Oh hey! I see you. You're wanting to plan an intimate wedding that's budget friendly but doesn't look cheap, something you can customize to fit what YOU are wanting (because let's be real--it's YOUR day. Do what YOU want).
You're drawn to more city vibes and your priorities are
1) get hitched to the love of your life
2) keep it small with just your besties and your immediate family (or just you & your fiance)
3) have bomb ass photography
Is this possible to do without breaking the bank? I'm here to tell you that it ABSOLUTELY IS! If all the points above resonate with you, consider having your wedding in the best city--Downtown Fort Worth! Get ready in a gorgeous suite at any of the nearby hotels, tie the knot in a quick 5 minutes or less ceremony at the historic Tarrant County Courthouse, meander the streets for chic urban portraits, then meet back up with your favorite people for an intimate dinner at some of the best restaurants (and bars) that Texas has to offer. Not familiar with Funky Town? Like I said, I GOT YOU.
Keep reading and I'll give you a rundown of my favorite spots for prep, portraits, and receptions. But before that, let me hype up the Tarrant County Courthouse.
It is a work of art! The renaissance revival style pink granite is a shining star at the entrance to downtown. The grounds are properly manicured throughout the year and the inside is just as breathtaking. Marble staircases, gold and brass accents, soft window light streaming down the shining halls, and you feel like you're transported back in time. It's such a lovely chunk of history! You definitely won't have to worry about saying "I Do" in an ugly room with buzzing overhead lights and mangy carpet. It's easily one of the most gorgeous buildings I've ever been inside.
WHERE TO GET READY
The Ashton Hotel - This boutique gem is located right on Main Street and is a straight shot down the brick roads to the Courthouse and 1 block from Sundance Square* (*unfortunately the plaza at Sundance Square is roped off due to the pandemic). The building features 39 luxurious rooms and suites, valet service, modern amenities, and a partnership with one of the nicest restaurants in the city, GRACE.
The Omni - this grand hotel is a feature to the Fort Worth skyline, though probably isn't walking distance in wedding heels at 0.8 miles away from the Courthouse. Notable features include floor to ceiling windows (the perfect natural light), state of the art spa, and on-premise steakhouse. It's also right by the Fort Worth Water Gardens.
The Worthington Renaissance - This behemoth is just about as close as you can get to Tarrant County Courthouse! It has a fantastic view of the steeple and clock from the rooftop courtyard. It is very contemporary and boasts exceptional city views, floor to ceiling windows, in house fine dining, and a 4 minute walk to Sundance Square, the heart of downtown.
Aloft - super hip, super centrally located. It's a quarter mile away from the Courthouse, a 4 minute walk to Sundance Square (literally right down the street), and a 15 minute walk to the Water Gardens
The Sinclair - one of the newest boutique hotels to open in the Sundance Square area, this historic Art Deco building is on Main Street, so it's an easy walk straight down to the courthouse. Bonus, you can request rooftop access for portraits!
THE CEREMONY ITSELF
So now that you've picked where you'll get ready (and maybe even honeymoon/staycation), it's time for the main event! Tarrant County Courthouse requires 3 things to get married: the marriage license, the couple, and $100. Ceremonies start at 9:15 a.m. and run until 4:30 p.m. With the abundance of windows in the ceremony room (located on the fourth floor), anytime of day has beautiful light. They don't require witnesses, but you're welcome to bring your loved ones in--there's plenty of seating! While the ceremony itself is quick and scripted, Judge Swearingin usually allows time to read handwritten vows. In my experience there, there was only one time where he didn't and my guess is because it was the last wedding of the day. Be sure to set up a First Look with your partner! You'll need to walk in together anyways, so why not have a private moment between just the two of you, then go up hand in hand?
Now that you're legally wed and on a joyous high, it's time for the fun! If you've brought your family, this is typically when we will do family portraits. There are great spots both indoor and outdoor for these. After family portraits, you'll send your fam-bam to the reception space or on their way to enjoy downtown where you can meet up with them later or not; totally up to you. But now it's time for Married Couple portraits! Aka my favorite part of the day. Most couples opt to spend most of their time for portraits, about an hour/hour and a half. Luckily there's a ton of great spots to hit up all within a short radius of the Courthouse. Main Street, all around Sundance Square* (*the Square does require a permit to shoot there--it's free, just required or you get kicked out), parking garages with skyline views, outside Bass Hall, the Water Gardens... the urban opportunities are pretty endless!
