Should We Plan a Civil Wedding Ceremony?

Lisa Lefkowitz Photography

That moment where you go from "engaged" to "married" is a big one. It's also legally binding! However, sometimes making it legal can pose a serious challenge, whether it's getting a friend ordained or exchanging vows abroad. Don't worry, though! There's always the civil wedding ceremony to get you hitched, officially. Is it right for you? Our experts weigh in.

Civil ceremonies aren't just for couples who can't wait another second to get hitched or those looking for a super-intimate ceremony. They're also incredibly useful if making your actual wedding ceremony a legally binding one poses a few challenges.

If you're planning on having a friend or family member officiate at your wedding, navigating the legal logistics can come with a set of headaches, from what qualifies as "legal" in your state to wait periods and requirements for how long the ordination needs to be valid. But you shouldn't have to sacrifice those personal touches if the specifications become too much to handle! Instead, have your friend serve as master of ceremonies on your wedding day (and even let you know when it's time to kiss!) and take care of the legal aspects at City Hall.

Saying "I do" abroad? If your state's marriage requirements seemed complicated, just imagine navigating it all in another country — and possibly another language. Some countries require that you live there for a certain number of days before you tie the knot, and while a four-week vacation sounds like a great way to prep for your walk down the aisle, it isn't totally practical. Marrying in a house of worship? Some countries require a civil ceremony in addition to your religious one, which means even more planning. And that doesn't even cover any fees associated with getting married as tourists! These are great reasons to treat your ceremony as more of a symbolic event and getting legally married stateside. Whichever anniversary you choose to celebrate is up to you!

When it comes to how you approach your civil ceremony, you have a few choices. The first is to simply make an appointment and head to the courthouse with the necessary witnesses in tow (or grab a few from the waiting room!) and keep it low-key. The second: Bring a small group (say, your parents and siblings and a few friends) and sign your papers before heading out for a celebratory lunch or cocktails. The third? Throw a party! This could be a dinner party for 20, cocktails for 50, or a full second reception. No matter what, don't forget the cake!

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