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A self-uniting marriage license is a relative rarity, available only in a few states in the U.S., including here in Pennsylvania, where some county clerks are reluctant to issue them to anyone other than Quakers, for whom they were originally intended. Back in 2007, a couple in Allegheny County, an area which includes Pittsburgh and is about a five-hour drive from the more Quaker eastern part of the state, ran into a problem. Thanks to a reader comment, we now know that Wisconsin offers self-uniting marriages in much the same way Pennsylvania does. Hi all, My fiancé and I are getting married soon in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania honors this marriage thanks to its Quaker origins. This is a rather new concept and has been untested but the concept is sound. If a civil wedding still sounds too formal for you, there are a few states in which you can have a self-uniting marriage. © 2021 Atlas Obscura. Like us on Facebook to get the latest on the world's hidden wonders. No. Since Quakers were so influential in the state, Pennsylvania created a loophole for non-officiated marriages, sometimes either called Quaker marriages or self-uniting marriages, which has existed in the state as long as there were marriage laws. To see a full list of states that allows this practice, check out our list of states that allow self-uniting marriage. “That is, why isn’t a marriage license enough? Pennsylvania and Wisconsin also allow you to self-solemnize your marriage, they just call it something else. Birth Certificates: Short Form vs. Long Form – What’s the Difference? A Quaker wedding in Philadelphia, 1947. In the District of Columbia and Colorado, any couple can elect to “officiate” their own marriage, without being asked about their religion. More conservative Quakers are also well-known for “plain dress,” use of the word “thee,” teetotalism, opposition to abortion, and, sometimes, opposition to same-sex marriage. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that offers couples the option of a self-uniting marriage license. “It seemed to really touch him, and that was really worth something to me.” The fact that he and Briana grew up in Pennsylvania wasn’t really a factor in his deciding to opt for such a Pennsylvanian marriage. Alexander, the schlocky but sincere host. “Why, and for what purpose, do we still require that parties solemnize—at all?” wonders family law professor Erez Aloni, of Whittier Law School. Consider supporting our work by becoming a member for as little as $5 a month. Although there are differences between the requirements in the various states, a marriage between two spouses performed in one state must be recognized by every other state under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution. Despite being a transplant from a religious law in the 17th century, self-uniting marriage is right at the forefront of one of the many marriage debates going on in this country. We depend on ad revenue to craft and curate stories about the world’s hidden wonders. Civil weddings are typically held at the local city hall in front of a judge and do require at least two witnesses to be present. The state’s laws have long been an improbable mix of conservatism and liberalism, much of which can be traced back to its Quaker heritage. Other states that allow some form of self-uniting marriage are Wisconsin, Colorado, The District of Columbia, California, Maine and Nevada. (Photo: Mike Goren/CC BY 2.0), That’s not really why Ryan and Briana opted for it. Most states require that an officiant represent some sort of church or congregation. Any marriage solemnized under this statute is and will be valid as long as it was authorized by statute. Colorado is one of just a few states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that has legalized the act of self-uniting a marriage without the presence of a third-party officiant. Please take your seats. (Marriage laws vary state by state, and emergency modifications vary by county. What we did, I just couldn’t imagine anything more meaningful than that.”, Rare Bengal Tiger Cubs Born to Exiled Circus in Nicaragua, The Underground Magazine That Sparked the Longest Obscenity Trial in British History, The Schmaltzy Reality Radio Dramas That Heralded Courtroom Television, Found: A Cuneiform Marriage Contract That Addresses Infertility and Surrogacy. Traditionally, a wedding officiant is a member of a religious group who is also legally recognized by a state to perform weddings. The solicitor for the statewide Association of Registers of Wills and Clerks of Orphans Court (the professional organization for those who issue marriage licenses in PA) has advised member registers/clerks that the state's abolition of common law marriage in 2005 also affects self-uniting marriage. A traditional marriage license requires an officiant to solemnize the marriage as defined under Pennsylvania law Title 23, Section 1503 (see above). I believe there is no reason today to require parties to go through this ceremony.”