"Let's just do it at the courthouse."
How many times have you thought this during your wedding planning? Between searching for venues, caterers, entertainment- it all gets overwhelming, and the true meaning behind your wedding can get overshadowed. I have the one-stop solution: Courthouse! I know you might be picturing a bustling environment with lawyers and judges, but surprisingly the common spaces in courthouses are quite calm during the day- and the architecture is beautiful!
Okay so, we're not exactly eloping in one day. Not in Pennsylvania anyway. There is a mandatory 3 day waiting period between the time you file for your license, and when an officiant can sign it (when you actually get married.) BUT, don't file for it too soon either, because you have to use it within 60 days. Get ready to screen shot because I'm going to list the steps!
Step 1: Book your time slot.
All PA courthouses require a fee to use their space. Allegheny Courthouse permits up to 80 seated guests in their grand staircase area, and up to 150 outside in the courtyard. The pricing is $1500 for up to 4 hours during the week; and $4000 on the weekend or holidays. I highly suggest booking a weekday afternoon. I have shot 4 weddings here so far, each during a weekday, and not once have I had to ask people to move, wait for crowds to disperse, or "wait in line" for a good photo location. Added bonus for the after-party: the restaurants and bars aren't so crowded either!
Visit the courthouse's website Here for more info.
Step 2: Apply for your marriage license.
2-3 weeks Before your wedding date, apply for your marriage license together at either a Register of Wills, marriage license bureau, or county clerk's office. If you're coming to Pittsburgh, the Marriage License department is on the 1st floor of the City County Building, which is next to the Courthouse. Visit here for more info: Allegheny County Marriage Licensing
Fact: You don't need to get married in the same county that you live, or in which you have applied for a license. If you're from out of town or want to avoid the city, just apply at your nearest Register or Bureau. I will include links for the surrounding counties at the end.
Step 3: Start preparing!
Make a list of your must-have vendors, and start calling! If you're doing this on a weekday, you have a much better chance of securing high-end vendors whose weekends are booked out for 1-2 years. Photographer, videographer, officiant, hair and makeup, floral, and attire, just to name a few. These are my favorites:
Hair & Makeup - Monarch Collective, Gibsonia PA. Go to their salon or have them come to you. My photography clients save 10%!
Dresses - The Exquisite Bride, Gibsonia or Murrysville.
Photography - My weddings start at $300/hr.
Other important info.
Parking. Yes, the dreaded Pittsburgh parking adventure. Most nearby lots and garages are around $20 during the week, some could be more. Always allow an extra 15-30 minutes before you have to be in the courthouse in case you get turned around or have to walk further than anticipated. Coordinate with your photographer so that you can park together, and she can photograph you walking through the city!
Check this site Here for live parking details.
Security. You and all of your guests will be subject to the typical courthouse security. This entails placing all of your things in a bin for the conveyor belt, as well as walking through the metal detector. Do not take any weapons with you; knives, pepper spray, even scissors (I once had scissors to help cut the flowers, and they confiscated them.) I suggest taking one large tote bag, or even a rolly suitcase, to carry anything you might need. This way, hubby's pockets aren't weighed down and you don't have purse strap lines on your arms!
Other County marriage license links: