If you’re reading this, I don’t have to tell you why having a courthouse wedding is a great choice for some couples. And saying “I do” at city hall can be just as personal and special as any grand ballroom fete. Just because you’re having a more intimate wedding in a government building doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate traditional wedding details and enjoy the moment just as much as brides and grooms who walk the aisle do.

But before you head to the courthouse, there are some things you need to do. Yes, even a courthouse wedding involves a little bit of planning. Here are the details, and some suggestions on how to plan your civil ceremony at city hall.

Officiant signing the marriage certificate on a table with a succulent and golden globe at Prospect House in Dripping Springs, Texas. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

FIGURE OUT THE LOGISTICS

Like any other wedding, you’ll need to obtain a marriage license before you can legally tie the knot. You can do this by contacting your local circuit court or by visiting their webpage for details on the steps you’ll need to take to get a license, license fees, and timeline details.

The court will let you know what documents you’ll need to show before you can apply for a license. This will likely include a photo ID, birth certificate, and social security number. You should also fill out any paperwork the court gives you and return along with your documents and marriage license fee.

After you’ve submitted the appropriate documents, paperwork, and paid the fee, you can apply for your marriage license. Typically, there is a waiting period before the license is issued, so take note of that time before planning your wedding day.

Bride and groom with their arms wrapped around each other as they wait to cross the cross-walk in downtown Austin, Texas. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

PLAN THE CEREMONY

First, you’ll want to contact your local court to find out what days are available, if you’re able to choose a specific date, or if ceremonies are on a first-come-first-serve basis on certain days. Once you have the time and date of your courthouse wedding ceremony, feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding the ceremony. Consider asking how many guests are allowed, if outside decor and flowers are allowed, if a photographer is allowed to attend the ceremony, etc. You’ll also want to find out how many witnesses are required.

Once the details are sorted out, you can start planning the fun stuff: pick out your flowers, choose your witnesses, and send out invites if you’re inviting guests. Even if you’re not inviting guests to the ceremony, you can send out invitations for a reception get together.

And just because you’re having a city hall wedding doesn’t mean you can’t wear your dream dress, three-piece suit, or whatever your heart desires.

You might also consider hiring a photographer to capture your special day. If the photographer is allowed to attend the ceremony, even better! But if not, be sure and get some photos in and around the building, holding the bouquet, portraits with friends, etc.

Related: 7 Things You Should Tell Your Wedding Photographer

Pro tip: Get ready before you head to the courthouse, as there will not be a designated room to get changed in. Bring all your documents and the rings and show up at least 15 minutes before your appointment so you don’t feel rushed.

Shot from behind as the bride and groom stand side-by-side in a dark room. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

INCLUDE POST-CEREMONY ACTIVITIES

The celebration doesn’t have to end once you’ve exchanged vows. Meet with friends at your favorite restaurant, host a party at your home, or keep it low-key by inviting a few friends and family to a cocktail reception.

Your courthouse ceremony and reception can be just as tailor-made as any other wedding!  

Related: Don’t Forget These Things on Your Wedding Day

Looking for a wedding photographer in the Austin area to capture your courthouse wedding? Let's talk!

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  1. Hello! Do you happen to know what department at Austin City Hall conducts ceremonies? I’d love for the ceremony and photos to happen in that building (Cesar Chavez)

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