As a wedding photographer with over 15 years of experience, I have photographed a variety of weddings, including courthouse weddings. No matter how simple, I will ensure that your special day is captured in beautiful, lasting images that you can cherish for a lifetime.
From License to Celebration: Planning a Courthouse Wedding in Atlanta
Looking to tie the knot in Atlanta? A courthouse wedding might be the perfect choice for you! Gone are the days when courthouse weddings were associated solely with convenience and bureaucracy. Nowadays, they have evolved into celebrations of love and commitment, offering couples a unique and intimate way to say "I do." I will guide you through the process of planning a courthouse wedding in Atlanta, from obtaining your marriage license to creating a memorable reception.
Why choose a courthouse wedding in Atlanta?
Here are a few of the many reasons why you might choose a civil ceremony
Simplicity: Courthouse weddings are straightforward and require less planning and coordination.
Time constraints: Courthouse weddings can be quicker and more convenient for couples with busy schedules.
Financial priorities: They may want to prioritize saving money for other life goals, like buying a home or traveling.
Avoiding family drama: Courthouse weddings can help minimize family conflicts or pressure to invite certain people.
Reduced stress: Planning a large wedding can be stressful, and a courthouse wedding can be a more relaxed option.
Second marriage: Couples who have been married before may opt for a courthouse wedding for simplicity.
Health issues: If your partner or a close family member is ill, a quick courthouse wedding can ensure they are present.
Spontaneity: Couples who value spontaneity may choose to elope to the courthouse.
Military service: Military personnel often have unpredictable schedules, making courthouse weddings a practical choice.
Destination celebration: A courthouse wedding at home can precede a destination honeymoon or celebration.
Eco-consciousness: Courthouse weddings can be seen as a more eco-friendly option with fewer resources used.
Deciding on a courthouse wedding is ultimately your and your partner's decision. Choose based on your circumstances and what feels right.
Metro Atlanta, with its sprawling suburbs and counties, has many courthouse venues, both ITP and OTP. They each offer different services and have different rules, so it can be confusing to figure out what's needed to get married at a courthouse. Here are my insights and tips on planning a courthouse wedding in Atlanta.
Legal requirements for getting married at a courthouse in Atlanta
Before you can say "I do," you need to obtain a marriage license. Once you have your license, you must schedule a date and time for your ceremony. Most courthouses in metro Atlanta require appointments for weddings, so contact the courthouse to reserve your preferred date. Keep in mind that some courthouses have limited availability for weddings.
Georgia county probate courts grant marriage licenses to couples. The marriage license never expires, and Georgia residents can get married in any county in the state. Out-of-towners must wed in the county where they receive their license. When applying for a marriage license, be sure to bring your driver's license, passport, or birth certificate and divorce papers, if applicable. Marriage license fees vary by county and may require cash payment. Consider a premarital education program to waive the fee, covering topics like budgeting and conflict resolution.
List of Probate Courts in Metro Atlanta:
- Barrow County
- Bartow County
- Butts County
- Carroll County
- Cherokee County
- Clayton County
- Cobb County
- Coweta County
- Dawson County
- DeKalb County
- Douglas County
- Fayette County
- Forsyth County
- Fulton County
- Gwinnett County
- Haralson County
- Heard County
- Henry County
- Jasper County
- Lamar County
- Meriwether County
- Morgan County
- Newton County
- Paulding County
- Pickens County
- Pike County
- Rockdale County
- Spalding County
- Walton County
It's important to note that there is a difference between the probate court and the magistrate court. The probate court is where you go to get your marriage license, while the magistrate court is where the ceremony is conducted. Not all counties conduct the ceremony, so check with your local courthouse to see what services they offer. Some counties may also require appointments for weddings or may have specific rules in place due to COVID-19. I've found that many courts have outdated websites, so it's best to call for their current requirements.
On the day of your courthouse wedding, you and your partner, as well as your witnesses, will need to arrive at the courthouse at the designated time. The ceremony itself is relatively short and typically conducted by a judge or a magistrate. After exchanging vows and signing the marriage license, you will be legally married. Some courthouses may have specific dress codes or restrictions on the number of guests allowed, so be sure to check with the courthouse beforehand to avoid any surprises.
Choosing the right courthouse in Atlanta for your wedding
Choosing the courthouse often comes down to location and logistics. Only a few offer the ceremony. Most require appointments if they conduct a ceremony.
Cobb County is the easiest location to get married. The Cobb County Magistrate Court in Marietta holds wedding ceremonies every day at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. No appointments are necessary. Just show up with your partner and a license 30 minutes prior to the start time. When you arrive, you'll give your marriage license to the clerk and then sit in the waiting room for the ceremony to start. Your names will be called, and you'll enter the courtroom and sit in the front row. Your guests can enter and sit in any of the other rows. Next, the judge will enter and call your names again, so you will stand in front of the bench. It is a group ceremony where everyone says vows together.
The courthouse is one block from Marrieta Square, which is a picturesque location for wedding portraits. There are several restaurants on the square where you can celebrate. If you need to park, consider parking at the square.
Fulton County couples have two options to get married. The Magistrate Court of Fulton County offers wedding ceremonies by appointment on Thursdays from 12:30-2:30 p.m. Marriage ceremonies are free for Fulton County residents. These are private ceremonies where you can have up to 8 guests. Just bring a valid marriage license and state-issued ID. Making your appointment is easy with online scheduling, but be prepared to wait. Appointments may not be available for weeks or months. Photographers must complete a Rule 11 form and submit it by email.
Fulton County Probate Court also offers "Forever Friday Wedding Ceremonies." There are mass and individual ceremonies held every Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m and no appointment is required. Couples with a Fulton County marriage license can participate for free. The cost for other licenses is $80. Arrive early because admittance is based on your time of arrival. The ceremonies take place at the Pryor Street courthouse in downtown Atlanta. They've even created a cute floral backdrop for you to say your vows in front of.
Dekalb County Magistrate Court has suspended ceremonies until further notice.
A convenient alternative is to hire an officiant to conduct your ceremony after you get your marriage license. Decatur Square is a beautiful setting with its charming courtyard, cute storefronts, and a romantic gazebo. Be sure not to confuse it with the Historic Dekalb Courthouse, which is a museum and event venue. You may book them for your private ceremony. The courthouse also offers a variety of indoor venues, including the elegant jury room and the historic courtroom, which can accommodate larger guest lists.
The Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center does not hold ceremonies. An affordable alternative is to book an intimate wedding package at the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse.
Clayton County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
Cherokee County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
Coweta County - Call for information
Douglas County - By appointment with a judge.
Fayette County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
Forsyth County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
Henry County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
Paulding County - By appointment with a judge.
Rockdale County - Virtual ceremony by appointment only
Walton County - Does not conduct ceremonies.
No matter which courthouse you choose for your wedding in the Atlanta area, it's essential to call to get the most up-to-date info. You should also consider a backup plan or date. One of my wedding couples had their appointment canceled just a few days before.