. Every weekday we compile our most wondrous stories and deliver them straight to you. At a Quaker wedding. Offer available only in the U.S. (including Puerto Rico). Quaker/ Self-Uniting License fee varies by county. If you do not want a religious wedding or want to break away from tradition in general, you’ve got plenty of options. This type of marriage doesn’t come without some cause for concern as it may be difficult to prove legally and may not be recognized in other states. It is important to note that not all towns in Pennsylvania will allow this type of marriage to be performed, so you must ask your local city hall about their regulations. If you want this type of license, you need to inform the clerk before you begin the application process. Thanks to a 2007 Federal judge ruling that allows Pennsylvania couples a self-uniting marriage without showing proof of membership with a Quaker or Bahai religion. One of those is that the Quaker services can vary from a a congregation led in prayer by one person, to what’s called an unprogrammed meeting. in one of two chapels on premises. Even if all you want to do is put ink on paper, there has to be some kind of religion involved. An 18th century engraving of boats on the Philadelphia waterfront. Even if all you want to do is put ink on paper, there has to be some kind of religion involved. Does a Real ID Transfer From State to State? A stereoscopic view of a Quaker Almshouse in Philadelphia. It was set up for specific religious purposes, but it is illegal to deny a couple a self-uniting license because of their religion. Since neither of us belong to a religious affiliation, the woman at the office suggested that we could do a self-uniting ceremony (two witnesses required), or have a judge or magistrate marry us. The custom is rooted in the Quaker faith … Wisconsin makes allowances for self-uniting marriages to those whose religions use it, but it’s unclear how this plays out in practice. “Now we’re putting together this reception, for all the family and friends, and it’s such a big ordeal, and it’s all about showing off and consumption and stuff,” says Boswell. (Photo: Named Faces from the Past/CC BY-SA 2.0). Atlas Obscura and our trusted partners use technology such as cookies on our website to personalise ads, support social media features, and analyse our traffic. “Why, and for what purpose, do we still require that parties solemnize—at all?” wonders. Please click below to consent to the use of this technology while browsing our site. YES! “Now we’re putting together this reception, for all the family and friends, and it’s such a big ordeal, and it’s all about showing off and consumption and stuff,” says Boswell. Other states that allow some form of self-uniting marriage are Wisconsin, Colorado, The District of Columbia, California, Maine and Nevada. And whether you are eloping or having a traditional wedding ceremony, stationery can play a big part of honoring your relationship and sharing your joy with your family and friends. This isn’t like becoming a notary, though, where you just get a license from the government. The Nuccios, of Phoenixville, came up with a commonly used solution: They had their friend preside over their August 2016 marriage, but they got a self-uniting marriage license, instead. Each of these states offer iterations of a self-uniting marriage: Pennsylvania Illinois Wisconsin Colorado District of Columbia California Maine Nevada Kansas It just felt right. (Photo: Even for couples who decide on an elopement at City Hall, the process is still imbued with religion. “And, I don’t know. (Photo: Library of Congress/LC-USZ62-12218). In 1681, King Charles II of England gave the colony of Pennsylvania to William Penn, a British Quaker, to repay a debt. You must inform the clerk that you … The self-uniting marriage has thus become a very narrow option for atheists as well as people who don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on an officiant, or those like Ryan and Briana who are rushed for time. It just felt right. Getting married without an officiant is possible in two different ways. But Boswell’s father, though he’d been ill for a few years, began deteriorating quickly, and suddenly the wedding preparations took on a more manic tone. All rights reserved. Margaret: Good afternoon, everyone. Even for couples who decide on an elopement at City Hall, the process is still imbued with religion. It's very possible that in the future, Pennsylvania will change their minds and accept this, but I would rather have peace of mind and a legal marriage. There are many long threads about self-uniting marriage on the atheist sub-forums of Reddit, probably the internet’s most vocal group of atheists. “She went on the Philly [county] website and it says on there, marriage certificate, 80 dollars, Quaker certificate, 90 dollars, and she was like, well, what does that mean?” says Boswell. (Photo: Shortly after, the couple, with the help of the ACLU, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the county, and won: it is now decreed that in the state of Pennsylvania, a county may not deny Pennsylvania marriage rights to a Pennsylvanian, or Quaker marriages to a non-Quaker. A Self-Uniting Marriage ceremony was what we wanted. YES!!!! While Pennsylvania is often thought of as the only state to allow self-uniting marriages or the like, Colorado also offers what is referred to as self-solemnized, or self-officiated, marriages. Offer subject to change without notice. A 2007 Federal judge ruling that allows Pennsylvania couples a self-uniting marriage without showing proof of membership with a Quaker or Bahai religion. All rights reserved. For help obtaining your vital records like a birth certificate or divorce certificate, you can visit. Colorado is the only state that currently allows couples to legally marry themselves, without any caveats or the need for any witnesses or officiants whatsoever. This is even a requirement for civilians who get their officiant’s license online to officiate their friends’ weddings (for this, many people opt for the Universal Life Church, a vaguely Christian organization that grants licenses to “ministers”). Briana made a short speech to their slightly confused families. 