Methods to Officiate Your Ceremony and Save Cash

For higher or worse, whenever you get married in america, the authorized system is basically constructed for many who follow a selected sort of Christian religion. That usually means a clergy member will be a part of the couple within the eyes of the legislation.

However American participation in organized faith has been trending downward for the reason that Nineteen Seventies. Millennials have parted methods with spiritual custom within the best numbers, and Gen Z is being raised by a era who’s markedly much less spiritual than its mother and father.

It will probably really feel bizarre to pay an officiant from a faith you don’t comply with to supervise one of the vital essential commitments of your life. In lots of states, the one different choice is a choose or justice of the peace, which once more forces the couple to ask an outsider to this intimate life milestone.

In a handful of states, you may get across the outsider officiant quandary by way of a course of referred to as self-uniting marriage or self-solemnization. This answer doesn’t simply prevent awkwardness. It will probably additionally prevent chilly, laborious money by eliminating the marriage day officiant payment.

What’s Self-Uniting Marriage?

Sarcastically, the best way to get married with out an officiant was paved by spiritual custom. Self-uniting marriage is a Quaker custom stemming from a perception that each individual has equal entry to God. As a result of there isn’t a want for clergy mediation, you received’t discover an officiant at a Quaker wedding ceremony ceremony. Relatively than having a clergy member marry the couple, the couple itself officiates the ceremony.

Spiritual freedom is a crucial a part of American ethos. This made it notably essential in states with traditionally giant Quaker populations – like Pennsylvania – that Quaker ceremonies be accepted throughout the legislation.

The Baha’i religion additionally practices self-uniting marriages, and is usually explicitly talked about in state legal guidelines surrounding self-solemnizing marriage.

I’m Not a Quaker. Can I Self-Unite?

Chances are you’ll be questioning how all that is useful to you. You most likely aren’t Quaker your self. Chances are you’ll or could not consider in God in any respect. Are you able to even legally conduct a self-uniting marriage for those who’re not Quaker?

The reply is, “Sure.” At the least in some states.

It wasn’t at all times so clear, although. In 2007, a pair who didn’t follow the Baha’i or Quaker religions utilized for a self-uniting marriage in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. They have been requested about their faith, and so they instructed the reality. Due to their reply, they have been denied a wedding license.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped in, arguing the couple’s First Modification rights had been violated. They’d been requested about their faith, and due to their reply have been denied a authorities service, which was deemed spiritual discrimination.

A U.S. district choose dominated that the ACLU was proper. Since then, the group has enabled {couples} in different counties throughout the state of Pennsylvania to get married by way of self-solemnization. Though you would possibly come throughout a county clerk who doesn’t initially need to comply, legally you don’t have to be Quaker or Baha’i to be issued a self-uniting marriage license in Pennsylvania.

This similar logic has been adopted by most states that enable self-uniting marriage.

Which States Enable Self-Uniting Marriages?

There are solely a handful of states which have self-solemnization written into their legal guidelines. And every state manages the follow barely in a different way.

Maine and Nevada enable self-uniting marriages, however just for particular religion teams. In Maine, you have to be a member of the Quaker or Baha’i faiths. In Nevada, the one allowances to the standard officiant route are for Quakers and American Indians.

Nonetheless, in all different states that enable self-uniting marriages, there’s extra leeway.


Self-uniting marriage typically goes by the time period “non-clergy wedding ceremony” within the state of California. In 2016, with some prompting from advocacy group People United, San Francisco County allowed the primary official atheist, non-clergy marriage in California.

Not all county clerks will probably be accustomed to the method of acquiring a non-clergy marriage license outdoors of the context of the Quaker religion. However there’s a precedent you may name on when making your case, and it’s best to be capable to have a non-clergy wedding ceremony no matter your religion.


In Colorado, anybody can hunt down a self-solemnizing marriage license. Colorado can be one of many solely locations the place {couples} usually are not required to have witnesses. It will probably actually be simply you and your associate.

District of Columbia

Washington, D.C.’s legal guidelines round self-uniting marriage are much like Colorado’s. Anybody can self-solemnize with out an officiant, and no witnesses are required.


