Wondering how to plan a city hall wedding? We’re here to help! We’re sharing our top tips for courthouse wedding ideas PLUS ways to make your city hall wedding special. Like this? Subscribe for even more to your inbox.
Want to get married at city hall? Wondering how to plan a courthouse wedding? What is the ideal city hall wedding outfit to wear? Do you send invites? Ah, so many questions.
But here’s some good news: it’s easier than you may think to plan a city hall wedding. And due to the crazy year, you’re not alone: many couples faced with COVID, closures, and face coverings are shifting their focus on smaller ceremonies and looking up how to plan a city hall wedding to finally tie the knot.
Whether your original wedding date was postponed and you don’t want it to happen again, or you’re just ready to get married and start spending your life with your partner, a civil ceremony or city hall wedding (aka a courthouse wedding) may be the right choice for you.
It’s easy to plan with a few steps and you CAN make it memorable, too. We believe all couples deserve to feel special on their wedding day, whether a big party or small event and a few personal touches here and there will make your wedding day memorable. In addition to how to plan a city hall wedding, we’ll also show you the best courthouse wedding ideas to make it your own.
Note: If you want to plan a city hall wedding during COVID, be advised. Some city hall wedding COVID 19 regulations may have an impact in your area, so check your city clerk’s website for up-to-date information.
How to Plan City Hall Wedding
So, first off the bat: is a city hall wedding right for you?
Maybe you never imagined you’d plan a wedding at city hall or plan a “mini-wedding”, but sometimes your plans can change and that’s OK. In fact, some couples prefer a city hall wedding: they like the small, intimate feel that is more reflective of their style. The smaller guest list and less “to-do’s” make courthouse weddings cost-effective; for some, planning a city hall wedding is a decision based on budget. And that’s great, too.
The best thing to do: embrace it! Own it! Plan a city hall wedding that is awesome. Bigger doesn’t always mean better; you’ll see that less stress and a smaller budget that comes from a courthouse wedding may be best suited for you.
Read on for the best city hall wedding tips + things you need to know plus ideas on attire, decorations, and more.
1. Pick a location.
Where will your wedding take place? Whether you’re looking to plan a city hall wedding in San Francisco or Chicago, the plans are pretty much the same. Courthouse weddings are popular in larger cities due to their proximity to downtown restaurants that offer a fun big city vibe if that’s your style; or travel to your favorite restaurant after the ceremony, no matter where it happens to be.
While you’re selecting the city hall to get married, try to pick out the restaurant where dinner will follow. Instead of a restaurant, you could also plan a dinner at home: an indoor festive celebration or backyard wedding are two fantastic options.
NOTE: Some couples follow this up with dinner at a restaurant or at their own home with a backyard wedding. However, you do not need to feel pressure to do so. We’re seeing a trend of couples that plan a city hall wedding at a courthouse with parents, siblings, and a few close friends, then follow it up with a big party or reception planned for next summer or whenever it is safer to do so with a large crowd.
2. Call the courthouse to set a city hall ceremony date.
You will need to call the courthouse and set the official ceremony date. Not sure where to go? Just search on Google for: “city hall wedding near me” and local resources will pop up.
Once you find one and call, be sure to ask questions about what you need to have with you (document-wise), ask about the cost, and how many people may be in attendance.
This is especially important due to Covid city hall wedding requirements, as some courthouses may have restrictions on how many people can attend, other than you as the couple and witnesses.
FYI: Can you plan a city hall wedding on Saturday? According to our research, no, courts are closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
3. Apply for a marriage license.
This is essential. To plan a courthouse wedding — or any kind of wedding! — you need a marriage license. The biggest question people have is: “how do you get married at city hall?” And the most important answer is always pretty simple: head to the city hall or your county clerk’s office and apply for your marriage license. This is pretty easy to do, but call ahead or visit their website first to see what kind of documents you will need. Most marriage licenses cost under $100: the prices will be indicated at your county clerk’s office or on their website. Your marriage license is valid within a few days but also has an expiration date, so be sure to file it accordingly.
4. Get an officiant (and a photographer!)
Depending on the location of your particular courthouse wedding, you may need to secure your own officiant. This must be a city-approved officiant, so just ask the courthouse for suggestions or rules pertaining to who you may select. They may also appoint one for you.
If you would like to get a photographer, we highly recommend it. You can capture amazing photos during the ceremony, outside the courthouse, perhaps in a downtown area or even at home. It is a HUGE PLUS to have professional photos taken of your wedding, any size it may be.
To find local photographers, search The Bridal Book, our local vendor guide.
5. Can I get a witness?
Yes, just like the song: you’ll need a witness! Actually, you’ll probably need two. Most places near us require two witnesses for a courthouse wedding.
6. Pay the city hall wedding fee.
Good news: this may be the first time that having ‘wedding’ attached to something doesn’t cost you extra money! ;)
What is a city hall wedding fee? Good question: most locations list the cost of a city hall wedding at $10.
