Can You Officiate Your Own Wedding?

Tom Pumford
Written by Tom Pumford · Posted in Advice Last Updated July 7, 2023 · minute read
In This Article

    What? Wait? You can officiate your own wedding? How? Well let’s take a look…

    We get it, officiating your own wedding can seem a little unusual. Why wouldn’t you use a celebrant or religious leader? Well, the reasons are actually plenty. Whether that’s to save on your budget, create a more intimate feel, or just because you want to mix things up a little and create your own traditions. Officiating your own wedding day is a great way to personalize your special day and make it unique to your ideas, likes and dislikes. 

    bride and groom kiss during wedding ceremony

    Can You Officiate Your Own Wedding?

    While there are many reasons to take the lead, can you actually officiate your own wedding? What are the legalities surrounding this? How do you go about starting the planning process? Are there any tips to help create an epic wedding day? Yes, yes, yes and yes!

    Below we have put together our thoughts on the benefits of officiating your own wedding, the best way to plan your day, plus anything you need to know about the process, from the legalities to rules you should follow.

    Let’s take a look!

    What is self-solemnization/self-officiating?

    When the discussion of self-officiating comes about, you may hear the terms self-solemnization or self-uniting marriage. Generally it’s just a phrase that is often interchanged with self-officiating or officiating your own wedding ceremony. 

    Wikipedia defines self-solemnization as “A self-uniting marriage is one in which the couple are married without the presence of a third-party officiant.” [1].

    To put things simply, if you don’t want to use a judge, religious leader or official celebrant to get married, self-solemnization is the way to go about it.

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    Can I be the pastor for my own wedding?

    Yes, pretty much the same question as above… unless you are a pastor. 

    Being your own pastor, and leading your own wedding vows, promises and ceremony is certainly possible. It’s a beautiful way to create special memories as you tie the knot and promise yourself to each other forever. 

    However, if you are a pastor, things can get a little murky. It’s our understanding that you could be the pastor for your own wedding, however you would need someone who is ordained to be in attendance. In addition, while it is possible, it would likely be frowned upon, if not outright rejected, by your own religious leadership. 

    Reasons to officiate your own wedding

    Now you know it’s possible to be the celebrant for your own wedding, why is it a good idea? What can you get out of officiating your day and why is it a great idea to create a wedding experience that you will remember forever? Well, let’s take a look.

    Unique and personal to you

    The number one reason, in our opinion, to officiate your own wedding day, is that you can create a wedding that is unique and personal to you. A wedding with no rules that need to be followed, traditions that need to be kept, everything is custom to you. You can’t ask for more than that.

    Want to write your own wedding vows? Go ahead, real emotion comes from real experiences and real personalities. Perhaps you want to exchange watches rather than rings? Go ahead. Get them Rolex’s out! Honestly, being able to imagine a wedding ceremony that is personal to you, reflecting your love for each other, is truly a special experience.

    Real promises

    Most wedding ceremonies have set vows, promises and wishes that you need to make in order to make the commitment official. With self-officiating ceremonies, while you may have to say one or two very specific lines to make it legal, it’s generally very short and not something that takes away from the moment. 

    Getting married to your lifelong partner, the person you are closest to in the world, should be special. It should be personal to you and your emotions. Completely unique to yourselves and your love for each other. Sometimes dated wedding traditions get in the way of this. 

    When you self-solemnize, you control the narrative, you control the vows, you control the promises. There is nothing more individual and honest than writing your own story. That story can start with your wedding commitments.

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    It’s not just the wedding vows and commitments that are set in stone. Generally speaking, if choosing a religious ceremony, or a ceremony done by a judge, the entire ceremony will need to follow a set structure. But what if that structure doesn’t fit around you and your ideas? Once again, this is where self-officiating can be a great benefit to your wedding plans. 

    If officiating your own wedding, you can plan the order of events. Perhaps you want to walk in together? Maybe you want to spend 90% of the ceremony doing karaoke? Maybe it’s just more about choosing the length of the ceremony rather than anything too wacky. No matter your wishes, with a self-uniting ceremony, anything is possible.

    Just a further note, if opting for the more traditional church wedding, or perhaps getting married by a judge, you will have to plan around them. Perhaps they only have set dates available, or an early morning time slot. Chances are you will have to make some hard decisions. However, when you are self officiating, you can be as flexible as you like. Want to host your wedding ceremony at 4am on the edge of a mountain top as you watch the sun come up? Do it!

    Save on the wedding budget

    Finally, and it’s kind of a biggy! Officiating your own wedding can have a massive impact on reducing the costs and saving your budget. 

    We recently explained how to have a wedding under $5,000, in there we listed the cost of hiring a celebrant as around $300. That’s long before you’ve considered the cost of hiring a suitable venue. Opting for a church wedding? This may increase the cost even more.

    While there will still be costs associated with hosting your own ceremony, as everything is flexible, you should be able to make it more affordable. This will give you the ability to spend more money on things that matter to you. Think an extra couple of nights on your honeymoon, maybe a bit more of an epic engagement party? Sounds good to us!

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    Steps to self-officiating your own wedding

    While officiating your own wedding can seem a little daunting, it can actually be quite straight forward. Follow the steps below, get creative while trying to implement your own ideas and it will all come together and look amazing!

