In search of interesting place to elope...
November 28, 2006 6:30 PM   Subscribe

Where to elope? The SO and I would like to elope in January, but we haven't found a place that suits us. A Justice of the Peace/city hall-type wedding would suit us well, but if possible, we'd like that municipal building to be a wonderful, old, beautiful (or new and funky) building in an interesting country/city/area that we could spend some time exploring.

Or, it could be an unusual site, like a barn or lighthouse, though those strike us as a little more complex to arrange.

One consideration is that we will have a 1.5 yo traveling with us so fewer time zones from the US east coast would be great, but time away isn't a huge limitation, and we could stay longer to justify the jet lag for the little one. The main requirements are:
- Ease & speed of licensing/paperwork
- An interesting site for the ceremony and area to explore for the rest of the visit
- Family-friendly travel and location

Cost is not a factor. It doesn't have to be in the US. It could be warm; it could be cold. It could be for a long weekend, or for two weeks with a kind of honeymoon built in. It could involve snowshoeing or a suite at the Ritz.

Just so you know how we're thinking: we considered Quebec (based on recommendations from some other threads), but as far as I can tell the lead time is 90 days for filing forms; Amsterdam has a residency requirement; Switzerland looks like it could be easy, but if the whole country's an option, I'm not sure how to start; Iceland might work, but has some paperwork lag due to one of us having been married before. NYC, Boston and Boulder are all on the short list, but we are both leaning toward someplace we haven't been before. Also, we want to avoid wedding industry tackiness, so Vegas, the Poconos, Niagara, etc. are out. Very long flights (e.g., to NZ or HK) are probably not going to make the cut either.

So does anyone know of any cool city halls, courthouses or other municipal-type buildings where the paperwork is easy? Thanks!
posted by cocoagirl to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Hmmm... It HAS to be inside a building?
There seem to be so many places outside that are interesting and unusual...
posted by beccaj at 6:45 PM on November 28, 2006

It's gotta be Elvis.

Don't fuck with tradition.
posted by rokusan at 6:49 PM on November 28, 2006

The Santa Barbara County courthouse is pretty amazing. I know people who have been married there. They have an incredible ceremonial courtroom with murals on the walls and stuff. Do a flickr search for "Santa Barbara Courthouse" and you'll get an idea of what it's like.
posted by JekPorkins at 6:50 PM on November 28, 2006

Ice Hotel! That looks amazing and unforgettable.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:52 PM on November 28, 2006

I got married at City Hall in San Francisco, which is a grand Beaux Arts building. It's even nicer now after the post-quake renovation. They offer wedding packages, but you can arrange a simple civil ceremony with a Justice of the Peace.
posted by Quietgal at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2006

There's been an Ice Hotel near Montreal recently, as well, so if you're interested in an Icey wedding, that would be closer to home.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2006

I have to second City Hall in San Francisco - it's a spectacular place for a wedding (I speak from experience).

Afterwards, you can go two blocks west to Citizen Cake (flash) for...well, cake. And Champagne. Their non-sweet food is good, too.

Or, you can head a block or so east to Soluna, and elegant (but hip!) bar/restaurant. Popular with SF MeFites, I hear (I'm sorry I missed the meetup - I'll try not to have a conflict next time!).

Rules for Getting Married in San Francisco are here.
posted by rtha at 8:21 PM on November 28, 2006

Lots of small towns in Texas (and even some bigger ones) have turn of the (19th to 20th) century court houses where the JP can do the honors. Denton and Decatur, I believe, have pretty good ones. Where I live in Fort Worth has a classic one too, although I'm not sure it will serve because it has overflowed into annex buildings that are more modern.

Fort Worth itself has three distinct areas worth exploring: the downtown area which has a lot of turn of the century to art deco period buildings that were built by cattle and oil money and have been restored (called Sundance Square). There is the old Stockyards with a daily cattle drive (Fort Worth is the only city that employs a fulltime "trail boss"). And there is the Cultural District with three great art museums including the nation's second largest modern art museum (behind the Met in NY), a decent science museum, and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
posted by Doohickie at 9:12 PM on November 28, 2006

We got married by Universal Life at our cool and funky lodge (hotel). I'd suggest finding your dream location, make sure that a small gathering isn't going to be a problem, and then find a local minister in the ULC to come out and officiate.