7. Invite guests to your city hall wedding celebration.
Invite family and friends to attend your city hall wedding. Even if everyone can’t be a part of the actual ceremony, he or she can be a part of the festivities and/or throw rice / confetti / etc. at you as your exit the ceremony. :)
And… start planning the details! Here are a few courthouse wedding ideas to include.
City Hall Wedding Invitations
You can send invitations digitally like these to make it easy (and affordable!) with many designs from which to choose.
This style makes a perfect city hall wedding invitation, sent digitally to family and friends (with online RSVP!):
See more designs here.
You can also send traditional invitations by mail. There are many fun designs to choose from at MagicWandWeddings, like these Philadelpia city hall wedding invitations:
For a courthouse wedding, the bride usually carries a bouquet, and the groom wears a boutonniere. You can call a local florist to have something made for you in your favorite blooms. Or you can get them online, the kind that last forever and doesn’t require any refrigeration.
One of the most popular trends right now: pampas grass! This dried flower bouquet is an exceptional choice. I love this style for boho courthouse weddings and larger traditional weddings alike! By HBotanicsWeddings.
These boutonnieres are from MoonFloweratureArt:
Every bride needs a bouquet! Make yours extra special by purchasing a bouquet that will never wilt or fade; handmade bouquets made of sola flowers like these are one of our favorite courthouse wedding ideas. They are no-fuss and require zero refrigeration; they’ll last forever and will remain a keepsake from your day. They’re made of lightweight wood and painted in your favorite colors.
As one example, this bouquet is handmade by PineAndPetalWeddings:
Here is a mix of silk and dried flowers (by KarinaWedding):
In addition, you can add small details to your bouquet to add a big impact. For instance, add bouquet charms like these tied around the handle of your bouquet to honor lost loved ones. By WeddingBouquetCharms.
City Hall Wedding Attire
What is the best kind of city hall wedding attire? Anything you’d like! Although the bride usually wears a white dress or pantsuit, and the groom traditionally wears a suit.
Part of the fun of your wedding day is picking out a beautiful outfit to wear. Just because your wedding is small doesn’t mean you have to skip a special dress or jumpsuit. Here are a few suggestions on what to as courthouse wedding attire / city hall / mini-wedding / or elopement attire.
Wild and free, just like your wedding plans, is the name of the game here. Choose a casual wedding dress that is as comfortable as it is stylish; feel free to dress it up with accessories of your choice, like special jewelry, a fun pair of heels, or bold hair accessory.
This dress is perfect for a city hall wedding: it has a longer length but short sleeves and a stylish open back. By DreamMyWedding.
NOTE: We covered a ton of beautiful wedding dresses under $500 here if you’re interested.
– Bridal Jumpsuit
Who says you have to wear a dress? Today’s bridal jumpsuits and pantsuits are just as stylish as a traditional dress. Plus, it may be more your style. These are the latest in modern styles for city hall brides.
This one is my favorite! I love the feathers on the top! By Saylor. One bride called this the perfect covid-bride attire. This is my easy-answer for city hall wedding attire.
Need ideas? Read: Non-Wedding Dresses: 26 Modern Jumpsuits + Bridal Pantsuits. Or see what is newly added to the BHLDN collection, where they’re killin’ it on beautiful bridal jumpsuit options here.
Prefer a pantsuit? This is pretty much my ideal courthouse wedding pantsuit! It is made by The Tailory New York X BHLDN here.
– Short Wedding Dresses
One of the most popular city hall wedding attire options: a short wedding dress! A little white dress is the most-worn courthouse wedding dress style due to its more informal cut and silhouette.
This is a fun style you’ll love by Sachin & Babi:
You can rock this fun retro-inspired dress for under $30 on Amazon, which has great reviews:
Or this Calvin Klein fit and flare wedding dress under $70 here:
I love this long-sleeve short wedding dress from BHLDN here:
For more, read: 14 Smokin’ Hot Short Wedding Dresses.
Groom City Hall Wedding Atire
What does the groom wear? A suit or dress pants and a suit coat are the traditional go-to’s for men’s city hall wedding attire. Here are a few looks to inspire you (from ToddSnyder). They’re based in New York and offer full suits or mix-and-match styles for men.
– Sutton Suit in Blue
This stylish blue suit is a stylish option. Available here.
– Charcoal Wool Suit
This is a great combination suit from ToddSnyder. Made in the USA.
– Black Suit
A classic option in natural stretch tropical wool. See it here.
– Knit Pinstripe Navy Suit
He doesn’t have to wear a dress shirt and tie or dress shoes if that’s not his style! This navy pin-striped suit is a great alternative to a traditional one, making it an excellent groom’s attire for a city hall wedding. We recommend pairing with these fun wedding shoes.
Now that we have the bride’s city hall attire and the groom’s, let’s talk about fun accessories.
