When it comes to planning a wedding, there are many details to consider: location, number of guests, who’s going to marry you, and more. From destination weddings to church ceremonies, you have options.
You don’t have to do it like everyone else. How and where you get married can be unique to you and your partner. Just don’t forget to get a marriage license first—that’s a requirement no matter where and how you decide to say "I do.”
There are 2 basic types of wedding ceremonies: religious ceremonies and civil ceremonies. A religious wedding ceremony may take place in a house of worship like a church, synagogue, or mosque. The requirements vary among faiths. The officiant is generally an official representative of the religion and the ceremonies follow a standard ritual. There may be some prerequisites like being a member of the faith or community or taking premarital classes.
A civil ceremony may use aspects of a religious ceremony but not always. Couples can choose where to get married and who to have as the officiant. Finding an officiant you like for the marriage ceremony may take effort. It could be a judge, justice of the peace, or other government official legally empowered to officiate weddings. There may be freelance wedding officiants in your area who are ordained clergy but also do nonreligious weddings. Having a friend or family member ordained online for the purpose of performing weddings is also possible.
Through the years eloping has become increasingly popular. They tend to be more intimate, small, and personal. They also tend to be less elaborate and formal, which is usually associated with larger or traditional weddings. Elopements generally include 20 guests or fewer, compared to traditional weddings that have at least 100 or more guests and micro-weddings with up to 50 guests.1
Destination weddings or ceremonies, which require participants to travel, are also becoming more common according to a recent study that surveyed 12,000 recently married couples.2 If you’re planning to get married in another country it’s important to research their marriage requirements well in advance. Some countries may require that certain paperwork be sent weeks in advance, some may have a waiting period, and some may require you to apply for a marriage license in that country.
To be legally married, couples must get a marriage license from the county clerk—it proves the marriage is legitimate. Marriage requirements vary, so familiarize yourself with your state's requirements and with those in the county where you plan to marry or live. Where you purchase your marriage license matters.
Usually after the wedding ceremony, both spouses, the officiant, and 1–2 witnesses sign the marriage license. The officiant is responsible for filing your license with the county. It might be a good idea to follow up with your officiant to ensure they’ve filed your marriage license. Failure to do so doesn’t mean you’re not considered married, but it can prolong receiving your marriage certificate in the mail, which is required to legally change your name.