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Ceremony and Vow Ideas

Self-Uniting Marriage vs. Hired Officiant

So I'm in a little bit of a dilemma....

Both my fiance and I were raised Catholic (me more than him) but we made the decision to get married at a farm just outside of where we live.  The ceremony will be outdoors, and so we are unable to have a Catholic priest do it because it's not in a Church.  This rocked the boat a bit in my family, but everyone is happy and on board with it now. 

So now we're trying to find someone to marry us.  My fiance feels VERY strongly about having a family friend do it, which I am also fine with, and would prefer that to hiring someone that doesn't know us or our relationship.  The problem is in Pennsylvania, our officiant has to be either an ordained member of a church or congregation, or a city official like a judge or magistrate, neither of which our friend is. 

We looked into the idea of a self-uniting marriage, so that we would technically be marrying ourselves, but we would still have our friend officiate for "looks" I guess, and none of our guest would really know the difference.  I'm a little skeptical of this self-uniting marriage and have gotten the impression that it's not necessarily prohibited, but it is not really advised (In fact, I had a lovely little conversation with a county official who told me it was "unnatural" and "against God's will" and "God wouldn't let me into heaven."  She was nice.) 

Basically, I am looking for some advice on what the best approach to this would be.  Has anyone done a self-uniting marriage and had problems with the legality of it/people not being on board with it?   Should we do a self-uniting marriage with our friend officiating?  Or should we do a "ceremony" on our actual wedding day that would not be legal, but then have a quiet ceremony in our Church the weekend before or after?  Any help would be appreciated!! My family feels one way, my fiance feels another, and I just wanna keep the peace and get married!

Re: Self-Uniting Marriage vs. Hired Officiant

  • We had a self-uniting marriage in Pennsylvania. My husband is Quaker, so we did a traditional Quaker wedding. But originally, we had planned what you're thinking: a friend leading the wedding, and signing a self-uniting license.

    Self-uniting marriages are legal in Pennsylvania, in any county. You can get a self-uniting license in any county, and you don't have to prove you're Quaker or Bahai, though you may face less opposition in Philadelphia County or Chester County, where they're more common. 

    I did a lot of research (my non-Quaker family also had concerns about the legality), and self-uniting marriages have been upheld by the courts (LINK). Maybe do some more research and show your family that it will be legal.
  • H & I are both from Catholic families but we are atheists. We struggled for a very long time about who to marry us, as we did not want a religious official of any kind, and we had no relationship with a civil official. We chose to self-unite and it was the best decision we made in regards to the wedding. My In-Laws struggled with it for awhile and refused to believe it was real. But eventually we showed them evidence that the practice dates to pre-Revolutionary wars times, this isn't a 'new-fangled' thing.

    We had our BM & MOH read the opening greeting, and we had two additional readings done by friends. Other than that, we didn't have an 'MC" but it's totally fine to ask someone to lead the ceremony. The two of you just have to declare yourselves married at the end, rather than the 'MC' pronouncing you married. We got a lot of compliments from our guests after the ceremony about how beautiful it was, and my mother has actually recommended the idea to a few people. 

    We've had zero issues with legality, but it's not like we've had to show our marriage license to anyone. I didn't change my name so the certified copy of marriage is sitting in our drawer untouched. I spent months researching self-uniting beforehand, there should be no issues whatsoever and though certain counties.  I read a lot about different counties in PA refusing to issue the licenses, we got ours in Chester County and they didn't even blink. But Chester County has a large Quaker population, so it's a fairly common request. You can get your license from any county in PA, so if you do have trouble at one clerk's office, you can try another one. I have seen other posts that applicants had no trouble in Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Dauphin. 

    Good luck with your decision! I know it's really stressful when you come from a religious background and you want your families to be happy. But to me, being married in a way that 100% represents my beliefs and my husband's beliefs was the most important aspect of the ceremony. And self-uniting was a wonderful experience. 
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  • If a self-uniting ceremony is legal in your state, then go for it! That would be my only concern- is it legal.

    I've never seen (or heard of, until now!) a self-uniting ceremony, so I don't know what specifics it does, or does not, entail, but I'm sure you could still have your friend in the place of the officiant "running" the ceremony. 

    I wouldn't do an "official" ceremony before or after that your guests are not in attendance for. Many people truly care about the ceremony, so don't fake it just to have your friend posing as your officiant. 
  • OliveOilsMomOliveOilsMom South Jersey member
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    So I'm in a little bit of a dilemma....

    Both my fiance and I were raised Catholic (me more than him) but we made the decision to get married at a farm just outside of where we live.  The ceremony will be outdoors, and so we are unable to have a Catholic priest do it because it's not in a Church.  This rocked the boat a bit in my family, but everyone is happy and on board with it now. 

    So now we're trying to find someone to marry us.  My fiance feels VERY strongly about having a family friend do it, which I am also fine with, and would prefer that to hiring someone that doesn't know us or our relationship.  The problem is in Pennsylvania, our officiant has to be either an ordained member of a church or congregation, or a city official like a judge or magistrate, neither of which our friend is. 

    We looked into the idea of a self-uniting marriage, so that we would technically be marrying ourselves, but we would still have our friend officiate for "looks" I guess, and none of our guest would really know the difference.  I'm a little skeptical of this self-uniting marriage and have gotten the impression that it's not necessarily prohibited, but it is not really advised (In fact, I had a lovely little conversation with a county official who told me it was "unnatural" and "against God's will" and "God wouldn't let me into heaven."  She was nice.) 

