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.

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Comments on Tracy & Aaron’s small, self-uniting wedding

    • 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!

      • 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!


        • 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.)

    • (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!

  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!

    • 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.

      • 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.

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

  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!

  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).

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

  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! 🙂

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

  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.

  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.


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

    • 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.

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

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