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Celebrating a Formal Wedding after a Courthouse Wedding

Can you have a more formal wedding after a civil marriage? Absolutely!

There are a number of reasons this set-up might be desirable or even necessary. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for many couples to enjoy a formal wedding. For some couples, getting legally married first helps to solve immigration issues. Some couples keep a breathtaking elopement secret before choosing to have a more public ceremony.


Can You get a Marriage License Online?

After the Covid-19 pandemic, many courthouses began making marriage license applications available online.

While you will need to look up the courthouse where you intend to get married to find out whether you can get a marriage license online, there are some general principles about applying that we can share with you.

Determine Your Eligibility

The first thing you’ll want to do is check your eligibility requirements against the ones listed on your courthouse’s website. Common requirements include:

  • Both parties must be currently unmarried.
  • Both parties must meet the jurisdiction’s age requirements, usually age 18.
  • Both parties must not be nearer of kin to each other than second cousins.
  • Both applicants must have a current photo ID.

In some jurisdictions age requirements may be a little lower if parents or guardians give permission for the marriage. Usually the parents will have to submit a notarized statement of consent. Sometimes a person may get married a little younger if they are legally emancipated.

Know Your License Requirements

Most courthouses will not require you to reside in their jurisdiction just to get a license. Destination and out-of-town weddings are common enough that they only require you to have a valid photo ID. Many jurisdictions do not even require you to have a social security number before you can get married.

Few locations require blood tests any longer, though there are still states that will refuse to issue a marriage license if you test positive for certain STDs. If that happens to you then you can choose to get married in a jurisdiction that does not require a blood test. Some couples may want to get the blood test just to test for HIV or for certain genetic diseases.

Fill Out the Marriage Application

Find your courthouse’s online application. For example, here is the online marriage kiosk for King County in Washington State.

The form is usually pretty simple. You’ll enter an expected ceremony date and then share some details about each spouse, including name, date of birth, birth state, address, marital status, gender, mother’s birth name and state, and father’s birth name and state. Make sure you have that information handy before you apply.

On most online marriage license forms, the process is as simple as hitting “submit.”

Pay Your Fees

Once you submit your marriage license application you will be asked to pay your fee. Fees can be as low as $5 or as high as $150, depending on the jurisdiction where you are filing for your license.

Fees are usually clearly and openly published so there are no surprises.

Order a Copy of Your Marriage License

Usually the application fee will cover having a copy of the marriage license sent to your address. The license does expire, which means you will need to get it signed by your officiant within a 30 to 90 day window of time, depending on your jurisdiction.

The license will not always be available online right away. In most jurisdictions you’ll get a paper copy in the mail which you’ll have to send back.

Some jurisdictions are a lot more forward-thinking and have changed their laws to allow for the acceptance of “any electronic reproduction of a marriage signature.

These jurisdictions have embraced electronic records and have taken to sending all the records out via Docusign. You can have your officiant log in and sign them and you can log in and sign. Then the whole thing can be sent back to the county clerk’s office via email. You’re certainly in luck if your jurisdiction has adopted these sorts of laws!

Once you send back your marriage license the county will process it and issue a marriage certificate. When that’s done you are married in the eyes of the law. Many individuals have their officiant sign the license, and sign the license themselves, on the date of the ceremony.

Schedule Your Ceremony

As mentioned, you’ll only have a short amount of time to finalize your marriage license. If you are getting married at your local courthouse this is an ideal time to lock in your wedding day and schedule your ceremony. Many jurisdictions continue to offer virtual ceremonies if you prefer to stay out of large crowds, even as more and more people get vaccinated.

If you are planning a larger, more traditional wedding, of course, the ceremony is likely to already be scheduled. Just make sure you have applied for your marriage license close enough to your wedding date to have it on-hand in time to get it signed and sent. In some states you must wait at least 3 days after the license is issued to get married. Others allow you to get married on the same day.

Know your waiting periods. If you’ll be receiving your license by mail then you should leave 7-14 business days to allow that to happen.

What if you can’t apply for your marriage license online?

Few offices are requiring in-person appointments anymore. If an online option isn’t available it’s often possible to apply for your marriage license by mail.

Usually the jurisdiction will have you download an application, fill it out, print it and send it along with a check and a photo copy of your driver’s license.

Their websites will tell you exactly where to send them. The clerk of court will then process the application and mail the marriage license along. Sometimes, the jurisdiction will send your marriage certificate at the same time, and you’ll only be required to get the certificate signed and sent back. The certificate usually has to be signed by your witnesses as well.

Some jurisdictions combine the license and the certificate. Make sure you’re familiar with local requirements.

Timing is Everything

No matter how you get your marriage license, it’s very important for you to pay attention to the timing.

Research your local requirements well in advance of your wedding day. That way you’ll be able to calendar in the right steps at the right time for your marriage or ceremony.


