Getting Married at City Hall? Don't Skip These Traditional Wedding Details

Updated 10/30/16

Shawn Connell and Jack Jeffries of Christian Oth Studio

Not all couples dream of a huge wedding with hundreds of guests and a massive production. Some prefer something a little more intimate, with just a few friends and family members in attendance — or even an elopement for two. Whether it's because you don't love being the center of attention, can't imagine spending so much money when you'd rather go on an incredible trip or buy a new house, or simply can't wait any longer to say "I do," there is something incredibly sweet, romantic, and genuine about having a City Hall wedding.

We spoke with Anne Book, founder of Anne Book Event Design in Washington, D.C. about the wedding traditions you shouldn't skip, no matter what you've planned for your wedding.

"A lot of my clients choose to get married at City Hall before their wedding, especially if they're marrying in a different state or out of the country," says Book. "I always recommend that, instead of treating it like an errand, they still make a special day out of it, even if they have what they consider their real wedding taking place not too long after." She emphasizes that a few little details will make the day feel momentous, no matter when you choose to celebrate your anniversary.

Start the morning off by getting your hair and makeup done. "You could have people come to your home, head to a local salon, or have a close friend or family member help you out," says Book. "Order breakfast or lunch, have a mimosa, and take the time to feel your most beautiful." Even better, Book loves the idea of booking a hotel room the night before, or inviting a girlfriend for a sleepover the night before the wedding for your last night as a single gal.

Of course, wear something that makes you feel like a million bucks! "It doesn't have to be a white dress, though you could choose to go the traditional route. Pick something amazing that looks stunning on you," Book suggests. One of her favorite ideas? A little white dress and a pillbox hat — a nod to traditional getaway looks that would look fabulous coming down the courthouse steps!

"I love when my clients exchange love notes or gifts before their wedding ceremony, and you should do the same even if you're heading to City Hall," says Book. "Exchange gifts that morning, as sharing that message of how much you love one another will really set the tone for the day."

And don't skip the vendors! "You should definitely have a bouquet or nosegay or a crown of flowers for your hair," Book advises. "A photographer is also totally necessary, even if it's just a friend with a camera. This is an important day in your lives, so you should have it documented."

Next comes the celebration. "I love the idea of__ inviting ten or 15 guests to join you for a brunch or luncheon__ in the private dining room of your favorite restaurant, or in the cozy lounge of your favorite hotel," Book describes. "Draft a sweet letter to your guests inviting them to celebrate with you, then have a calligrapher handwrite each one for a personal touch." You'll also have the note as a memento to cherish as the years go by. "Have a boozy lunch, and invite each of your guests to make a toast.

If someone isn't able to join you, invite them to write you a letter that you can share during your celebration." What a great way to keep things personal and intimate!

While it might seem counter-intuitive, marrying at City Hall doesn't mean you have to skip the more traditional vendors. "Definitely have a cake and work with a florist," says Book. You may not be able to have a traditional tasting, but if there is a local bakery you love, take the time to pick up a few cupcakes to sample flavors, and then order a small cake once you've chosen a favorite. "When it comes to a florist, ask them to create a bouquet for you, as well as a few small centerpieces that you can use during your brunch or lunch," Book says.

"And don't feel tied to a purely bridal design. Peruse home décor magazines for a more sophisticated tabletop to use as your inspiration."

Don't forget family traditions, either. "If there is something your family has always wanted to do to celebrate your wedding, find a way to incorporate it," says Book. That could be wearing jewelry borrowed from your grandmother, having your sister sing, or inviting an uncle or friend to do a reading.

When the day is over, don't just head home! Advises Book, "Check into a beautiful suite at a luxury hotel in town and take a nap so you wake up somewhere beautiful. Then order a pizza to celebrate!"

And if you're eloping to City Hall, with someone from the waiting room serving as a witness? "You should still have flowers, a great outfit, and a photographer," Book recommends. "But instead of a brunch or lunch, hire a getaway car, pop some Champagne, and take off to a romantic inn for a minimoon weekend!"

Related Stories