When I first learned that Pennsylvania offers self-uniting marriage licenses, I dismissed it as “not right” for Collin and my wedding. Mostly because I think we are both going to cry a lot during our wedding ceremony, so we couldn’t be the emcees, so to speak.
Then the time came (and went, we are WAY behind schedule on this) to find an officiant, and nothing felt right. None of the rabbis from Collin’s family’s temple were available, and I didn’t want to rush into finding a rabbi here on the slim chance I could get him or her for our wedding (because I am converting to Judaism for our children, not for our wedding, I am putting it off until after the wedding so I have one less thing to worry about). All of the for-hire wedding officiants we looked at seemed too Christian or too new Agey (or too expensive or too overbooked). Finding a judge makes me grumpy because it reminds me of my stalled legal career.
What I really wanted, I kept saying, was to have a friend ordained online and have him or her officiate. But the legal status of that type of wedding ceremony is up in the air in Pennsylvania, and I don’t want the headache of having my marriage invalidated.
Then I heard a friend of a friend got around that problem by using a self-uniting marriage license, but still having someone else preside over the ceremony. As long as we say, “I take you as my husband” and “I take you as my wife” and have two witnesses sign our self-uniting marriage license, we’ll be married.
Collin is in love with this idea. He wants to have our ceremony be lead by our families and us, as a group. We know that writing it and practicing it will not be easy, but the end result will be the most meaningful, wonderful, right-feeling thing we could do.
And I agree. But…
1. I’m still concerned about legal issues. A few years ago, Allegheny County (where I live) denied a couple a self-uniting marriage license because they could not prove they were of a faith without clergy. A federal judge told them to cut that out in 2007. Hopefully that means we’d be safe, but I still scared that I’ll show up at the courthouse 60 days before our wedding to get that license, be denied, and have to find a real officiant with only two months to go.
2. I feel like I’m guilty of cultural appropriation. Self-uniting marriages are available in Pennsylvania because of the Quaker population. Collin and I are not Quaker, and have no intention of ever joining the Society of Friends. Is having a self-uniting marriage along the same lines as when a Christian couple uses a chuppah? Or worse? I’m using the mechanism of their marriage ceremony because it is convenient to me. It feels icky and wrong to have a Reverend (even a non-denomination one who promises to not mention Jesus) marry us because we aren’t Christian, so shouldn’t it feel icky and wrong to marry ourselves when we are not in the Society of Friends?
3. Can we pull this off? This is the DIY project to end all DIY projects. Can we really write and perform our own wedding ceremony without any help from a pro?
Please, I am BEGGING for input and advice on this issue. If you think I’m being a selfish, privileged, nasty cultural appropriator, tell me. If you think the ceremony will be a clusterfuck without a proper officiant, tell me. If you think I’m going to have the best wedding ever if I do this, tell me. Please please please weigh in.