How to Plan the Perfect City Hall Wedding - A Marrygrams Guide
As anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows, there will inevitably be a time where one of you utters the phrase, "This is so much work, what if we just got married at city hall instead?" And whether this thought is spurred by budget concerns, impatience or just good old fashioned burnout, it's not actually a bad idea!
Getting married at city hall is a great option for couples who want to tie the knot but without any of the big-ticket items or pomp and circumstance that come with planning a full-on event. For many, less truly is more. And contrary to popular belief, you can still pull off a pretty spectacular wedding with minimal strain on your time or your wallet.
Let our handy guide below inspire and help you plan your own city hall nuptials. (Or let it convince you to scrap the big wedding and just go for it! You do you!)
How To Have a Magical City Hall Wedding
Treat it Like a Wedding
Because it is one! Your wedding ceremony is important, and it deserves to be thought of as such. Otherwise, why even bother with the ceremony at all? So don't be afraid to take it seriously. You're not just crossing an errand off of your to-do list. You're committing to your favorite person for the rest of your life. And regardless of where you do it, it's a big deal.
Do a Little Planning
So now you get to plan! But don't worry, planning your city hall wedding will be a walk in the park. Because a little preparation and creativity are all it takes to have the most memorable day. First things first, pick a date! It may seem counterproductive, like you'd rather just whisk yourselves down to the courthouse in a fit of romantic passion, but it doesn't actually work that way.
You'll need to confirm the logistics (paperwork, marriage laws, licensing time-frames, allowed number of witnesses, etc) in the county you're going to be married in. Some marriage license offices require a 3 day waiting period, others may ask that you book a specific time to use their services, and others may only be open 3 days a week. Point is, do your research. Make sure you know the laws up front, so when you do skip happily down to city hall there are no unexpected surprises.
Decide on a Guest List (if any)
Are you going to elope? Or are there a handful of family members you want to share this moment with? Just because you're getting married at city hall doesn't mean you can't have your best friends and family by your side. But it does mean that you'll have to invite them with at least a bit of advanced notice and that you choose a date and time that works for everyone. Before you issue any invites, however, make sure you confirm how many witnesses are allowed to come with you. Some places may allow up to 10, while most say 6 or fewer.
Choose an Officiant
Yes, technically you can have a Justice of the Peace perform your wedding ceremony. But most city halls will allow you to bring your own officiant, and in fact, many actually recommend it! When you roll the dice with a JOP, you're committing to a ceremony that isn't much of a ceremony at all. Not to mention a complete stranger sharing in one of the most intimate moments of your life. They'll read a few cut and dry lines, pronounce you married, and send you on your way.
But now that it's so easy for a friend or family member to get ordained online, why wouldn't you? Taking the time to personalize your wedding ceremony with someone who knows you as a couple will make the entire moment feel more unique, special and genuine. Another bonus to bringing your own officiant? You don't actually HAVE to use the room at city hall. Is there a rose garden outside the courthouse? Go have your ceremony out there instead!
Chances are if you're getting married at city hall you won't be able to read your own vows. They do dozens of weddings a day so their goal is to get you married and out of there, not to listen to you wax poetic. So we have a Marrygrams alternative! Write down your vows the same way you would if you were having a big, custom ceremony. Only you don't have to actually stand up in front of a crowd and say them. Exchanging love notes before your ceremony is the perfect way to still get to say your own vows, and create a lasting keepsake of your big day. Shop cards for each other here!
Get Dressed Up
You don't need to wear a Vera Wang gown (although you totally can!) but you should still choose a special outfit. A white pantsuit or vintage tea length dress are personal favorites for city hall weddings, but get creative with it! Wear something that makes you feel beautiful (or handsome) and comfortable. And go the extra mile and stop by a florist to build your own bouquet on the way. Those little personal details will make your day so memorable and sweet.
Bring Your Documents
Don't show up empty handed! This goes back to that whole "make sure you know what you're doing before you do it" advice mentioned above. Confirm which documents (driver's license, birth certificate, etc) you will need to have on hand when you show up for your ceremony. Because nothing would be more frustrating than not being able to get married because you forgot to bring proof of address.
Hire a Photographer
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice we can offer. Do NOT skip the photographer. Seriously. This is by far the most common regret from couples who choose to elope. And while a full-time wedding photographer could cost you upwards of $7,000 or more, hiring that same photographer for 30 minutes to an hour of portrait work will probably run you closer to $300.
Trust us, it's worth it. You'll walk away from that day with the most beautiful and unique images that a quick phone selfie or your mom's point and shoot just won't measure up to. (Need more convincing? Just look at all of the gorgeous images peppered throughout this blog post, all professionally done.)
Don't just head back to work after your ceremony, plan something fun! Whether it's a special dinner just for the two of you, or a date to your local museum or botanical gardens, planning an activity for after your wedding is a must do. You'll get to ride those "I do" endorphins just a little bit longer, and create a new anniversary tradition in the process! (Pro Tip: Splurge and book your photographer for an extra hour and invite them along to capture the joy!)
This one can wait until after the ceremony, but spread the love! Even if you got married at city hall, it's still important to let your friends and family know that you did! It will help them feel included in a small, special way. And don't forget to share those photos!
And there you have it! You're now well on your way to creating a blissful city hall wedding in no time. And when you do, don't forget to share your images with us! We can't wait to see how you made this day your own.