Down to the Courthouse

Getting married in a courthouse doesn't mean giving up style. Go for a more subdued look, such as this retro-inspired Jacqueline dress from British designer Lyn Ashworth.

Hear the word “wedding,” and the first images that come to mind probably include flowing white dresses, church aisles, and mounds and mounds of flowers.  Not a faux-wood-paneled courthouse with linoleum floors and flickering lights.

But for plenty of couples, the local courthouse is where the love affair becomes legal.

Some couples plan a big wedding, get stage fright, and opt for simpler fare at the last minute.  Other couples just want an intimate, inexpensive and no-frills knot tying.  (And these photos and this photo prove it can happen.)

While I’ve never been party to a courthouse wedding, some of my nearest and dearest have at least considered it.

When one friend’s wedding preparations got almost more stressful than she could handle, she admitted to pestering her groom daily, “Can’t we please just go to the courthouse?”  They stuck it out, but another  good friend’s brother and sister-in-law did hit the courthouse before their wedding, which gave them the ability to relax during their big party a few weeks later.  And another friend of mine went down to the courthouse with her fiance because they wanted to be married then — and their elaborate wedding was still months away.  (They managed to keep the first wedding ceremony a secret from their family and most of their friends!)

So there are obviously plenty of upsides to courthouse weddings, or couples wouldn’t continue having them.  And as those couples I just mentioned proved, a courthouse ceremony doesn’t preclude a swanky party, a gorgeous dress, or lots of great couple shots in the park afterward.

For a long time — and still somewhat today, truth be told — courthouse weddings were regarded as traditional weddings’ ugly stepsister.  That doesn’t have to be the case, though.  If you want a quick and simple ceremony, or want to keep your vow swap intimate without offending your relatives by telling them they’re not invited, a courthouse and a justice of the peace may be just what you’re looking for.

Keep your options open, and just remember: Go with whatever is going to deliver the happiest memories.  For most brides, it’s a church or a garden or a beach — but for some, it may just be the courthouse steps.

~ Laura

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