20 April 2007

how to have a city hall wedding

this big, long post is all about getting married at city hall... the wonderful picture above that i found on thomas hawk's flickr page was i think the eye-opener for me that a city hall wedding could be beautiful and elegant.

when we officially -- meaning that sparkly ring -- decided to get married, i knew i wanted to do it right away and that we didn't want some massive thing.

what i pictured was a quiet celebration of love, secretly imagining just the two of us present. but whenever i started to actually plan it, worries inevitably came up about families being insulted, spending a lot of money, and my tiny dreams evolving into a big, nasty thing. so much so that six months passed and nothing happened.

now, since i am a very research-y kind of girl, i spent way too much time looking for information on simple city hall type weddings. surprisingly i didn't find all that much information on the www. maybe 'cause city hall weddings are less likely to have their own personal wedding sites with stories of how the bride and groom met? not knowing what to expect, i imagined the worse: impersonal and rushed ceremony in an ugly office room.

and almost all of what i found about "eloping" referred to expensive destination weddings in exotic places. i briefly considered our favorite vacation of all time place, puerto vallerta, but i was rather turned off by the idea of having to have the actual getting really married wedding either before or after the pretty but fake wedding in mexico. and all the hoopla to make the mexican wedding real would take away from the simplicity of it. now, if you don't mind this, dreams has an unbelievable special with a free "wedding" with stay.

i also looked into las vegas, and although i think the drive-through (watch it) or elvis (watch it, ok the elvis one is kinda awesome) but, it just isn't my type. what really struck me about all of the pictures that i saw from vegas chapels were the empty pews. i figured all of those empty seats would make me feel lonely and maybe regret not having a bunch of people fill them. the only two places in vegas that i really could have seen myself getting married: valley of fire and my own hotel room.

i already warned that i think way too much about things. in the end, at our next "can't wait to get married" talk, i suggested that we go and get the marriage license and that perhaps that would be the catalyst we needed. so the next day, we did.

it was this easy:

on wednesday, we walked to city hall, filled out two forms, and handed over a $24 dollar check. valid in three days and for sixty days. now, on the form was a space (which we originally left blank) for when and where your wedding would be held. when the city hall lady saw it, she said that we could get married on saturday (shortening the wait period) if we wanted to do it then and there. and i think that's what we were waiting for -- for everything to just fall into place. we met with the jp for 5 minutes and walked home so excited.

on thursday, i cleaned the house, and i'm talking mopping here.

on friday morning, i went to ann taylor and bought the dress. it was so cute the lady helping me with all the dresses -- they do have some cute dresses -- asked if it was a special occasion and was shocked when i said, yes, my wedding tomorrow.

on friday afternoon, we walked to our little jewelry store and picked out bands that were in stock in our size. now, something funny happened with these bands, i started out thinking of them as placeholders until we had time and money to find something better, and now i wouldn't trade it for the world.

on friday evening, jack went out to pick out a new shirt and buy a couple of bottles of champagne.

on saturday, we walked over to city hall and got married. we had just a few people with us, and they all brought cameras. now, the unexpected part here was that instead of holding the ceremony in the dingy office, the jp took up upstairs to the stage of a splendid auditorium, i mean really beautiful murals covering the walls. it really took my breath away (we were giddy already). and the vows he read were the most beautiful, sweet, perfect vows i could imagine.

afterwards, we walked home, put on some music and drank champagne, went out for lunch at a swanky place, drank more champagne after our few guests left and relaxed as mr and mrs. here, we could have headed off on a little trip, but honestly when you travel as much as we do, staying home in your own bed is a luxury.

the thing is this was exactly the wedding of my dreams. the place was gorgeous, the vows could have been written exactly for us, i felt beautiful, and i married my dream man. we are lucky to live in a really old (1623!) little town with beautiful old buildings and live in the middle of downtown where everything is within walking distance. but, if you are even considering a small wedding at least check out your city hall before deciding. i know there's somewhat of a stigma about city hall about the shotgun weddings and all, but please. ask them to see the places available or explore on your own and then request that your ceremony be held there. also ask about times available. since we were married at a time they would otherwise be closed, it was very private. and it was so inexpensive: under $500 including my dress. (although someone else graciously picked up the dinner tab.)

my only (fully anticipated) wish is that i had hired a photographer. friends just can't do the same and it was such a special day...


here is the best resource that i found on getting married at city hall: an article aptly titled how to get married in city hall. and, if you do decide to go overboard, nothing wrong with that, here are ways 1 and 2 to do it awesomely.

and here is a small selection of the millions of sites about las vegas weddings, only the ones i found helpful enough to bookmark:

some other eloping links:

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