5 Steps to a Courthouse Marriage

Just follow a few guidelines to make the process easy

By Lynette DiPalma

Roman Columns and Steps of Building
Photo by iStockphoto.comBookmark and Share

Some couples prefer to avoid the pomp, pageantry and planning of a church wedding and others are in a bit of a hurry to take their vows. Whatever your reasons for choosing a courthouse marriage, you'll be relieved to learn it's generally a quick and painless process. All you need to do is take the appropriate steps in the right order.

  • What You Need to Know
  • In most states both the bride and the groom must be present to provide legal identification and documents, but some states will allow you to mail in the forms.
  • The number of documents you need to submit depends upon your individual situation (such as the number of times either the bride or groom has been married previously) and state requirements (such as a blood test, waiting period, parental notification).
Making it Legal

Step 1:

Read the mandatory literature or attend the mandatory marriage education classes if your state requires them. Many states require that each couple read through a family law handbook and some are now requiring a pre-marriage course to help battle the high rates of divorce. The clerk at the marriage license department will be able to provide you with more information.

Step 2:

Pay the fees. Every state requires an administrative fee for the license and an additional fee for a courthouse ceremony.

Step 3:

Locate witnesses. The number of witnesses will vary by state, but most states require at least one. These may be friends or relatives or you can just ask one of the couples waiting at the courthouse with you. Some couple have a good friend go along with them to the courthouse.

Step 4:

Solemnize your marriage in front of the witnesses and the officiant. Just having a license doesn't mean you're married. All states require that a "statement of intent" be provided in front of witnesses. This is the "I do" part of the wedding, though "I will" or a simple "yes" may suffice.

Step 5:

Authenticate the marriage by sending in the signed wedding license after the ceremony. Most states also require that the signatures be notarized, but most justice of the peace officiants can do this at the same time they sign the document.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Plan your courthouse wedding for midweek and early in the day to avoid having to wait too long. After 3 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays are usually the busiest times.
  • Check to see if your city or county offers online documents. If it does, you can save time by printing and filling out the forms before heading to the office.
  • Some states require a waiting period between getting the license and the solemnization of the marriage. Check your city or county laws before making your plans.

About the Author

Lynette DiPalma is a freelance writer in the weddings field who co-owns a small wedding services business and has officiated at weddings.

Related Guides

German shepard in wedding

Including Your Dog in the Ceremony

Weddings are a celebration of love and family, so if your family includes a beloved dog, why not include him in your wedding ceremony?... Read More

Planning Reminder:

bride and groom place cards on tablescape

Purchase place cards

The smallest details are some of the most important. You may want to reserve the first rows at your ceremony for family. And place cards at your reception ensures everyone knows where to go when it's time to chow down. Opt for place cards that are fancy or fun.

View your wedding checklist!


Wedding Glossary


A Jewish tradition where grooms -- and, occasionally, also brides -- step on a glass at the end of a wedding ceremony.

View the Full Weddings Glossary
Sign Up

Already have an account? Log In

Log In with your Facebook account.
We’ll never post without your permission.

Create a DexKnows account:

At least 6 characters
By clicking Sign Up, you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. You'll receive the DexKnows Tips email newsletter as well as email updates about your account.

Please share the issue you encountered with our search

I am a(n):


Please check at least one issue checkbox.