Help us plan a minimal marriage—somewhere!
October 19, 2013 2:28 PM   Subscribe

We want to get married this fall, but need help planning. We want it to just be the two of us, in a civil ceremony (no wedding, no religion, no guests). We live in DC, and are open to doing it in DC, or in another state like New York or Vermont (making it into a long weekend trip). Help us decide on the location and a few other details.

We are a little clueless about how the process will go, and could more easily make a decision about where to go with a bit more knowledge.

- Can the courthouse provide the necessary witness(es)? Would we have to bring someone we know, or could we go completely by ourselves? Does this vary from state to state?
- If we go for an out-of-state option, can we get the marriage license turned in ahead of time (without traveling) so we wouldn't need to spend vacation days on a wait period?
- How quick is a typical civil ceremony? Do you read "vows" out loud or just sign paperwork? Can you customize it? How is the civil officient selected?
- Is New York City a viable option on relatively short notice (i.e. next month) in terms of scheduling a date for the ceremony and getting all paperwork turned around?
posted by RedMapleWhiteOak to Law & Government (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In New York City, you have to apply for your license in person and the waiting period is 24 hours.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:40 PM on October 19, 2013

Best answer: Have done this, not in DC.

It will totally depend on where you actually do it and what the rules are there; the easiest thing to do is find someone who performs the kind of marriage you want and let them tell you what you need - like a Justice of the Peace or equivalent - ours saved us a lot of time/stress by correcting variable internet information beforehand, having all the paperwork ready, and being able to do any post-wedding marriage things for us (ex. filing registration properly which was time consuming where we were). Make sure you get someone who is "full service," it's worth it. We found the dude that married us on the internet, via Google, he did a lot of weddings like ours.

We had to bring two witnesses.

There are standard civil vows but you can also generally pick your vows if the civil ones are too dry, our guy gave us a variety. The standard ceremony without any frills can be a matter of minutes, plus signing documents.
posted by skermunkil at 2:43 PM on October 19, 2013

Best answer: We just recently got married in the Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral... lovely!

Civil marriage ceremony with no religious overtones, a small group, and a free venue! Ceremony lasted all of MAYBE 15 minutes and the 'officiant' handled everything. You can also just go the paperwork route if you want... she was willing to just meet us an sign the paperwork if we wanted. In DC, we had to choose our officiant from a list of licensed individuals / priests / etc. They gave us the list when we applied for our license - which is a three day turnaround. Go early in the morning and avoid the long lines!

Had a reception at our house afterwards.
posted by matty at 3:00 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here's the website to our officiant. She was wonderful!
posted by matty at 3:08 PM on October 19, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the responses so far—it sounds like finding an officiant is the next step. What are normal officiant rates for a quick (but possibly customized) elopement?
Would it cost more (for the officiant) to have it in a public park than at the courthouse? (I know most parks are free unless you have a big group.)
Also, while I'm at it, what are normal photographer rates for, say, two hours in NYC?
posted by RedMapleWhiteOak at 3:22 PM on October 19, 2013

Our officiant, linked above, posts her rates I believe... if not she is very responsive to email. The Bishops Garden was free. We initially wanted to do it at the Jefferson Memorial or some other National Park, only to find out that you have to apply for a $90 permit.

Our officiant also suggested locations around town.

Our photographer was a small group of friends with their DSLRs... out of a million pics there's bound to be some keepers!
posted by matty at 3:28 PM on October 19, 2013

i'll admit to being an occasional reader of washingtonian's real weddings section, and a few months ago they had this wedding, a small, low-key affair held on the spanish steps in kalorama. it's really stuck with me since, the simpleness and sweetness of it.
posted by kerning at 3:56 PM on October 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My wife and I were officially married in a civil ceremony in DC. (We had a separate ceremony for friends and family later). The civil ceremony can take between 10-20 minutes depending on how many "extras" you want. Typically, you have to book a date 2-3 weeks in advance. DC has a couple of court clerks on hand who can perform the ceremony for free. If you want, you can bring your own officiant, however that person must be on the DC list of approved offciaints. If you don't want to use the court clerk on hand, the marriage office can give you the phone numbers of officiants who can come down to the courthouse and perform the ceremony on short notice for a fee. The DC government can also provide witnesses (my wife's parents and one of our friends attended as well, but it wasn't necessary. They had two staffers on hand who served as our official witnesses). There is a basic ceremony the court clerk can perform where you and your partner just affirm that you are willingly entering into the marriage and then you sign the marriage certificate. If you want, you can also say your own vows. Finally, the DC government will also take a photo of the two of you after the ceremony, if you want.

Here's the link for the DC Marriage Bureau with info on the process and fees.
posted by chrisulonic at 4:58 PM on October 19, 2013

Oh, oh, oh! Now is the perfect time to consult MeFi's Own MrMoonPie! (MrsMoonPie no longer included.)
posted by Madamina at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Pennsylvania, you can get a Quaker self-uniting permit, which removes the need for an officiant, but there's a 3-day waiting period and you need 2 witnesses.
posted by coppermoss at 5:24 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I got married here 7 years ago at The Inn at Weston and they were very willing to make the ceremony short, totally non-religious, and all inclusive. I arranged it all beforehand by email. Basically we went down to the Inn's small bar, talked to the owners (husband & wife) and their partner for a few minutes, then the partner said "ok let's start" and we launched right into a VERY short ceremony.

One of the owners took very nice pictures, the whole thing was over in under 5 minutes, and we didn't need any witnesses. We got the license that day on the way up.

As soon as it was over, we had enormous drinks in front of the fireplace, then moved next door to the dining room for dinner. I highly recommend them. The website may look a little "wedding industry" but it was not at ALL like that for us.
posted by lyssabee at 7:22 PM on October 19, 2013

Best answer: The Governor's House in Hyde Park, VT has all-inclusive elopment packages. One option is to do the ceremony in a hot air balloon, which sounds really awesome! It looks like they will arrange the marriage license for out-of-staters. If we decide to bail on a bigger wedding, this is definitely what I would do.
posted by dormouse at 6:12 AM on October 20, 2013

I've been a witness at a DC civil ceremony. They did a nice job and seemed to take real pleasure in marrying the couple. They put effort into making feel important and pleasant.
posted by NortonDC at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2013

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