Jan 17, 2024

Marriage, Relationships

How to plan a courthouse wedding

Emily Luk

CPA, CFA - CEO and Cofounder of Plenty

Courthouse weddings are an increasingly popular choice among couples seeking a simpler, more intimate, and often more affordable way to tie the knot. In 2023, the typical cost of a wedding grew to $29,000, excluding honeymoon expenses.

Meanwhile, the average annual income for an American employee under the age of 35 is around $52,936. Couples are moving away from costly weddings and choosing options like the courthouse because they offer a streamlined and meaningful path to marriage, along with a much smaller budget.

The Appeal of Courthouse Weddings

In recent times, we've seen a noticeable shift in how people view traditional weddings. Society as a whole seems to be moving towards more equal values, with a growing preference for partnerships and marriages that are fair and balanced. Interestingly, while these modern attitudes are gaining popularity, traditional wedding customs rooted in patriarchal and heteronormative traditions are still very much part of the scene.

Modern couples are shaking things up by challenging the usual norms associated with weddings. Instead of sticking to the conventional script, they're leaning towards ceremonies that resonate with their values and priorities. This change is strongly influenced by a more modern mindset, where couples are stepping away from strict traditions and choosing weddings that truly reflect their personalities and preferences.

One major trend is the increasing focus on personalization. Couples now want their weddings to be unique and meaningful, opting for elements that hold personal significance rather than just following the usual set norms. Alongside this, there's a broader shift towards embracing diversity and inclusivity. Couples are bringing in elements from different cultural and religious backgrounds, creating weddings that are a true reflection of their diverse values.

Benefits of Choosing a Courthouse Wedding

Choosing a courthouse wedding comes with its own set of advantages, making it an appealing option for many couples. Here are some benefits of choosing a courthouse wedding:

Budget-Friendly Options

Courthouse weddings are known for their cost-effectiveness. Couples can significantly reduce expenses, focusing on essentials like the marriage license and minimal fees, making it an ideal choice for those on a budget.

Smaller Guest List and More Meaningful Connections

Opting for a courthouse wedding allows couples to keep the guest list intimate. This not only contributes to a more personal and meaningful experience but also fosters deeper connections with those in attendance. Some couples choose to do their weddings in phases, reserving the courthouse wedding for their closest friends and family, then following it with a bigger party.

Minimal Logistical Complexities

Courthouse weddings are characterized by simplicity, reducing the logistical complexities often associated with traditional ceremonies. The streamlined nature of these events means less planning, fewer coordination efforts, and a smoother overall experience for the couple.

Focus on the Couple's Relationship

Choosing a courthouse wedding enables the couple to shift the focus away from elaborate wedding preparations and towards the core of the event—their relationship. With fewer distractions and logistical details, the couple can concentrate on each other, fostering a more intimate and meaningful celebration.

You Can Book Special Dates

One couple chose a courthouse wedding to get married on a lucky date, which isn’t always easy unless you’re planning far in advance. "We got married on 12-12-12, so we got to the courthouse fairly early that morning thinking there would be a bigger line... but we were the only ones there! It was super quick and easy, and we were married within 10 minutes."

Tips for Planning a Courthouse Wedding

Plan Well in Advance

Considering the popularity of courthouse weddings, it's essential to secure your preferred date and time well in advance to avoid disappointment. Early booking ensures you have the spot you desire for your intimate ceremony.

Schedule at an Off-Peak Time

To minimize waiting and maximize privacy, choose a weekday or less busy time for your courthouse wedding. Be aware of the legal requirements specific to each courthouse, as rules may vary. This careful wedding planning reduces stress and streamlines the overall process.

Obtain a Marriage License Online

Check if your local county allows online marriage license applications. Familiarize yourself with the requirements in case in-person applications are necessary. Some courthouses may offer online civil ceremonies for a convenient option to obtain all legal documents.

Choose the Right Courthouse

Align your vision by selecting a courthouse based on factors like location, aesthetics, and availability. This decision sets the tone for your special day and enhances the overall experience.

Personalize Your Ceremony

Despite their simplicity, courthouse weddings provide opportunities for personal touches. Consider writing your vows or incorporating meaningful rituals to make the ceremony uniquely yours.

Select Appropriate Attire

Keep the attire casual and fitting for the courthouse setting. Encourage guests to do the same, creating a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere for everyone involved.

Plan a Small Guest List

Courthouses may have limited space, so decide whether to include family and friends accordingly. Keeping the guest list intimate ensures a relaxed atmosphere and smooth arrangements.

Easygoing Post-Ceremony Celebrations

After your courthouse ceremony, consider these budget-friendly celebration ideas:

Small Reception or Dinner

Host an intimate reception or dinner with close friends and family. Model Gisele Bündchen and American football player Tom Brady hosted a small private barbecue in their backyard as their reception. Choosing a cozy venue like your home gives it a warm and personal atmosphere. 

Plan a Future Reception or Party

If immediate celebrations are not feasible, plan a future reception or party when it aligns with your budget and schedule. Some couples even choose to have a small ceremony with immediate family, then have a big party with their circle of friends. This approach provides a few advantages, but most of all it gives you flexibility to host a larger gathering when you’re ready to shell out the expense. 

Ask your friends to plan it

If you’re willing to entrust your friends with the task, having them transform your space can be an exciting and delightful option for your reception. Stylist Camille Alicando and digital content creator Ben Gendrano left the planning and decor entirely up to their friends. In the end, Camille said she was so “astounded by the beauty,” that she nearly cried.

How Courtly Can Help

Courthouse weddings are a popular choice for modern couples, delivering affordability, intimacy, and a hassle-free vibe. With a focus on the essence of the relationship, these ceremonies cut through the logistical chaos, providing a simple yet meaningful experience. It's a nod to the contemporary mindset, valuing uniqueness and simplicity. 

If the traditional courthouse ambiance doesn't match your vision, Courtly offers a modern alternative to the conventional courthouse experience, allowing couples to celebrate their union in the comfort of their own homes. 

Our team handles everything for you–from securing a marriage license to conducting a remote ceremony–all through a seamless online process. So whether you're organizing a destination wedding or overcoming geographical constraints, Courtly is a convenient and accessible way for couples to get married online, making it the preferred choice for those seeking a personalized and flexible wedding option. 

Learn more and sign up on the Courtly website. 


Emily Luk

CPA, CFA - CEO and Cofounder of Plenty

Emily is the ceo and cofounder of Plenty. Started by a husband and wife team, Plenty is a wealth platform built for modern couples to invest and plan towards their future, together. Previously, she was VP of Strategy and Operations at Even (acquired by Walmart/One) and a founding team member of Stripe's Growth and Finance & Strategy teams. She began her career as a VC, and was one of the youngest nationally to complete her CPA, CA and CFA designations.

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