Amid the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding, sometimes the most vital of piece of the puzzle just gets an afterthought: getting the marriage license taken care of. Obviously, without a marriage license, you and your fiancé can’t be officially recognized by the state as being married when the time comes. So get that on your list of wedding plans pronto.
Going down to the clerk’s office to get a marriage license is all done without fanfare or usually without much planning in advance. However, there are some things you need to know. So make sure you know what’s in store for getting your marriage license so you are well prepared.
Whether you’re ready to get married next week or next year, you’ll need to be prepared with the proper documentation, paperwork, and fees in order to get your marriage license. Exactly what do you need? Well, that varies by state, and even from county to county within a state, different details can vary as well. Mostly you’ll need photo ID and an application fee.
When do you need to go pick it up? That also depends on the state. You don’t want to get it too early or it’ll expire, but you also want to get it in advance if your state requires a waiting period. To get started, get online and do a little searching, and then also call the county clerk’s office where you’ll be getting married.
In general, here are the requirements if you are getting married in the U.S.:
- Decide where you will get married. Which city and state will you be in? If you are a nonresident, there may or may not be some implications.
- In most cases, you can go to that county clerk’s office to apply for your marriage license. In some states, you can go to any county clerk’s office and just let them know which count you’ll be married in.
- Both of you must go in person to apply.
- You both must pass age requirements (vary by state) or have written permission from your parents. Some states you only need to be 16, and others 18 or older.
- Bring photo ID like a driver’s license or a passport.
- Bring necessary paperwork such as birth certificates, etc.
- Bring payment for marriage license fees—they vary by state. In Idaho it varies by county and some even charge more if you show up on a Saturday. In Iowa the fee is $35, in Florida the fee is $93.50, and in Arizona it is $76.
- Montana requires a blood test. Some states are required to suggest you get an HIV test before getting married.
- The marriage license is mailed to you or picked up by you when it is ready.
- Some states have a waiting period before you can use your marriage license:
- Alaska three days,
- Delaware 24 hours, more if non-resident,
- Illinois 24 hours, Iowa three days,
- Kansas three days,
- Louisiana 72 hours,
- Those from out of state can get married in New Orleans without the 72-hour wait,
- Maryland 48 hours, Massachusetts three days, Michigan three days,
- Minnesota five days,
- Missouri three days,
- New Hampshire three days,
- New Jersey 27 hours,
- New York 24 hours,
- Oregon three days,
- Pennsylvania three days,
- South Carolina 24 hours,
- Texas 72 hours,
- Washington three days,
- Wisconsin six days.
You must use the marriage license within the timeframe allowed (varies by state). For example, Alabama is 30 days, Indiana is 60 days, New Jersey is six months. Be sure to check the time limit so you don’t get yours too early.
Bring your marriage license to your wedding.
You are married by someone authorized to do so in your state, such as a religious leader, judge, clerk or justice of the peace.
The officiator, two witnesses, and you and your new spouse, all sign the marriage license.
Someone, usually the officiator (ask the clerk’s office for specifics), will return the license to the same place it was obtained—usually the county clerk’s office.
In about a week, the couple can purchase a certified copy of the marriage certificate in person and perhaps also by mail. It’s always good to have a copy at your home either framed on the wall or in your special documents file.