How to Get Married in City Hall

Take the easy way out: A clerk, some witnesses and your wedding is over

By MiShaun Taylor

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Because of how stressful and expensive planning a wedding can be, many couples choose to forgo the traditional wedding and simply tie the knot with just a few witnesses at city hall. Although this legal but informal wedding choice can help you avoid the months of planning and decision-making, you will still need to find out what your state and county requires for a city hall wedding.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Before setting out for your city hall wedding, make sure that you have key legal documents like your birth certificate, divorce decrees, the administrative fees and blood test results if required in your state.
Planning A Wedding in City Hall

Step 1:

Decide when you want to get married, and contact city hall to make a reservation. You don't need a reservation to get married at city hall but without one, you will not be guaranteed to be married on the date you want.

Step 2:

Make a guest list. Will just the two of you be present at your city hall marriage, or will you invite a couple friends or close family members? Check with city hall to make sure it can accommodate and will permit the number of guests you want to invite. After deciding who you would like to witness your marriage, either select invitations or make phone calls to invite the guests.

Step 3:

Obtain a marriage license. Find out the requirements to obtain a marriage license in your state. Typically you will need a driver's license, birth certificate and cash for the fee, though you may also need blood tests, a passport or other documentation, depending on your state's requirements. Find out the length of time that the marriage license will be valid. A marriage license will typically be good for two to three months from its issuance. There is generally a waiting period before you can marry as well---usually 24 to 72 hours from the time the marriage license is issued--though some jurisdictions let you marry right after giving you the license. Be sure to bring your marriage license with you to city hall, if there is a waiting period.

Step 4:

Make special purchases. Despite opting for a simple ceremony at city hall, you will still want to make some special purchases for your big day. In addition to your wedding rings, you may want to bring a wedding bouquet and boutonniere. You may want to wear a white wedding dress or a formal suit, or you may decide to simply dress up a bit when you get married at city hall.

Step 5:

Bring cash and identification. Check with city hall to find out the amount of the fee for the ceremony. You will typically be required to pay in cash or with a money order, but this will vary from state to state. Also bring other documentation your state may require.

Step 6:

Ask a guest to take pictures. Even though you may not have a professional photographer, this is a day you will want to memorialize with pictures. Bring a camera, and ask a guest to take pictures of your special event.

Step 7:

Select a post-ceremony celebration site. Whether it will just be you and your significant other at your ceremony or several friends and family members, decide on a place to celebrate after your ceremony. You may want to reserve a private room at a restaurant or just drop by your favorite place for a drinks and a toast.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • City hall can be busier on some days than others. Ask the county clerk's office if there are better days to have your city hall wedding.
  • You may or may not be required to bring your own witness. And if you bring a wedding party along, the marriage office may limit the number of persons who can serve as witnesses.
  • Here's an alternative to a city hall wedding. In some jurisdictions, you can send a friend to city hall to be deputized as a one-ceremony-only marriage commissioner, then he or she can marry you at another location.

About the Author

With more than 15 years of writing experience, MiShaun Taylor specializes in wedding-related articles.

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Planning Reminder:

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Pick reception venue

Want to keep decor costs to a minimum? Consider a winery or other outdoor setting to provide a natural pretty scene. Hotels, country clubs and restaurants are also popular choices -- some will require more decor help than others. If you have your heart set on an off-site caterer, make sure your venue allows it.

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Wedding Glossary


Catering services supplied by the wedding venue. If a venue offers in-house catering, typically off-site caterers are not permitted.

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