We even pulled in passers-by as witnesses. It was fun, and took all of ten minutes for the official part.
posted by maxwelton at 9:18 PM on November 28, 2006

I recently visited Stockholm, Sweden. Their City Hall is absolutely breathtaking. The city itself is wonderful as well.

However, upon reading your more inside, there could be a snag here as well. You may want to consult the US Embassy in Stockholm. Also, some pages note that reservations may need to be made 2-4 months in advance, so you'd have to hurry! However, the venue truly is spectacular
posted by muddgirl at 9:31 PM on November 28, 2006

Toronto seems quite interesting, and you'd be supporting their system.
posted by amtho at 9:51 PM on November 28, 2006

Kind of a left-field suggestion, but City Hall in Saint John, New Brunswick (Canada) has a large modernist sculpture which you'll either like or hate.
posted by loiseau at 10:32 PM on November 28, 2006

Some friends eloped and got married in Palm Springs, which is great in January (lovely and warm). I would classify it under fun and funky, rather than traditionally beautiful though. I'm not sure how complicated the wedding paperwork is, but I know they didn't even bring a witness, and I think they only needed to arrange it 24 hours in advance. Afterwards you can do an architecture tour, take the cable car up the San Jacinto mountains, have some kick ass food, or drive to Joshua Tree national park. Stay in a modern spa, stay in a historical hotel where the stars used to vacation, or stay in a funky, retro, mid-century modern hotel.

I'll second Santa Barbara, beautiful architecture, although the weather won't be as warm as Palm Springs.
posted by Joh at 11:03 PM on November 28, 2006

The Santa Barbara County courthouse is pretty amazing. I know people who have been married there.

Hey, I was married there! The marriage didn't work out, but the courthouse is amazing—I can't think of a better place to get married, and SB is a wonderful town to spend time in.

The second time I got married, it was in Manhattan's Municipal Building, which is not especially pretty but is fairly old and impressive, and the motley crowd of joyous couples waiting to tie the knot is delightful. And NYC is an even more wonderful town to spend time in. (That marriage worked out great, by the way.)
posted by languagehat at 5:30 AM on November 29, 2006

I'd go for Chicago's Cultural Center. Beautiful and lots to do in the city.
posted by orangemiles at 6:34 AM on November 29, 2006

In many US states, you have to have resided in-state for a pre-defined period before you can get married there. Make sure your elopment would be legal before you pin anything down.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 7:18 AM on November 29, 2006

Here is the link for the weddings page of the Ice Hotel in Quebec City. The chapel is beautiful. I know they do weddings for non-residents. I would suggest contacting them directly for information as to how to handle the administrative stuff. They have a huge marketing department I bet they would happily take care of it for you.

If you don't want to spend the night in the ice hotel there is a regular old hotel next door.

Quebec city's carnaval starts in late January.
posted by Cuke at 7:47 AM on November 29, 2006

How about New Orleans?

As far as a specific place, there are countless beautiful spots and non-residents can waive the waiting period.

Here's a site that has a lot of suggestions for where to have a tiny wedding in New Orleans. (Note: it's a site for a non-denominational minister, but the site had a lot of good info on it.)
posted by pyjammy at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2006

Also - the courthouse in Algiers Point is historic and perfect for weddings. You can take the ferry over to the French Quarter afterwards.
posted by pyjammy at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2006

The ULC officiant idea is a good one. Gather up a few people and go out to a beach somewhere. Or to the middle of a field. Find somewhere that appeals to both of you and go for it.
posted by drstein at 11:34 AM on November 29, 2006

One more vote for getting married at the Santa Barbara courthouse; my wife and I were married in the Sunken Gardens there, and it was easy and quite lovely.

Here is the information on getting married there. The lack of an Justice of the Peace isn't much of a problem, as California recognizes ordination in the Universal Life Church. And if you get really stuck for someone to preside or have other questions about Santa Barbara, feel free to email me.
posted by JMOZ at 12:53 PM on November 29, 2006

Thanks to all for lots of great suggestions! I'm intrigued by a lot of them, but I guess SF City Hall and SB county courthouse both go to the top of the list (not least due to Citizen Cake in SF!). And while I would love to do some foreign travel, the out-of-US options do look like they have some administrative hoops to jump through. I'll explore the options all the same.

And thanks, JMOZ, for the sweet offer. I'll let you know if we set a date in Santa Barbara.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2006

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