“Going to the Chapel and we’re going to get married!”. Nope, that is not always the case. These days, more and more couples have chosen to get married in court.
The reasons for this phenomenon can be due to either personal or financial circumstances or preference but at the end of the day, a courthouse wedding can save a couple who want to get married a lot of time, stress, and money!
So, what exactly is a courthouse or civil wedding? This is a non-religious yet legally recognized marriage ceremony. It is performed by government officials and is normally a relatively small affair.
This wedding does not consist of a lengthy ceremony or a huge guest list and is the best option for couples who want to experience a simple yet intimate ceremony.
How much money does it cost for a courthouse wedding?
How much does it cost to get married at the courthouse?
Getting married at the courthouse will still cost you something, but nothing close to what you would pay for a full-on traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles.
Courthouse wedding costs vary from state to state and you should check with your local authority on the amount that you would pay in the area that you live in.
For example, a courthouse wedding in Arizona, Florida, and Kansas would cost about $85, whereas New Jersey, Colorado, and Iowa would only set you back in the region of $28 give or take.
Courthouse Wedding Requirements
Courthouse weddings still have to adhere to the legal requirements of the state that you are getting married in, and most will require you to obtain a marriage license before the wedding as well as at least one witness to be present during the marriage ceremony.
A courthouse wedding takes a lot less time to organize but this is not to say that you should not afford yourself enough time in which to finalize the details and make sure of your specific state’s requirements.
Bear in mind that there is often a waiting period between the time that the marriage license is issued and when is it active so there is only a certain time frame in which to get officially married.
Typically, a marriage license expires after 90 days so your courthouse wedding needs to happen before the license expires.
Courthouse Weddings: The Good and The Bad
Courthouse weddings consist of various pros and cons and these should be carefully considered before you decide to have a huge elaborate wedding or an intimate courthouse wedding.
Courthouse Wedding Cons
- Not many friends or loved ones can spend the special day with you.
- Most courthouses only allow a maximum of six people to attend the wedding.
- The home affairs office you are getting married in can be dull and dreary. Not exactly a fairy-tale wedding.
Courthouse Wedding Pros
- The wedding is more intimate and focuses solely on the couple and their nuptials.
- You can invite up to six people so you can have your nearest and dearest with you on the day.
- A courthouse wedding is significantly more cost-effective and allows you to spend the money saved on an extravagant honeymoon or even home renovations!
- Not much planning is necessary so this can take away the stress that many brides and grooms experience when trying to organize a big and costly wedding.
Planning A Courthouse Wedding: A Step-By-Step Guide
Just because you are going to be saving a lot of money by choosing a more intimate courthouse wedding, does not mean that you cannot make it special.
Remember, you only get married once…or twice and the day should be one to remember for the rest of your lives together.
Here are some steps to help you plan a beautifully intimate, elegant, and memorable courthouse wedding:
1. Choose A City Hall That Appeals to You
Some City Halls are better than others with one of the best being in San Francisco. You don’t have to get married in the city hall of the area that you live in, so it is worth it to look around.
If you choose a city hall out of your area, then you can even organize a fun-filled trip with your loved ones. You can even choose to have your honeymoon in the same location if you want to.
2. Make Sure That You Have Done All of Your Research
You are not able to get married in court unless you have received your marriage license. Remember that the official process of making a marriage legal varies from state to state.
Make sure that you have researched the requirements of the city that you have chosen to tie the knot in.
3. Apply for A Marriage License
Once you have done your research it is then time to officially apply for your marriage license. To do this you will need to each require some form of identification as well as certified copies of both the bride and groom’s birth certificates.
If you have been married before then divorce papers are also needed. Always make sure to fill out and sign all applications in black ink. Remember to also ask the city hall that you are going to be applying at if they accept cards or cash.
4. Choose Your Day and Make an Appointment
It is quite important to make an appointment for the impending ceremony way in advance. In many cases, there are a significant number of people who may have also made appointments with the city hall that you have chosen. Sometimes it can even take a few months to find a slot.
Unfortunately, not many courthouses operate on a weekend so a Saturday courthouse wedding will be quite hard to secure. You can, however, check with your local courthouse to see if they can accommodate you over the weekend.
Do not forget that your marriage license is only valid for a certain period so you should book with the courthouse soon after you obtain your license to wed.
5. Start a Checklist
Your checklist should cover the following details:
- Phone a few days before to confirm your appointment at the courthouse.
- Make sure to have all the relevant documentation with you in a folder when you arrive at the courthouse.
- Remember to bring at least one witness. This witness has to be over 18 years old for the marriage to go ahead. Make sure that they are going to be attending and remind them weekly of the impending date.
- If you want to recite your vows or would like additional guests or a photographer to be present, then it is important to make sure with the courthouse that you can do these things before you arrive.
6. Remember to Take Photos or A Video of the Ceremony
Once you have found out from the courthouse whether you are allowed to bring in a photographer or videographer then it is time to secure a talented candidate for the job.
This is an extremely special occasion, and it is important to be able to look back on the day with photographs or your very own wedding film.
7. Invite Those Who Count
This is one of the biggest benefits of having a courthouse wedding. You don’t have to deal with the wrath of any people that were not included on your guest list if you had chosen a traditional wedding.
This way there is no politics and no stress involved as most people will understand that the courthouse will not allow more than a certain number of people to attend your wedding. At the end of the day, you can choose a small handful of people that mean the most to you.
You can even consider using your maid of honor or best man as a witness and share the special moment with them and your photographer.
8. Choose The Perfect Outfit
So, you are not having a princess wedding and you are not going to need a big white wedding dress with all the trimmings. This does not mean that you shouldn’t dress up if you want to. It also does not mean that you are not allowed to walk into the courtroom with your Bermudas and sneakers.
Every couple is different, so if you want to wear traditional wedding attire, a pretty cocktail dress, or be casual, anything goes. This is your and your partner’s day. Do whatever makes you comfortable and happy.
9. Throw an Awesome Afterparty!
Once you have legally tied the knot you may want to throw an afterparty to celebrate with any friends or family that were not able to witness your wedding vows.
You don’t have to throw a huge or elaborate afterparty, but you should celebrate your marriage in some kind of way. Getting married is a big deal and should be celebrated.
You can choose to have an intimate dinner with your closest friends and family or choose to celebrate with more people at somebody’s house or a nice restaurant.
You are also allowed to be selfish. It is your special day and if you and your partner want to ride off together into the sunset on your own to honor and celebrate your marriage then you should do just that!