- In addition to my husband and I wanting to save money , we found skipping a traditional wedding was a better fit for several other reasons.
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There are plenty of reasons why a couple might want to skip an elaborate marriage ceremony and have a simple wedding at the local courthouse.
Cost is an obvious reason in the United States, the average wedding will set a couple back $38,700 . Or maybe you aren't the most traditional couple and don't want a religious ceremony. Plus, the stress of planning the perfect ceremony can give anyone a migraine.
For me, it was a combination of all of those things.
When my husband Julian proposed to me on our living room couch after a rather heated conversation, I thought he was kidding. We've done that bit before. It wasn't until the next day when he called me at work that I knew he was serious. The conversation went a little like this:
"How's March 27?" he asked.
"For what?" I said.
"To get married, I have the courthouse on the other line."
"Oh! OK, sure, sounds good."
"Morning or afternoon?"
And so it was. Three weeks later, we got married in a Salt Lake City courthouse on March 27 at 3:30 p.m.
One could argue a transaction like this is incredibly unromantic, but I would hit back with this: Generally, grand gestures make me gag. The idea that my husband would get down on one knee and recite a pre-rehearsed speech is something I could never picture. Bridesmaids? A white dress? A year's worth of planning? Guests gawking as my father gives me away? Count me out.
This is why a courthouse wedding made sense to my husband and me we were able to craft the marriage experience how we wanted, without the extra dollars, late-night stress, and cringey, courtesy invites that come with a more traditional ceremony. And I'm sure if you were there when ourseven-minute ceremony took place, you'd say it was anything but unromantic.
With that in mind, here are the five reasons I skipped the ceremony and had a courthouse wedding.
The cost of an average wedding far exceeds what I would remotely be able to (or want to) pay.
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images
The most expensive item at my wedding was my dress. It was a $300 silk, blush-colored Reformation dress I tried on for the first time a week before I got married. The other items that made the day complete were well under the dress's price tag:
- Husband's western-style blazer: $95
- Marriage license: $50
- Ceremony fee: $50
- Bar tab: $275
The total: $800.
I married into a big family, so a lot of the basic services were covered by familial hospitality. My sister-in-law did my makeup, my husband's mother made a giant pot of chicken verde pozole and Mexican wedding cookies, and our venue was an event space that my brother-in-law secured for our quasi-reception.
Cost was obviously the biggest factor when we decided to get married in a courthouse six months ago. I've always believed if I had a couple thousand dollars, I'd put it toward a home, a car, an overseas trip, or better yet, my student loans, instead of an elaborate one-day event. And many millennials like myself feel the same way .
This price tag, of course, is especially accurate if you fancy all the frills a traditional ceremony offers rehearsal dinner, catering, wedding cake, flowers, photographer, venue, event planner, and so on. Not to mention the stress and time it takes to plan.
It may be cliche to say that planning a wedding is stressful, but it is.
Carl Court/Getty Images
The most stressful part of my wedding was not if my divorced parents were seated too close together at the reception, but whether or not I could shimmy into a pair of Spanx.
By eliminating the entire wedding ceremony, we also eliminated a large chunk of stress from our lives. As long as the 30 people we invited made it to the courthouse on time, there was relatively nothing to worry about.
But for some brides, planning a wedding can be more stressful than having a baby . A survey done by Zola Weddings, a wedding planning site, found that 40% of couples who planned a wedding considered it to be "very" or "extremely" stressful. Nearly half of those surveyed also said the wedding put a strain on their relationship. Wedding planning and marriage are both huge projects to tackle, so it is understandable when you create a Molotov cocktail after mixing the two.
Merely assembling a guest list can cause a couple copious amounts of anxiety. Any "Sex and the City" fan knows a guest list has the capacity to spiral out of control. That's another reason why a courthouse wedding was appealing to me: Only a finite number of people are allowed to come. So no need to extend the courtesy invites to third cousins or your old college roommate. They can catch the highlights on social media.
Want to elope? A courthouse wedding can happen in a snap.
Most wedding planning articles online advise the newly engaged to give themselves at least a year to plan the nuptials. This ultimately means you should also prepare for a year's worth of stress.
A giant time commitment is not particularly enticing. What was enticing to Julian and me was the idea of eloping. Not to just get it over with, but to make the marriage process quick and painless, while still having some fun and focusing on the best parts of a wedding: the eating and dancing. Basically, we traded anxiety for adrenaline.
We set a date and made it work. Plus, many states not just cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City allow you to get married on the same day, or within 24 hours of your marriage license application. Not to mention the courthouse ceremony itself usually takes less than 10 minutes.
Years ago, eloping may have been considered taboo or associated with an unexpected pregnancy, but today many people are opting for it. Jenny McFarlane, founder of elopement service Eloping is Fun, told Glamour in 2017 that "people just want to start their life."
City halls and courthouses aren't dry and boring some are rich in history and have gorgeous art and architecture.
City of San Francisco
The courthouse we got married in was more or less your average municipal building, accompanied with strange art, brown carpeting, and a numbered ticketing system (we were number 152 the day we wed). But just outside, the mountains surrounding Salt Lake City were topped with snow, and flowers were just getting ready to bloom.
In other cases, the courthouse can be the star of the show. I spoke to someone who got married in San Francisco's City Hall and said its high ceilings, its decadent, detailed white marbling, and its grand staircase left her awestruck.
A courthouse wedding can make sense for couples looking to break away from a traditional ceremony.
The ring that sits on my finger is one my husband forged from a block of sterling silver himself. Our vows were more or less spoken off the cuff rather than written using an internet-approved script. At our reception we ate homemade food and danced with nieces and nephews to Cardi B. No toasts. No father-daughter dance. No cake.
This is what felt right to us, since many of the traditional aspects of a wedding seemed outdated and unnecessary to us. I especially dislike the concept of bridesmaids and the bouquet toss, which can both be seen as pitting women against each other .
This isn't to say a traditional wedding ceremony is not fulfilling. I know many people who have dreamed of their special day since childhood, and once it was all said and done, believed it to be worth the price, time commitment, and stress.
But I am here to tell you this: A courthouse wedding can be just as fulfilling, intimate, and beautiful. So if you and your partner are having trouble grappling with traditional wedding planning, consider pulling out your phone and calling the closest city clerk.
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