When it comes to adventure elopements, the possibilities are almost limitless. From an intimate elopement surrounded by a few close family members to a secluded ceremony with just the two of you, there’s no right or wrong way to elope, and that’s one of the reasons they’re so special. Your elopement can be whatever and wherever you want it to be! But one very important part of eloping—aside from choosing a breathtaking destination and an adventure-loving elopement photographer (that’s me!), is making sure it’s all legal.
Marriage laws in the U.S. vary from state-to-state, so depending on where you plan to get married, whether it’s the windswept shores of the Oregon Coast or the snow-capped mountains of Colorado, it’s a good idea to understand them.
Which leads us to ask, do you really need an officiant for your adventure elopement? The short answer is no, but I want to share a few options for you to consider when planning your adventure elopement whether it’s with or without an officiant!
Self-Solemnize or Self-Unite
Yes, it’s true, you can “officiate” your own wedding! The catch? You’ll have to get married in one of several states that allow you to do so (and maybe meet a few other requirements). Self-solemnization, also known as self-uniting marriage, is when you perform your own marriage ceremony. This means two people can legally become married without needing a signature or an officiant or judge to be present.
There are several states that allow self-solemnization but some may require you to meet certain conditions or complete additional forms. Although Colorado and Washington, DC are the easiest places to self-solemnize, there are 7 other states that will allow you to do so as long as you meet a few conditions.
- California – The state of California allows for a non-clergy marriage as long as the required forms are completed and two witness signatures are provided.
- Colorado – Colorado is one of the easiest states to self-solemnize. You’ll just be responsible for getting, completing, and returning your marriage license to the correct county clerk’s office.
- Illinois – Self-solemnization is allowed in Illinois, but it must be in accordance with the prescriptions of any religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group.
- Kansas – If you both mutually declare to take each other as husband and wife, couples can self-solemnize in accordance to the customs, rules, and regulations of their religious society, denomination, or sect.
- Maine – The state of Maine allows “Quakers” or “Friends” and members of the Baha’i faith to self-solemnize in accordance to the rules of those organizations.
- Nevada – Self-solemnization is allowed by those who identify as “Quakers” and “Friends.”
- Pennsylvania – Self-solemnization is allowed and only requires two witness signatures in place of an officiant. However, some counties do not offer this type of marriage license and may require you to prove that you are members of a recognized religion without clergy. So be sure to check with the county before you decide to self-solemnize.
- Washington, DC – In addition to Colorado, Washington, DC also makes it fairly easy to self-solemnize. Just be sure you and your partner are both present when you go to pick up your marriage license.
- Wisconsin – Wisconsin allows self-solemnizing in accordance with the customs, rules, and regulations of a couple’s religious society, denomination, or sect. Although you may be asked to provide evidence of your affiliation.
If you do decide to self-solemnize in a state that allows it, you can rest assured that your marriage will be recognized as a legal marriage in every U.S. state, regardless of whether they allow self-solemnization or not. But what if you want to get married in a state that doesn’t allow you to self-solemnize? Fortunately, there are a few different ways you can get married without a traditional officiant and still have the adventure elopement of your dreams!
Have a Friend Officiate Your Elopement
Having a close friend or family member officiate the wedding is becoming more and more common these days, and luckily, it’s super easy and affordable (sometimes even free!) to become an officiant. Non-denominational religious organizations like Universal Life Church allow anyone to become ordained online in a matter of minutes. Marriage laws vary from state-to-state so just be sure to check the laws in the state you plan to be married. In some states, your officiant may be required to show official documentation that they are, in fact, an ordained minister. Luckily, any documents you may need can be purchased from Universal Life Church for a small fee.
Hire an Officiant Who’s Down for an Adventure
If you’re not sure about asking a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, there’s always the option to hire one! There are a ton of officiants out there who would be happy to perform your ceremony, but in the case of elopements, some may be more equipped than others to join you on your adventure. Fortunately, I’ve worked with a lot of amazing officiants and am happy to recommend my faves that are open to be a part of the experience.
Have a Courthouse Wedding Followed by an Intimate Ceremony
Another way to get around having an officiant, while still having the elopement you’ve been dreaming of, is to have a courthouse wedding followed by a private elopement ceremony wherever you choose. Getting married at the courthouse means you can legally marry anywhere in the country and then share a more intimate experience (with me as the third wheel of course!) for your elopement day. I love helping my couples craft a truly unforgettable elopement that you will cherish forever. Imagine your perfect day together, and I promise I will help you make it a reality for your wedding day!
Let Your Photographer Be Your Officiant
Last but not least (and maybe the best option of all!), you can always rely on your photographer to serve as your officiant! Apart from being an elopement photographer, I’m also ordained, and although I won’t do an actual ceremony, I will create a sacred space for you to share your own vows. I’ll bring my sage, we’ll do a mini mediation, and you’ll share your love for each other. I’ll have the marriage license ready to go for you, and I’ll say a few words that I’m required by law to communicate to make the marriage legal.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all wedding for any couple, and how you choose to get married is really up to you and your partner! Although there are a few requirements to ensure your marriage is legal, there’s no limit to how amazing your adventure elopement can be!
What You Need to Know for Your Oregon Elopement
Oregon’s diverse, awe-inspiring landscape makes it an amazing destination for your adventure elopement (but I may be slightly biased!). Whether it’s the rugged wilderness of old growth forests or the jagged mountains of the high desert, you really can’t go wrong. If you’re looking to plan an Oregon elopement, definitely check out my top five recommended Oregon elopement locations. For now, I’ll stick with what you need to know in order to ensure your Oregon elopement is legal.
What you’ll need for your Oregon elopement:
- An authorized officiant
- Two witnesses to sign your marriage license (can’t be your officiant or yourselves and must be at least 18 years old)
- A marriage license issued by the state of Oregon (you should have this at least 3 days before your ceremony but no more than 60 days beforehand)
You can pick your marriage license up from any county within Oregon, even if you don’t plan to get married in that county (although you will need to get married in the state). Just be sure to mail your completed and signed marriage license to the county that issued it within 5 days of your ceremony. The cost of a marriage license varies by county but it’s usually between $50 and $60.
Unfortunately, the state of Oregon does not allow couples to self-solemnize. However, Oregon does recognize the following individuals as those who can legally marry you:
- Anyone authorized by an active religious congregation or secular organization
- An Oregon judicial officer
- An active federal court or U.S. military judge
What about a friend or family member who got ordained online? That’s totally fine! The only requirement is that your officiant is ordained with an active ordaining organization. Oregon requires that your officiant receive documentation of their ordination, but they won’t be asked to provide it as proof and they won’t be required to register with the county. After your elopement ceremony, your officiant will need to complete the ceremony section of your marriage license, and that’s it!
Looking for more info on how to plan an elopement in Oregon? Here’s my guide on everything you’ll need to know for planning an Oregon elopement. And if you’re searching for a fun, adventure-loving photographer, I’d love to hear from you!