Marriage always seemed so simple. Then, I became a wedding officiant and learned about the responsibilities involved in putting my name on a legal document that changes a couples life in such a profound way uniting them forever. It’s really not as complicated as it is interesting…
So, can a wedding officiant marry themselves? No. A wedding officiant cannot marry themselves. When you are serving in the capacity of a wedding officiant and signing a marriage license you are swearing that the couple you are marrying is completing the marriage license in accordance with the law. Essentially, you are witnessing their act of marriage. Legally, you cannot be your own witness.
Imagine if you could legally be your own witness? No criminal could ever be found guilty if there were no other witnesses.
I’ve found that when people ask a question, they aren’t always specific enough to get the actual answer they are looking for simply because they don’t know how to ask the question. If you are asking Can a Wedding Officiant marry themselves? You may also be wondering…
Can my partner and I legally marry ourselves without a wedding officiant?
Yes. In some states, you and your partner can legally marry yourself without the need for a third party acting in the capacity of wedding officiant to sign your marriage license. This is called self-solemnization.
To solemnize means to observe or honor with solemnity, or to perform with pomp or ceremony. It’s really a dignified way of saying you witnessed someone agree to marry. It can be a simple question, as in a civil ceremony, a big fancy wedding or elaborate religious ceremony.
A wedding officiant solemnizes a wedding and signs the marriage license. In the case of self-solemnization, you and your partner sign in two places on the marriage license. Once, as yourself- the person getting married, and again as the person attesting to the marriage. Where the officiant signs, you sign.
Now, don’t run out and pick up any marriage license in any state and think you can sign it yourself. You can’t. Currently, you can only, by definition, self-solemnize your marriage in Colorado.
Self-Solemnized Marriages in Colorado
Colorado is one state where the couple getting married can sign as both, themselves as the people entering into the marriage and as the people attesting to the marriage. This is a legal marriage in Colorado and, although most other states do not allow self-solemnization the Colorado marriage itself is legal in all 50 states.
As in all legal matters, I’m just a wedding officiant, not a lawyer and definitely not your lawyer. The Department of Public Health issues marriage licenses in Colorado. Go directly to them for the facts. Here’s a link.
Colorado is the one state to use the term self-solemnization to allow a couple to marry themselves. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also allow you to self-solemnize your marriage, they just call it something else. It’s called a self-uniting marriage and it’s based on the Quaker faith and their marriage traditions.
During a Quaker wedding the couple formally gathers with a group of fellow Quakers and, when moved by the spirit, as is the basis of their religion, declare themselves married. Then, those gathered that agree, sign off as witnesses to the validity of the marriage.
The validity of a Quaker wedding has been legal for over 100 years. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin include it in their laws because they have large Quaker populations. Other states may acknowledge the validity of being married as a Quaker but you have to actually prove you are Quaker. You can’t just decide you don’t want to pay for a wedding officiant so you’ll declare yourself Quakers and be done with it. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin allow any couple to self-unite in marriage regardless of their religious beliefs.
We are talking about legal things here. There are many articles online that talk about the legalities of marriage. The websites giving you legal marriage information are only repeating what the actual laws of each state say at the time of publishing the article and/or their interpretation of the law. It is not always accurate and shouldn’t be taken as such. ALWAYS go straight to the source. Go to the state websites to read the actual laws and then contact local authorities to clarify the information or seek formal legal counsel. Here is the Pennsylvania law. And the Wisconsin law.
Can I legally marry myself? (To myself)
Sologamy, also known as self-marriage, is when someone marries themselves. Some people are throwing themselves weddings to celebrate their decision to stay single and choose themselves over a marital relationship with anyone else. It’s a self-empowering decision for those who choose it. It is also a great idea for a party but has nothing to do with the legal act of marriage. You can’t legally marry yourself. There would really be no legal benefit.
Why would a wedding officiant want to marry themselves?
Cost and simplicity. As a professional wedding officiant that offers budget weddings, the first thing that comes to my mind is the cost. In many states, you can get ordained online for free in 3 minutes and you can consider yourself a wedding officiant. If you are already ordained can’t you just marry yourself? Quick and easy! Well, realistically, you could also get your best friend or even your mom to get ordained online in 3 minutes and act as your wedding officiant for free.
I want to perform my own wedding ceremony
I totally understand this train of thought. As a professional wedding officiant, knowing what I know now, how would I perform my own wedding ceremony or plan my own wedding? (The best story I ever read was borrowing the neighbor’s hot dog cart as the caterer, renting a cotton candy machine (I’d do snow cones, personally) and tapping a keg.) As a wedding officiant, you might want to preach your own sermon or write your own vows. Maybe you want to speak those words that you’ve spoken hundreds of times on behalf of another couple to the person you are marrying. I totally get that. There is actually no reason why you can’t do that. You just need to have someone else sign the marriage license.
Privacy in marriage can be a big issue. Marriage is a public record. If someone goes looking for your marriage record, they will find it. But if they don’t know you got married they wouldn’t think to go looking for it. Perhaps your marriage really isn’t a secret, you are just a private person and prefer to take care of things yourself. I actually offer a discreet service where I go into a couples home or office and marry them. Where I live in Indiana, no witnesses are required to get married so we can be that discreet. Couples travel to Indiana for that purpose. For right now, they don’t want anyone to know.
I want to be my own wedding officiant because it’s never been done before and I want to say I did it!
Honestly? The more I learn about marriage laws, the more I realize the laws change because people want to do something that has never been done before. You get an idea in your head and want to figure out a way to make it happen. You may have a great reason to want to make a change – as it would be for the greater good, or you just want to do it because you can. More power to you!
Can an ordained minister marry in any state? Every state allows for ordained ministers to perform marriages. However, it may depend on how the minister is ordained. In some cases, just being ordained online is not sufficient to meet the requirements as a wedding officiant. Some states also have laws concerning where the officiant resides. For the best answer, contact the place that will be issuing the marriage license you will signing to make sure you are qualified.
Victoria Meyer, founder of Marry Me In Indy! LLC has been a wedding officiant in Indiana for over 9 years and married over 3000 couples. She shares her experiences and is happy to be your "Wedding Officiant Insider"