Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer Christina Montemurro bio picture

If you’re not getting married in a church, one of your wedding planning tasks will be finding an officiant to perform your ceremony. (Which I don’t think should be “as short as possible!“) One very good option is to find an experienced wedding officiant to guide you through the process and take charge on the wedding day.

But here in Pennsylvania, there’s another option. For couples willing to do the work of writing their own ceremony, you can request a special license, known as a “self-uniting license” or “Quaker license,” that doesn’t require an official signature from a state or church official.

Quaker Self-Uniting Marriage License Wedding CeremonyHow hard is it to get one of these licenses? So very easy. In fact, the process is exactly the same as a standard license. When you go to your county office, (here’s the link for Allegheny County) you simply ask for a self-uniting license. Instead of a license with a signature line for an officiant, there are two lines to be signed by two witnesses. Fill it out, file it with the county, and you’re married!

This way, your ceremony can be performed by anyone you know – and there’s no need for them to be ordained online (Pennsylvania doesn’t recognize this kind of certification anyway). Friend, cousin, aunt, uncle. My own wedding ceremony was performed by my dear uncle Don, who is not only a beloved family member, but also a gifted writer and eloquent speaker. Having someone who’s been a big a part of our lives play a crucial part in our marriage ceremony made it all the more meaningful to Matt and me.

Leigh and Scott also chose a self-uniting license. Here’s why, in Leigh’s own words:

Our friend performed our ceremony. She is not ordained in any way and is not a professional speaker either.
We decided to go this route because we wanted the ceremony to be really meaningful to us as a couple. We have been to what seems like a bazillion weddings and unless the officiant  knew the couple, the ceremonies all seemed the same with maybe a personal story thrown in there, or else the officiant went “rogue”. We had been to a couple ceremonies where a family member or friend officiated and it was fabulous, so personal and moving to those people in the crowd who knew the bride & groom best. That was the kind of experience we wanted, not just for us but for each person in aQuaker Self-Uniting Marriage License Wedding Ceremonyttendance.  Also, Scott and I are not religious and so having a ceremony officiated by a religious figure did not make sense for us.

So Scott and I, along with Erica, our “officiant,” spent a lot of time writing and re-writing the ceremony. There are a lot of examples of ceremonies online, and so we chose our favorite parts from several to use as an outline. Fortunately both Scott and Erica are excellent writers. We had readings from some of our favorite authors, since we both love to read and the quotes were very meaningful to us.

We would not have changed a thing about the ceremony, or having Erica officiate. We had so many people tell us how the ceremony was very “us” – that they loved how unique it was, and how moving it was particularly once they knew we wrote it ourselves. Even our family members who are very religious and conservative.

Maybe it was a little more complicated since we had to write it. But it was ours! It made the ceremony mean something more, to us. Also, we could pay the “officiant” in beer and a few dinners out.
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Christina Montemurro Photography specializes in photographing Pittsburgh weddings and bar mitzvahs. Using a photojournalistic approach, Christina provides extraordinary attention to detail and customer service. Christina loves to work with happy couples who want to look their best in their wedding photos, but still look like themselves, not models in a styled shoot for a wedding magazine.

Contact Christina now to check availability for your engagement session, wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. Christina has been rated among top Pittsburgh wedding photographers. You can read reviews by Christina’s past brides and grooms here and here. Some of Christina’s favorite venues include the Carnegie Museum, Heinz History Center, Edgewood Club, Edgewood Country Club, Hotel Monaco, Omni William Penn Hotel, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square, PNC Park and Twelve Oaks Mansion.

Christina is also available to shoot weddings in Bucks County, including Doylestown, Chalfont, New Hope, Yardley, Newtown, Warminster, Warrington, Bedminster and Pipersville.

Sure, weddings are big parties where you can go wild planning details. But when it comes down to what really matters, your ceremony trumps all other details. Remember, that big step of commitment is the whole reason behind this party! While some might initially think “I just want it to be short,” I personally think that your wedding day will be much more meaningful and memorable with a personal ceremony that reflects your relationship and your personalities. Not just a formality that contains the minimum required by law!

