How To Plan A Wedding At City Hall, According To Experts
A city hall marriage is a beautiful thing. You can legit go in wearing jogging clothes and stand among a whole crowd of other people who are waiting to proclaim their love for one another. And while it's indeed usually a simpler endeavor than a destination wedding at a resort with 400 of your closest friends, planning for a city hall wedding still takes a little time and foresight.
First and foremost, enjoy that fact that you've chosen such a wonderful option for getting married! "People might judge your decision to skip the full-blown wedding, but don’t let it affect you," Kylie Carlson, CEO of The International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning, tells Bustle. "Just remember why you chose to take the city hall route and stick to your convictions." It is your day, and the way you do it is up to you two, that's all there is to it!
So, if you are gearing up to march downtown to make it official, congratulations! Give yourself a little bit of time to consider some of the details to make it go as smoothly and stress-free as possible.
Below, some pros weigh in on making a city hall marriage as special as it is simple.
1. Do Your Research
You don't want any unpleasant, bureaucratic road-bumps on the big day. It’s essential to first research the legal requirements of a city hall marriage, certified wedding planner Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services, tells Bustle.
"They are generally simpler than a traditional wedding, but you’ll want to be sure that you have all of your paperwork in order for it to be finalized," Dennis says. "Likewise, if you need a witness (or two), you’ll want to arrange that accordingly."
If all else fails, you could always just ask a stranger, right?
2. Get Your Marriage License First
This is what they mean by "making it official."
"Before tying the knot at city hall, you’ll need to get your marriage license first," Dennis says. Once you have that, you can legally get married.
"In some cases, this can be a same-day thing, whereas other places may take up to two weeks to process a marriage license and get it over to you," Dennis says. "The best way to plan your schedule is to call the city hall in advance and ask how long it typically takes to receive a marriage license – from there, you’ll know just when to book!"
3. Pick The City That Means The Most To You
Yes, it doesn't have to be where you live that you tie the knot, even if it's at city hall. It could be Sandusky, Ohio, or it could be L.A.
"Pick a city that means a lot to you," Dennis says. "Alternately, if you are looking to travel somewhere new, select a spot that you’ve always dreamed of visiting together and consider that your honeymoon destination as well."
4. Think About The Level Of Formality You're Going For
Your choice of city halls might also depend on how formal you want the celebration to be, Dennis says. This is from a purely aesthetic level.
"In some cases, couples have a small city hall elopement but still book a photographer to capture the moment. If that’s the case, you may want to find a city hall that is more aesthetically pleasing than a boring government building," Dennis says.
New York City and San Francisco, for example, both have famed city halls that are known for their beauty, says Dennis.
5. Plan How You Want To Celebrate
And that's if you want to celebrate any more than the party that is that very moment you say "I do."
"Celebrating with family and friends is always a great way to honor such a momentous occasion," Dennis says. "You can enjoy a laid-back gathering at a favorite watering hole or treat close family and friends to a multi-course dinner at a five diamond restaurant."
At the same time, Dennis says, don’t feel guilty if you and your partner just want to get away together and honor your marriage. You could book an overnight stay at a local property, or jet off for a long weekend away somewhere you've never been.
6. Think About Who You Want To Invite
Maybe it's just mom, or maybe it's your five closest pals.
"Who the couple invites entirely depends on the their preferences, as well as the need for witnesses," Dennis says. "Some may want to invite their parents, others may be just fine having a court-appointed witness to sign off on the marriage certificate."
With that said, remember that city hall weddings are supposed to be small and intimate, Dennis says, so don’t invite more than a few of your closest loved ones. The baseball team can come to the BBQ afterwards, you know?
7. Remember The Details
Again, the beauty of a city hall marriage is that you can legit go in with grocery bags and come out married. But just "because you aren’t doing the whole shebang" doesn’t mean you can't be particular with your details, Carlson says.
"Don’t be afraid to get a pretty bouquet or get your hair done," Carlson says. But also, try not to put any undo pressure on yourself to make things perfect.
Doing it the way you enjoy, with people you care about, is most important. At the end of the day, it's really all about the love.