Illinois state legislation permits self-uniting marriage, and it doesn’t specify which faith you will need to observe to participate within the follow.


In Kansas, you may have a self-uniting marriage so long as such a wedding ceremony ceremony is congruent together with your spiritual religion and traditions. Nonetheless, Kansas legislation doesn’t specify which faith you will need to affiliate with, making it attainable to get a self-uniting marriage even in case you are not Quaker or Baha’i.


In Pennsylvania, you do not want an officiant to get married no matter your faith. If the county clerk balks, which is extra widespread in rural counties, you may both level to precedent or strive one other clerk in a close-by county.


Wisconsin permits self-uniting marriages and doesn’t restrict the follow to these of the Quaker or Baha’i religion. Technically, self-uniting marriage have to be part of yours or your soon-to-be partner’s spiritual practices, however you shouldn’t be denied a wedding license merely since you’re not Quaker or Baha’i. Actually, the clerk’s workplace shouldn’t ask you to show your religion per state pointers.

What’s the Software Course of?

The appliance course of for a self-uniting marriage license needs to be the identical or much like the method required by anybody in search of a “conventional” marriage license. Earlier than the pandemic, that meant scheduling an in-person appointment with the county clerk’s workplace and answering just a few questions.

Throughout the pandemic, many counties throughout the nation are permitting this assembly to occur on-line through Zoom or one other teleconferencing platform. Usually talking, you will have to indicate your ID on digital camera to show your identification, and from there you may ask and reply any questions.

“We all know these are life occasions and we needed to verify our workplace didn’t meet a beat,” says Paul López, the clerk and recorder for the town and county of Denver. Denver County began providing on-line marriage license utility appointments early within the COVID-19 disaster.

“We prioritized it, and on the finish of the day, love prevailed. Even through the pandemic.”

The provision of on-line marriage utility appointments varies from county to county, even throughout the similar state. In most counties that also enable for or require you to return in individual to use for a wedding license, you will have to schedule an appointment relatively than displaying up unannounced.

A couple tie the knot with hot air balloons all around them.
Getty Photos

Is Self-Solemnization Extra Costly?

No, self-solemnizing is sort of at all times inexpensive than having a standard wedding ceremony with an officiant current. It is because you received’t must pay any charges or really feel obligated to “present” cash to a third-party.

Nonetheless, some counties will cost a barely greater payment whenever you apply for a self-uniting marriage license. For instance, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, you received’t pay any further charges to your marriage license simply since you’ll be married through self-solemnization. However on the opposite aspect of the state in Philadelphia County, you’ll incur an extra $10 payment.

This payment is nominal. Once you account for the cash you’re saving on officiant charges, you continue to come out on prime.

Can Self-Uniting Wedding ceremony Be Distant?

Typically! It will depend on the place you reside. It’s good to test prematurely and you might discover that there have been adjustments in insurance policies, or not less than speak of adjustments, due to the pandemic, which has paved the best way for a lot of official distant actions.

States with Distant Self-Solemnization

Denver is a superb place to have a distant wedding ceremony, from acquiring your marriage license to saying your vows. Colorado requires no witnesses at your wedding ceremony ceremony, permitting you to Zoom company in with no need their signatures or bodily presence.

The District of Columbia’s legislation equally requires no witnesses, permitting you to have a totally distant wedding ceremony.

California is exclusive in that it nonetheless requires two witnesses be current at your wedding ceremony ceremony per state legislation. But it surely explicitly permits your witnesses to attend the marriage through on-line teleconferencing.

States The place You May Should Self-Solemnize in Particular person

In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the foundations are extra blurry. Previous to the pandemic, two witnesses have been required to attend the ceremony in individual. Throughout the pandemic, neither state needed to decide to requiring this bodily presence and suggested {couples} to get authorized session if that they had any issues.

Additionally, you will need to ensure to hunt particular authorized counsel in case you are getting married in Kansas or Illinois.

Odds are, the validity of your wedding ceremony received’t be challenged except you determine to get divorced later. At that time, although, in case your marriage is decided to not be legally binding, so a divorce could be pointless. The courts could decide that you just have been by no means married within the first place, which might have vital monetary and authorized ramifications.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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