How to Get a Marriage License: The Basics

basics of marriage license

In the United States, a marriage license is considered to be a legal permit that acknowledges the validity of a couple’s marriage; a valid marriage license will confirm that the couple are of legal age to marriage and otherwise do not have any qualifications that might exclude them from marriage (such as, in most states, being blood-related).

How to Get a Marriage License

The exact requirements for a marriage license can vary from state to state, and the process of obtaining a license may even depend on the nature of your wedding ceremony. If you are interested in knowing how to get a marriage license, consider the following basic guide to obtaining a marriage permit.

Look up state marriage license requirements

The requirements for how to get a marriage license can vary from state to state—so be sure to look up your state’s particular requirements, as some states require different types of paperwork or applications than others. Most states will require information such as: birth certificates, proof of residency, state-issued photo IDs, social security numbers, as well as a fee.

 Make sure to check the expiration date

If you want to know how to get a marriage license, you’ll need to check your calendar. The valid date on a marriage license can vary from district to district, so be sure to know how long marriage licenses are valid in your area. For example: if a marriage license is only valid for 90 days in your district, don’t apply for one a year before your wedding, or you will need to go through the hassle of reapplying.


Some states actually require a waiting period in between obtaining a marriage license and actually marrying. Make sure you know the laws in your state regarding waiting periods.

Get medical testing (if applicable)

It used to be mandatory in most states for couples to have physical examinations and medical testing before they could be legally married. These types of laws were originally put on the books in an effort to stop the spread of contagious diseases, but most states have done away with mandatory premarital testing—with the exception of testing for tuberculosis, rubella and sickle-cell anemia, which is still a requirement in many states.

Some states now require marriage clerks to offer couples HIV testing, although no states have mandatory HIV tests in order to receive a marriage license.

Make sure you and your partner can legally consent

In order for a marriage license to be valid, you and your partner must be able to legally consent to marriage. In most states, this means that both you and your partner must not have been deemed ineligible to enter into contracts, either because of your age or due to a mental disability. In states where couples can marry before they are 18 years old, permission—from a parent/guardian and in many cases, a court judge—must almost always be obtained before the marriage license can be applied for.