Monday, July 21, 2014

Who Forms a Marriage?

Abe and I picked up our marriage license a couple weeks ago. The gist of the process is: You fill out your information on an online application. Go to a DMV-like office and take a number. They pull up your application and print it on a government form. You sign it in the presence of the clerk. Your qualified officiant signs it after the ceremony. Your two witnesses print their name on it. Your officiant mails it back to the county office, and a county official signs it. 

A few initial thoughts:

1. Why do the parties getting married have to sign it at the county office? I want to fill out the license during the ceremony, but apparently that doesn't include us, the bride and groom, signing it during the ceremony.

2. The witnesses don't actually sign anything. They just print their names. Actually, it doesn't even say that the witnesses have to do it. Again, I wanted to have our sisters come up and sign the license during the ceremony - and we still will have them come up and print their names, even though apparently we or our officiant could just print their names instead.

3. I'm fairly certain that the certified copies you can get after the license has been filed is of that government form. Again, assumptions.... I always pictured the wedding license being more certificate-y, like a birth certificate or car title, kind of aesthetically pleasing. But I think it's just a copy of a very government-form-like government form.

Supporting the assumption that that last assumption is common, though, is that they also provide you with this non-official "commemorative certificate". So, I suppose that's the solution to wanting something pretty that you, your officiant, and your witnesses sign during the ceremony. But, first, that's silly because it's unofficial and doesn't actually mean anything. And second, take a closer look at its text:

In case you can't read it well in the photo, it says:
This is to certify that the undersigned a, [title of person solemnizing marriage], by authority of a license bearing the date [   ] day of [   ], 20xx, issued by the County of [     ], State of Oregon, did on this [   ] day of [    ], AD, 20xx, at [     ], join in lawful wedlock [groom] and [bride] with their mutual consent and in the presence of the witnesses undersigned below.
Um, what. I read that as the officiant stating: I, a person allegedly "ordained" by some random internet religion because the state said that counts, joined these two people in marriage - oh yeah, and fortunately they consented to it cause apparently I could do so even if they didn't.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled Oregon allows internet ordained officiants, because I wouldn't want some random government official, or religious officiant that isn't relevant to us, to be our officiant, but if you're opened it up so that virtually any citizen of any country can meet your requirement, maybe you just shouldn't have the requirement in place?

I can't sign that certificate. I don't want that statement hanging in a frame on my wall. No one is going to marry us, as in impose an action on us, with or without our consent. Fortunately the actual license doesn't have any such nonsense on it - the officiant signs to the statement: "I certify that the above named persons were married on the date listed above." This license statement is consistent with the underlying Oregon law, which merely requires that the two parties to a marriage declare, in the presence of a qualified officiant and two witnesses, that they take each other to be husband and wife* (§106.150). Basically, the officiant is just a "super-witness". 

*Obviously limiting it to "husband and wife" is a whole other outdated-government-stance issue.

Honestly, my dream wedding (which wouldn't be possible for a variety of reasons, including logistics and compromising with parental desires) would have been to fly our immediate family members to Colorado, rent a B&B for the weekend - and do a self-solemnizing ceremony. It just feels so much more right. (Sorry for the abuse of italics in this post, and this paragraph in particular.) Getting married isn't something that anyone else can do to us. It's an agreement between me and Abe. Period. Yes, we want the government to recognize it, but ultimately, what are they recognizing? A self-made agreement.

This is what we're putting in a program to explain our choice of officiant, and some of the wording that will be used during the ceremony: 

Oregon law to solemnize a marriage simply requires that the parties declare, in the presence of a clergyperson, county clerk, or judicial officer and two witnesses, that they take each other to be husband and wife (ORS §106.150).

While we want our lifelong commitment to be recognized by the government for legal purposes, we believe that no one other than the involved persons can truly solemnize the agreement and form a marriage. It is not up to a religious officiant or court official to declare that we are binding ourselves to each other.

Having our ceremony facilitated by a moderator who is legally a qualified officiant, but leading our own promises and declaring ourselves married to each other is our compromise to comply with the requirements of the law but also follow our own philosophical beliefs.

What do you think of this certificate's wording? Who did/do you feel had/has the right to marry you, and does it jive with your state's laws?

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