The COVID pandemic completely changed Moira and James’ wedding plans, as it did for so many couples. When a big wedding in Philadelphia didn’t make sense anymore, they adjusted course. They chose to have a small Quaker wedding at a state park in the autumn. The misty portraits and heartfelt contributions from friends and family made the day unforgettable.
A Quaker wedding is also known as a self-uniting ceremony. This unique approach to a wedding ceremony allows the couple to officiate their own ceremony. You don’t need to be a licensed officiant. Traditionally, the ceremony starts with a period of silent prayer. Then the couple exchanges vows before allowing guests time to speak. Pennsylvania allows anyone to apply for a self-uniting marriage license regardless of religious affiliation.
Fewer than ten states allow self-uniting wedding ceremonies, so a Quaker wedding is a memorable experience for everyone involved. The first step is to get your marriage license. In Pennsylvania, you have to apply for a separate marriage license than the standard one. There aren’t a lot of differences in the application process itself other than a $10 difference in the fee. You can find more information about getting your marriage license in Philadelphia here.
For a more secular take on a Quaker wedding, marriers can design their own ceremony beyond their vows. You can get creative with the ceremony itself. Take what speaks to you and leave the rest. If you love the idea of a nontraditional wedding, get inspired by the deeply personal aspects of Quaker weddings.
Community participation is an important part of Quaker weddings. As you can see from Moira and James’ photos, guests often join the couple in sitting in a circle. People take turns speaking as they feel moved. You can incorporate elements of this by gathering your guests together and inviting them to speak. Either designate someone to share a few words or a reading, or embrace the spontaneity of asking people on the spot. Some of the most moving moments from James and Moira’s wedding happened when guests shared loving words during the ceremony.
Moira and James incorporated another Quaker tradition into their wedding – a special marriage certificate. They had their vows printed on a custom painted certificate that all of their guests signed. It was yet another way for their community to bear witness to their relationship. I love that their certificate included flowers in the fall palette that they used on their wedding day. Warm golds, oranges, and reds were everywhere.
Even though only a handful of states allow Quaker weddings, they can take place in any kind of venue. Moira and James chose a beautiful state park for their wedding. The setting was ideal for a small, joyful gathering.
The misty autumn day was perfect for cozy portraits in the woods. Orange and gold leaves glowed through the drizzle. Combined with Moira’s dress, they give these wedding photos a lot of warmth.
Moira and James chose to get married at a state park with a recreation hall. We were grateful for the shelter from the rain. The hall had a cozy, woodsy atmosphere. You can decorate All-purpose buildings like this as elaborately or simply as you want. Moira and James added some colorful flowers to the tables.
Typically, state parks are affordable places to get married because administrative and rental fees are low. State parks welcoming weddings in Pennsylvania include these gems around Philadelphia:
You can find a full list of Pennsylvania state parks that host weddings here.
There are a few things to consider if you want to have your wedding in state park. First, you’ll have to abide by some rules designed to protect the natural environment. Exits are limited to bubbles or noise makers. Secondly, alcohol is also prohibited in state parks. This could actually make them ideal venues for sober marriers.
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