Courthouse Wedding Photos & City Hall Wedding Resources

December 6, 2021
City Hall Wedding Photographer | NYC City Hall Wedding| Courthouse Wedding Photographer

If you’re eloping or getting married at your local courthouse, these city hall wedding tips and courthouse wedding photos will help make your celebration amazing

Courthouse Weddings

With rising wedding costs, COVID-19 wedding postponements, and the popularity of elopements growing, it’s no surprise that more and more couples are having courthouse weddings. These city hall wedding photos will remind you that you can celebrate whenever you want, and however you want, with 0 people or hundreds of people in attendance.

I’m a U.S.-based destination wedding and elopement photographer, and capture city hall elopements all the time! Mostly, I photography NYC City Hall weddings and SF City Hall weddings. Recently, I’ve photographed courthouse weddings in other locations, because it’s wherever the clients want to celebrate! Hint: Some courthouses are more beautiful than others…

As a courthouse wedding photographer and SF/NYC City Hall wedding photographer, sometimes it’s just me and my 2 clients, though typically around 5-15 guests come as well. It’s my job to capture the nervous waiting, the vows with officiant, the celebratory first kiss, and then creative portraits around the local area/city.

Why Have a Courthouse Wedding/City Hall Elopement?

Why do couples get married at the courthouse, city clerk’s office, or city halls? Privacy. Cost. Health Insurance. Commitment. Whim. Baby coming. It’s darn time. Just want to. So many reasons!

Not everyone wants an audience when they get married—and many people (introverts or private people) prefer that no one even knows. Some want to just get the tax break that married people are afforded, or health insurance. And others say “I Do” at a courthouse wedding for the simplicity, price, or flexibility to have a celebration later. Yet others want to elope later, but not have to do all the legal paperwork in another state or country.

Whatever your reason, these courthouse wedding photos and city hall elopement tips can help. And, if you’re wondering whether or not to elope, take a look at this article on 25 Reasons to Elope. You can elope at your local courthouse, at a beautiful city hall in another state, on a mountaintop, or just about anywhere!

What to Wear for Your City Hall Elopement or Courthouse Wedding

Wear whatever you want for your courthouse elopement! Some couples go all-out with traditional wedding attire. Some wear jeans and t-shirts. I’ve had grooms with matching suits custom-made in other countries. Couples who did a simple suit with a short dress. Jumpsuits. Skirts. Blue dresses. Black dresses. Flip-flops. Manolo Blahniks. Hawaiian shirts. Couture gowns.

Wear for your courthouse wedding whatever floats your boat, because if there’s one thing that’s true for city hall weddings, it’s that it can be done however you like. It’s really fun to wait in line at the NYC City Hall wedding appointments room, because you get to see tons and tons of couples in everything under the sun. It’s probably the most diverse, fun, high-fashion, why-are-they-here, wow-look-at-them people watching that exists.

same sex couple eloping city hall california

Before Your City Hall Elopement or Courthouse Wedding

Contact your local city hall or courthouse to understand the rules in your area. Most require you to submit paperwork anywhere from 3 days to 3 weeks ahead of time. In these odd COVID times, some courthouses have moved to parking lots or stadiums, and most are only doing scheduled appointments. You can’t just show up and get married! Most locations require a wee bit of leeway.

Because I’m a California and New York wedding photographer, most of my elopements and city hall weddings are at New York City Hall (and occasionally San Francisco City Hall). Since these are the ones I know best, I have direct links right here. For all others, contact your local city marriage license office, or google {location} city hall+marriage license to find out more.

To get married in the USA, you must be:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Single. Divorced? You will need to prove you’re divorced and now single
  • Any gender and any religion. Same-sex weddings are absolutely legal throughout the USA and U.S. Territories, and the process for having a city hall wedding is no different
  • Willing to provide necessary documentation (typically IDs, visas, etc.)
  • Able to pay the marriage license fee, which is generally $50-$150

Below are contact website for some of the most popular city hall wedding ceremony locations (and a few personal dream locations for courthouse elopements!):

For NYC City Hall weddings, contact the City Clerk’s Office (which will redirect you to NYC’s Project Cupid) at

For SF City Hall weddings, visit

For the Santa Barbara Courthouse marriage regulations (one of my favorites, and one of the most beautiful courthouses in the country to shoot at!), visit

For California’s San Luis Obispo wedding certificate facts, see

For Rochester, NY civil wedding ceremonies:

For Albany, NY:

For Philadelphia’s city hall marriage information (a dream location!):

Regulations vary greatly for each state, and even each county within a state. Plus, COVID-19 regulations have changed so much—so it’s best to check.

Other Courthouse Wedding Tips:

Depending on where you’re having your city hall wedding, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, you will probably not have privacy, but will be among other people who have work in the court house that day.

Second, if you get married at a popular location (NYC City Hall, Pasadena City Hall, Miami-Dade City Hall, Santa Barbara Courthouse, or SF City Hall, to name a few), you’ll probably see a lot of other couples also getting married.

