Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Beverly Hills Courthouse Wedding

As Raphe and I were planning our Italian wedding celebration, we were simultaneously planning our legal ceremony in the states before we left. This was partly because of legal reasons and also so that those who couldn't make it to Italy, including my parents, could still be a part of our special day. We officially got married on March 6th, 2020, at the Beverly Hills Courthouse!

A week before March 6th the pandemic was rapidly escalating in Europe, and we officially decided to postpone our Italian wedding celebration, initially scheduled for April 18th, 2020. We thought about postponing our legal ceremony, too, but decided to keep the date as my father's health was not well, and we really wanted him to attend. We're so glad we kept the date as all courthouses have since been closed due to COVID-19. It was a small celebration with immediate family and just what we needed to lift our spirits after the sad news that we weren't going to Italy 5 weeks later.

I've been asked so many questions on how best to plan a courthouse wedding, specifically at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, so I am writing this post to share some tips for those of you that may be trying to plan your courthouse wedding. I'll cover why we picked this courthouse, how to plan, and what to expect on your big day!

Why we picked the Beverly Hills Courthouse:

At the end of 2019, I did a ton of research before picking this courthouse to see our options in the local Los Angeles area. I didn't want my elderly parents to have to travel far, so anything outside of Los Angeles wasn't an option for us. After scouring the internet, I saw that there were many small independent chapels to choose from, but they weren't quite what I was looking for. I then looked at courthouses and saw that our options were Beverly Hills, East Los Angeles, Lancaster, LAX (near the airport), and a few more. Honestly, it came down to choosing the courthouse that would be best for pictures, and Beverly Hills was the clear winner. I looked up the Beverly Hills Courthouse address and saw that it was just a block away from Beverly Hills City Hall. We could take our pictures then walk just the short block to the courthouse to get married. I had taken pictures there a few years back and remembered how beautiful it was! I searched images on Google and saw so many stunning wedding pictures taken there, which confirmed my decision. I told Raphe, and we moved forward with the plan.

How to plan your Courthouse wedding:

In January 2020, Raphe and I researched online what we needed to do to get our marriage license and pick a date at the courthouse. We learned that we couldn't reserve a date and time online, and that we must appear in person at the Beverly Hills Courthouse first with our driver's license and fill out the marriage license paperwork with a clerk. The clerk was very friendly and very helpful. She thoroughly explained the process and associated fees. After we filled out the paperwork for the marriage license, the clerk explained that since we would actually be doing a ceremony at the courthouse, we could pick a date and time for the ceremony right then and there. A lot of information regarding the courthouse dates for legal ceremonies is available online here. From this site, we knew what to bring with us and that when scheduling a ceremony at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, the only open days were Wednesdays and Fridays. We picked out March 6th (at that time it was perfect timing, being just a month before our Italian wedding celebration), and had a few backup dates, and the clerk let us know the available times for ceremonies there. Good news for us that they had plenty of times as the ceremonies only take about 15 minutes, so they fit a lot into just those two days. Sadly though, they also informed us that they had just a month prior changed ceremony rooms. The previous room was on the 2nd floor and allowed up to 50 guests, and the new room, on the first floor, only allowed 8 people (something that was not on the website at the time). 

Overall, it was a relatively straightforward process, and we received our official marriage certificate a few weeks later in the mail. We were told to show up 30 minutes before our scheduled time on March 6th with our new marriage license, proper government-issued photo IDs, and at least one witness. We were so excited and couldn't wait!

What about photos:

During my research, I found an extremely helpful article written by a photographer who said that you need a permit to shoot at Beverly Hills City Hall. I know all about being stopped by security for shooting pictures in places that don't allow it, and I wanted to make sure that this wasn't going to happen on our legal ceremony day. My husband is in the film industry, so he knew all about getting permits and made calls right away. One issue you may have is that getting any filming permit (even if there isn't a professional photographer or crew) is that cities will require you to have insurance coverage. The permit fee is relatively nominal, but finding insurance can be more difficult. If you are hiring a professional photographer, they should be able to take care of this. Luckily for us, my husband's production company has a policy, and it was easy to issue a certificate of insurance to the city. After speaking with someone from the city permit office, we were given a two-hour time frame for that day, in which we would have sole permission to shoot at City Hall. They took a while to email the proper forms to fill out, but we submitted it just in time. Honestly, on the day of, there was no one around, and no one came up to us to ask for our permit, as is often the case. It seems to be Murphy's Law, if you have a permit, you won't get stopped, but if you don't, you might be asked to leave by security. So if you plan on taking pictures there and don't have a permit, you may be okay. Just be prepared that you may be taking a risk, or you might just get lucky!

What to expect on the day:

Aside from nerves creeping in (both Raphe and I were very nervous on the drive there), the entire process is a cake. When you arrive at the courthouse 30 minutes before your scheduled time, you and your guests will have to go through security, and then just to the left of the security booth, there is a clerk stand that checks you in. She will verify your IDs and check that all information on the marriage certificate is correct, at which point she will ask for one or two witnesses to sign in their designated spots. Fun fact: they clearly do this a lot and have probably seen everything! You actually get two copies of your marriage certificate, one unofficial form that is for you, and one that gets mailed in to be the certified copy. They actually had our witnesses sign the non-official one first because the signatures need to be small enough to fit in the box and not cover any other information. They said that doing so could result in addresses, names, or any additional information being inputted into the state register incorrectly. 

From there, you wait until your time is up. At the time of our ceremony, about 3 or 4 other groups were waiting in the lobby for times after ours (we weren't the only ones who had a full room apparently) and the clerks will ask you to keep quiet to not disturb the group currently in the small ceremony room. 

As we had quite a few people who couldn't make it to Italy and were only allowed 8 people, we ultimately had to cut down the list for our legal ceremony to just immediate family and a few friends. As it turned out, the room is tiny, and there are only 6 chairs. We had planned a small lunch celebration after the ceremony, and so we had people that came to the courthouse hoping to get in but were willing to wait outside for the 15 minutes if it didn't work out. Luckily, they had no problem with us packing the room with 10 people. And best of all, our beloved dog Bodhi was able to come into the room as well!

Once they call you in, the Judge will ask for both of your names and pronunciations then invite everyone in. Our Judge was lovely and pleasant and announced how everything was going to proceed before she began. It's extremely helpful because you are so nervous that all you have to do is listen and follow instructions. 

The ceremony itself was actually much more poetic and meaningful than we expected. The Judge had beautifully touching words to say, similar to what you'd expect a minister or officiant to recite at a traditional wedding, and really felt like she was connecting with us for that 15 brief minutes. Then, just like that, you're married!

Legal Ceremony dress:

I received quite a few messages about my legal ceremony dress and wanted to share it will you all here. It's the By Watters Lynette Gown from BHDLN. I fell in love with the full skirt, length and detailing as soon as I saw it on their website. I thought it was perfect for a smaller affair such as a legal ceremony as opposed to a full wedding celebration. I have two other BHLDN wedding dresses saved for my Italian wedding celebration that I can't wait to wear in September 2021.

A big thank you to BHDLN for my dress, Bloominous for my bridal bouquet and Raphe's boutonniere, Raphe's mom, Jacquie for taking our photos and to the Beverly Hills Courthouse for letting us bring in our dog, Bodhi!

Thanks for stopping by!

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