You’re in a happy relationship and you want to marry your partner, but you either don’t want or can’t afford a big, flashy affair. Something more low-key may be better suited, but going down to the county courthouse seems underwhelming and unmemorable. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s everything you need to know about how to make a courthouse wedding special. After all, you’re committing yourselves to one another forever. That’s worth celebrating!
How can you make a courthouse wedding special?
- Incorporate your own special touches. While courthouse weddings can seem very formal and lack individuality, you can add your own personal touches to make things more memorable for you and your spouse. “For instance, you can include reciting a poem that is very near and dear to your heart,” suggests wedding planner John Anderson of Life Line Wedding. “Or perhaps the people you choose to be with you hold a special place in your heart.”
- Choose a sentimental location. Who says you have to use your local courthouse to get exchange vows? Maybe you met a few states away or even in another country? It’s possible to stage your nuptials elsewhere with careful planning. Saying “I do” in Paris seems pretty romantic to us!
- Invite those closest to you. Just because you’re not having a huge ceremony doesn’t mean the people you love can’t come to your wedding. Invite your parents, siblings, and best friends. The people you love most should be there to witness your love for your future spouse. Having them there will make the whole day much more special and memorable.
Advantages of opting for a courthouse wedding
- You save money versus a traditional ceremony. This one is pretty obvious. Traditional weddings can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Courthouse weddings are a few hundred.
- The wedding planning process is not nearly as stressful. When you have a big wedding, there are so many different elements to sort out. From food to photographers to whether or not to hire a live wedding band, the arrangements (and the cost) seem insurmountable. None of these things is a problem with a courthouse wedding.
- You avoid guestlist drama. When you’re only saying “I do” at the courthouse, you don’t have to feel bad about not inviting your cousin’s sister’s best friend from high school. Those nearest and dearest to you are the most important and will be the only ones there.
- You can get married sooner than with a traditional wedding. Wedding planning isn’t just stressful, it takes forever. Not so with a courthouse wedding. Once you have your marriage license and make your appointment, you can be spouses in a matter of weeks or even days.
What should you wear to a courthouse wedding?
There’s no specific dress code for courthouse weddings. Therefore, you can wear whatever you’d like, whether that’s a proper wedding gown or something slightly more casual. The important thing is for you and your fiance(e) to wear something that makes you feel confident and beautiful/handsome. Because you are!
“Typically, courthouse weddings are more of a casual affair, so it’s recommended to wear what you feel comfortable in. A dress or a blouse and skirt is acceptable, as well as a pair of slacks with a button-up and blazer,” explains Anderson. “The overall theme here is to look neat and tidy without overdoing it — you don’t want to look too formal or too casual. And finally, avoid bright colors and bold patterns for a courthouse wedding.”
What happens at a courthouse wedding?
A courthouse wedding, also known as a civil wedding is a short ceremony presided over by an official with the legal right to marry you. Of course, you’ll need to have applied for and received a marriage license before heading in to say “I do,” so check out the requirements in your state in advance.
Marriage ceremonies at the courthouse are generally performed by a government official such as a notary or justice of the peace. A judge or county clerk may also act as officiant. They will read out the official vows and you and your partner will need to say “I do” to cement the marriage. The whole process tends to be pretty quick, usually over in about 10 to 15 minutes. However, this varies depending on location and other factors.
It’s worth noting that courthouse weddings are legal rather than religious ceremonies, you will not be able to customize the language used. You can’t request special readings or particular language from your officiant. Everyone marries using the same vows.
Anderson believes that despite the brevity and lack of personalization, courthouse weddings offer more pros than cons. “Courthouse weddings are simple and straightforward. Once the ceremony is completed, the couple signs a marriage license in front of the witness(es),” he tells Bolde. “The whole process is quick and more affordable than a traditional wedding ceremony which makes it an appealing option to a lot of couples nowadays.”
How much do courthouse weddings cost?
Given that the average wedding in the U.S. costs a whopping $27,000 as of 2o22, according to Wedding Report (via Fool.com), it’s no wonder many couples are more than happy to swap an elaborate ceremony for a down payment on a house or other important investment. Others simply want to avoid accruing extreme debt before their marriage really gets started. Needless to say, a courthouse wedding is much more financially feasible for many.
“The price of a courthouse wedding depends on the location. But you can expect anywhere from $50 to $250. More specifically, a simple civil ceremony might cost around $50, whereas a courthouse ceremony in a larger city would cost $250,” Anderson shares.
He adds that the cost may rise if you choose to marry outside of the county in which you live, saying: “As a side note, many courthouses require at least one party to be a resident of the city or county where the courthouse is located. Otherwise, you may need to find an officiant that is authorized to perform weddings in different counties which may come at an additional fee.”