Tips for a Memorable Courthouse Wedding

Bride and groom smiling in their car after their courthouse wedding.

Image Source: Cindy Baffour

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Courthouse weddings, also known as city hall weddings or justice of the peace marriages, are the perfect fit for many couples looking to tie the knot. With a little planning, these civil weddings can be just as romantic and memorable as more grandiose ceremonies. 

If you’re looking to say “I do” in a lowkey, low-stress ceremony, getting married at the courthouse can be the perfect fit. These ceremonies are distilled to the core of what getting married means: making a promise to your partner and joining together in a legal union. 

Image Source: Dex Ezekiel

Conducted at your local courthouse, city call or other legal spaces in your community, these weddings are increasingly popular for couples of all ages. Learn more about how to get married at the courthouse and have a memorable ceremony.

Benefits of Courthouse Weddings

From commitment ceremonies to elopement weddings, traditional weddings, courthouse marriages and other ceremonies, there are many ways to get married. An increasing number of couples are going to the courthouse to get married, due largely to the benefits of these kinds of weddings. The benefits of courthouse weddings include: 

  1. Lower costs. Courthouse weddings can cost $150 or less, depending on your state’s costs for marriage licenses and on-site civil ceremonies.  
  2. Less stress. Getting married at the courthouse is much simpler than a larger ceremony, helping couples enjoy the day with less stress.  
  3. Intimate and simple. Getting married at city hall or your local courthouse allows you to focus on your partner and your ceremony. 
  4. Faster timelines. Looking to add a wedding ring to wear alongside your engagement ring sooner rather than later? Depending on your local jurisdiction, getting married at the courthouse can take a few weeks or even days to plan rather than months.  
  5. Optional guest list. Many local courthouses allow a small number of guests to attend weddings. It’s up to you and your partner to decide how many people you’d like to invite to your small ceremony. Many people invite their immediate family or closest friends.  

These are some of the biggest benefits of courthouse weddings, but there may be even more upsides to these ceremonies. Flexible, affordable and low-pressure courthouse weddings are great choices for civil ceremonies. If you’re wondering how to get married at the courthouse, it’s a simple process that takes a few quick steps. 

How to Plan a Courthouse Wedding

Courthouse weddings are wonderfully simple, but they still take a little bit of planning. From your marriage license to your guest list and even your wedding nails, some elements of the court wedding need planning. 

Step 1: Choose Your Location

Civil ceremonies can be performed at the courthouse, city hall or any other authorized location. While many people choose to get married at their nearest courthouse, different cities have some buildings with more flair than others. If you’re concerned with the backdrop of your court wedding, do some research into the city halls, courthouses and other buildings that offer these civil ceremonies to find the one that you like best. 

Sometimes the best fit is your nearest city hall, while other times it may be worth taking a trip to a different city’s courthouse. Once you’ve chosen the civil ceremony space that works for your court wedding, you’ll need to get your marriage license. 

Step 2: Apply for Your Marriage License and Set a Date

The most important steps for planning your courthouse wedding are to apply for your marriage license and then set your wedding date. Typically, you cannot get married the same day you apply for your marriage license. Different states have requirements for waiting periods and additional processes that must be completed before you can have your wedding, regardless of whether you’re having a traditional ceremony or a courthouse one. Check with your local city hall or courthouse to learn about your community’s rules. 

Photo of a bride and groom’s feet at the courthouse as they exit their ceremony. 

Image Source: Gregory Hayes

Once you have applied for your marriage license, you will likely need to wait 3 days before you can get married. The exact waiting period varies by state, and some states require additional processes for the license approval. Additionally, your marriage license is only valid for a set period of time, so it’s crucial to have your courthouse wedding in the validity period of your marriage license. 

Step 3: Plan Your Extras

With your marriage license and courthouse wedding date set, you can then start planning the civil court wedding extras. Your marriage ceremony will likely be conducted by a government official of the court’s choosing, but there are other elements of your ceremony you can plan. You can choose your courthouse wedding dress, suit or other outfit components for your special day. 

Other extras to plan include optional vows, flowers and a photographer to document your special day. Many couples opt to have professional photos taken at the courthouse as both keepsakes and announcements of their union. 

You can bring classic wedding traditions into your courthouse wedding with a little extra planning as well. Flowers, jewelry and special outfit components can bring the timeless tradition of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue into your civil ceremony. 

Step 4: Invite Your Guests

It’s typically not required to bring guests when getting married at the courthouse, but many couples choose to share this moment with a select group of people. If you plan on inviting your immediate family or closest friends to your ceremony, it’s best to invite them with as much advance notice as possible for them to plan their attendance. 

Step 5: Keep a Checklist

Image Source: Michiele Henderson

A day-of checklist can help ensure that you’ve got everything you need for your courthouse wedding. Make sure to keep track of your marriage license, women’s and men’s wedding rings and any other elements that are crucial to your courthouse wedding day. Keeping a checklist will help you avoid forgetting anything. 

Step 6: Have Your Ceremony and Celebrate in Your Own Way

Following the completion of your courthouse wedding, you can choose how to celebrate your new marriage. Many people choose to have a reception for friends and family following their more intimate city hall wedding. Local restaurants or event venues are popular destinations for celebrating with loved ones after getting married at the courthouse. 

Choose the post-ceremony celebration that best fits you and your partner. While celebrating with extended friends and family in a larger gathering after the civil wedding can help everyone feel included, you are not obligated to host an event if it’s something that doesn’t fit with you and your partner. 

What to Wear When Getting Married at the Courthouse

You can wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in during your courthouse wedding. Many people choose to wear a suit or courthouse wedding dress resembling traditional wedding attire. But it’s ultimately up to you and your partner to decide which kinds of outfits are best for your city hall wedding. 

Popular Questions About City Hall Weddings

City hall and courthouse weddings typically cost $150 or less. The cost includes your marriage license fee and any fees the courthouse may have for conducting ceremonies. Getting married at the courthouse is one of the most affordable ways to get married

As a guest at a courthouse wedding, it’s best to dress up a bit. Wearing business casual is a great starting point for what to wear to a courthouse wedding as a guest. When in doubt, ask the couple how formal they’re dressing so you can match the vibe. 

Typically, you cannot choose your courthouse wedding officiant. This varies by city, so check with your office to see your options. 

If you’re getting married at city hall or in a courthouse civil ceremony, you can usually invite a few guests to the event. You should expect to have a guest list of no more than 15 people, though the exact number varies from one state to the next. 

Yes, there is still a waiting period from when you get your marriage license to when you can get married, even if you’re having a court wedding. 

Courthouse weddings are quick ceremonies, typically lasting around 5 or so minutes. 

Celebrating with Everyone After Your Ceremony

After getting married at the courthouse, it’s common for couples to have a larger celebration to share some of the day’s excitement with their friends and family. These afterparties allow the newly wedded couple to celebrate with their closest loved ones. You can celebrate at home, at a restaurant, an event hall or anywhere else that will fit your guest list. 

Your Unforgettable Courthouse Wedding

Couple smiling on their court wedding day. 

Image Source: One Zone Studio

These ceremonies are affordable, intimate, practical and even romantic. Don’t forget to bring men’s and women’s wedding rings to the courthouse or city hall for your wedding.

Courthouse weddings can be just as romantic, memorable and exciting as any other type of ceremony. With a little planning, you’ll have a special day that marks the beginning of your new journey together. 

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