Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our Wedding Day Part 1: Courthouse Wedding Ceremony

Mr and Mrs!
Sorry it's been almost two weeks since our wedding day, but we've been busy.  Honeymoons and relaxing at the house for a few days took priority over this giant blog post, sorry!!  I want to go through all of the details of our very special and perfect day so I'm going to focus on our day through our Courthouse Ceremony in this post and the rest of the day in a following post.  There are far too many details to include in one post, I'd put everyone to sleep!  I can also include specifics for the courthouse ceremony that could be helpful to others out there - something I couldn't find when doing my own research.

Friday, August 17, 2012 began at our regular morning wake up time of 7:00am.  I jumped in the shower, not washing my hair because it needed to be "one-day-dirty" for my hair stylist to work with it.  Stephen got up with me and played with the dogs.  After a quick breakfast I headed off to Mariemarie Salon to get my hair done.  Yes, I saw my fiancee on the morning of our wedding.  I wouldn't have had it any other way. 

My stylist was the only at the salon so we had the place to ourselves most of the morning.  I didn't bring anyone with me so it was very peaceful and relaxing.  I found myself taking a lot of very deep breaths while I thought about the rest of the day.  I left the flower I was going to wear in my hair at the house and luckily Stephen was able to bring it to me.  I have the best husband in the world.  I loved the way my hair turned out.  I was a loose, low bun with a braid for some added detail.  I left the front pretty loose, like I normally do because it felt much more like me than my hair style did on my hair trial back in July.  

When I pulled into my driveway our photographer, Jenn Hopkins, was pulling in at the same time.  I was so lucky to have her at the house while I finished getting ready, she definitely kept me relaxed.  She had us pose for some "getting ready" photos and taking that extra 10 or 15 seconds together was priceless.  These pictures are typically the ones you take with you mom and bridesmaids, but because I was home with Stephen, he helped me into my dress and we have some special moments captured together.  I can't wait to see them.  I've known Jenn for close to 12 years now and we were truly blessed to have her there with us capturing the pictures of our day.  I absolutely wouldn't have had it any other way.  We actually checked with her before we set our wedding date and she was the first to know Stephen was planning on proposing - we had to make sure we picked a weekend she wasn't already booked!

Once we were ready to go we said goodbye to the pups and headed out the door to the courthouse.  I have to say, driving yourself to get married to the man of your dreams with one of your favorite people in the backseat of the car was a pretty awesome way to start our day.  

This section, I'd like to call "What we learned about Courthouse Weddings"
We knew it was a first come first served situation at the DeKalb County Courthouse and we were ready.  We got there two hours early to sign in on sign in sheet, but there isn't one.  We met the judge who would be preforming the ceremonies and he said there was no where to sign in, he'd be taking care of it.  Note to others out there: get to the courthouse 45 minutes before they start taking couples, being there first didn't matter one bit.  

We had time to kill so we went outside to the old courthouse and took a bunch of pictures.  Taking these pictures really saved time AFTER the ceremony when we were tried.  We even had time to stop for some frozen yogurt before heading back into the waiting hallway.  

When we got back, around 12:30pm the hallway was PACKED with people.  Some were there for something else (a lot of people disappeared into a courtroom at once and we never saw them again) and there were about 10 couples there to get married.  Some had groups of people there with them, some were there on what could have been their lunch break.  It's a very small hallway, not much seating.  Our family really packed out the place.  The judge came out of his little room and asked all couples there to get married to bring him their marriage license.  Note to others: have this ready!  We got ours to the judge 4th, so we assumed we'd be 4th to get married.  You know what happens when you assume...

Before the judge started with the marriage ceremonies he asked if anyone there was there just to make it legal.  "No fuss, you have to get back to work, back to your kids, pay the parking meter."  Surprisingly, quite a few people raised their hands.  What happened next was something that I never thought in a million years actually happened.  I wish I had pictures of the faces of my family over the next 3 minutes.  It went like this:

Judge to couple #1 - Do you want to marry him?
Woman - Yes.
Judge - Do you want to marry her?
Man - Yes.
Judge - Great.  You're married. 

Then he signed the license and they were on their way.  THAT QUICK. I'm not joking.  You can't make that up.  He even preformed one of these quickie ceremonies in Spanish when he realized that they didn't speak English.  After each couple the rest of the crowd who was waiting in the hallway would cheer and then it was time for the next couple.  Amazing doesn't even come close to describing these hallway weddings.  Some of these people were a little dressed up while one couple was in shorts, flip-flops and he was wearing a baseball cap.  He didn't even take it off to get married!  There isn't a dress code for the courthouse - news to me.   I didn't want a lot of "ceremony" for our actual wedding, but getting married in the hallway of a courthouse is far from what I ever thought could actually happen.  I don't think my sister's jaw closed the entire time this was going on. 

