Design Your Ceremony
Once you’ve picked your justice of the peace and confirmed the date, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license. You can also talk to the officiant about writing your own vows if you desire. Expect a civil ceremony to be very simple and quick unless you want some special traditions incorporated into the event. Some justices will also want to add their own word of advice or good wishes as well, which can be a nice touch to personalize the ceremony. You can ask your justice about how he handles this part. It can be helpful to ask the justice to share samples of previous ceremonies as well to give you some ideas.
You can also ask if you can see a copy of your ceremony plan in advance. Just keep in mind that not all justice’s script out what they will say so yours may want to talk spontaneously at your event and therefore may not have it all down on paper in advance. You should also discuss the logistics of your ceremony, such as your bridal party, family members, any special blessing or traditions you want to incorporate and what type of ceremony music will be used.
If you’re having a small wedding without any attendants or family participation, you may not need to prepare much in advance but otherwise, you’ll probably want to have a rehearsal before the event. Talk to the justice of the peace about this and make sure he will be able to work this into his schedule.
When you meet with a justice of the peace, you’ll want to go prepared with some questions. For instance, you should ask what his fees are for performing the ceremony and for the rehearsal, too. You will ask need to know what other expenses he might charge. For instance, other possible costs include travel fees, personalizing the ceremony for you and submitting the legal paperwork. You should talk about how much money you need to give in advance to hold the justice’s time for your event and find out when the balance will be due.
What It Costs
Many couples find a simple wedding ceremony performed by a justice of the peace to be very affordable, although the price can vary depending on where you live and what will be involved. Some states have a set schedule of fees that a justice can charge, while others allow this to be an individual thing.
To give a general idea of what to expect, the costs usually start in the $50 to $100 range if you are willing to go to your local city hall or courthouse and have a justice there perform a brief ceremony. Some experienced justices who travel to your wedding location will charge more. Their fees may start at around $150 to $200 range and go up from there. If you are planning to have a destination wedding, such as getting married in Hawaii, you can expect to pay a little more. For instance, on the Hawaiian islands, justices can charge as much as $350. For this price, you can usually expect that they will be willing to travel a short distance and will also help you to coordinate some of the legal paperwork and other details.
Some justices will include the cost to meet with you and your fiancé before the wedding to get some details about you both that can be incorporated into the ceremony. In other cases, this can be an additional fee of about $50 for the time involved. If your rehearsal isn’t included in the justice’s price, this can add another $50 or so.
So you can expect to spend between $50 and $350+ for a justice of the peace, plus the license and any extra fees.
(In addition to the justice’s fees, don’t forget that you’ll also need to pay for your marriage license separately.)
It’s worth noting that when an interfaith couple is getting married, it’s not unusual to hire two justices or officiants, one that represents each of their backgrounds, styles and beliefs. If you plan to incorporate two justices, be sure to plan for double fees in your budget.
A Final Note
Many couples will invite their justice of the peace to attend their wedding reception. If you would like to do this, be sure to include the officiant on your guest list and plan to send a formal invitation.