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Let’s Talk Self-Solemnizing Weddings!

Published Thursday, Feb. 4th, 2021

Illustrations by Jessica Levey

Want to perform your own wedding ceremony? Here's everything you need to know about these unique celebrations.




A 'self solemnizing' ceremony is one in which the couple are married without a third party officiant -- you and your partner perform your own wedding ceremony! (How romantic!)




There are many reasons couples might be drawn to a self-uniting ceremony. They might desire a truly private elopement, the chance to include special rituals or traditions, or want full ceremony control, romance, and spontaneity… Any of these are good reasons to consider self-uniting. 


image of "I do" speech bubble and "I do too" speech bubble to symbolize self-uniting wedding ceremony



If you're considering a self-solemnizing ceremony, it's important to know that only a few states currently allow couples to be married without the help of an authorized wedding officiant. In some of these states, you may need to be ordained and meet the local requirements to perform your own wedding. 



At present, these states allow self-uniting ceremonies: 


The District of Columbia



In special cases, couples in California may be able to self-unite if they purchase a special 'non-clergy' marriage license, called a 'License and Certificate of Marriage for Denominations Not Having Clergy.' In these cases, 2 witnesses sign the license with the couple instead in the place of an officiant. It's important to check with your local clerk for the most up to date information. (See an example on the Riverside County website here.)


If you're interested in being married without an officiant present in a self-solemnizing ceremony, we recommend reading and understanding your state’s policies very carefully.



Start with our state directory, and then contact someone in your state directly for the most up to date information.


You'll also need to call or visit the local county clerk or marriage bureau where you plan to apply for a marriage license to verify your information. (Remember: Our list will get you started, but it’s not legal advice!)



When speaking to your local marriage authorities, ask them,
I am a Minister; can I perform my own marriage?”



And in most of these states, witnesses will be required at the ceremony to sign the license along with the couple, so it’s still unlikely you’ll be able to elope as a solitary duo. 



We’ve talked about this before!

Check out: Can I Get A Witness? Small Ceremonies, Witness Requirements, and Self-Solemnizing Marriages Revisited for more information on adapting self-solemnizing ceremonies to the times, including witness requirements, microweddings, and Zoom or other virtual wedding options.




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