Third, courthouse weddings kind of go according to that county’s plan. And let’s face it—you’ll be at the whim of the folks working in the court that day. They’re not necessarily the friendliest of people, so patience is needed.

Fourth, you may not know the exact room in which you’ll be getting married. Sometimes it’s a beautiful atrium, and sometimes it’s a small, ugly room with an ugly painting. Not naming names. Just be forewarned, and remember that a courthouse wedding is a low-cost, low-stress, easy way to get married. Flexibility is key.

Fifth, remember to arrive early for parking, and to get your appointment processed as quickly as possible. Backups happen!

Lastly, remember that this doesn’t need to be your only wedding memory. If you want to keep it small, great, and if you want it to just be the legal way you start your wedding adventure, have an adventure session, fly somewhere amazing, or snuggle at home with a movie. It’s 100% up to you!

Courthouse Wedding Photos & City Hall Ceremony Portraits

When you take your outside courthouse wedding photos depends on your elopement schedule, but most people take portraits beforehand (so that you can celebrate and go to brunch/dinner after!).

You can take photos at a park right around your local city hall, or, if it’s cold, at a local (indoor) botanical garden. You can opt to hire your photographer for just a couple hours, getting photos around your city, or you can hire them for the whole day and get photos where you had your first date, your first kiss, your proposal, and more. Or heck, just get epic photos everywhere, and splurge on yourselves with a fancy restaurant!

Ask your elopement photographer for the best spots to take photos in your area, or search for local parks, interesting architecture, or quirky spots for your wedding photos. Or, if the location is amazing, you won’t even need to leave city hall! Case in point: The Santa Barbara Courthouse.

For Simone & Andrew’s City Hall wedding in upstate New York this past November 2021, I scouted out areas with some beautiful buildings within walking distance.

For this Santa Barbara Courthouse shoot, we had cars and drove to the nearby beach and gardens. There’s no limit to what photos you can take, or how long. I always want more time with my clients, especially when you factor in driving times to different locations!

There are a number of cool locations for your NYC City Hall wedding photos, but most require a bit of a walk/taxi/subway ride. So, bring alternative shoes/boots if you’re wearing high heels for your ceremony!

After Your City Hall Elopement/Courthouse Wedding

Following saying your vows and eloping at your local city hall or courthouse, people tend to want to 1.) eat; 2.) celebrate; and 3.) relax.

So, here are some ideas for your post-courthouse wedding vows!

  • Have a picnic
  • Go for a horse & carriage ride
  • Go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant—or a finger-lickin’ good burger joint (hello, In ‘N’ Out Burger wedding)
  • Go on a scuba dive or a snorkel adventure
  • Hike up a magnificent mountain
  • Splurge on a stay at a romantic AirBnB
  • Take a hot air balloon ride, finally!
  • Rent a treehouse for the weekend and sleep in style
  • Ride horses on the beach
  • Head to a local botanical garden or park to relax
  • Travel in style by taking a NYC Checker Cab, limo, or old Rolls Royce around the city
  • Hire a private chef to cook for you
  • Make it an adventure session and fly off for some epic photos in a helicopter

City Hall Weddings Can Be As Small or As Huge as You Like

The best parts about city hall weddings and elopements at the courthouse is that they can be as small or as amazing as you want them to be. You can elect to not tell a soul, or to hire a city hall wedding photographer for the day and have a small family gathering, or to just get married and then celebrate later.

Or, you can pull an Ivy Getty and rent out the entire SF City Hall for your wedding. This splurge-o-tastic celebration doesn’t come cheap, of course, and is essentially a massive wedding at City Hall. So, unless you have a million-dollar-plus wedding budget with international guests, you probably want to skip this.

Many couples choose to elope at city hall, then take their wedding photos on their honeymoon, or in another country—without having to square away the legal paperwork since they’re already married. This is VERY common, and an excellent alternative to an international wedding. You bring your wedding clothes and take photos when the timing is perfect for you—just hire a traveling wedding photographer, or a local wedding photographer, and you can get epic wedding photos wherever you’re traveling in the world!

SF City Hall Wedding Photographer | NYC City Hall Elopement Photographer | Courthouse Wedding Photos

Ready for me to photograph your adventure?

Inquire about me photographing your elopement or wedding, and I'll get back to you within 24 hours. Cheers!

More about me


It’s so helpful that you listed the exact requirements and links to make the wedding legal! I could’ve spent so much time looking for it and you had it all laid out. You’re clearly an expert and your Couple’s are really lucky they have you to spend so much attention to detail!

This is a great reminder for couples looking for courthouse wedding that there’s plenty of room to get creative when it comes to celebrating your wedding day. Between the architecture and local parks
to the simplicity of it all, you explained things super well Kathryn! Nice work 👏

Such a great research for couples looking to elope in a courthouse!

How thoughtful of you to write this wedding planning resource. You’re awesome.

This is such a great guide for courthouse weddings, especially the creative ways to continue the celebration. Thanks for sharing!

This is a great guide to go through when planning a courthouse wedding. Your images are lovely too! 💕