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The beauty of a Pennsylvania wedding is that it can be, well, pretty much whatever you want it to be. “There are incredible regions of the state with tons of history and natural beauty such as Valley Forge, New Hope, and Lancaster, in addition to more metropolitan areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or more rustic locations such as the Poconos,” says Philadephia-based event planner Susan Norcross.
Another pro of a Pennsylvania wedding? An abundance of seasoned professionals who can help you personalize your big day. “Creativity abounds in Pennsylvania. We have incredible vendors who live and work here,” adds Norcross. “It's a special spot!”
You don’t have to be from Pennsylvania in order to have your wedding there—the state will play a suitable host for couples with a homegrown connection and those looking for a unique destination. Ready to start planning your celebration? Read on for our complete guide to how to get married in Pennsylvania, including the average cost, legal requirements, food and drink ideas, our favorite venues, and more.
Pennsylvania Wedding Cost
Per wedding research company The Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in Pennsylvania in 2020 was $23,025. Pre-pandemic, in 2019, it was significantly higher—around $27,100. Of course, costs will vary significantly based on guest count, décor decisions, catering choices, and location.
Average wedding costs do vary throughout the state, too. In the Philadelphia area, The Wedding Report indicates that couples spent an average of $31,895 in 2020. In 2019, it was closer to $38,100. In Pittsburgh, the average wedding spend in 2020 was $25,427, while, pre-pandemic, that number was around $30,300. In Lancaster, couples spent an average of $28,444 in 2020, and closer to $33,600 in 2019.
When to Get Married in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is truly a four-season destination when it comes to weddings, with the settings to match. In the spring, summer, and well into fall, there are numerous gardens, farms, vineyards, and even summer camps with beautiful outdoor spaces for your celebration. As one of the oldest states in the country—Pennsylvania was first settled in 1682 and was the second state to enter the Union— there are also plenty of historic estates and buildings to choose from.
Come colder months, you can opt for a rustic lodge in a woodsy destination (think: the Laurel Highlands or the Pocono Mountains), or choose a city ballroom or museum. “One of my favorite weddings to date was for a couple who got married just before the holidays at the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” says Norcross. “We added plenty of greenery, lights, and candles. The end result was celebratory and stunning.”
How to Get Married in Pennsylvania
To legally get hitched in PA, you and your partner will need to apply for a marriage license—together and in person, pending COVID guidelines—at a local Register of Wills, marriage license bureau, or county clerk’s office. Pennsylvania does not permit proxy marriages. You are not required to marry in the county where you apply for your license, but the license is only valid for the state of Pennsylvania.
At your marriage license appointment, you’ll each need to provide the following: one to two forms of identification; information about your parents—likely full birth names, birth dates, birth cities and states, and, if applicable, dates of death—and, if you’ve been married before, a certificate of divorce or the death certificate of your former spouse. You’ll also need to pay for the license, so be sure to check with your county office in advance for accepted payment types. The cost of a marriage license varies county to county in Pennsylvania, with it running as low as $35 in Wayne County and as high as $100 in Philadelphia county.
A Pennsylvania marriage license becomes valid three business days after it is issued. After that, you have 60 days to formally get married. If you wait more than 60 days, you will have to reapply for a new license.
One unique aspect of marrying in Pennsylvania is that it is one of the few states that permits self-uniting marriage ceremonies. In a self-uniting wedding (sometimes called a Quaker wedding), a couple can declare themselves married, or otherwise marry without an ordained officiant presiding over the ceremony. “This opens the door for celebrants and even friends and family to guide couples through welcome messages, readings, reciting their vows, and pronouncing them married,” says Norcross. Just note: If you go this route for an elopement, you’ll need two people over the age of 18 to witness your ceremony and sign your marriage license.
Home to 121 state parks, Pennsylvania is also a great option for those who wish to marry surrounded by nature. In fact, everywhere in Pennsylvania is within 20 miles of a state park! Wedding ceremonies are permitted in state parks—and many have pavilions or other structures available for rent—but do require pre-approval from the park office and a small fee.
Pennsylvania Wedding Venues
From modern museums to rustic lodges to historic buildings, there’s no shortage of variety when it comes to Pennsylvania wedding venues. Here, a few of our favorites:
- Front & Palmer
- Fairmount Park Horticulture Center
- Water Works
- Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
- Maximalist Studios
- Cairnwood Estate
- Lake House Inn
- Terrain at Styer’s
- Bok Building
- The Farm at Eagles Ridge
- GoggleWorks Center for the Arts
- The Bond
- The Booking House
- Historic Shady Lane
- Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
- Mansions on Fifth
- Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh
- Rustic Acres Farm
Pennsylvania Hotels & Resorts
- The Four Seasons Philadelphia
- Fitler Club
- River House at Odette’s
- The Hotel Hershey
- The Ace Hotel Pittsburgh
- Omni William Penn Hotel
- Omni Bedford Springs
- Mansion at Noble Lane
- Cork Factory Hotel
- Ledges Hotel
The options for delicious wedding food and drink are endless in Pennsylvania. Towards the center of the state, especially in regions populated by Amish, Mennonite, and Pennsylvania Dutch communities, seasonal farm-to-table cuisine is especially commonplace, with everything from fresh cheese to pickled vegetables being sourced as locally as possible.
At each end of the state, you also have Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, two very culturally diverse cities. “Polish and Italian cuisine are very prevalent, along with Russian cuisine,” says Kimberley Haugh, owner of Pittsburgh’s Kimberley Ashlee Catering. “Because of the growing Hispanic community, we find that there are more of these flavors that people want incorporated in their menus as well. Lately, I have had more from the Asian/Pacific Islander community reach out to me." In Philadelphia, one of the most exciting food cities on the East Coast, restaurant weddings are also on the rise.
There are many other unique Pennsylvania food traditions to include in your wedding. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll want to incorporate the cookie table, a Pittsburgh tradition that sees friends and family bake dozens of desserts to display at the reception. “As a non-native Pittsburgher, I have learned that the cookie table is really a couples' nod to 'something old,' as it is an old tradition,” says Haugh.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is also known as the mushroom capital of the world, and for that reason, Haugh often incorporates mushrooms into her menus, especially as a vegan option. Pierogies, another beloved dish in the state, are great in miniature form as a passed appetizer during cocktail hour. “I get ours made locally, and finish them with crème fraîche and chives instead of the traditional onions and sour cream,” says Haugh.
Finally, if you’re looking for a great late-night snack, you can’t go wrong with soft pretzels, cheesesteaks, or Primanti Bros. sandwiches.