Courthouse Weddings: A Comprehensive Guide to Planning Your Perfect Ceremony

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Planning a wedding can be a daunting task. The list of things to do seems endless.

From finding the perfect venue to choosing the right dress, the details can quickly become overwhelming. But what if there was a simpler, more intimate, and budget-friendly option?

Welcome to the world of courthouse weddings.

A courthouse wedding, as the name suggests, takes place at a courthouse. It's a legal ceremony officiated by a judge or a justice of the peace.

This type of wedding has been gaining popularity in recent years. It's not hard to see why.

Courthouse weddings are typically less expensive than traditional weddings. They also require less planning and can be arranged on short notice.

But how do you plan a courthouse wedding? What are the steps involved? What should you wear? How can you make your courthouse wedding special and memorable?

In this comprehensive guide, we will answer all these questions and more.

We will explore the pros and cons of a courthouse wedding. We will provide a step-by-step guide on how to get married at the courthouse.

We will offer tips on choosing the right dress, making your ceremony special, and capturing beautiful courthouse wedding photos.

Whether you're considering a courthouse wedding in Denver, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Fort Worth, Santa Barbara, or NYC, this guide has got you covered.

So, let's dive in and start planning your perfect courthouse wedding.

Understanding Courthouse Weddings

Before we delve into the planning process, it's important to understand what a courthouse wedding is.

A courthouse wedding is a civil ceremony that takes place in a courthouse or city hall. It's officiated by a judge, justice of the peace, or a city clerk.

Unlike traditional weddings, courthouse weddings are typically small and intimate. They often involve just the couple, a few witnesses, and close family members.

However, this doesn't mean that courthouse weddings are any less special or meaningful. In fact, many couples find them to be a perfect reflection of their love and commitment.

What is a Courthouse Wedding?

A courthouse wedding is a legal marriage ceremony conducted in a government building. It's a simple, straightforward process that involves obtaining a marriage license, scheduling an appointment, and saying your vows in front of an authorized official.

The ceremony itself is usually brief, lasting about 15 to 30 minutes. It's often followed by a small celebration or a larger reception at a different location.

Despite its simplicity, a courthouse wedding can be as beautiful and memorable as any other wedding. It all depends on how you choose to personalize it.

From the vows you exchange to the clothes you wear, there are many ways to make your courthouse wedding uniquely yours.

The Rise in Popularity of Courthouse Weddings

Courthouse weddings have been around for a long time. However, they have seen a surge in popularity in recent years.

One reason for this is the cost. Courthouse weddings are significantly cheaper than traditional weddings, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious couples.

Another reason is the simplicity and convenience they offer. With less planning and fewer logistics to worry about, courthouse weddings can be a stress-free alternative to the often hectic traditional wedding planning process.

Pros and Cons of a Courthouse Wedding

Like any other type of wedding, courthouse weddings come with their own set of pros and cons. Understanding these can help you decide if it's the right choice for you and your partner.

On the plus side, courthouse weddings are typically less expensive, less stressful, and more intimate. They also offer a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling and planning.

On the downside, they may not be ideal for those who dream of a large, traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles. They also limit the number of guests you can invite due to space constraints.

Advantages of Choosing a Courthouse Wedding

One of the biggest advantages of a courthouse wedding is the cost. Traditional weddings can be expensive, with costs often running into tens of thousands of dollars.

In contrast, a courthouse wedding can cost as little as a few hundred dollars. This includes the marriage license fee, the ceremony fee, and a simple celebration afterward.

Another advantage is the simplicity and convenience. There's no need to worry about booking a venue, hiring a caterer, or coordinating with various vendors. All you need to do is apply for a marriage license, schedule an appointment, and show up on the day.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

Despite the many advantages, courthouse weddings may not be for everyone. One potential drawback is the limited guest list. Most courthouses have strict limits on the number of guests due to space constraints.

Another potential downside is the lack of traditional wedding elements. If you've always dreamed of walking down the aisle in a grand church or dancing the night away at a lavish reception, a courthouse wedding may not fulfill those dreams.

Lastly, some people may feel that courthouse weddings lack the personal touch and uniqueness of a traditional wedding. However, with a bit of creativity and planning, you can make your courthouse wedding as special and memorable as any other.

Legal Requirements and Paperwork

Planning a courthouse wedding involves more than just showing up on the day. There are legal requirements and paperwork that need to be taken care of beforehand.

Firstly, you'll need to apply for a marriage license. This is a legal document that allows you to get married. The process and requirements for obtaining a marriage license vary by state and even by county.

Secondly, you'll need to bring certain documents and identification to the courthouse. This typically includes a valid photo ID, proof of age, and in some cases, proof of divorce or death of a previous spouse if applicable.

Obtaining a Marriage License

To obtain a marriage license, you'll need to visit your local county clerk's office. Both you and your partner must be present to apply.

You'll need to fill out an application form, which usually asks for information like your names, addresses, birth dates, and social security numbers. There may also be a small fee to pay.

Once you've submitted your application, there may be a waiting period before you can collect your license. This varies by location, so it's best to check with your local county clerk's office.

Necessary Documents and Identification

When you go to the courthouse to get married, you'll need to bring certain documents with you. This typically includes a valid photo ID, such as a driver's license or passport.

You'll also need to bring your marriage license. Some courthouses may also require proof of age, such as a birth certificate. If you or your partner have been married before, you may need to provide proof of divorce or death of the previous spouse.

Planning Your Courthouse Wedding: A Step-by-Step Guide

Planning a courthouse wedding doesn't have to be a daunting task. With the right information and a clear plan, you can organize a beautiful and memorable day.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

  • Choose your courthouse location
  • Schedule your appointment
  • Prepare your day-of checklist
  • Decide on your attire
  • Plan your post-ceremony celebration
  • Hire a photographer
  • Announce your marriage

Choosing Your Courthouse Location

The first step in planning your courthouse wedding is choosing your location. This could be your local courthouse, or you could opt for a courthouse in a different city or state for a destination wedding.

Consider factors such as the architecture of the building, the surrounding area for photos, and the availability of dates and times. Some courthouses, like the Denver courthouse or the San Francisco courthouse, are known for their beautiful architecture and make for stunning wedding photos.

Remember to check the specific requirements of the courthouse you choose, as they can vary. Some may require residency, while others may have specific rules about the ceremony.

Scheduling and Appointment Booking

Once you've chosen your courthouse, the next step is to schedule your appointment. This usually involves contacting the courthouse to check their availability and book a date and time.

Keep in mind that some courthouses may have limited availability, especially during peak wedding seasons. It's best to book as far in advance as possible to secure your preferred date.

The Day-of Checklist

Having a day-of checklist can help ensure that everything goes smoothly on your wedding day. This should include all the items you need to bring, such as your marriage license, identification, and any required fees.

Also consider other details like your attire, rings, vows, and any personal touches you want to include in your ceremony. Remember to plan for transportation to and from the courthouse, and any post-ceremony celebrations you have planned.

Attire and What to Wear

Choosing what to wear to your courthouse wedding is an important part of the planning process. While there's no strict dress code, it's still a special occasion and you'll want to look and feel your best.

Selecting a Courthouse Wedding Dress

When it comes to selecting a dress for your courthouse wedding, comfort and personal style should be your guiding factors. You might opt for a traditional wedding dress, a chic suit, or a simple yet elegant dress.

Remember, courthouse weddings often have a more relaxed and intimate feel, so feel free to express your personal style. Whether you prefer a classic white dress, a colorful ensemble, or a modern jumpsuit, the key is to choose something that makes you feel beautiful and confident.

Dress Code for Guests

If you're inviting guests to your courthouse wedding, it's a good idea to let them know what to wear. While there's no strict dress code, guests typically opt for smart casual or semi-formal attire.

It's best to communicate the expected dress code to your guests in advance. This can be done through your wedding invitations or a simple message. Remember, the focus of the day is your love and commitment, so the most important thing is that everyone feels comfortable and enjoys the celebration.

Making Your Courthouse Wedding Special

Just because you're having a courthouse wedding doesn't mean it can't be special and memorable. There are many ways to personalize your ceremony and make the day uniquely yours.

From writing your own vows to incorporating meaningful traditions, there's plenty of room for creativity. The key is to focus on what matters most to you and your partner.

Personalizing Your Ceremony

One of the best ways to personalize your courthouse wedding is by writing your own vows. This allows you to express your love and commitment in your own words, making the ceremony more intimate and meaningful.

You can also incorporate special traditions or rituals that hold significance for you and your partner. This could be anything from a unity candle ceremony to a handfasting ritual, or even a special song or poem.

Overall, just because you're getting married at a courthouse doesn't mean you can't have a ceremony that's unique and reflects the two of you. You can easily write (or have your officiant write) a custom ceremony script.

Remember, this is your day. Don't be afraid to break from tradition and create a ceremony that truly reflects your love story.

Unique Courthouse Wedding Ideas

Looking for unique courthouse wedding ideas? Consider hiring a musician to play your favorite song as you walk down the aisle. Or, you could have a friend or family member read a special poem or passage during the ceremony.

Another idea is to have a small reception or celebration after the ceremony. This could be a simple lunch at your favorite restaurant, a picnic in the park, or a gathering at your home.

Remember, the most important thing is that your wedding day feels true to you. With a little creativity and planning, a courthouse wedding can be just as special and memorable as a traditional wedding.

Capturing the Moment: Courthouse Wedding Photography

Your courthouse wedding is a momentous occasion. It's a day filled with love, joy, and celebration. And like any wedding, you'll want to capture these precious moments.

Hiring a professional photographer can help you do just that. They can document your day, from the signing of the marriage license to the first kiss as a married couple.