    Plan ahead

    Almost every step by step guide we ever put together starts with “plan ahead”, “get out in front”, “leave yourself enough time”. While it might seem like we are stuck on repeat, it really does make a difference in pretty much every aspect of wedding planning. Making sure you have enough time to choose locations, write your own vows and add all the small finishing touches; will allow you to create a wedding ceremony that will live long in your heart. 

    Story Amour Tip: While there will likely be less red tape you need to abide by in order to self-solemnize, you will still need to plan ahead to make sure you are legally allowed to officiate your own ceremony. If it’s not possible in your location, you can always host more of a commitment ceremony, rather than a legally binding ceremony. 

    Read More: What is a Commitment Ceremony?

    Write your own vows

    An absolute must when it comes to officiating your own ceremony, write your own wedding vows. Trust us! Reading vows that are personal to you, have direct meaning to yourselves and your relationship, will take your ceremony to the next level.

    Make the promises you want to make, rather than what an outdated tradition tells you you have to make. This is all about you and your love for each other. Try not to get too personal in your messages, some things should be kept behind the bedroom door… Just try to put your own personality into your vows. 

    Choose a venue

    Pretty simple this one, choose a venue or location to hold your ceremony. 

    The chances are that if you aren’t going down the normal route of a church wedding, you will have to find your own location to hold your ceremony. The good news is that when you officiate your own wedding, that location can pretty much be anywhere! Want to say “I Do” on a beach? Great, get your sandals on. Maybe looking for something a little more intimate at a restaurant you love? No problem, ask if that’s a possibility. Try to come up with a few ideas that you both love and go about making the arrangements.

    Remember, some locations need permissions to hold an event, make sure you contact them ahead of time. 

    Make it personal

    Everything at your ceremony can be personalized. Want to rock out to David Bowie rather than singing the same out boring hymns? It’s possible. Anything is. 

    Try to include elements that mean something to you, maybe “Life on Mars” was the album you listened to the first time you made lov… wait. Maybe don’t share that. In all seriousness, you can incorporate many different aspects that are unique to you. Different types of music, readings, hobbies can be used to create a personalized wedding ceremony. 

    Plan the additional legal requirements

    This one is a biggy! If you plan to legally self-solemnize, you will need to get all the legal aspects in place. In our FAQs section, we will have explained when and how self-uniting ceremonies can be made legal. 

    Furthermore, you will have to obtain a few key aspects including marriage licenses before you are legally married. While there is no requirement to complete the legal requirements to officiate your own ceremony, it will only be legally recognised if they are all in place. 

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    Invite your guests

    Erm yeh… This is kinda obvious right?!? 

    Once you’ve planned everything, it’s time to start choosing your wedding invites and sending them out to your guests. 

    Be sure to send out your invites with enough time to RSVP. Close family and friends missing out because they have commitments can mean that while you are flexible, the people important to you might miss out on your celebration. 

    FAQs about officiating your own wedding

    Hopefully that pretty much answers whether you can officiate your own wedding but if you have a few more burning questions, hopefully questions from our former brides can help clear things up a little further. 

    Are self-uniting marriages legal?

    The best way to answer this question to avoid any confusion is to first give an order. Check with your local jurisdiction to see whether self-uniting marriages are legal in your area. 

    Ok, there are the disclaimers out of the way. Generally speaking, self-uniting ceremonies can definitely be legal. In fact, in many states you are able to marry yourself without any specific officiant in attendance. In some states you may need an ordained person to marry you.

    Below we have listed the 9 states where self-unitiing is legal; however, it’s always best to check with the local authorities on the exact rules you have to follow. Better to be safe than sorry!

    • 1. Pennsylvania
    • 2. Colorado
    • 3. Wisconsin
    • 4. California
    • 5. Maine
    • 6. Nevada
    • 7. Illinois
    • 8. Kansas
    • 9. Washington, D.C.

    Can guests come to my self-officiated wedding?

    Of course! A wedding ceremony without your friends and family wouldn’t be much of a wedding would it? Unless you are eloping and planning to throw an amazing elopement party that is!

    Make a list of the people you want to invite and be sure to choose a venue to accommodate your numbers. Now it’s time to send out your wedding invites! 

    What’s the difference between self-solemnizing and a commitment ceremony?

    Things can get a little tricky when describing the difference between a commitment ceremony and self-solemnization. Generally, a commitment ceremony is about making a non-legal commitment to each other. Imagine it as an eternity ring, rather than an engagement ring. An eternity ring is a promise you will stay together forever. An engagement ring is almost a formal declaration that you will legally be together, or at least intend to.

    In some states you are able to self-solemnize legally, in the case you are not allowed, a commitment ceremony would be a perfect way to celebrate with your friends and family. Just be sure to get all the legalities sorted separately. 

    One final clarification, self solemnization is legal in some states. Commitment ceremony is not legal in any state unless it includes the legally required elements. Got it?! Yer, tough one!

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    So there you have it. Yes you can officiate your own wedding. In many states you can legally marry yourself without the requirement of a minister or judge. As a result, self-officiating is a beautiful way to combine your own personal quirks into your wedding ceremony, while still making promises and declarations that are possible for you. 

    To us, officiating your own wedding is for couples with a creative mind, a drive to construct their own magical wedding ceremony, without having to follow outdated beliefs and traditions. A chance to avoid the wedding tape that can take away from your own bespoke experience. 


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