Step 1 - Applying for a Marriage License
To obtain your marriage license both you AND your soon-to-be spouse need to appear together in Room 413 of City Hall to apply. There is a fee of $90.00 for the license and the city accepts payment in the form of Visa, MasterCard, certified check and money order (they will not accept cash. personal checks, or AmEx!).
Note that they will not accept your application unless each of you brings a valid Photo ID and a Social Security Card (see Section 5 for details and other approved documents by clicking here).
Your marriage license will be valid for 60 days from the issue date that appears on the license (the issue date will be the third day following application - so you will have to wait three days after applying for it to become valid, make sense?).
Step 2 - Scheduling Your Ceremony at Philadelphia City Hall
To schedule your ceremony at City Hall you will need to call the Marriage License Department at (215) 686-2233 after you have obtained your marriage license (they won’t disclose any scheduling details until you have this). When you call, you’ll be asking when they are “opening the appointment book” for scheduling. They will then provide you with the date that the book will next open, and on that day you will line up outside of City Hall’s Room 415 to get on the schedule.
They advise that you get in line no later than 7:30 AM on book opening day, and I advise that you to get in line with no less than a Grande sized latte for the wait. You will be among many people waiting and spaces are unfortunately limited, so do get their early.
As an example of their timeline: When I spoke with the License Department on August 20th, I was told to call back at the very end of August to find out when they’ll be opening the next appointment book. And as of 8/20, September was completely booked and they were scheduling for October. (Translation: It’s not as easy or spontaneous as in any of the movies you’ve seen.)
Step 3 - The Details
Once you’ve waited in line and scheduled your ceremony, it’s time to move on to the fun stuff.
...Pick the dress (or dresses, or tuxes, whichever)!
...Confirm your photographer and decide on some of the many photo locations in/around the city.
... Perfect your vows.
...Want it to be a super intimate day with just the two of you? Perfect. Prefer to have a few of your closest family members and friends by your side? That works, too. City Hall allows up to 8 guests (including your photographer), and if you ask them really nicely, sometimes they’ll permit you to bring along 8 + your photographer.
...If you’re visiting the city or having a celebratory staycation, book your accommodations. For a list of some of my absolute favorite spots to stay for your city elopement, click here, Philadelphia has no shortage of beautiful lodging, that’s for sure.
Lastly, don’t forget the little things. It’s your day, and you can choose to go simple, do something unconventional, or have some traditional elements mixed in (like florals, first looks, getting ready photos, pre-ceremony love letters, etc). Your photographer should be happy to brainstorm with you and can help you plan the perfect timeline.
Find this helpful? Have a question I didn’t answer? Let me know below! Elopement Photography Packages Beginning at $1,600.