The Self-Uniting Marriage – how, what, why?

Patrick and I were happily engaged in April earlier this year and in our bliss quickly decided that we didn’t want a long engagement. Both of us are in our mid-30s and have been together for a couple of years. Patrick had taken on a brand new career as a fitness coach and us being married would be a good stablilization for our lives. Blah blah blah. Okay, so now you have the basics on our plan and why the learnings have been paramount to us because we planned a wedding in less than 6 months.

Uniquely, our wedding is focused on a big football game between our two teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NY Jets who are playing on October 9th. This means a PA wedding; a destination wedding for the majority of our guests and wedding party.

One of the things that we had decided fairly early was that since we are not a religious couple and we don’t regularly go to church, it would feel disingenious to get married in a traditional ceremony. Also, we really wanted our wedding to be more contained; our community of family and friends to be there and in the proceedings. Considering we didn’t know someone who was ordained in Pennsylvania, we started looking into alternate options. Pennsylvania has this unique law that allows individuals to self-unite under Quaker law, called a self-uniting marriage. A few additional states have expanded the method for unions as well (Colorado, California, Maine and Wisconsin).

In our research we found a LOT of confusing and conflicting information. We wanted to set the record straight and make it easier for those who are interested in going down this route for their own ceremony. Please note this information is our experience and specific to PA but should provide some support for any self-uniting interest. I forgot to take a picture on the day but here is a fun sketch of us from a recent event to add to the mix 🙂img_1887

Here is the go-to list for getting your self-uniting license!

  1. Same State, That’s It! You have to get your wedding license in the state you are getting married. This may seem pretty obvious but apparently it’s not always the case. You do NOT have to go to the specific city or county to get the license, you just need to go to the same state. We live in NJ and just traveled over the border to Doylestown, PA to get our license.
  2. Call, they are nice! If you have any questions or clarifications just called the county license court. They were pretty friendly and easy-going. We may just have gotten lucky with our representative but they were very helpful.
  3. Plan Ahead! If you want to save time, do the application online ahead of time. You will have to do the application (on a computer most likely) anyway, so it’s probably easier to use your own device versus some strange older PC with typewriter keys onsite. Especially since you will feel like you are a nervous teenager taking the written driver’s license exam. It’s a bit exciting and scary given that this is a very big step in the wedding process.
  4. Less Testing, More Fun. No blood tests needed. This use to be a requirement but not anymore
  5. Who Am I? You will need to know basic information about yourself including where you were born, parents occupations, where they were born. The entire application should take about 5 minutes to complete
  6. Marriage means 2 people. You will need to go together. This isn’t a solo trip and just verifying your partner absolutely wants to spend the rest of their life with you. Doesn’t work.
  7. What do I bring? We only needed our driver’s license and cash ($80). I brought every document that you could possibly need. Patrick brought his driver’s license and passport. We needed even less. If you want to pay by credit card it’s $83
  8. Divorce Proof & Disease-Free. You have to confirm you haven’t been married before (or provide support of your previous marriage’s divorce paperwork) and that you are disease-free. I suppose if you were not your partner would just have to acknowledge that they knew? Considering the stats on STDs I would imagine there is an easy way to manage this amongst you and your partner.
  9. What do I get and What’s Next? You get a print out with your wedding license that you, your significant other and 2 witnesses will need to sign on your wedding date. This document will then be sent back to the license office to provide you with your actual marriage certification.
  10. It’s really that easy. Getting your wedding license is about as easy as getting a library card. Definitely easier than getting a driver’s license. This was probably my favorite and easiest part of our wedding planning task list.

We have decided to have a personal friend marry the two of us but have us write our own ceremony script and vows. She will act as more of a “guide” in our union and we will have readings from our wedding party and our ceremony is more reflective of how the community of our loved ones support us to bring our marriage to fruition vs the strict structure of promises and obedience. To each their own, but this is how we wanted to approach our wedding and I am excited to see how it goes!

Good luck!




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