The Art of the Courthouse Wedding

A courthouse wedding is every bit an art form. And Amber and Daniel’s vintage-coded elopement in Springfield, Tennessee is about to show you how it’s done. 

If you’ve been around these parts awhile, then you know that unmistakably candid and profoundly honest documentary photography is my bread and butter. Even if you haven’t been around here awhile, it will quickly become clear: Redefining ‘documentary-style’ is my life’s work… and your life’s story told. 

Dog and groom anxiously await bride's arrival on steps of courthouse wedding.
Vintage and heart-shaped 'Just Married' cake at courthouse wedding

This particular wedding at Robertson County Courthouse is, in my opinion, the perfect demonstration of what I mean by that. Everything you see in this gallery is the exact opposite of posed. It’s true to the moment. It’s caught in the act. It’s overflowing with emotion exactly as it was felt, not as it was forced. 

It’s love playing out in front of your very eyes, and I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than that. Because Amber and Daniel trusted me with every fiber of their collective beings, I got to really explore the artistry in their love story as it played out in the courthouse setting.

If you haven’t considered making your own wedding a courthouse one, maybe this is your sign? 

While you mull that one over, here are a few tips for having a courthouse wedding that feels like art unfolding, in real time.

Invite Only Your Nearest, Your Dearest… and the Dog

Amber and Daniel were obviously the stars of the so-called show, but I think it stands to reason that their rather handsomely-dressed pup, Judah, came in close second. Amber’s and Daniel’s day was filled only with their nearest and dearest family and friends– along with Judah, of course– giving me the opportunity to focus on snapping every relationship, from every angle. 

Intimate courthouse wedding ceremony in Springfield, Tennessee
Bride hugs groom's mother in warm and joyful embrace on the day of her courthouse wedding
Bride and groom grin at each other while their tuxedo-clad dog eyes the camera.

The people who are a part of your wedding day are just as much a part of your love story as the two of you, and it’s important to hire a documentary-style photographer who prioritizes capturing those guests. 

While my eyes are always scanning for the in-between moments– the reunions between guests who haven’t seen each other since their last college house party, the hug exchanged between you and your grandpa while tears glisten in his eyes, the moves busted between best friends who once choreographed an entire dance to that same song when they were seven year olds and ‘ever after’ was still only a dream – having a courthouse wedding only amplifies my ability to catch them. 

When your guest list can be counted on both hands, you get to talk to everybody for as long as you darn well please, witness firsthand the incredible amount of love that those people have for you, and truly lose yourself in the day and the humans that are a part of it.

Groom pets his dog greeting him out the window of the car
Bride and her best friend wander through the quaint Main Street of Springfield, Tennessee
Dog licks his lips as bride prepares to give him a treat on the steps of her courthouse wedding
Bride and groom pet their dog on the steps of their courthouse wedding
Bride and groom kiss while their intimate guest list celebrates behind them on courthouse steps.
Bride and groom pet dog's chin

Exchange Private Vows at Your Courthouse Wedding

I stand behind many things. TSwift, my cat, and my garden, just to name a few. But I don’t stand behind anything quite as much as I stand behind private vows. 

I love (LOVE!) the intimacy that is inherent when two people massively in love get to be totally alone (well, except for me lurking quietly in the corner with my camera) while they profess their undying commitment to each other. I love how the giddiness simply can’t be helped and can be seen in the heads thrown back in joy, the bodies doubled over with laughter. I love how words pored over, chicken-scratched, and practiced in the bathroom mirror right down to the eleventh hour, are finally spoken to each other. I love how evident it is that those words were worth the wait. 

And I love how Amber and Daniel now have these photos to remember that moment until they’re old and gray, still able to recite those words (and mean every one of them) like it was just yesterday.

