Seattle Courthouse Wedding – Planning Tips

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A man and woman walk down a Seattle sidewalk in the rain while holding an umbrella. The man is in grey suit and tie while the woman is in a white dress and formal coat and is holding flowers. They are both  on their way to their courthouse wedding.
Having a photographer with you when you have a Seattle Courthouse Wedding means that we can preserve your wedding day story – whether it’s just for the ceremony or we turn it into a full day adventure.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography.

Thinking about skipping the stress and expense of a large-scale wedding (or been forced to pivot due to COVID-19) and want to lock it down on the down low? A Seattle Courthouse wedding could be just your piece of pie. Celebrating the magic of your love story, tying the knot and maybe even celebrating with a friend or two – just without all the other craziness and headaches that can come along with traditional wedding planning.

You can still wear your dream dress or suit, you can still have some of your faves in attendance (just on a smaller scale), and you can still make it so so special. You have the choice of two Seattle courthouses, both of which have several ceremony location options, including a Seattle rooftop wedding option. While the indoor ceremonies can be a little less than glamorous, trust me when I say that you will still be able to get all those stunning AF wedding day pics. Downtown Seattle has so much to offer.

A bride and groom sit on a couch in the Seattle courthouse before their wedding ceremony. The couple are cuddled closely with the bride's chin on the groom's shoulder as the two laugh. The bride is wearing a simple but modern wedding dress and the groom is in a full grey suit with a Burgundy tie.
If you give yourself a bit of extra time before your wedding ceremony you can get loads of amazing shots right in the courthouse. Both Kings County and Seattle Municipal Court are beautiful buildings with plenty of spaces for great photo opportunities.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How to pick your courthouse wedding location 

You have the choice of not one, but two courthouses in Seattle, both within a short distance from one another. Before making any decisions, I highly suggest heading on over to check them out for yourself.  King County and the Seattle Municipal Court buildings both have incredible architecture with so many photo opportunities throughout. 

For those of you looking for a simple destination elopement wedding and who don’t have the option of scouting it out in advance, I suggest checking out their websites, as well as contacting each courthouse to ask about their processes. They are both amazing, so just go with whichever one feels like the better fit. It is also worth noting that there are SO many beautiful locations for photos—either pre-wedding or post (or both)—all within walking distance of both courthouses.

Consider getting ready or post-ceremony celebration spaces like Enter The Studio, The Banana Stand, or this Minimal Sun-filled Studio Space. Not only are spaces like these KILLER for photos, they’re also great to have as a backup just in case Seattle decides to be Seattle-y and rain.

Speaking of rain, investing in a clear umbrella like this one from Target, or this one from Nordstrom. Want something a little less #basic? Check out this iridescent umbrella or this gold dot umbrella.

A bride and groom dance together in the Seattle courthouse before their wedding ceremony. The groom is spinning the bride while they both stand on a animal skin rug. The bride is wearing a white dress with black belt and the groom is in a full grey suit with a Burgundy tie.
When planning a courthouse wedding you can still get all those little moments you always dreamed of having on your wedding day, even that first dance.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How to Get Your Marriage License

Just like any other wedding ceremony, you will need to pay for and pick up your Marriage License before your wedding. This is super important because without it, you will not be able to get legally married. The license is $64 at King County and they will only take cash. Note:Seattle Municipal Court is currently shut down until June 1.

A couple of things to keep in mind, especially right now, is that this whole Coronavirus business may cause a delay in receiving your license, so I suggest checking on this early on. In order to be issued a marriage license, you must be at least 18 (or 17 if you have parental consent), you must not be currently married, and you must be able to present government issued photo ID. For all you destination elopers, rest easy, you do not need to be a Seattle resident to be issued a marriage license here.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your Marriage License has an expiry date. Marriage licenses issued by King County are good for 60 days after issue, so be sure to schedule your Seattle courthouse wedding within that specified date. 

Once you are married, return the license to the Records and Licensing Services Division office at King County or Seattle Municipal Court, so it can be recorded. Once this is done, you can do an easy online search to see if your marriage has been certified. If your marriage has been certified, your next step is ordering a certified copy (which can be done online) for a whopping $3.

An intimate closeup picture of a bride and groom, their hands intertwined together between each of their lips. Both the bride and groom have their eyes closed. The groom is in a grey suit and the bride in a white wedding dress.
Local courthouses have closed down in response to Covid-19, but they plan to open officially open for wedding services by June 1, 2020. If you are planning to get married soon after their re-opening, be aware there will most likely be many other couples planning to do the same. Get in early and reserve a date or you may need to book later in the month!
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How to Book Your Seattle Courthouse Wedding

While the Seattle courthouse is currently shut down as a precautionary measure in response to the Covid-19 craziness, they are currently aiming to start taking wedding reservations once again as of June 1, 2020. 

You can book a judge to perform your ceremony through the courthouse or you also have the option to have your own officiant meet you at the courthouse to conduct your ceremony. If you choose an officiant over a judge, I still highly recommend contacting the courthouse in advance to make arrangements for this. 

