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Tons of couples choose a courthouse wedding over a traditional one because they want something personal and affordable. While it’s definitely inexpensive, you should prepare to pay. How much does a courthouse wedding cost?
The Cost of a Courthouse Wedding
The cost of getting married at a courthouse varies from state to state, but it can range from $30 to $120 at a minimum. The courthouse will charge you for a marriage license and some additional fees. Many couples will also budget for some traditional wedding elements, like a suit and gown, a bouquet and a boutonniere, and rings.
While you can have a reception, send out invitations or hire a photographer, you can shrink the price tag by tossing the bells and whistles. How much does a courthouse wedding cost if you only have the bare essentials? Typically, you only pay for the marriage license — that’s why so many people choose to skip the ceremony and reception. The appeal of a simple legal procedure is that it’s incredibly affordable.
Since a marriage license is a legally binding contract, you’ll have to pay for it. Think of it like renewing your driver’s license — it’s a government-issued document with processing fees. It varies widely because each state applies different taxes and charges. While it can get pricey, you’ll likely pay around $40 to $50 for yours.
The courthouse you go to may charge you minor additional amounts for various things. For instance, reserving a space for guests carries a small price tag. Luckily, the courthouse might waive them if you’re a military member or first responder.
Courthouse Wedding Cost Factors
Although a courthouse wedding is much more affordable than a traditional one, it still comes with various expenses. Some soon-to-be brides and grooms get surprised on their big day because they don’t expect them. You should know what factors into the total price tag to fully prepare yourself.
A courthouse wedding carries a few costs:
- License: A marriage license is a document confirming you can get legally wed. The cost varies significantly in every state.
- Fees: You may have to pay various fees depending on the county you marry in.
- Attire: Although you can wear whatever you want on your big day, many couples opt for traditional clothing — which is typically more expensive. For instance, wedding dresses cost $1,800 on average. The courthouse may also have a dress code.
- Officiant: The courthouse provides an officiant, but you can bring your own. While you don’t need to, many couples do to make the ceremony more personal.
- Photographer: A photographer is optional, but it’s a popular choice. In the United States, hiring one costs $2,000 on average. How much you pay depends on your location and their skill.
A marriage license is typically the only expense in a minimalistic courthouse wedding, but you can spend more for flair. For instance, you don’t need a wedding photographer, but they’d immortalize the intimate moment you say your vows. It’s worth it to consider adding extras.
How Do You Find Your Exact Cost?
How much does a courthouse wedding cost in your state? It can help to find the exact price to get a budget started. You have to research the county you plan on marrying in to get an accurate number. They usually have websites, but you can always call them directly to get answers if you can’t find anything online. Consider going in person so you can have an in-depth and straightforward conversation.
Can You Save More Money?
Even though courthouse weddings are generally very affordable, saving some extra money here and there can still help.
Bring a Free Officiant
If you want to bring your own officiant, consider asking someone close to you to do it for free. They can add that personal touch and are much more affordable than other options. In fact, you’d pay anywhere from $250 to $800 to hire an official one. It can save you a significant amount to call in a favor from a legally ordained family member or friend.
Apply On Time
You should schedule everything in advance to make the process more affordable. A marriage license isn’t valid forever. While the expiration date varies by state, each one has strict rules. You have to have the officiant sign it after the ceremony within the period they give you.
If you let too much time pass, then you’d have to pay to reapply. It’s one of the most significant cost factors for most courthouse weddings, so you only want to deal with it once. You can call your county clerk’s office or look at the official website to see their time limits.
Travel Out of State
How much does a courthouse wedding cost if you go to a different county? While traveling carries its own expenses, it may be worth it to get married in a neighboring state if yours has high licensing costs. Keep in mind you’ll have to get it in the same location as you plan to get married for legal reasons. Plenty of couples do this when they want a destination wedding.
You should do a lot of research on the county’s standards if you choose this option. While you’ll likely need to bring the basics — your ID, birth certificate and social security number — they may require witnesses or a waiting period. You can always call and ask them for specifics.
Take a Marriage Class
Some states will dramatically lower the price of a courthouse wedding if you take a class with them. It’s entirely voluntary, but it can save you a lot. For example, Texas has a “Twogether” service consisting of pre-marital counseling, education and training available to every resident. A certificate of completion lands you $60 off your marriage license when you give it to a county clerk. These types of programs are only available in some states, so make sure to do your research ahead of time.
Courthouse Wedding Costs
How much does a courthouse wedding cost? The answer is anywhere from a couple of dollars to a few thousand. Mainly, the price varies by state. Any additional expenses come from extras like wedding attire or a photographer. While you may feel like pinching pennies, splurging on your big day is okay. After all, you’re saving a ton by going through the county clerk.
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