Bride doubles over in laughter as she reads vows to groom
Bride and groom both laugh in private vow exchange at courthouse wedding
Bride looks adoringly at groom as he reads his vows in courthouse wedding
Bride and groom stand under the trees lining Main Street in Springfield, Tennessee as they exchange vows
Bride grins at groom as she reads her vows
Bride holds handwritten vows
Bride holds her hands up to signify she is done reading her vows
Groom wipes his eyes during private vow exchange in intimate courthouse wedding

Choose A Theme, But Make it Subtle

When Amber first inquired about having me capture her courthouse wedding, she expressed that she not only wanted her day to be entirely unscripted, but she wanted it to feel a little bit vintage. Between Amber’s classic St. Agni dress, the courthouse and Springfield Main Street backdrop, and the midcentury mod after party details, there wasn’t much for me to do but stand at the ready with my cameras and hope the universe delivered all of the supplementary vintage vibes. 

(After all, a healthy dose of spontaneity is the name of the game when it comes to a truly documentary-style wedding day.)

And deliver it did. Following the ceremony, the wedding guests went to a coffee shop while Amber, Daniel, and I wandered through Springfield capturing their couple portraits. 

And lo and behold, we happen upon a vintage car from California parked out front of a beautiful brick building… I couldn’t have planned it any better if I tried. 

Bride and groom cross Main Street hand in hand with vintage navy car in the background
Groom cups bride's chin in his hand in gentle embrace
Bride and groom kiss in courthouse wedding

The navy and orange hues! The whimsy of Amber’s iconic, Hollywood-worthy foot pop as Daniel dipped her to the ground! The car, just begging to be photographed! (Please, a moment for the car!)

Knowing what Amber was hoping for in her final gallery, while also still leaving room for the day to just do what a day does, is what made it possible for me to capture a gallery that is so effortlessly vintage, while also being unequivocally them– Amber and Daniel, together for the rest of time. 

Bride leads groom by hand up Main Street
Groom looks down at bride as she smiles at him
Portrait of bride cupping her face as she looks at the camera
Portrait of groom as he looks off into the distance
Cinematic shot of bride and groom walking up and down Main Street on intimate courthouse wedding day
Bride and groom walk towards camera with vintage car in the background
Bride and groom walk up and down Main Street of Springfield, Tennessee hand in hand
Groom dips bride in front of vintage car in classic photograph

Add the Extra Hour to the Courthouse Wedding After Party

Just do it. Add the extra hour to the after party, especially when it’s for an intimate wedding. Amber and Daniel opted to add an extra hour while we were at the after party because *it just felt right* (can I get a “YAAAAAS” for the spontaneity!), and I think their gallery was all the better for it. 

I didn’t miss a thing. It’s all there.

The bride and her friends tucked into a back corner of the venue. The guests snapping a selfie so that they could shout how happy they are for Amber and Daniel from the Instagram-rooftops. The way Daniel’s hand couldn’t help but find its way to Amber’s knee at any given minute. The super vibey moment when Amber reached down to fix her shoe strap while standing at the bar. 

It’s all there because that’s what my kind of documentary-style photography is all about. Getting it all and getting it all good.

Midcentury modern wedding reception following courthouse wedding
Bride and groom intertwine fingers while sitting at the bar of Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee
Bride fixes her shoes during courthouse wedding after party
Tablescape for courthouse wedding afterparty
Bride laughs as groom whispers something in her ear
Bride and groom stroll together outside of Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee
Wedding guests take a selfie at Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee
Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee
Bride and her friends chat in the corner during courthouse wedding after party
Groom sips old fashioned and bride sips glass of red wine at courthouse wedding after party
Vintage photo of bride and groom at Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee
Bride engrossed in animated conversation with her friends
Bride and groom 'cheers' at Soho House in Nashville, Tennessee

If you’re coming to the end of this particular post and thinking, “Damn, do I need a courthouse wedding now?”… Hey, maybe you do. In which case, put me in, Coach. (I mean, Couple…)

Even if you’d prefer something a little bit larger scale, or you’d like to do something equally unconventional, like host an eco-friendly wedding, at least know this: You deserve to have your once-in-a-lifetime day captured for everything it already is. No need for poses. No need for a script. 

No need for anything but your love, your forever person, and me tagging along to capture it all, moment for moment.

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