The judges who perform Seattle courthouse weddings are available for a flat rate fee and, because you are going to them, there are no travel fees involved. You can find a list of judges available at King County here. 

If you are not bringing along your own witnesses to sign your marriage licence, you can ‘rent’ some from the courthouse for a fee. In order to make your marriage legal, a witness MUST sign, so make your arrangements in advance.

A bride and groom stand in front of a window and cuddle. The groom has his arms wrapped around the brides waist while both their foreheads lean in to touch. The groom is in a grey suit and the bride in a white wedding dress.
The Seattle Courthouses themselves have minimal spaces for photos with the bomb lighting, but Pioneer Square and all the areas surrounding have stunning locations you can use for pre or post wedding photos – Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How Long Does a Seattle Courthouse Wedding Take? 

Some things to keep in mind when planning a Seattle courthouse wedding is that it’s actually a pretty popular option, which means there’s a very good chance you won’t be the only ones getting married on your special day. 

While you can reserve a time, it’s strongly encouraged to arrive at the courthouse at least 30-45 minutes early just to ensure everything runs smoothly. There are some days where there could be anywhere between 5 and 15 couples getting married and only a handful of judges available. This means there may be a few small delays and, if you arrive late, you risk being pushed to the back of the line. 

While your ceremony will most likely run less than 30 minutes (more often it’s about 10 in total), I recommend giving yourself at least 1.5 hours of wiggle room in case your wedding date turns out to be a popular one.

A bride holds her hand over her mouth as she cries tears of joy during her wedding ceremony. The foreground has the groom with his back to the camera and the officiant holding her ceremonial speech. The bride is wearing a white wedding dress with a black belt and long veil  pulled backwards.  The officiant is in a black gown.
The courthouse allows you to have a small number of family and friends in attendance, so those closest to you can still be part of your special day. Pictured here is the indoor ceremony area. It’s basically a boardroom, so don’t expect anything too fancy, but the windows open to the city skyline. I recommend getting married before sunset to avoid having to use the yellow overhead office lighting.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How to Plan Your Seattle Courthouse Wedding

A bridal bouquet and boutonniere sit on a ledge against a rainy window pane in the Seattle courthouse. The flowers are light pinks, oranges and blush shades.
Having a smaller ceremony doesn’t have to mean giving up on all the bells and whistles.
Splurge on flowers if you love them, maybe even boutonnieres or corsages for your guests of honor.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

There is NO. LIMIT. limit to your level of fancy. Up casual, fancy night out, princess gown, or urban chic – whatever makes you feel like your best selves, do that. Many couples choose the courthouse setting because it simply strips away the stress and the extravagant price tag. I mean, why not save the money for a killer honeymoon instead, amiright? Getting married at the courthouse does not mean you need to miss out on all those special parts of the day! Keep the celebration going with an intimate dinner (at home or at your favorite restaurant) – maybe even invite your closest friends or family.

an up close photo of a wedding bouquet. The flowers are various shades of orange, white, and light pink.
Seattle Courthouses are fully supportive of LGBTQ Weddings. #loveislove
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

How Long Should I Book A Photographer For?

You can choose for your photographer to be present just for the ceremony itself, or we can turn it into a half or even full day affair following you from getting ready, ceremony, and a frolic through the city. Maybe we end on a rooftop, maybe we stop at your favorite bar – the possibilities are endless. Not sure where to go or how to plan? I got you, babe! I help all my clients with planning and logistics with suggestions on where to get ready and where we can go for the best wedding photos in downtown seattle.

Never be afraid to brainstorm with your photographer and tell them what photo ideas you’re dreaming of (goofy, fun and adventurous or more elegant and traditional)! We can head on over to Pike Place Market, the Sky View Observatory, or even the Seattle Municipal library – all within a short walking distance from the courthouse! Other fun options include the Seattle Great Wheel, taking a ride on the water taxi or ferry, or walking through the Olympic Sculpture Park.

A bride stands wearing a knee-length white wedding dress with a black belt and a mid-length view pulled back on her black hair. a groom stand before her in a grey suit. both the bride and groom are facing one another and holding their vow books. There is an officially standing between them in a black gown and holding her ceremony speech in one and and the couple's ring box in the other.
There’s always room to read your own personal vows during your ceremony.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography
A bride and groom embrace in a hug together after they have become officially married at the Seattle courthouse. The bride is wearing a white wedding dress with a black belt and view pulled back, while the groom is in a grey suit. The pair are standing in front of a window that overlooks Seattle.
Sweet. Simple.
Photo by Chelsea Abril Photography

Moral of the story: if a traditional wedding isn’t your thing, or just isn’t in the cards for right now, a Seattle courthouse wedding or downtown Seattle elopement can be just as special. You and your spouse are who matter most, and whether or not this is the only ceremony or just the beginning, I will be there beside you to freeze frame every moment.

Planning a courthouse wedding and want to know more? Head over to my contact page and fill out the contact form to get in touch!

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