You might be considering tying the knot at the local courthouse. This is a great, simple option to committing to your partner without spending extensive time and money planning an elaborate wedding day. So what do you need to know in order to execute a special and stress-free courthouse wedding? Below are some Do’s and Don’ts that can help you plan the big day.
DO Your Homework / DON’T Assume All Courthouses Have the Same Processes
Sure, a courthouse wedding is simpler than dealing with putting together a function at a fancy venue. This does not mean it’s entirely a no-brainer though. Do your research about what your courthouse requires for documents. Marriage laws can vary greatly by state and by county. You want to make sure you are extra careful to check how to go about obtaining your marriage license, and other marriage records. Some courthouses do this by appointment, and some even require more than one appointment. Some jurisdictions have certain office hours during which you can obtain the necessary documents. It is better to be prepared than to show up on your special day and have to reschedule!
DO Make Sure to Have a Witness / DON’T Assume You Can Invite Everyone You Want
Courthouse weddings require a witness who is over 18. This can be anyone that meets the age limit. This can allow someone close to you to take part in the day, though you may choose to bring someone you have a casual relationship with if you are hoping to share this with your new spouse as a private moment. Occasionally, someone from the courthouse may be available to stand in as the witness, but you do not want to rely on that. Another consideration to keep in mind is that many courthouses have limits about how many people can come in for a wedding. This is important to know in advance, so that no one is turned away that is important to you.
DO Arrive On Time and Ready for Ceremony / DON’T Expect to Get Ready or Linger at the Courthouse
When you schedule a wedding, you will be given a start time. This can be any time the courthouse is open, even the morning. Arrive on time and be fully dressed, accessorized, and ready to go with flowers, accessories, or anything else that you want to be part of your ceremony. Most courthouses do not have facilities to allow you to get ready there. Most courthouses book fairly short windows of time for weddings, so you might have someone getting married right after you.
DO Plan Your After-Ceremony Festivities / DON’T Plan to Play it by Ear After the Ceremony
In seeking simplicity, you might be tempted to keep things unstructured for after the ceremony. Unfortunately, this can feel anticlimactic and leave you with regret about your special day. Your post-ceremony activities do not have to fit the wedding mold, but perhaps you should reserve a great table at your favorite restaurant, arrange to take some professional pictures at a beautiful place nearby, or share another special experience with your new spouse. You may not want a big festive wedding like in the movies but you still can hire an event planner to take care of everything for you.
DO Plan Your Date Far in Advance / DON’T Assume Your Courthouse Will Have Openings Short-Notice
If your courthouse allows appointments, it may be tempting to assume that a week or two is enough notice to secure your wedding date and time. In many areas, particularly in large cities, this is simply not true. You might need to wait months, particularly if you are seeking a specific time of day or seasonal time.
DO Think About how to Make the Experience Personal / DON’T Assume You Can Write Your Own Vows
Yes, it’s a simple ceremony, facilitated in a public office setting. It is still YOUR special day. Think about incorporating touches that add symbolism about you as a couple, especially since most courthouses will not allow you to recite your own vows. Maybe it’s a certain flower type, an accent color for shoes / tie, ora music recording. Think about what is special to you as a couple, and make sure you incorporate it.
Regardless of the setting or the level of money spent, getting married is a special milestone in anyone’s life, and a heartfelt memory. Allow yourself to savor your moment of becoming a union – and credit yourself with making a choice to keep things simple and low stress!
Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.