DIY 'I Do': A Guide to Self-Solemnizing Your Wedding

When you self-solemnize your wedding, all you need is each other (and a few laws on your side) to get married. Here's how and where you can do it.

Published December 1, 2023

For people like the Bennetts from Pride and Prejudice, eloping was a dirty word. Today, it probably conjures up images of little white chapels and Elvis impersonators. But self-solemnization is a burgeoning movement that gives couples the freedom to choose intimacy over tradition. If you’re not a standard couple, you shouldn’t settle for a standard wedding.

What Is Self-Solemnization?

When you think about wedding planning, stuff like caterers, florists, and photographers come to mind. Of course, the officiant is probably one of the first things you cross off your list. Today, there’s a growing movement away from having officiants host a wedding. This process of you and your spouse marrying each other without an officiant present is called self-solemnization. For introverts, it just might be the solution to all of your stage-fright-induced nightmares.

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Is Self-Solemnizing Your Wedding Legal? 

Curious about whether you can self-solemnize in your state? Head to one of these nine places where self-solemnization is legal in one way or another.

  • California
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin

Be Mindful of State Regulations

Because self-solemnization isn’t nationally recognized, it’s left up to the states to be a regulatory body for the process. Just because it’s legal in a state doesn’t mean there aren’t conditions you need to meet.

For example, California, Maine, Nevada, and Wisconsin only offer self-solemnization to people with religious exemptions. Even in states where anyone can self-solemnize, there can still be restrictions based on your county’s legislation. Montana, for instance, requires couples to file something called a Declaration of Marriage at the courthouse after the ceremony is over.

Tips to Make Sure You Tick All the Boxes

Before you jump off the plane or out of the van at your wedding destination, make sure you follow the right steps. Self-solemnizing is just as legally binding as an officiated wedding, and with it comes some necessary T’s to cross and I’s to dot.

  • Contact the county you’re planning on getting married in. Before making any other plans, you’ve got to ensure that where you’re planning on getting married allows self-solemnization and, if so, what their unique specifications are.
  • Double check that you have all the paperwork necessary. Every county differs, and there’ll be a variety of forms you need to fill out.
  • Make sure you know how much time you have to turn your paperwork in. Every place is different, but generally there’s a small window of time you have after signing your paperwork to drop it off at the courts.  
  • Don’t be blindsided by the fees. If you’re trying to elope because it costs less than a traditional wedding, we totally get it. But the legal system isn’t free, and everyone has to pay some kind of fee to get and process the marriage paperwork.

5 Memorable Ways to Self-Solemnize Your Wedding

wedding couple taking a selfie

There’s something incredibly romantic about forgoing the pomp and circumstance of a large wedding in favor of standing with your partner and whispering your vows against each other’s lips. But forging your own path can be challenging. There’s not a guidebook you can turn to. Instead, look to these five different things that’ll help you get the ceremony of your dreams.

Consider Picking a Unique Venue

Finding a wedding venue in today’s industry can be super tricky. Traditional venues like churches, homes/manors, hotels, and gardens can be booked out in advance and cost a lot of money. But, when you’ve got a party of people (no matter how small) coming with you, there are only so many places that’ll accommodate your needs.

If it’s just going to be the two of you, the world is at your feet. Consider heading to an off-the-wall locale. Maybe rent out a historic movie theater for the night or scale a beautiful peak and bask in the sunrise glow together. Don’t let tradition box you in; you’re already breaking new ground by self-solemnizing, so why not really push the boundaries of what people think is possible?

Take Something Home With You

If you’re really going solo, you probably won’t have anyone in tow to capture any delightful candids. But they aren’t the only keepsakes you can have. Look around and see if there’s anything from your location that you can bring home with you. Pluck a flower to press, grab a candy from the bathroom candy dish on the way out, and so on.

Set Up Some Video Equipment to Record the Big Moment

If you’re not having any guests at your intimate ceremony, then you may want to consider bringing along video equipment or hiring a videographer. That footage will be a keepsake you can look back on in 20 or 30 years and revel in.

Seal the Moment With a Customized Gift

One cute way to mark the occasion is with a customized gift. Sure, exchanging rings is a beautiful custom, but you’re probably a unique couple, and you deserve more than the standard fare. Think back to seminal moments in your relationship and places you’ve been or challenges you’ve overcome together. Let them inspire you to find the perfect artisan to craft that gift of love.

There’s no better accompaniment to telling someone how much you love them than showing them, too.

Host a Get-Together Afterwards for Family & Friends to Celebrate

Just because you want the wedding ceremony to be as intimate as possible doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your union with family and friends. Your love doesn’t have to exist in a vacuum. So, in the coming days or weeks after your self-solemnization, host a get-together at your house or rent out a space and invite your family and friends over. This gives them the chance to feel included in your love story but lets you and your spouse keep some things to yourselves.

Make Your Wedding About You & Your Love

Thanks to multiple factors — social media being just one of them — weddings are expected to be spectacles. If you don’t vibe with this larger-than-life approach to a wedding, then consider going for something more low-key and meaningful. Self-solemnizing won’t be the answer for everyone, but for some couples, it’ll be the best decision they ever make.

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DIY 'I Do': A Guide to Self-Solemnizing Your Wedding