The six couples sitting in the courtroom are undoubtedly anxious.
Some talk with each other, nervously laughing and sharing stories. Others sit silent, close together with their hands intertwined.
They’re at Cobb County Magistrate Court to get married on a mild Friday in January – and the wait seems unbearable to some. They glance at the clock, apparently willing it to strike noon.
Finally, Judge Philip P. Taylor briskly enters the courtroom, smiling and cracking jokes, hoping to ease the couples’ jitters.
After a five-minute group ceremony, the happy couples kiss, and congratulations are given all around.
Couples don’t need to make an appointment to get married in Magistrate Court. Would-be brides and grooms just need to bring a marriage license (which costs $26 from Probate Court) and $30 to cover the judge’s fee, according to court officials.
Weddings are performed seven days a week all year long (including holidays) at noon and 6 p.m., usually in Courtroom H. Ceremonies are performed as a group, and the length of the ceremony varies depending on which judge is presiding.
Twenty-five-year-old Ankit Shah and 22-year-old Shivani Gandhi are two of the newlyweds. With seven family members in attendance, this is a big event.
“We decided to have a civil wedding at the courthouse and then a religious ceremony back in India this December,” Shah says.
According to Gandhi, after a one-year engagement, they just couldn’t wait 12 more months to get married.
“Within six to seven months of dating, we knew we were serious,” she says.
They met through their fathers, who were college roommates in India. Gandhi, who has lived in the United States for about seven years, was introduced to Shah when he came over from India a couple years ago to work on his master’s degree.
“It was my good looks,” says Shah, jokingly explaining the reason Gandhi fell in love with him.
She agrees. Of course, he’s smart, too, she quickly adds.
“She’s a beautiful person,” Shah says of his new bride.
Observing their smiles and interaction, no one can claim that courtroom weddings aren’t romantic. In addition, they’re relatively stress-free.
Officials advise arriving at the courthouse at least 15 minutes before the hour, and couples are welcome to bring a limited number of witnesses.
Judge Taylor has performed wedding ceremonies every Friday since 1996. He says he usually does 10-20 in a day. Last year, 2,278 couples came to Cobb County Magistrate Court to get married.
“There’s a real group dynamic that occurs,” he says. “It’s very fun and enjoyable. After the ceremony, people shake hands and congratulate each other.”
While individual ceremonies are more solemn, mass weddings are more “relaxed,” Taylor says.
“These couples are looking for something like that. They don’t want the big production,” he says.
“If they feel pressured to have a real formal event, they can always plan something for later. But getting married at the courthouse is a convenient alternative.”
Judges are also available to perform ceremonies off-site for an additional fee.
Call the Magistrate Court at (770) 528-8900 for more information on weddings, and call Probate Court at (770) 528-1921 for a marriage license.