Did you forget to hire a wedding officiant? You’re not alone. Many wedding checklists omit “Hire an Officiant”, even though in most states, an officiant is legally required to sign your marriage license.
A wedding officiant is responsible for creating and conducting a ceremony that speaks uniquely of you, and/or that follows your religious traditions. Getting married is a solemn decision, and you want a ceremony that acknowledges and honors that decision, right?
The marriage laws in Pennsylvania, give you 2 choices about who can solemnize your marriage license:
- An officiant. There are 2 types of legal wedding officiants in Pennsylvania: A judge/mayor, or a minister/ priest/rabbi.
- If you are affiliated with a religious organization, and want a ceremony in that tradition, arrange for your minister, priest, or rabbi to officiate.
- If you are not affiliated, or if you are from different faiths, hire a Celebrant who is ordained as a non-denominational minister.
- Self-uniting. Two individuals marry each other before witnesses, as in the Quaker tradition. The rules about who can obtain a self-uniting marriage differ a bit by county. Some counties may require the self-uniting couple to be members of a Friends (Quaker) community; others may not.
- If you do choose to self-unite, be sure to tell the Marriage Bureau that you want a self-uniting marriage license. The marriage license is different because the signers of the license are different.
- Self-united couples have the same legal status as couples united by an officiant.
Whether you have an officiant sign your license, or you sign it yourselves by self-uniting, it is still a good idea to have a wedding officiant develop and conduct your ceremony. (Of course, I’m a little biased. I am a wedding officiant afterall.)
A good officiant will create a space for you to share your love with your friends and family, enabling them to witness your exchange of vows. Marriage is a rite of passage. A good officiant will work with you to create rituals and a ceremony, respecting you as individuals and incorporating the traditions and beliefs you want to observe.