Once the quickie weddings were over it was time to start calling the couples to the back room for their ceremonies.  I was thinking we'd be #4.  We were somewhere around #6 or #7, I don't remember, but getting there at 11:30am was pretty pointless except for the picture taking.  When we were finally called around 2:00 we headed back down a hallway to the tiniest room in the entire building.  No joke.  The picture below is when we were pronounced husband and wive.  I'm pretty sure this picture was taken in the opposite corner of the room from the judge.  It was small, I don't think all of our family was able to fit inside.  It will be fun to see the pictures from Jenn.  

The entire ceremony was about 3 minutes long.  I don't really remember a thing the judge said, Stephen doesn't either.  I was so caught up in the moment and was so happy to be standing there across from my best friend, the rest of the world sort of faded away.  We were ushered out of the room and the next couple was called.  That's it!  We took the family back to the old courthouse for pictures on the steps and then the two of us headed off with Jenn for pictures in a few other select locations around our neighborhood that mean something to us.  I don't have any pictures of this period, but I'm dying to see what Jenn captured.  We went to Grant Park to a gorgeous, stone amphitheater, to a Coca-Cola wall mural outside of our favorite Grant Park coffee shop and to Turner Field.

When Stephen and I agreed on a Courthouse Wedding I searched the web for a place where I could find information on how the day would go.  I didn't find anything helpful which is why we were soooo early for our wedding.  Here are some tips for a courthouse wedding in DeKalb County Georgia.


  1. Get your marriage license sometime before your wedding day.  We went to the DeKalb Co Courthouse so we would be able to see where we needed to go on our wedding day so we wouldn't get lost.  It was comforting knowing where to park, etc.  You can get a marriage license in any county if you are getting married in GA, it doesn't have to be from the county where you will be married.
  2. Arrive to the courthouse 45 min to an hour before 1:30pm when the weddings begin.  Getting there early doesn't mean you'll be first.  It may be different with other judges, but with our judge, he determined the order. 
  3. At 1:30pm, have your marriage license ready to go for the judge!  He started exactly at 1:30.  One part of our government that wasn't running behind.
  4. Dress how you are comfortable.  We weren't the only ones in a dress and suit, but we were the only ones with a photographer.  Do what makes you comfortable - anything goes.  Baseball caps included.  Ugh.  
  5. If you plan to take pictures after your ceremony, don't hang around the new courthouse, head over to the old county courthouse, the pretty stone one, around to the opposite side of the building from the gazebo for your pictures.  There is NO crowd and plenty of space for a photographer to back up to get the full building in the shot.  It's MUCH nicer than the current building.  
  6. Take MARTA if you don't want to deal with parking.  The parking garage is $6 and MARTA is just across the sidewalk from the courthouse.  
  7. Relax.  Be happy about your decision to get married in a courthouse where it is free!  We aren't going to have pictures in a giant, cathedral like church for our wedding pictures - but that wasn't important to us.  
There you have it - our wedding ceremony.  The rest of the day was a whirl wind and I have so much to detail, I'll do a full "Reception Only" blog post.  While I don't remember the exact vows that I said at that moment in the teeny courthouse room, I know that Stephen and I vow to be with each other everyday for the rest of our lives.  We will be with each other in good times and in bad when we can laugh and to cry together.  I will raise our future children with my best friend.  

I'm the luckiest girl in the world.  


  1. Thank you so much for this post. My fiance & I were married there yesterday (yay!). When doing my research, I came across this blog entry & received a LOT of great info!

    1. Congratulations! I'm glad I could pass on some of the things I learned with our wedding. I hope you have a very Happy New Year as a married couple.

  2. Great post and tips! My fiance and I are planning on getting married there in March. I do have a question, how many people do they allow at the ceremony?

    1. Congrats on your upcoming wedding! I'm not sure if there is an official limit to who many people can attend the ceremony, but the room is teeny tiny. We had 15 people, including us, and we were crammed in there pretty tight. I'm not even sure everyone was actually in the room, but some were in the doorway. I'd say 10 people can fit in the room comfortably, if you all know each other.

  3. Very informative thank you for posting! We're about to elope to Dekalb Courthouse also. Do you know if they allow recording of the ceremony on a cell phone? My daughter said she'll record it for us. We plan on having an elopement after-party back in our home town with family and friends at a venue and wanted to show the vows on a projection screen and then walk in as husband and wife like it just happened since he's never been married and we don't want his family to miss out.

  4. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS! There is literally no information anywhere on what to expect at the courthouse and it's so frustrating. This was incredibly helpful!

  5. Congratulations dear! for this... GOD Bless you...

  6. Congratulations first of all! Second, thank you so much for writing this! My fiance and I are planning on getting married there next week and this is god send.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Congratulations! Thank you for writing this blog. My fiance and I are getting married there on November 18th of this year and this has been very helpful on planning our ceremony.