Before you go get a marriage license, it’s important to learn which documents you will need to provide to prove your identity and legal ability to marry. So, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to marriage documents, where we cover things like how to get a marriage license from the County Clerk and which vital records you need to show to get married in your state.
Requirements to get a marriage license
Each state has its own marriage license requirements, however, most of them exist solely to determine whether or not you can legally get married in the U.S. and in that particular state. So, you’ll likely be asked to prove your:
- Unmarried status
- Date of birth
One more thing to keep in mind is that the marriage license application form will ask if you want to take your spouse’s last name, or combine your names. If you indicate that you do, it will be easier to change the names on all of your important documents. For more information, check out our article on how to change your surname.
To prove that you meet the requirements above, you must provide these documents when applying for your marriage license:
- Certified U.S. birth certificate copy
- Government-issued photo ID (driver’s license, state ID card, military ID, or passport)
- Social Security Number
- Proof of citizenship and/or residence
- If under 18: Parental consent and possibly court consent
- If divorced: Divorce decree
- If widowed: Death certificate
If you don’t have a certified birth certificate copy, you can order one online and it will be mailed straight to your home, saving you a trip to the Vital Records Office. Application processing can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months, so if you need it to get your marriage license, you should order right away.
Where can I get a marriage license?
In order for your marriage to be legal and official, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license before the ceremony. However, marriage licenses are only valid for a certain amount of time after they are issued. So, be aware of any timing restrictions and make sure that your license will be valid for use at the time of your ceremony. Depending on your wedding location, you should be able to get a marriage license at one of the following locations:
- City Hall
- Marriage License Bureau
- The registrar or recorder’s office
- The county, city, or town clerk’s office
When should you apply for a marriage license?
You’ll have to take special care to make sure that you get your marriage license at the right time. As previously mentioned, there is a window of use for a marriage license, and if you get married outside of the window, your marriage may not be legally valid. So, you’ll have to take into account your location’s:
- Marriage license processing time
- Marriage license waiting period
- Marriage license validity
Different states will have different issuing and processing procedures for marriage licenses. Some states issue them in-person when you apply, while others will mail them to you a few days after applying.
In South Carolina, for example, it only takes 1 day to get a marriage license. However, in Minnesota it takes up to 5 days, while Wisconsin takes 6 days.
These states will all process marriage license applications in 3 days:
- District of Columbia
- Florida (must complete a premarital preparation course first)
- New Jersey
Do you have to wait a certain amount of time to use a marriage license?
Some states also require a waiting period between the time the license is issued and the time it can be used. So, you will also need to make sure that the wait time is over before your wedding date. Below, you’ll find a list of states with waiting periods and how long those periods are:
- Delaware, Illinois, and New York – waiting period of 1 day
- Maryland – waiting period of 2 days
- Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas – waiting period of 3 days
Any qualified U.S. citizen can get married on the same day they get their marriage license in:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
How Long Is a Marriage License Valid in the US?
Your marriage license will have an expiration date, depending on the state. So, you must have your wedding ceremony before the license expires. You can use the chart below to determine how long before your wedding you should apply for a marriage license.
|How long a marriage license is valid after issuance||State(s)|
|20 days||South Dakota|
|30 days||Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin|
|60 days||Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia|
|90 days||Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas|
|6 months||Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey|
|1 year||Arizona, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming|
|No expiration||District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina|
Do I have to pay for a marriage license?
Depending on your state, county, or city, a marriage license can cost anywhere from $10 to $115. To get an exact price, you can contact the office responsible for issuing marriage licenses in your location. You may have to pay some additional fees for pre-marriage counseling or education courses, depending on your state.
Some states allow you to get a license from any county clerk in the state, regardless of which county the wedding will actually take place in. So, you may be able to get a marriage license from a neighboring county where it is cheaper. However, other states require you to get a license from the clerk of the county where you will have your wedding. Be sure to check your state’s rules to ensure that your marriage license will be valid for use in the location where you are having your ceremony.
Marriage license vs. a marriage certificate
Marriage license – the document you apply for before the wedding, verifying that both parties can legally marry one another
Marriage certificate – a document that is issued after you are wed, stating that the marriage occurred and that the two parties are legally wed
We hope this guide was helpful and taught you everything you need to know about applying for a marriage license. Remember to bring a copy of your birth certificate when you go to apply for your marriage license. If you don’t have one, you can apply for a birth certificate copy online in just a few minutes.