. Member
    nycsa 2726 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:53 am

    I am going to have to find out if I am in a PA county that won’t hassle us. I will keep you guys posted

  7. Member
    nycsa 2726 posts, Sugar bee @ 10:55 am

    Ok, I just checked the laws for Berks County, PA:

    Self-Uniting Marriage License:
    Yes. If you want this type of license, you need to inform the clerk before you begin the application process.

    Berks County includes both my planned and back up wedding sites.

  8. Member
    Crafty 36 posts, Newbee @ 5:57 pm

    Wisconsin lists this as an option, but I don’t know how it would work for the license (as you usually have to list the officiant). I didn’t look into it further as we’re being married by a minister, but it *is* a pretty great (and interesting!) option.

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    Dan, Guest @ 10:32 pm

    Our daughter is self uniting this week, and I am honored to be the officiant. It is very cool to be so involved…can’t wait

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    Chelsey, Guest @ 8:31 pm

    Thank you so much for this post!!! I live in Pittsburgh and have had 3 different friends who legally got married on a different day than their wedding day because they didn’t have an minister, etc. marry them. I guess they didn’t know about this option. My boyfriend and I have always planned on a mutual friend marrying us, but after our friends experiences, we thought it wouldn’t be possible and we have been really sad about it! It is so AMAZING to hear that this IS still an option!! And how lucky for us that we live in PA?!? Thanks again so much!

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