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2023 Queer Bride: Courthouse Wedding


Last time I wrote on the topic of my journey to being a bride, I discussed my engagement to my partner and our search for the perfect venue. Little did I know that after writing that post, I would be quickly pivoting our plans due to the vulnerability of the right to same-sex marriage at the federal level.

I have felt very lucky that up to this point, I have had few complications in our wedding planning process. But I think the possibility of not being able to legally marry my partner of seven years is one of the largest obstacles we will face over the next year and a half until we walk down the aisle.

Our Reaction & Decision

On June 24, 2022, when we were all mourning the loss of a person’s fundamental right to have autonomy over their own body, I was also glued to the news that same-sex marriage, the right to contraception, and other constitutional rights might be next. When my partner, Gabby, came home that evening, we immediately began talking about the possibility of our 2023 wedding plans and how they might need to be altered, and fast.

If I am being honest, our wedding in the fall of 2023 is mostly for me. I want the fanfare that a wedding offers with the gathering of family and friends from all over to celebrate a joyous occasion. I also have always wanted to wear a pretty dress and have my dad walk me down the aisle, so the thought of not getting married the way I’d dreamed of was devastating. Gabby, on the other hand, is along for the ride. She is neither for nor against a “traditional” wedding. She has participated in many of the planning steps, but if it were up to her, we would just go to the courthouse and have that be it.

Like many queer couples, we decided that a courthouse wedding this year was the best plan of action. To be married legally is of the utmost importance, as that will give us the same rights and accessibility to one another that other married folks have. After being together for seven years, the idea of getting married a whole year earlier did not shake us. However, it has been hard to explain to some of our family members the reasoning behind getting married this year, and why we will still be holding a ceremony and reception as originally planned in 2023.

In light of our plans changing, we are truly making the most of the situation by having two weddings, one this year at a courthouse (which we call “Gabby’s wedding”) and one next year with a ceremony and reception (which we call “Claudia’s wedding”). To our friends and family who will be in attendance at both, we joke that there will be a survey at the end to see which one they preferred.

How We Scheduled a Courthouse Ceremony

The steps to getting married at a courthouse can vary by where you live, but I will detail my experience below.

Research

The first step to planning our courthouse ceremony was googling the county I live in and “courthouse marriage.” This brought up quite a bit of information, but I was able to pinpoint the information I needed by specifically seeking out government websites.

Pick a date

One of the things I was most passionate about when deciding to get married at the courthouse was making sure that the date we got married was the same date as our ceremony and reception in 2023… just a year earlier. My thought was that it would be so special to have our ceremony and reception in 2023 as a one-year anniversary party, allowing us to celebrate our love and the special day. My partner also thought this was a wonderful idea, so picking the date was an easy choice.

Call the judge

This is where my perception of what a courthouse marriage entails versus what actually happens diverged greatly. I thought you could just walk into the court on the day you wanted to get married with your marriage license in hand. What actually happens is very different, at least in my county.

In the county where I live, in order to get married at a courthouse, you need to have a judge scheduled, and calling the judge to make that appointment is your responsibility. On the website I used, there was a list of judges who perform marriage ceremonies. I had to call them to find one who was available the day we wanted. On top of that, ceremonies do not take place during standard business hours. Rather, you can opt to have your ceremony before or after court hours. With all of this in mind, the judge we found seems very nice and was open to answering all of my questions over the phone. She even sent along the scripts she typically uses so we can read, edit, and personalize them for our ceremony.

Apply for a marriage license

This is our next step in getting ready for our courthouse wedding, which at the time of this writing is happening in less than two months. We have completed the pre-application required by our county and actually have our appointment to purchase and sign our license this coming week. After we attend our appointment and pay the fee, we will be ready for our ceremony. We just need to make sure to bring along the script we personalized and our license.

Make it special

Although getting married at the courthouse was not what I envisioned for my wedding, we are still finding ways to make it special. We are inviting our immediate family to attend the ceremony along with some close friends. Afterward, we will be having a celebratory dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. We are also choosing to exchange wedding bands as a symbol of our marriage this year.

I am looking forward to this new plan. As someone who is not always great with change, this was a change I could accept. After all, getting married to my partner has always been a part of the plan!

Claudia Neu has a passion for language immersion and intersectional children's literature. When she is not working with children or reading, you can find Claudia cuddling with her cat or trying to keep her houseplants alive. Check out her instagram @claudianeureads for more book recommendations and reviews. Favorite genres: queer literature, contemporary fiction, and young adult.

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