Groom Duties

How To Make A City Hall Wedding Romantic and Memorable

Photo by Stacie via Flickr

There are many reasons why people choose to get married at City Hall. Some may prefer the company of civil servants and find fluorescent light sexy, while others  just don’t want to plan a wedding. Maybe you are doing the whole thing on the sly or maybe you’re unsentimental. Or perhaps you just want to save… let us just check out calculator here.. hmmm… about a gazillion dollars.

Now, we know you aren’t a cheapskate. But maybe you’d prefer to put that $30K you were about to drop on a party for your family and friends into a college account for your future children. Whatever your motive, a wedding at city hall need not be a charmless no-frills affair.

Here are a half dozen things to remember when planning a City Hall wedding that can help transform a bureaucratic transaction into a magical, dreamlike experience you’ll never forget.

Narrow Down the Guest List

Even though you’re getting married at City Hall, you still have to send out invites. But the list will be short. Very short. First, call the marriage office and find out how many guests are allowed (it varies from city to city: San Francisco limits you to six guests, Philly to eight, and so on.) Remember, a photographer will count as one of your guests. Then think about who is essential. Then cut that list in half. You will need a sharp scalpel to parse your invite list as it may come down to just you, your bride, both of your parents and a best man or maid of honor, depending on the city.

Hopefully your mom is good with a camera.

Arrive Early

One thing that is decidedly not romantic is showing up for your big day and finding out you need to have a valid marriage license before you can get married. So do your research and find out what local laws say. In some cities, you can make a reservation ahead of time, while in others (like New York) you cannot, which means you can just walk into city hall any time you feel like it and get married. In such cases, plan to get there early, unless standing in line makes you feel all gooey inside.

Have a Plan for Afterwards

Just because you are getting married at city hall doesn’t mean you have to completely cut your larger circle of friends and family from the festivities. Make reservations at a cool dinner and drinks place after the ceremony, or have a picnic in the park, or even just host a dinner at home—but keep the party going. Everyone will want to be part of your special day, and toast you. Just because they missed the actual legal part of the marriage doesn’t mean you can’t get them involved.

Bring Flowers and Other Props

Since you will probably have 10 or fewer guests, you can afford to spring on some nice floral arrangements; a splash of color will look all the more gorgeous in the clerical setting of city hall. Small gestures go a long way. Present the ring on a satin pillow. Wear a fancy boutonnière. Hire an organ grinder (if your city allows live performing monkeys in government buildings.) Remember quirky can be romantic, as long as it’s heartfelt.  

Organize the Necessary Files

City Hall weddings liberate you from typical wedding conventions. You can have a photographer (advised) or not. You can have flowers or not. You can wear matching jumpsuits, a large floppy hat full of fruit, or formal outfits with sneakers–whatever you find appropriate or fun or comfortable or romantic or whimsical. You’re free, so dress like it. Just make sure whatever you wear has pockets, as you will need some documents, like your marriage license, birth certificate, and other romantic paperwork.  


Bottom Line

Just because you choose to get married in a city office building doesn’t mean it can’t be romantic.

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