Planning a wedding is an exciting but often overwhelming process. If you’re looking for an intimate and straightforward way to tie the knot, a Seattle courthouse wedding might be just the ticket. As a seasoned wedding photographer residing just a few blocks from the iconic Seattle courthouse, I’ve had the privilege of capturing countless couples beginning their journey into marital bliss. In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps to create your own memorable Seattle courthouse wedding, ensuring your special day is filled with love, simplicity, and stunning memories.
- Obtaining Your Marriage License:
The first step is obtaining a marriage license. Start by applying online at the King County Marriage Kiosk. The next step requires you and your parter to head to the King County Recorders Office (500 4th Ave #430, Seattle, WA 98104) to complete the process in-person. Both partners must be present and bring valid identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. You will also need to pay the application fee at this time (currently $69). Check out all the crucial steps here: King County Marriage License Instructions.
- Navigating the Waiting Period:
Washington state imposes a three-day waiting period between obtaining the marriage license and the ceremony. This waiting period allows you to finalize any last-minute details while eagerly anticipating your special day. After the three-day waiting period, the marriage license is active for 60 days.
- Choosing the Right Courthouse:
The two main options for Seattle courthouse wedding venues are the King County Courthouse (516 3rd Ave, Seattle, WA 98104) or the Seattle Municipal Court (600 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104). The King County Courthouse is a beautiful historical building that was built in multiple phases starting in 1890. The building underwent several expansions and renovations over the years. The east wing was added in 1916, followed by the west wing in 1930. These additions contributed to the overall architectural grandeur of the courthouse. To contrast, the Seattle Municipal Court was completed in 2002 with a much more modern look with a giant staircase leading up to its doors, a side courtyard, and a modern red wall out front.
When deciding between the two buildings, I would think about what the interior courtrooms look like, ease of parking, if your desired judge is available at each courthouse, and proximity to other places if you wanted to have portraits off-site after the ceremony, or head to an intimate reception or celebration with your witnesses.
- Scheduling Your Ceremony & Securing an Officiant:
At the Seattle Municipal Court, judges are available to perform marriage ceremonies at the courthouse at 4:30 p.m. every weekday. Bear in mind that the courthouse is closed on weekends and holidays, however judges can perform marriage ceremonies at flexible times at a location of your choosing. Once your request has been submitted, a Judicial Assistant will contact you within one week with next steps. To schedule a wedding ceremony, fill out the Seattle Municipal Court Request Form. (You can only fill out the form if the date is within 8 weeks. If it is more than 8 weeks away, you will need to wait).
At the King County Courthouse, judges are not allowed to perform weddings between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday. Weddings may be performed before 8:30 am, after 4:30 pm, weekends and holidays – by appointment only. In order to schedule an appointment, reach out directly to a judge using the contact information below.
- Seattle/Kent Judges and Commissioners Who Perform Wedding Ceremonies
- Washington State Judges Who Perform Marriage Ceremonies (PDF – updated 9/1/2023)
Make sure to speak to your officiant about ceremony fees as each judge handles fees and payment differently.
- Assembling Your Witnesses:
All Seattle courthouses require you to have at least two witnesses to be present during the ceremony. Coordinate with friends or family members who can share in the joy of your special day. At the Seattle Municipal Court, wedding parties are limited to a total of 8 people (for example: the couple, the photographer, and 5 other members). For limitations at the King County Courthouse, speak to the judge who will be officiating.
6. Preserving the Memories:
After you have completed steps 1-5, you should have your marriage license, an officiant, a ceremony time at your preferred courthouse, and your entourage in tow. The last, and perhaps equally vital part is finding a photographer to help document this monuments occasion. I encourage couples to invest in professional photography to capture their wedding ceremony and any other portraits or photos that are desired with the guests you invite to the wedding. The iconic architecture of Seattle’s courthouses and nearby buildings provide a picturesque backdrop for stunning photos that will last a lifetime.
7. Bringing it All Together:
On the day of your wedding, make sure that you have your marriage license, rings, vows, fee for the judge, and any other important details. Ensure that you arrive early to get through security and to the check-in spot with your judge. If you have hired a photographer to capture the day, make sure that you schedule sufficient time in case the judge is running behind so that the photographer can capture the ceremony and have time for portraits afterward. For most Seattle courthouse weddings, I recommend 1-1.5 hours for the set up, the ceremony, signing of the marriage certificate, and walking around for portraits nearby after.
Your Seattle courthouse wedding can be a beautiful and stress-free experience with careful planning and attention to detail. I hope that this guide helps to simplify the process of eloping in Seattle, from getting your marriage license to showing up to the courthouse on the big day. Embrace the simplicity, celebrate the love, and make sure you document the day to preserve the memories.