You’re the bride! Make yourself stand out with a few extra accessories, like bridal gloves, a bridal wrap (depending on the season, these faux fur wraps are incredible), a bridal veil or headpiece, and a pair of stylish heels — or wedding shoes that aren’t heels, if that’s more your style.
For bridal gloves, these are a popular choice. I wish I wore gloves at my wedding; they are the ultimate glamorous accessory. You can only get them at TheGildedGarter.
A Just Married denim jacket or Wifey jacket is another fun accessory to wear. This one is affordable and cute, a hard-to-find combination for wedding denim jackets these days. This one is by ModParty and makes a cute topper for your dress.
City Hall Wedding Vows
A great way to personalize your city hall is by writing and reciting your own wedding vows. If it helps, write them in a small vow book like this to make it easy to read them (without forgetting a line!) By OxandPine.
Simple Wedding Rings
You can go large and extravagant with wedding rings if you’d like! Just because it is a small wedding doesn’t mean you have to choose a small ring. However, if you do like a simple band, this hammered style by EllieJMaui is a nice choice and is under $40.
Or this his and hers set, which is perfectly simple. By IrresistiblyMinimal.
This minimalist ring for him is a nice choice in titanium. By ElwoodCrafts.
City Hall Wedding Welcome Sign + Guest Book Idea
Since you may not be able to add any decorations to the actual courthouse itself, throwing a small dinner immediately following the nuptials is a nice idea. Include signage at the place, like this “love is not canceled” or “covid can’t stop us” sign. It also makes a lovely photo prop. These are handmade by BellaBrideCreations.
As a bonus, we think it would be fun for guests to sign onto it as a guest book alternative. You’ll always have a keepsake that reminds you of the year you eloped and who was in attendance. You can use paint pens like these for guests to sign their names.
For another option, let’s say you’re planning a city hall wedding San Francisco style. You could get this sketch made (by SketchAway) featuring the city hall in a fun colorful poster. Ask guests to sign around the outside and have it framed. Need another location? Browse the shop here or ask for a custom sketch. The artist is so talented!
Courthouse Wedding Ideas for Cake
Before or after dinner, you can include the cake-cutting as a part of the festivities. This is one tradition that is easy to do whether you’re planning a traditional wedding or a courthouse wedding; everyone loves cake! Add a special cake topper for a memorable touch. Here are just a few that seem to tie in well with the current situation.
Or this one with peg dolls, also so cute! By CraftingBird.
City Hall Wedding Face Masks
You’ll need face masks to wear during the ceremony and/or the reception at your city hall wedding; it doesn’t have to be boring, though! Here are a few as-fun-as-possible masks we found (note, these are non-medical masks). You can get custom disposable masks that say anything you’d like from ForYourParty here.
Or choose a pre-made design, like this: “Married Today, Party Tomorrow”. You can choose colors, font styles, and more.
Or you can get a set that is customized for your whole crew in a reusable cloth style. These are perfect for everyone in attendance at your wedding. By YourEverydayPerfect.
Don’t forget a Bridal Face Mask. You may need a special courthouse wedding face mask. If so, these delicate ones handmade by GildedShadows are a nice accessory to have — and look 100x better than surgical masks!
Or this one by MififiAccessories:
And maybe some of these favors are a good idea to have. :)
City Hall Wedding Favors
If you’d like to give favors to guests, these cute venue can coolers are a nice touch. You can get your city hall wedding venue custom-printed on them with the date and your names. This is a fun idea that guests will actually use again. By SipHipHooray.
8. After the wedding day, send cute announcements to family and friends.
Spread the word: you’re married! It is a wonderful time to celebrate and exciting news. Snap a photo at your elopement and share it on social media with family and friends, or have printed onto an official announcement and sent by mail. This sign makes a great photo prop for the picture (by OAKYDesigns):
Or tell guests, “We Did!” and tell them when you’re planning to celebrate with them in person! This is also a great way to see proper city hall wedding invitation wording for a party after the fact. Cute idea by PreciousMomentsChic:
Also love this one by PhrosneRas:
Tip: Do what they did in the example and get a wedding website here for FREE. It will keep guests apprised of any changes / updates to your city hall wedding reception or big bash after the pandemic, etc.
Or this style, which I love — it is made from your portrait! It will tell guests to stay tuned for the big party. By Jazzdoodles.
My advice, though: have an actual party in the works. Nothing like sending out something like this and eventually thinking, nah, nevermind. ;) If you don’t plan to do a big party eventually, that’s fine! But you may want to send this kind of announcement instead, so guests aren’t left wondering. :)
And have fun! Order delicious food, have plenty of drinks, and soak it in: you’re married!
Getting Married at City Hall
We hope this post helped you learn how to plan a city hall wedding / courthouse wedding / elopement — and make it special. Are you getting married at city hall? We’d love to hear about it! Tell us in the comment box below!
P.S. Are you going to be a city hall wedding guest and need a good present? Browse 50 Best Wedding Gifts for Couples 2020 or toss in a little fun with these: 17 Gifts for Weddings Canceled or Postponed Due to Covid.