Know the Basics About Obtaining a Marriage License

Getting Married 101 - Marriage Licences

Certificate of marriage
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Here are the basics that you need to know about obtaining a marriage license, to help you jump through the legal hoops that state and national governments require. The actual specifics depend on where you are getting married.

Once you decide where you want to get married, you need to fill out a marriage license application for a marriage license. After your wedding, it is the responsibility of the person who performed your wedding ceremony to make sure the license is recorded with the county where you were married.

Generally, a few weeks after your wedding, you will receive your marriage certificate in the mail.

Note that state, county, and country marriage license requirements often change. Verify all information with your local marriage license office or county clerk before making any wedding or travel plans.

Time Frame to Get a Marriage License

Don't wait until the last minute to apply for your marriage license. We recommend that you get your marriage license about a month before your scheduled wedding date.

Marriage License Validity

Most marriage licenses are valid for between 30 and 60 days. This means you have a short window of time in which to get married. If you don't have your wedding within the required time frame, you will have to apply for another marriage license and pay the fee again.

ID Requirements

If you have a valid driver's license and know your Social Security number, you should be okay.

If you are not a citizen of the country where you want to get married, you should have your birth certificate translated and certified. You should also be able to show your passport.

Residency Requirement

In most locales, you don't have to be a resident.

Previous Marriages

If you've been married before, you will need to show certified documentation as to how the marriage ended such as a death certificate or a final divorce decree.

Some locales have a waiting period before someone who was recently divorced can get married again.

Waiting Period

More and more states in the United States are not requiring a waiting period between obtaining your marriage license and being able to have your wedding ceremony. However, this requirement still exists in some areas.

Age Requirement

Although it isn't what teenagers want to hear, getting married without parental permission if you are under the age of 18 is difficult in most countries in the world.

Fees for a Marriage License

The cost for obtaining a marriage license varies considerably from locale to locale. One thing many areas have in common is that they only accept cash. Some areas will give a discount if you can show evidence that you had premarital education or counseling.

Blood Tests

Blood tests and physical exams are generally a thing of the past. Only Montana and the District of Columbia require them. 

Proxy Marriages 

Most U.S. states and countries do not allow proxy marriages, where someone stands in for the bride or groom. Those that do allow marriage by proxy require a lot of hoops for you to jump through.

Cousin Marriages

Most states in the United States do not allow cousin marriages although quite a few other countries do allow cousin marriages.

Common Law Marriages

Most U.S. states do not recognize common law marriages.

Same-Sex Marriages

Same-sex marriage became legal nationwide in the United States on June 26, 2015. This reversed state amendments that prohibited it. Scattered incidents of county clerks refusing licenses to same-sex couples may occur, but that is in defiance of the law. Same-sex marriages may not be allowed in some other countries.


Who is authorized to perform your wedding ceremony varies widely from country to country? Officiants, friends, or relatives planning on performing a wedding ceremony should check the state and country laws before saying yes to being the celebrant at a wedding.

State, county, and country marriage license requirements often change. The above information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as legal advice. It is important that you verify all information with your local marriage license office or county clerk before making any wedding or travel plans.