This story originally appeared in the 2015 Kitsap Wedding Guide.
Getting married at the courthouse is something often seen in the movies or on television. But it happens in real life, too. And it happens here in Kitsap County.
Although statistics aren’t kept as to the number of courthouse weddings annually, District Court Judge Marilyn Paja has officiated at many unions since she joined the bench in 1985. Currently there are four district court judges and they take turns performing the ceremonies, unless a couple asks for a specific judge.
All courthouse weddings are performed after hours or on the weekends, Paja said. Other than the cost of a marriage license, the couple is asked to pay an honorarium to the judge that performs the service.
She said couples who want courthouse weddings, generally call the district court and reserve a specific time.
There isn’t any “average” courthouse wedding, Paja said.
“We speak to them individually so that we understand what they are wanting,” Paja said. “We work very hard to make sure that each ceremonies is unique to the couple and is just what they want.”
For example, she said, some just want said what is legally necessary and don’t exchange vows. Others have special words they want to say to each other. Each judge has their own wording that they like to use, she added.
Most couples bring flowers or bouquets and have a photographer.
“We remind them about that, although just about everybody has a phone that takes pictures now.”
Styles range from very formal to very informal.
“We see people dressed casual,” she said. “Some are even in shorts in the summer. We’ve had folks in their Seahawks jerseys. We have some in military dress uniforms and the brides are in traditional wedding gowns. There’s also long dresses and tuxes and some couples will dress in the costumes of their native country if they’re not from here.”
One sure thing, the couple has to bring their own witnesses.
“Unlike in the movies, we don’t provide that,” she said.
Some couples come with only two witnesses. Others bring a group of friends and family. The courthouse allows pretty much whatever the couple wants in term of guests who can be present.
With some couples, they’ll call and reserve a time weeks or months in advance. Other times, it’s the day before.
All ages of people have courthouse weddings, she said. Some are military and some aren’t. Valentine’s Day is popular as well as “odd dates,” like 12-13-14.
“We don’t question them about the date they pick,” she said. “We just take the calls when they come in.”
The goal is always the same, she said.
“Weddings are very personal,” Paja said. “We just do the best we can to make them a happy and memorable occasion.”
For those who need to get their marriage license or those who are considering courthouse weddings, here’s some hints:
Requirements: Both applicants must be at least 18 years of age or older and must have a current photo ID as proof of age. Applicants who are 17 years of age must be accompanied by one parent or legal guardian who can provide consent. Applicants under the age of 17 must obtain consent of parent/legal guardian and waiver from juvenile court is required to apply for a marriage license.
Blood tests and physical exams are not required to obtain a marriage license. Applicants do not have to be residents of the State of Washington to obtain a marriage license. The license is only valid for weddings that are performed within the state of Washington. Proof of divorce from a previous spouse, or death of a spouse, is not required to obtain a marriage license. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the final decree of divorce is filed before applying for a new marriage license.
Waiting Period: There is a three day waiting period beginning the first day after you apply for your license and ending the third day following the date of application. You may not get married during this waiting period. The license is valid for 60 days beginning on the third day after application and must be used in the State of Washington.
Witnesses: Witnesses are not necessary to apply for a license, but state law requires that at least two witnesses be present at the ceremony.
Fee: The fee to apply for a marriage license is $64, cash or check only. The fee is non-refundable.
Performing the ceremony: State law prescribes who can perform a marriage ceremony: active and retired Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals judges, Superior Court judges, Superior Court commissioners, and judges of courts of limited jurisdiction including municipal courts, as well as any regularly licensed or ordained minister or priest of any church or religious denomination. (See RCW 26.04.050 for a complete list.)
Ministers from any state may perform marriage ceremonies, but the ceremony must be performed in the State of Washington. Neither the bride nor the groom may perform the ceremony.
To have a county judge perform the ceremony, contact District Court at 360-337-7033.
To apply for a marriage license go to the Kitsap County Auditor’s office at 619 Division Street in Port Orchard. Application forms are available online at www.kitsapgov.com/aud/records/marriage.htm.