Do-It-Yourself State

I read the other day that you don’t need a blood test to get married in Colorado. Wondering if that was true, I checked various sources online, and yes. That’s true. What truly surprised me, though, is that in Colorado, self-solemnizing marriages are legal. This means that in Colorado you don’t need to have a judge or a minister or even a friend officiating at your wedding. You don’t need witnesses or vows or a wedding gown or guests or any of the other trappings of so many weddings. In fact, when you apply for your marriage license from the Clerk and Recorder, you can both sign it right there, give it back to the county clerk, and it’s done. A mere twenty minutes after you enter the building, you’re married.

You can, of course, get your marriage license, go to the mountains or your back yard or some other special place, dress up, exchange vows, sign the license, then return it to the court within thirty-five days, and you’re married. (You don’t even have to be a citizen of Colorado, which makes this an even easier place for a quick wedding than Nevada because in Nevada, there must be an officiant and witnesses.)

If you don’t want even that minimum hassle of getting married, you don’t have to do anything — since Colorado one of the few common-law states, all you have to do is say you’re married, act married, let people think you’re married, and you’re married. Without the license, though, there could be problems. If one of you dies and there is no will, the property rights of the remaining spouse could be contested, though property rights in Colorado are the same whether a traditional marriage, a self-solemnized marriage, or a common law marriage. Strangely, if you’re common law and want to break up or marry someone else, you need to go through the courts to get a divorce, though if it’s an amical dissolution, you can do the paperwork yourself.

Another interesting situation in Colorado is that it is legal to bury someone on your property, though the burial must be recorded with the county clerk within thirty days. You can scatter cremains on your property without having it recorded — you just do it. If you want the ashes all in one place, such as beneath a tree, you need to neutralize the cremains because they contain an exorbitant amount of salt which is toxic. There are various mixtures you can buy that will turn the cremains into soil, or you can make sure you scatter them widely to mitigate any danger.

Colorado is also the only state that doesn’t license funeral homes and crematories. Colorado law even allows families to forgo a funeral director and conduct their own home funeral and burial service, though it has to be within 24 hours of death, otherwise the Colorado requires the body to be embalmed. It’s also the only state with a legal, open-air funeral pyre.

Apparently, this is a do-it-yourself state, from home births to self-affirming marriages to personal burial practices. Who knew? Certainly not I. At least not until now.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.