What Happens at a Courthouse Wedding Ceremony?

R. Kimball

A courthouse wedding ceremony is a civil ceremony during which a couple makes vows to each other and the officiant pronounces them married. The specifics of the ceremony may be personalized to the extent that the couple chooses in many cases. The officiant generally will follow a set ceremony unless the couple explains to the officiant in advance that they would like to modify it.

A couple will exchange vows during a courthouse wedding ceremony.
A couple will exchange vows during a courthouse wedding ceremony.

Normally, the ceremony begins with opening words spoken by the officiant. He or she may speak on the subject of marriage itself or on a topic requested by the couple. The officiant may move directly on to acquiring the couple’s consent to marriage, unless the couple has asked him or her for a variation in the ceremony. Some couples may have readings added into the ceremony, done either by the officiant or a friend of the couple, at this time.

The exchange of rings follows the vows.
The exchange of rings follows the vows.

The officiant must receive the couple’s consent to wed as part of the wedding ceremony. This consent confirms that both parties are eligible to marry and that both are interested in completing the marriage.

Vows in a courthouse wedding ceremony may be standard statements set forth by the officiant or personalized by the couple. The couple may choose to write their own vows to be read by the officiant or recited directly by the couple. They may also choose to use ones found elsewhere and have the officiant state them for the couple to repeat. The exact words within the vows are not important to the ceremony itself, but vows of some kind must be included to make the ceremony official.

If the couple is going to exchange rings, this follows the vows. Any words to be exchanged with the rings may be standard or personalized by the couple. If the couple chooses not to exchange rings, then the officiant moves on to any other readings or special statements to the couple.

Then the officiant will finally pronounce the couple married and end the wedding ceremony. The proclamation will occur along with any closing words, and each jurisdiction may have specific items that must be included to make the ceremony legal.

Some couples have a civil ceremony that's followed by a reception with family and friends.
Some couples have a civil ceremony that's followed by a reception with family and friends.

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Discussion Comments


I work in a courthouse and we have at least a few couples come in every day to get married. I really like that aspect of my job. You will be walking down the hall to go to the bathroom and get passed up by a beaming couple in tux and dress that looks so happy you can almost see them glowing. You get to have some of their romance vicariously. It really livens the place up.

I always knew that I wanted to have a non-religious wedding ceremony. But I never figured that I would end up getting married in a courthouse. I didn't hate the idea, I always just pictured myself in a park or something like that.

But when I met the man that I ended up marrying we had a very sudden and passionate romance and we decided to get married on a whim. We got the idea in the morning and by that night we were married. There is no time to plan a wedding on such short notice so we had to rely on the good folks at the courthouse. And you know what, it was lovely. Also, the important part is being married, not having a wedding.


A lot of people think that a courthouse is a sad and disappointing alternative to a big church wedding or something in a more romantic setting. But let me tell you that a courthouse wedding can be just as meaningful and special as any other kind of wedding.

I was married in a courthouse and so were my parents and some of my friends. They are lovely ceremonies. You still have the vows and the flowers and the dressed up clothing. What you don't have is all the pomp and circumstance and all the cost that comes along with having a fairytale wedding.

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