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Though in some ways the Quaker religion, referred to by Quakers as the Religious Society of Friends, is a cousin of Protestantism, it differs in quite a few pretty major ways. Marriage in America, though it is a legal condition, almost always requires religion of some sort. Self-uniting licenses are not an option in New Jersey. Re: PA self-uniting marriages. Because of the disdain for ministers or priests, the idea of an approved member of the clergy serving as an officiant for a marriage is pretty much a no-go. “I got to see my dad tear up a little bit, and God, I never saw that before,” says Boswell. Wisconsin makes allowances for self-uniting marriages to those whose religions use it, but it’s unclear how this plays out in practice. Pennsylvania’s self-uniting marriage licenses actually put our couples ahead of the challenges, by allowing for flexibility in legalizing marriages. Many states, including conservative states like Alabama and Florida, already have laws on the books stating that, even though they may not issue self-uniting marriages, they’ll respect them. (Photo: A marriage certificate from 1906. The three cubs each had different colors. A Visit to the Museum of Broken Relationships, HawaiÊ»i’s Native-Language Newspaper Archive, 'Discovering' Mexico's Monarch Butterfly Migration, The Real Story Behind George Washington's Dentures, See the Mysterious Horned Helmet of Henry VIII, The Exoneration of 6 Indigenous Canadian Chiefs, Wrongfully Executed in 1864. “That is, why isn’t a marriage license enough? Did German U-Boats Smuggle Alcohol Into the U.S. During Prohibition? An atheist couple in San Francisco reportedly were allowed to have a non-clergy marriage under this provision of California law, by entering "atheist" in the box for "religious society or denomination" on the non-clergy … (Photo: Library of Congress/LC-USZ62-22392). Women are encouraged to be as central in the religion as men. They needed something fast, and wanted something small, quiet, comfortable, and intimate. More than 330 years later, Quakers are still major parts of the population and culture of Philadelphia and its surrounding areas, but in 2007, a federal lawsuit opened up the self-uniting marriage to all Pennsylvanians. In New York City, for example, City Hall marriages are performed by a certified officiant in one of two chapels on premises. about self-uniting marriage on the atheist sub-forums of Reddit, probably the internet’s most vocal group of atheists. With Quaker teachings in mind, Penn made his new domain a place open to any religion, and his fellow Quakers settled in the eastern part of the state, helping to construct Philadelphia. Like Atlas Obscura and get our latest and greatest stories in your Facebook feed. There's Only One State Where You Can Marry Without God as a Witness. (This doesn’t stop some of the western counties from giving those seeking self-uniting marriages a hard time, according to. To learn more or withdraw consent, please visit our cookie policy. Dick Boswell, Ryan’s father, passed away shortly after the ceremony, but he was able to see his son get married. A self-uniting marriage is one in which a couple are married without the presence of a third-party officiant.Although non-denominational, this method of getting married is sometimes ingredient of reference to as a "Quaker marriage", after the marriage practice of the Religious Society of Friends, for which see Quaker wedding.. By state At a Quaker wedding. (Photo: Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images), He and his fiance, Briana, who grew up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia and now live in the city, were casually planning their wedding. Quakers were so vital to early Pennsylvania that they managed to get some laws passed that wouldn’t fly elsewhere in the colonies (or, later, the States). You see the state we live, Pennsylvania, honors this marriage thanks to its Quaker origins. They applied for a self-uniting license, but were denied because they identified as non-Quaker. Pennsylvania is not completely alone; Colorado, a state with basically no Quaker influence, allows self-uniting marriages and makes no reference to religion whatsoever. The Marriage License requirements for applicants to marry vary from state to state. Follow us on social media to add even more wonder to your day. Winner will be selected at random on 02/01/2021. In 1970, the editors of OZ magazine handed over the reins to a group of teens. family law professor Erez Aloni, of Whittier Law School. Self Uniting marriage license Legal Problems are not always your fault! Many states, including conservative states like Alabama and Florida, already have laws on the books stating that, even though they may not issue self-uniting marriages, they’ll respect them. Instead of a sterile City Hall experience, they brought both families over for dinner. Unprogrammed meetings are a representation of the church’s classless dictum; sometimes conducted in silence, the town hall-like events see congregation members speaking to the rest of the group as they feel the urge, allowing the voice of God to channel through them. In much the same way Pennsylvania does United states, self-uniting marriage license unique Pennsylvania license, can! By a certified officiant in one of the few that does not require an officiant, just.. Reddit, probably the internet ’ s most vocal group of teens Olympics 2016, divorce and Security. Officiant to solemnize self-uniting marriage states marriage license enough couple can elect to “officiate” their own marriage, it... 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