Hiring a Photographer

When hiring a photographer for your courthouse wedding, there are a few things to consider. First, you'll want to find someone who is experienced in courthouse weddings. They'll know the ins and outs of the venue and can capture the best shots.

Second, be sure to discuss your vision with them. Let them know what moments are most important to you. This will help them create a photo story that truly reflects your day.

Photo Opportunities at the Courthouse

Courthouses often have unique architectural features that can make for stunning photos. From grand staircases to ornate ceilings, these elements can add a touch of elegance to your wedding photos.

Don't forget to take advantage of the outdoor spaces as well. Many courthouses have beautiful gardens or courtyards that can serve as the perfect backdrop for your wedding photos.

Budgeting for Your Courthouse Wedding

Planning a courthouse wedding can be a cost-effective alternative to a traditional wedding. However, it's still important to budget for your big day. This will help you avoid any unexpected expenses and ensure that you can enjoy your wedding without financial stress.

The cost of a courthouse wedding can vary greatly depending on several factors. These include the location of the courthouse, the cost of the marriage license, and any additional services you may require.

Cost Breakdown of a Courthouse Wedding

The first cost to consider is the marriage license fee. This can range from $10 to $100, depending on the state.

Next, you'll need to budget for the ceremony fee. Some courthouses offer free ceremonies, while others may charge a fee. This can range from $25 to $150.

Finally, don't forget to factor in any additional costs. These could include hiring a photographer, buying a wedding dress, or planning a post-ceremony celebration.

Budget-Friendly Courthouse Wedding Ideas

If you're looking for ways to save money on your courthouse wedding, there are plenty of budget-friendly ideas. For example, you could opt for a simple wedding dress or even wear something you already own.

Another idea is to have a small post-ceremony celebration at home or at a local park. This can be a cost-effective way to celebrate your marriage with family and friends.

After the Courthouse: Celebrating Your Marriage

Once you've said your vows and signed the paperwork, it's time to celebrate! Even though you've chosen a courthouse wedding, you can still mark the occasion in a special way. Whether it's a small gathering or a larger party, there are plenty of ways to celebrate your marriage.

Planning a Post-Ceremony Celebration

One popular option is to host a small reception after the ceremony. This could be at a local restaurant, a park, or even at your home. It's a great way to include family and friends in your special day.

Another idea is to plan a larger celebration at a later date. This could be a traditional reception, a casual party, or even a destination event. It's entirely up to you and what suits your style and budget.

Remember, the most important thing is that you celebrate in a way that feels right for you. It's your day, after all!

Announcing Your Marriage

After the celebration, you'll want to announce your marriage. There are many ways to do this, from traditional announcements in the local newspaper to more modern methods like social media.

You could also send out wedding announcements to friends and family. These can be formal cards or more casual notes, depending on your style.

Finally, don't forget to update your status on social media. It's a quick and easy way to let everyone know about your big day. Just remember to enjoy the moment and celebrate your love in your own unique way.

Courthouse Wedding FAQs

As you plan your courthouse wedding, you may have a few questions. This is completely normal. After all, every wedding is unique and comes with its own set of considerations. To help you navigate this process, we've compiled answers to some of the most common questions about courthouse weddings.

Common Questions Answered

How much does a courthouse wedding cost?

The cost of a courthouse wedding varies depending on the location. However, it's generally much less expensive than a traditional wedding. You'll need to pay for the marriage license and the ceremony fee. Some courthouses also charge a fee for the use of the ceremony room.

What should I wear to a courthouse wedding?

There's no set dress code for a courthouse wedding. Some couples choose to dress formally, while others opt for more casual attire. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and confident.

Can we have guests at our courthouse wedding?

Yes, you can have guests at your courthouse wedding. However, the number of guests may be limited due to the size of the ceremony room. Be sure to check with the courthouse in advance.

Can we personalize our courthouse wedding ceremony?

Absolutely! While the legal part of the ceremony is standard, you can add personal touches. This could include writing your own vows or incorporating special readings or music.

Do we need a witness for our courthouse wedding?

In most cases, you will need at least one witness for your courthouse wedding. The specific requirements vary by location, so be sure to check with your local courthouse.

Can we take photos at our courthouse wedding?

Most courthouses allow photography, but there may be some restrictions. It's best to check with the courthouse in advance to understand their photography policy.


Planning a courthouse wedding can be a unique and intimate experience. It's a chance to focus on the essence of marriage, stripped of the usual pomp and circumstance. With careful planning and a touch of creativity, you can make your courthouse wedding a day to remember.

Remember, the most important thing is that your wedding day reflects you as a couple. Whether you choose a courthouse wedding or a traditional ceremony, the day should be about celebrating your love and commitment to each other. Happy planning!

Ready to start planning your perfect courthouse wedding? Sign up for's Ceremony Builder today and create a memorable celebration that reflects your love and commitment!

From legal requirements to personalized touches to what to wear, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to know about planning a courthouse wedding.
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