Tracy & Aaron's small, self-uniting wedding

August 31 |

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The Offbeat Bride: Tracy, Editor

Her Offbeat Partner: Aaron, Building Engineer

Location & date of wedding: Peace Valley Park in New Britain Township, PA. — October 25, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: We had a self-uniting ceremony, which means we had no officiant. We kept our vows pretty traditional, but we led ourselves through them.

We wanted to keep things simple and inexpensive, but we still wanted some traditional elements. We prepared the food ourselves, and I made the wedding cake. We cooked steaks and baked potatoes on the park grills, and used antique china plates and saucers we got at a local thrift store.

The day started out very chilly and windy. My in-laws helped us set up, but because of the wind, we weren't ready to begin when the guests arrived. Not to fear! They were wonderful family friends, and jumped in to help us finish putting things together. (There is a picture of me standing on a picnic table in 4" heels while our guests help me decorate the wedding arch!) We had rain off an on, and my father-in-law had to hold an umbrella over the grill as my new husband tended it!

nnewwAfter we ate, we all went back to the apartment to finish the reception with champagne (it wasn't allowed in the public park) and leftovers! But my husband and I had to take our son to his first band concert before the three of us could join the festivities.

It sounds like a crazy, hectic day, and it was — but it was also so much fun!

Our biggest challenge: The legalities! We hit a snag getting the license, and ended up really glad we'd settled on having a self-uniting ceremony!

We simply stuck to our schedule (with the knowledge of our families) and quietly went and got our license and had it signed by two witnesses at a later date.

My favorite moment: Drinking champagne and talking around the dining room table with everyone. The experience was so warm and intimate.

My advice for other offbeat brides: Search thrift and discount stores! We got so many good deals on the cheap.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!:

    • Thanks! I should have added Dillard's as a vendor – $35.00 on clearance!

      As a side note, how embarrassed am I by my typos? Shouldn't have listed my occupation as editor!

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      • Hi Tracy,

        We're looking in to having a self-uniting marriage in Pennsylvania but are finding a lot of people not willing to say it is "valid" if we aren't Quakers. Can you advise on your experience? Thanks so much!

        Molly

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        • Hi, Molly. I just saw this; hope I'm not getting back to you too late.

          Some counties don't offer the licenses, others will question you about your faith, and still others don't care. A couple in Allegheny County was questioned about their faith and denied the license; they challenged this in court and the judge granted a restraining order against the court clerk's office that basically prohibited them from denying the couple the license. The state Supreme Court hasn't actually ruled on the matter, but the legal arguments are all in your favor should you be denied the license and decide to challenge the clerk's office.

          However, we found it easier to just get our license from a county that will grant them no questions asked. Montgomery and Philadelphia counties are two of those. A Pennsylvania license is good for use in any county, but just to cover our bases anyway, we had ours signed in a friendly county as well. (From what I understand, Bucks County, where Peace Valley Park is, will question people about their faith.)

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    • (Hope this doesn't show up twice; I had a little trouble.)

      Thanks! I should have added Dillard's as a vendor – the dress was $35.00 on clearance!

      As a side note, how embarrassed am I about the typos? Some editor!

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  1. My FH and I are also planning on getting the self uniting marriage license.. (I think its only available here in PA?). Anyways… is that what you had trouble with? Eeesh I hope not… i've been nervous about it even though I've studied it up! Of everything that could go wrong… I wouldn't want it to be that haha.

    P.S You looked amazing in your dress!

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    • No, that wasn't a problem at all. It cost us a bit more, though. Just be sure to research which counties will give you the license without asking about your religion. According to the state supreme court, none should – but some (like Bucks) flout the state and do anyway.

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      • Whew! Good to know… thanks so much. I did do plenty of research… thats what I'm worried about is the county tryin to act above themselves. I'm in Allegheny too… so we'll see blah. Thanks again.

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        • Glad to be able to reassure you. And thank you for the compliment – I meant to say it earlier!

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    • They're available in Colorado, too! They call it self-solemnization here, and from what I understand you don't even need witnesses!

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  2. Ahh! I grew up going to Peace Valley Park almost every weekend of my childhood. :) I miss Pennsylvania and that whole area — what a lovely place for a wedding!