If you’re not getting married in a church, the prospect of creating a unique, genuine ceremony may be overwhelming. But, I have a fantastic tip of how to make it be not overwhelming, and instead be completely amazing. Here it is: contact Rev. Mark DeNuzzio of A Simple Vow.

Do you know the best way to get really good at something? Practice. Do it over and over and over. Rev. Mark has performed over 900 ceremonies, and I can tell you that experience has made him a master. He’s also witty, hilarious and guaranteed to have your guests smiling ear to ear. I don’t know too many wedding vendors – let alone people in any line of work, really – who put as much of their heart and soul into their work as Mark does.

Let’s hear from him!

A Simple Vow Reverend Mark DeNuzzio Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant

Are you from Pittsburgh?

Kinda. I spent the first 14 years of my life in Beaver County, the next 10 in Tampa, then moved back to the Pittsburgh area.

Would your teenage self be surprised to hear that you officiate weddings?

Depends on which version of my teenage self you ask! One version thought it would be cool to be a cult leader. But, that was more about the unswerving adulation from a mass of people than the ability to perform weddings.

Can you impress us with a list of all of the various types of ceremonies you’ve performed? Do you have a ballpark number of how many you’ve done, and for how long?

Egad. Here goes: Non-religious ceremonies, spiritual ceremonies, ceremonies where we’ve completely thrown out the book that says “this is how it’s traditionally done.” Non-denominational Christian, Liturgical Christian (e.g.,Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran), Jewish-Christian, Jewish-Catholic, Jewish-Christian with a spiritual twist, Gin-Tonic with a twist of lime. Muslim-Catholic, Hindu-Catholic. Ceremonies incorporating Mexican, Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Colombian, Dutch, Irish, Native American, Buddhist and Wiccan traditions- sometimes in the same ceremony. I’ve spoken vows in Spanish, Mandarin, Italian and French. I’ve done bi-lingual Spanish and English ceremonies though the only Spanish phrase I know from memory is “Oye! Mi gato es diablo rojo.” (Hey! My cat is a red devil.) I’ve done ceremonies with two brides, ceremonies with two grooms, and ceremonies where I’ve sung lines from “Les Mis” and “Wicked”. I’ve done ceremonies on rooftops, backyards, parks, ballrooms, chapels, farms, fire halls and while standing in Big Sewickley Creek.

All in all, about 925 ceremonies in 7 years.

Some couples don’t have a clear idea of what they want for their ceremony. Can you describe how you create such wonderfully personal ceremonies for these types of couples? Please feel free to use a specific example and specific text.A Simple Vow Reverend Mark DeNuzzio Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant Heinz History Center

I keep it simple. I can generally get a good idea of who they are from our first meeting. After that, I have a questionnaire I ask each partner to fill out. It gives me a little insight into their relationship and what they value most. With some couples it’s best to base their ceremony on ideals such as friendship or being soul mates, others I may pick out something more specific – a mutual love of volleyball or gaming, perhaps. But, God help those who share a career. For example, this little bit I wrote for two engineers:

Now, in an attempt to mitigate risk by developing a series of equations to describe the relationship, perhaps we shall approach this marriage as if it were a word problem.

And so today, Bride and Groom, I ask you to solve this problem:

A train leaves Kazakhstan traveling west at a rate of 60 miles per hour.

On that train is a dapper gentleman with a 98.27646309 percent potential mate compatibility index.

At the same time, a brilliant woman leaves a Tyler, Texas free-internet-access-espresso-bar traveling northbound accompanied by an English Bulldog named Tyson, riding a hoverboard.

The outside temperature is 5.6 C but dropping which multiplies the C&B (cuddling and blankets) index by a factor directly proportional to the degree differential.

All parties have bathed recently and are wearing casual-Friday attire, but at the moment have a cumulative SCC (system caffeine content) of 0.06 mg/kg.

