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3 Things to Know Before Having a ‘Just Us’ Wedding Ceremony

Published Monday, Nov. 28th, 2022

Just the two of us, or just a few of us? What to know before planning a ‘just us’ wedding




There’s something undeniably sweet about getting married in a small ceremony: Just you and your sweetheart and the exciting future ahead of you. 


No noisy guests, no opinionated family members, no extra vendor fees or overpriced chicken-or-fish catering options. Just you and your love…


…and maybe a wedding officiant and witness or two?


An increasing number of couples are saying no to big wedding stress and yes to the simple ‘just the two of us’ ceremony trend. And it’s easy to see why so many couples want to elope – elopements are easy to plan, super romantic, and as cheap as you want them to be. 


But as simple as eloping can be, you need to keep a couple things in mind to ensure your wedding is legal. This includes knowing whether or not you need a wedding officiant to conduct the ceremony, who can officiate a wedding in your state, and if you need a witness or two. 


3 things to know before planning a ‘just us’ wedding…


1. Do you need a wedding officiant? 


In most cases, you’ll need a wedding officiant to marry you. However, a few states allow couples to get married without a wedding officiant present (but you might need a witness or two). These ceremonies are called ‘self-uniting’ or ‘self-solemnizing,’ because you’re performing the marriage ceremony yourself. Click the link below to see if you can perform your own wedding: 


+ States that allow ‘self-uniting’ ceremonies without an officiant


In all other states, you’ll need a wedding officiant to perform your marriage ceremony and sign your marriage license. This wedding officiant can be a close friend, a minister or rabbi from your local faith center, or a hired professional officiant. We cover these options more below. 



A wedding officiant marries a bride and groom on the beach in a small elopement ceremony

Just you and your officiant... so romantic! 



2. Who can officiate a wedding in your state? 


Choosing who will officiate your wedding is an important decision. Wedding officiants are those special people who perform your ceremony, pronounce you married, and sign your marriage license. In some states, they’ll also return your marriage license to the clerk’s office. They’ll be in all your wedding photos and memories of the day, so choose wisely!


You can ask a friend to officiate your wedding, hire a professional officiant, or ask a local clergy member. Take the short quiz below to see which type of wedding officiant is the best choice for you:


+ Which Type of Wedding Officiant Should You Choose? 


No matter who you choose, they’ll need to meet the legal requirements to officiate in your state.  A friend who gets ordained online with American Marriage Ministries (AMM) and completes any local registration requirements can officiate a wedding anywhere in the U.S., except Virginia (read more about what’s happening in Virginia here). 


+ Everything your friend needs to legally officiate a wedding



To check if a professional officiant meets the legal requirements, read: 




Newlyweds smiling as they exit the wedding ceremony, surrounded by their children, friends, and family, on a beach on a sunny day

Invite your closest friends or family members to serve as witnesses to your wedding ceremony. 




3. Do you need a witness at your wedding ceremony? 


The last thing to consider when deciding how many people are at your wedding is whether or not your state requires a witness or witnesses to be present. Check the list linked below to see the witness requirements in your state. 


+ Witness Requirements on Marriage License




That’s it! 


Aside from you, your wedding officiant, and any required witnesses, the number of people who make it onto the guest list is entirely up to you. Remember, it’s your day. Do it your way! 




For more tips on small weddings that feel big, check out: 




newlyweds playing in a field in casual clothing after eloping, the woman is smiling and riding on the man's back with her arms outstretched




See all articles about Eloping 


Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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