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  3. I had no idea self-uniting ceremonies were possible! I had always assumed that there had to be some sort of officiant to be legally binding (though I guess that depends on where you are).

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    • You can have a self-uniting ceremony in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, and (I think) Kansas. I'm not sure about other states, though.

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  4. You did splendid with your wedding! And of course, I agree with the other ladies, that you looked awesome in the dress! :) I loved the bouquet! :)

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  5. I love that dress, I had been looking at a similar one, which wasn't offered in my size. How beautiful!

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  6. We are so proud of our new daughter-in-law! She is clever, smart, and artistic. Her wedding details shone through that rainy, windy day.

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  7. Wonderful~!! We are planning to say our vows with no officiant or celebrant too. I'm so glad to hear that its not impossible. We have been discussing how we are going to do it …… am happy to see that you did and would love to hear more about the vows and how it worked out.

    BEAUTIFUL DRESS too….and the cake~!!

    Love the whole wedding. We are trying to do it cheaply too…….you are an inspiration.

    x

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  8. I agree with Chen Lie! I'd love to hear more about your vows.. how did you do it?

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    • Oooh, I still had the document I used when we came up with the ceremony. I added it (along with some notes on what we did) as a Wedding Planning Update on the Offbeat Bride Tribe. Just click on my name and it should be showing up on my page by now.

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      • I just went and joined.. still pending approval though. Hopefully I can get in and see it! :)

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  9. This is going to sound terrible, but were the vows necessary? I only ask because my fiance and I have been together for seven years, engaged for going on four, we have a kid and a house together – all that's missing is making it "official" in the eyes of the state. Neither of us is religious, though he comes from a large Italian religious family.

    We're planning on getting a self-uniting license within the next week or two.

    Ideally, we'd just like to have my mom and his mom sign it, send it back, and be done with it. We're planning on "renewing" (which would actually be doing them for the first time) our vows next summer and having a reception of sorts. We're not even planning on exchanging rings until then.

    We just can't afford to do anything else right now, and his work schedule and our family schedules just don't permit a quickie JoP wedding (both of our mothers would kill us and fight over the baby if we get married and not have them and immediate family there).

    So I just wanted to know about the vows, rings, and such – are they necessary?

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    • Check your state's marriage license laws, but for most states all that's legally necessary is signing and submitting the paperwork correctly.

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  10. Oh, no, the vows weren't necessary. We just wanted them. Actually, we didn't have the license that day, so when we DID get it and get to use it (waiting period), we just ran to a couple of people we knew and asked them to sign it for us. I think there was something about the witnesses witnessing a promise/intention/something or other, so we just had fun with it:

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  11. Sorry, this stuff is going screwy on me.
    "I'm gonna love you, you gonna love me?"
    "Yep."
    "Great."
    Then we sent it back in. No muss, no fuss.

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  12. Andrew & I are planning to elope at sunrise in Ricketts Glen State Park (yay Pennsylvania!), however our officiant informed us that to do so, she would charge an extra $550 including cabin rental, for a grand total of $1,050. That's…no.

    So, we're looking into a self-uniting ceremony, but as we're eloping, we're worried that *not* having two witnesses will make our union not so legal. However, you had your witnesses sign at a later date, and – it was legal? If they signed on a date other than the day you exchanged vows, was your wedding date listed as when they signed?

    I'd appreciate any information or advice. I don't know anyone else who self-officiated and we want to do this marriage thing right – both legally and for us. :)

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    • Oh, yeah, our marriage is totally legal. It wasn't made legal at our ceremony, though – it became legal, as you thought, when our witnesses signed.

      We think of our ceremony date as our "real" wedding date (and it's right in the middle of our significant occasions – we had our sand ceremony a week or so before our vows), but when asked on official forms, we use the other date.

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  13. Thanks for posting this! We will be self-solemnizing in Colorado (no witnesses required) in a few weeks and I am unbelievably excited and feel very empowered. Extreme eloping. Your ceremony looks like it was beautiful!

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  14. My fiancé and I are thinking of getting married in Peace Valley Park! Do you need a permit?

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