What to do after a Courthouse Wedding

In general, you can only have a handful of people at your courthouse wedding. That’s often one of the appeals.
Yet you can have as many people at you want at your reception! Focusing hard on a killer reception can be one of the ways you make your courthouse wedding special.


How to get Married During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While we’re all eager for things to go back to normal, as of this writing the Covid-19 pandemic is still in force. There’s still a need to take precautions, which means many couples will continue to need to make accommodations to ensure their weddings are safe, happy occasions.

Here’s what you need to know about your options during this, or any other, pandemic.

Courthouse Weddings During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Large gatherings create superspreader events, but under the right conditions a small, intimate gathering can be done safely. This makes short, sweet courthouse weddings perfect.

Having a courthouse wedding can reduce awkward conversations about who is and isn’t invited, sidestepping talks about who is and who is not in the “Covid pod.” Most people understand that a courthouse wedding only allows for so many guests.

How much does a courthouse wedding cost?

It depends on the individual courthouse where you choose to get married. Some only charge you for the marriage license. Some charge you for the license and the ceremony. Research your local courthouse and budget accordingly.

Keep in mind that you will usually need to apply for, pay for, and receive your marriage license before you can get married. This is true of traditional weddings as well.

How can you make a courthouse wedding special?

Dress up, hire a photographer, and send out formal invitations to your chosen guests, just as you would for a larger wedding. Treat yourself to flowers and a nice spa day prior to the event, and put some effort into writing your vows.

Then, go all-in on putting together the best reception or after-party you can under the circumstances. Rent a private room at a restaurant, or decorate your own backyard to the nines.

A courthouse wedding isn’t less valid than a wedding with hundreds of guests. It’s just small and secular. You have a lot of options to build in moments that will be meaningful for you and your spouse.

Virtual Weddings During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Those who have trouble getting access to a vaccine, who have health conditions that make Covid especially danger, or who simply don’t feel safe coming out of their homes yet may still opt for a virtual wedding.

A virtual wedding runs just like an in-person wedding, save that the officiant, couple, and all the guests come in via Zoom or some other teleconferencing program. The wedding tends to be shorter: 15 to 20 minutes for the ceremony. There is rarely a reception.

How much does a virtual wedding cost?

You might have a few expenses, like a photographer, a wedding outfit, and an officiant. You’ll have to pay for your marriage license, just like you would for any other wedding.

If you do not already have a strong, fast internet connection, a high-quality camera and a good microphone, these may be good investments to ensure that technical problems do not plague your wedding day.

How can you make a virtual wedding special?

Start with the background! The right background can make a big difference when it comes to setting the right atmosphere.

The next thing you’re going to want to do is to choose the right wedding day outfits. Hire a photographer to come to take a few photos of you in your wedding finery. You’ll still want those keepsakes, and it’s possible for your photographer to stay masked and distanced while taking a few photographs.

Keep your guests included by sending out a party box or favour box. There are several options that have been created just for weddings.

Finally, treat yourself and your partner to a romantic dinner after the wedding is done. You won’t’ get a big reception, so you should take every opportunity to celebrate together.

Hold a Socially Distanced Coronavirus Wedding

For many people, the answer will be to keep the guests, to keep the larger venue, and to keep their traditions. The trick will be to do it all as safely as possible, which generally means a masked, socially distanced outdoor gathering.

This wedding will work much like any other wedding, though you might want to give special attention to making sure that guests have safe places to unmask and eat with others who live in their household.

Require Wedding Guests to Be Vaccinated

Now that vaccinations are available, most couples are going to want to hold the same wedding they might have held before the pandemic, with one caveat: they’re going to want to make sure all their guests are vaccinated. Fortunately, etiquette guidelines are already emerging for those who wish to communicate vaccine and testing requirements to guests.

One way to do this is to add a health and safety card to the invitation that asks if the guest intends to be vaccinated and if the guest is willing to take a Covid test the week of the wedding. Some states require that Covid tests be taken by all guests to even big gatherings, even private ones and if your state is one of them you should communicate to your guests that this is a matter of state law.

You should also use your wedding website to communicate that you are requiring guests to be vaccinated prior to the wedding, and to share vaccine resources. Guests may need to be reminded that they don’t reach full immunity until 14 days after receiving the second dose, which will allow guests to plan their vaccination. Remember, as of this writing the vaccine is not available to children under twelve, which may mean you need to have a child-free wedding in order for it to qualify.

In addition, if you’re hosting a large gathering you should still ask your guests to mask up. The bride and groom should do the same. It’s the surest way to keep everyone safe…especially since there’s always the chance that someone may not respect your requirements and may not be entirely honest about their vaccination status—which is an unavoidable risk unless you’re literally asking people to show their vaccine cards at the door.

Not sure you’ll be able to get everyone to play ball? Moving your wedding to 2022 might be the only viable option to keep everyone safe.