Skip to content

CITY HALL WEDDING: Photography of Courthouse ceremony with formal officiant

In the USA, getting married at your city hall (or the courthouse) remains an option that most people ignore.
In France it is mandatory (even if you have a religious ceremony).
Most of the pictures I show here are from France. But I would capture the same images in USA.

Compared to other types of event, city hall wedding photography doesn’t have real specificity.

Nevertheless, as you will see, planning a city hall wedding has some advantages and disadvantages.

So, let’s discover who might be interested in getting married at the city hall or courthouse and why.


One of the greatest advantages is that you can personalize your wedding as you want.

If weddings taking place at the church would require you to follow strict rules and etiquette, getting married at the City Hall as a citizen implies following some ordinary rules.

You are free to personalize your wedding as you want!

I guess that most of the people might prefer a classical tradition (white dress and suit), but not having to obey to any religious requirement might already be a pleasure for agnostic people.

You Can Decide on Your Outfit and Music

If you are creative or eccentric people, you could dress with a non-traditional wedding outfit.

For instance, if you are a Star Wars fan, you could dress in according to your favorite movie character and walk down the aisle with the movie’s song.

Being dressed following your creativity could be fun!
The bride and groom can take advantage of their photo session by creating unprecedented portraits.
That would please your professional photographers who usually cover classical ceremony with a bride wearing a white dress.

A Great Format for an Intimate Wedding

A city hall (or a courthouse) is appropriate for small and intimate weddings.

The judge celebrating your union should create a special and symbolic moment. I should last 20/30 minutes. However, it sould not last one hour (like the Catholic ceremonies’ speeches).

Depending on the judge and his mood, speeches could be hilarious!  That’s especially true during the elections’ period!

Officials are good orators who like to show their compassion and sense of humor. This create unexpected reactions to portrait.
Photographers would definitively enjoy catching candid and informal photos.

Your Parents or Friends might Celebrate Your Union.

Best city hall celebrations I attended were when one of the couple’ parents used to work with the clerk’s office. Thus they could celebrate the union. It was then a personalized and highly emotional speech that everyone enjoyed!

Enjoy a Great Architecture and Great Venue

One of the major reason people enjoys a Court House or City Hall wedding is usually the building itself.

If small towns don’t have a remarkable building, big towns frequently do.
Historic dowtowns offer sumptuous city halls with an impressive architecture. Those last are often skyscraper made of marble  and gold.

To summarize, such towers are real jewels! The inside can be full of pieces of arts! It’s common that they feature exceptional staircase and gorgeous rotunda.

Most of the public rooms are on the first floor, with large windows offering natural light, which is great for images.
Thus you can enjoy a historic and stunning wedding venue, for free. And, compared to an outdoor celebration, it would also protect you in case of poor weather.
To be honest, it’s the same reason lot of “almost” religious couple get married in a cathedral. They want a imposing building. A stunning location is mandatory if you want to be sure to get brilliant images. That is especially true regarding wedding portraits taken at church. Nice venues always improve the quality of your wedding albums.

Great Wedding Venue

It’s common that the city hall offers an option to host an event. They may not allow you to host your big reception that would include many vendors, but at least you can have a cocktail hour after the ceremony.
So, if you have the option between your garden and a sumptuous building that you paid for (with your taxes), should you really hesitate?


A Pretty short and formal ceremony

Depending on who might celebrate your union, you can also face a judge that is not in his best mood. He might misses the desire to make jokes, and who would go straight to the point. Then you might feel your celebration was impersonal.

You can’t always choose your hour

Depending on the city hall, you might or might not have the option to choose your appointment hour.

Administration buildings are closed on weekends

It means you have to schedule your event on a weekday, which is not convenient for many people.

Difficulty to park downtown

It might be difficult to park downtown, so take it in consideration when you design your timeline.

 Why would couple like to get married at the City hall?

So let’s see the different situations when couples might be interested in getting married at the city hall and why.

  • You wish an extra party (even if you are planning a wedding at the church later)
    You are planning to have a big wedding (in a near future or far away), but you realize that having an extra wedding is one more opportunity to celebrate!
  • You want to practice before your big event
    You have your elopement done, and you are planning your wedding in several months (in the USA or in another country). Therefore you want to practice before.
  • You play it like a enlopement
    Some people would do elopements sessions before their big day. It’s not only a way be trained, but to visit another country.
  • You already had your big wedding in another country
    Sometime it’s easier and faster to get married in the USA than doing all the paperwork required to validate your wedding celebrated in a foreign country.
  • You love the city, the history, the building and want to keep a memory of it.
    When you will show your wedding album to your grandchildren, you want them to see that you got married in a city you love and you are proud of.
  • You are a modern couple
    Your parents raised you in the faith (or not), and you are not a believer.
    That said, you want to impress and to make a mark on everyone’s mind. You want someone qualified to celebrate your big day, and not someone who gets his license online a few weeks before your wedding.
    Then choosing a judge and a beautiful downtown building is a great option.
  • You have a lot of family traveling
    Many people will travel to be part of your special day. So it’s more convenient for everyone to drive and fly to big central cities than to a small town in the countryside.
  • You are a foreigner and just love getting married in the USA.
    Las Vegas with its wedding chapel is a splendid example. You are a foreigner; you are probably already married in your county (or not), and you want to have fun during a trip in the USA. Then have fun!
  • You want to make sure all the paperwork is under control.
    Your friends got married by a random officiant. They found him on internet and struggled to get their wedding certificate. That’s a situation you prefer to avoid.
    With a city hall celebration, you have your official papers done by the clerk’s office so you don’t have to worry.
  • You are pregnant
    You didn’t really expect to get pregnant that soon, and you want everything to be well organized before your baby arrives.
  • You just got an impulsion and you want to get married quickly.
    You realized you are engaged long enough. It’s time for you to get married quickly!
    Also, you don’t have one year to organize your wedding at the church, or to find the perfect venue.Then, you will love the responsiveness and flexibility offered by the clerk’s office!
    As professionals, they offer a marriage quality service, guaranteeing your marriage license delivered in a brief delay.
  • You Are Not Financially Ready to host a Big Religious Wedding.
    You dream about a beautiful location where you could invite your entire family (400 guests). But you don’t have the money yet. Then the city hall with a pleasant park nearby is a great option for having great weddings photos.
  • You are gay and gay marriage isn’t legal in the state you are living in.
    You are gay, the church or your state doesn’t accept gay marriage, so you go to another state to get married. Pick the best City Hall, bring all your friends and plan a nice celebration!
  • You prefer something private.
    You are not comfortable having 300 guests staring at each one of your moves all the time. You prefer avoiding the pressure of organizing a big event. Then a small and private wedding celebration in a beautiful location such as the courthouse would just work perfectly.



If you are planning a small and private wedding, or if you just want an extra party, then pick a nice historic city hall!
Also, if you want to keep memories of this moment, then check out our wedding photography coverage packages for city hall and courthouse.

Black and White Portrait of Alexandre Mayeur, photographer at French-Touch-Photography

Born and raised in Paris, I am now a proud Wedding Photographer in Rochester, MN, serving MPLS.

I don’t only capture emotions in candid pictures, I also create timeless images and artful photographs.
Recognized as one of the best photographers in the Twin Cities.

I serve Duluth and also far beyond the 10,000 Lakes State (Wisconsin, Iowa, and destination). I am more than happy to discover beautiful landscapes and new horizons.

Have a look at my previous publications to learn more. As an experienced professional photographer, I don’t limit my field to lifestyle, family, or event photography! I invite you to visit my portfolio and discover my photography and work out of the studio.