    Basically, I am looking for some advice on what the best approach to this would be.  Has anyone done a self-uniting marriage and had problems with the legality of it/people not being on board with it?   Should we do a self-uniting marriage with our friend officiating?  Or should we do a "ceremony" on our actual wedding day that would not be legal, but then have a quiet ceremony in our Church the weekend before or after?  Any help would be appreciated!! My family feels one way, my fiance feels another, and I just wanna keep the peace and get married!

    I think that you should go for the self-uniting ceremony if that is what suits you and FI best. 

    I do wonder why you would have a fake ceremony and then have a small and private Catholic ceremony the following week, if you cannot get the self-uniting license.  You seem to have researched enough to know that you cannot be married in a Catholic ceremony outdoors.  Do you plan to continue to practice your Catholic faith at all?  If you were to marry in a non-Catholic ceremony, you would be out of favor with the Church and unable to receive Communion.  You would need to have a Convalidation service performed before you are back in good standing with the Church.  These can be hard to get, especially when you go ahead and plan a ceremony knowing its against the Catholic Church.  I think that if you have any intention of continuing to practice your Catholic faith, then you should speak with a priest.

  • SP29 said:
    If a self-uniting ceremony is legal in your state, then go for it! That would be my only concern- is it legal.

    I've never seen (or heard of, until now!) a self-uniting ceremony, so I don't know what specifics it does, or does not, entail, but I'm sure you could still have your friend in the place of the officiant "running" the ceremony. 

    I wouldn't do an "official" ceremony before or after that your guests are not in attendance for. Many people truly care about the ceremony, so don't fake it just to have your friend posing as your officiant. 
    Yep, self-uniting ceremonies are legal in Pennsylvania and Colorado. And they're recognized in all 50 states thanks to the full faith and credit clause of the Constitution. I'd never heard of it either until we started researching licensing requirements in our state. It's a really cool option and I wish more states allowed it!
  • ...

    We looked into the idea of a self-uniting marriage, so that we would technically be marrying ourselves, but we would still have our friend officiate for "looks" I guess, and none of our guest would really know the difference.  I'm a little skeptical of this self-uniting marriage and have gotten the impression that it's not necessarily prohibited, but it is not really advised (In fact, I had a lovely little conversation with a county official who told me it was "unnatural" and "against God's will" and "God wouldn't let me into heaven."  She was nice.) 

    Basically, I am looking for some advice on what the best approach to this would be.  Has anyone done a self-uniting marriage and had problems with the legality of it/people not being on board with it?   Should we do a self-uniting marriage with our friend officiating?  Or should we do a "ceremony" on our actual wedding day that would not be legal, but then have a quiet ceremony in our Church the weekend before or after?  Any help would be appreciated!! My family feels one way, my fiance feels another, and I just wanna keep the peace and get married!
    At the bolded - Ha! What a horrible person! Also, she needs a history lesson, but that is beside the point.

    I agree with some PPs that the self-uniting ceremony sounds like a perfect match for your location. You just need to make sure it is a perfect match for you. Also, know that you can be legally married and then have your marriage blessed by the Catholic Church. They don't like for you to plan to do it that way, but they will offer you the sacrament. Convalidation is basically up to the discretion of the priest, but most will do it. It might be worth it to speak with your priest now, if you have one. We have friends who planned for their convalidation two weeks after their legal wedding, and worked out fine for them.

  • So I'm in a little bit of a dilemma....

    Both my fiance and I were raised Catholic (me more than him) but we made the decision to get married at a farm just outside of where we live.  The ceremony will be outdoors, and so we are unable to have a Catholic priest do it because it's not in a Church.  This rocked the boat a bit in my family, but everyone is happy and on board with it now. 

    So now we're trying to find someone to marry us.  My fiance feels VERY strongly about having a family friend do it, which I am also fine with, and would prefer that to hiring someone that doesn't know us or our relationship.  The problem is in Pennsylvania, our officiant has to be either an ordained member of a church or congregation, or a city official like a judge or magistrate, neither of which our friend is. 

    We looked into the idea of a self-uniting marriage, so that we would technically be marrying ourselves, but we would still have our friend officiate for "looks" I guess, and none of our guest would really know the difference.  I'm a little skeptical of this self-uniting marriage and have gotten the impression that it's not necessarily prohibited, but it is not really advised (In fact, I had a lovely little conversation with a county official who told me it was "unnatural" and "against God's will" and "God wouldn't let me into heaven."  She was nice.) 

    Basically, I am looking for some advice on what the best approach to this would be.  Has anyone done a self-uniting marriage and had problems with the legality of it/people not being on board with it?   Should we do a self-uniting marriage with our friend officiating?  Or should we do a "ceremony" on our actual wedding day that would not be legal, but then have a quiet ceremony in our Church the weekend before or after?  Any help would be appreciated!! My family feels one way, my fiance feels another, and I just wanna keep the peace and get married!
    I would be writing a letter to her supervisor or someone about this (bolded). Gross.

    I'm in the other state that allows self-officiating (Colorado) and we did this at our wedding last month. We did have a friend "officiate" (stand in front and direct the ceremony) but on the marriage certificate my husband and I are the "officiating party". I am so happy that CO allows this, and I honestly think all states should.

    As far as "people being on board with it, the marriage is just between you two, period. People can share their opinions, but you can politely ignore them. (Except county officials, they should not be sharing opinions.)  Do whatever you and your FI think is best, but I say go for it and officially self officiate (with your friend playing a role). I promise that the majority of your guests won't care about the technicalities of who is officiating or how the marriage certificate gets signed, they are just happy to see you get married!
  • This sounds amazing. I wish we could do this in VA. If it fits for you, go for it!
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