SAMPLE TIMELINE & PACKAGES
All wedding packages can be customized to fit your needs, but my Tarrant County Courthouse Wedding packages start at 2 hours and include 1 photographer (Beth Swan), professional photo editing, personal online gallery hosted for 1 year, digital download of all edited high resolution images, a la carte print options directly through your gallery, print release, full delivery within 4-6 weeks and a sneak peek within 72 hours. If you're wanting prep, ceremony, portraits, and a bit of reception coverage, I recommend at least 3 hours of coverage.
Sample Wedding Day Timeline-Courthouse Wedding-3 hours coverage
2:00 p.m. - Photographer arrives at hotel for prep photos (dress, invitation, jewelry, shoes, details, etc.)
2:35 p.m. - Head over to Tarrant County Courthouse
2:45 p.m. - First Look outside the Courthouse
2:50 p.m. - Walk up the stairs together and go through security, then up the elevators to the 4th floor. Couple checks in for ceremony.
3:00 p.m. - Wedding Ceremony with Judge Swearingin
3:05 p.m. - MARRIED! Quick portrait with the Judge, then leave Ceremony room
3:10 p.m. - Family Portraits
3:25 p.m. - Start of Couples Portraits
4:30 p.m. - Married Couple Introductions at Reception Venue** (if no reception is planned, allot time for more portraits downtown)
4:35 p.m. - Toasts & Cake Cutting
5:00 p.m. - Photographer coverage ends
Sample Wedding Day Timline-Courthouse Wedding-2 hours coverage
1:45 p.m. - Photographer arrives at Courthouse & meets couple for a start time of 2 p.m.
2:00 p.m.First Look
2:05 p.m. - Courthouse Security + Check-In
2:15 p.m. - Wedding Ceremony with Judge Swearingin
2:20 p.m. - Married! Quick Portrait with the Judge
2:25 p.m. - Family portraits
2:40 p.m. - Couples Portraits!
4:00 p.m. - Photographer coverage ends
It's soooooooo easy! The entire process is chill, quick (but not rushed), and painless. From the Courthouse weddings I have photographed, there's no stress. "Easy" is the best way to describe it. Your complete focus can be on the priorities you set, and at the end of the day you're married to your person and you're gonna have killer photographs to remember the day by.
WHERE TO PARTY
Here's a few favorite places of mine:
Thompson's - It's a super groovy bar that does custom cocktails. If you know the password, there's a secret speakeasy in the building. They also rent their upstairs rooms for small events.
GRACE - Fine dining, indeed! I highly recommend the Duroc Pork Shank and the Colorado Rack of Lamb. If you're a wine drinker, their extensive pairings are fabulous.
Razzoo's - It's right across from Sundance Square on the corner of Main & 3rd. Cajun food and cocktails. You can't beat it.
Sundance Pavilion - host your own reception! Right in the heart of Sundance Square and very intimate.
Reata - an absolute staple in Cowtown cuisine! They have several private rooms to rent out, as well as rooftop dining options! If the weather is nice, definitely opt for the roof. The views are fantastic and the Tex Mex is heavenly.
Acre Distilling Co. - book the space for your reception if you're into whiskey, bourbon, gin, vodka, and other craft liquors.
WHAT TO WEAR
Gone are the days of courthouse weddings meaning showing up in jeans and a t-shirt. If you're saving a ton of money opting out of a huge wedding, splurge a little on your attire.
WED Bridal Boutique (Fort Worth local and located in the SoMa District)
Bliss Bridal Salon (Fort Worth local and located off Lancaster Ave)
Reclamation Design Company (Online ordering, very boho dresses, based in British Columbia)
Lulu's (super affordable fashion! Tbh, I bought two dresses here online for my upcoming vow renewal and spent under $500)
Olivia's Gowns (Utah local gown rentals)
And there you have it! Proof that you can have a fabulous wedding on a budget in such a cool city. Planning an elopement for yourself or a friend? Shoot me a message about my elopement and courthouse packages.
This blog was originally written in 2019 to help out my lovely FW couples, and then we moved to Albuquerque in 2022... BUT GET EXCITED, LOVIES!!
WE ARE MOVING BACK TO TEXAS SUMMER 2024 AND WILL BE BOOKING COURTHOUSE WEDDINGS AGAIN!