Do You Need to Have a Wedding Ceremony to Get Married?

Getting married is about making a vow to spend your life with someone you love. Many people associate weddings with elaborate ceremonies, often in churches or other religious institutions. But do you need to have a wedding to get married?

The short answer to that question is: no. You can get married without any “traditional” wedding ceremony at all. You can find out more about how to get married without a wedding here at City Hall Wedding.

Understand the Legal Requirements to Get Married

While you don’t technically require a wedding ceremony to get married, you can’t just say you’re married and have that be true in the United States. Our country has requirements to follow before you can legally consider yourself married.

The exact requirements for marriage vary from state to state. However, in general, you must:

  • Obtain a marriage license
  • Pay any requisite fees
  • Have the license signed by a legal officiant

After you complete these steps—or the specific steps legalized by your state—you and your spouse are considered married in the eyes of the law, whether or not you had a wedding ceremony.

How to Get a Marriage License

Curious about the process of getting a marriage license? The exact steps you need to take may vary based on your state. However, in general, marriage license applicants must go in person to the local:

  • Courthouse
  • City hall
  • Town office

Both individuals who intend to get married must go to the official location where you can fill out a marriage license application. You and your spouse-to-be then sign the application in front of a clerk and pay a small fee.

The clerk does not give you your license right away in most cases. Instead, you will need to wait a few days to either pick up the license or receive it in the mail. Note that you are not considered married as soon as you receive the marriage license.

How to Get Your Marriage License Signed

Once you have your marriage license in hand, you can take the final steps to legally wed your fiancé. Do you need to have a wedding to get married? While you can certainly throw a big ceremony, you can also have a private religious or civil ceremony.

Most states in the county require you to have at least two witnesses present while an officiant signs your marriage license. Religious officials—including priests and rabbis—may sign your marriage license. You may also get the document signed by a:

  • Judge
  • County clerk
  • Another government official

Note that some states restrict civil ceremonies, only allowing judges to sign marriage licenses. Once your marriage license is signed, the individual who signed it will mail it to the appropriate agency. Your marriage then becomes official in the eyes of the law, in some cases without a marriage ceremony.

Reasons Why People Choose Not to Have a Wedding Ceremony

Legally, you can get married without a wedding. Still, in many cases, your friends and family may expect a large ceremony. Many people fixate on the tradition of walking down the aisle in a dress that costs thousands of dollars while hundreds of people watch.

While some people may enjoy that kind of ceremony, there are also very good reasons to consider a simple city hall marriage ceremony.

These ceremonies provide an alternative for couples without strong religious leanings. For some people, the idea of getting married in a church or other religious building may feel uncomfortable.

You can also save money on your wedding by avoiding a fancy ceremony. The costs to rent a facility, get a wedding dress, and arrange for decorations can quickly add up to thousands of dollars. A courthouse wedding allows you to put that money toward your future life together or your honeymoon.

Wedding Ceremony Alternatives for You

Many couples consider alternatives to a traditional wedding ceremony. As we’ve mentioned, you can set up a courthouse wedding to tie the knot with your fiancé. Other couples consider options like:

  • A wishing stone ceremony
  • A sand ceremony
  • A handfasting ceremony

You may conduct these ceremonies at the time when you get an officiant to sign your marriage license. You may also host the ceremony after completing all the legalities around getting married as a way to celebrate your union with your friends and family members.

Avoiding a traditional wedding ceremony opens up many options, allowing you to personalize your marriage, making it something truly special for you and your spouse.

Consider a Reception After a Courthouse Wedding

Some couples feel that if they opt for a city hall wedding, they may not be able to have a party for their wedding. In actuality, you can set up a reception for your loved ones after your wedding, even if you take care of the legalities in a courthouse.

You can use the money you saved by avoiding a large marriage ceremony to rent a venue for the reception. Many couples hire DJs or even a band to handle the music at the reception. You may want to rent a local dance hall, take a trip to a farm, or even visit a botanical garden for your reception.

Make sure that you invite your guests to the reception so they can celebrate your union. Avoiding a traditional wedding ceremony doesn’t have to put a damper on your joy as you pledge your life to your spouse.

You Don’t Need to Have a Wedding to Get Married

As you can see, there are plenty of memorable options available to those who can’t afford or simply don’t want the hassle of a traditional wedding. In the U.S., you can legally get married without ever considering a wedding ceremony. You can get married by filling out a few official forms, paying a small fee, and having a legal professional certify the paperwork.

Learn more about a Boston city hall marriage ceremony with our team at City Hall Wedding.