If the train continues on a course with layovers in Istanbul, Munich, Paris and NY, and the bulldog maintains it’s balance on the hoverboard , and the mean time between failure of standard technical relationships is the lesser of 57 hours or 4.3 dates, and the rate at which a first kiss proceeds is approximately 3.7 puckers per solar hour, how long would it take a grasshopper with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a Heinz Field-sized dill pickle?A Simple Vow Reverend Mark DeNuzzio Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant Heinz History Center

What do you think is the ideal length for a wedding ceremony? [See recent blog post – Christina]

Indoors, 25-35 minutes. Outdoors, 20-30 minutes. Outdoors when it’s 98 degrees, humid and there’s no overhead cover, 2 minutes.

What’s the most common misconception people have about the role of a wedding officiant?

That all we do is stand there and read! I’m sure there are some who do just that. But the vast majority of officiants put tons of hours, thought, and energy – spiritually, creatively and mentally – into creating not just a ceremony, but a truly memorable moment for our couples. We take time to get to know them, perhaps mentor and counsel them, keep up with trends, create new trends, and coordinate with their other vendors. In my point of view, we’re morally and spiritually obligated to them as individuals and as a couple. Also we’re legally responsible for their marriage license, which is kind of a big deal.

Are there some scenarios that are more challenging for you?

I’m a firm believer in the military saying “adapt and overcome”, but possibly the biggest challenge is sound, specifically in outdoor areas with no power and a lot of road noise or environmental sounds. I’m pretty good at projecting, but I can only project my voice so much without sounding like I’m screaming like a lost child.

Also, I don’t tan, I just get a deeper shade of pale, so the sun and I don’t get along very well.

A Simple Vow Reverend Mark DeNuzzio Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant-2What was your wedding ceremony like?

It’s been awhile, so let’s see. I remember Jeanie, my wife, was there – at least I’m pretty sure that was her. We found a wonderfully kind Methodist minister who came to our venue. We hadn’t met with him beforehand (mistake), but he was nice enough to include a reading that we really liked. The ceremony was outdoors on a beautiful autumn evening in Florida. Being proactive, the venue sprayed for mosquitoes 30 minutes before the ceremony. Thing is, mosquitoes don’t enjoy that and when mosquitoes don’t enjoy something (such as impending death) they get really angry and really bitey. Our wedding video sounds like a zombie film- slapping, smacking, cursing and “Oh God! We’re being eaten alive!” Ah, memories.

Do you offer services beyond weddings?

Sure! All of my couples are my couples for as long as I live or can remember things. So, I’ve done baby blessings, house blessings and unfortunately, a few funerals. Of course, I offer free marital education sessions and counseling (marital, spiritual) to all who ask.

Lightning round!

Favorite venues?

So many! In no particular order: Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, Heinz History Center, Phipps, Omni William Penn & Omni Bedford Springs, The Atrium, Shady Elms Farm, Pittsburgh Opera, The White Barn, Greystone Fields, Old Economy Village

Favorite restaurants (for an off-duty meal)?A Simple Vow Reverend Mark DeNuzzio Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant Heinz History Center

El Campesino, Emiliano’s, Tamarind, Loving Hut

Favorite vacation spot?

Savannah, Georgia

Coffee or beer? Favorite place to get one?

Coffee. At home. I’m boring.

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Christina Montemurro Photography specializes in photographing Pittsburgh weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs. Using a photojournalistic approach, Christina provides extraordinary attention to detail and customer service. Christina loves to work with happy couples who want to look their best in their wedding photos, but still look like themselves, not models in a styled shoot for a wedding magazine.

Contact Christina now to check availability for your engagement session, wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. Christina has been rated among top Pittsburgh wedding photographers. You can read reviews by Christina’s past brides and grooms here and here. Some of Christina’s favorite venues include the Carnegie Museum, Heinz History Center, Edgewood Club, Edgewood Country Club, Hotel Monaco, Omni William Penn Hotel, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square, PNC Park and Twelve Oaks Mansion.

Christina is also available to shoot weddings in Bucks County, including Doylestown, Chalfont, New Hope, Yardley, Newtown, Warminster, Warrington, Bedminster and Pipersville.

  • Randi Voss - April 13, 2015 - 8:55 pm

    The best vendor post yet! I love Rev Mark!!