How to Get a Marriage License

Have Required Documents and Fees When You Apply

A pair of gold wedding rings symbolize marriage. Learn the sociological definition here.
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If you're planning to get married, there is one thing you can't forget: the marriage license. You can't get hitched without it. A marriage license is sort of a permit, kind of like a driver's license. It says that you are legally allowed to marry, although obtaining one does not mean that you are married. You still must tie the knot before someone with the power to marry people legally, with the license at hand.

The rules and requirements for getting a marriage license vary from state to state and from country to country. To make sure that you have all your ducks in a row, contact your city, county, or town clerk's office which will direct you to the pertinent information. Many cities and counties have websites with marriage license requirements spelled out, and you often can fill out the application online and pay fees with a credit card.

Basic Information

That said, there are certain basic pieces of information that you will need no matter where you apply for a marriage license.

  • Timeframe: Find out if there is a waiting period and for how long marriage licenses are valid. You'll likely need to apply during the week or two before your ceremony.
  • What documents you'll need: Some states require birth certificates, proof of citizenship and/or residence; virtually all states require a driver's license or another type of photo ID. If you have been widowed or divorced, you should also have a copy of the death certificate or divorce decree.
  • Fees and how to pay them: If there is a fee, you might need to pay it with a money order, cashier's check, or cash. You also might be able to pay with a credit card, depending on the state.
  • Blood tests: Although this requirement is no longer widespread, some states still require blood tests.

Destination Weddings

If you are planning a destination wedding or getting married in a state other than where you live, you'll also need to find out about residency requirements, if any.

This includes how long you must be in the county before you can apply or any other rules at the location you've chosen for your ceremony.

General Procedure 

  1. The bride and groom take identification, any necessary paperwork, fees, and sometimes blood test results to the county clerk in the jurisdiction where the ceremony will take place to apply for a marriage license.
  2. The marriage license is either mailed to or picked up by the bride and groom.
  3. There is sometimes a waiting period, depending on your state.
  4. You are married by someone legally allowed to do so in your state.
  5. The person who performs the ceremony, two witnesses, and sometimes the bride and groom sign the marriage license.
  6. The marriage license is returned to the county clerk's office by the person who performs the ceremony.
  7. About a week later, copies of the certified marriage certificate can be purchased from the clerk's office.

Popular Wedding Destination Requirements

It's really not that complicated a process, but it seems so since the laws vary so greatly from state to state. Here is an overview of what popular wedding destinations require. All states also require fees to be paid at the time of application for a marriage license.

Check your specific location for the most current amount.

New York Marriage License Requirements

  • Where to apply: A city or town clerk
  • Documents needed: Documents showing both identifications, such as a driver's license or passport, and age, such as a birth certificate or naturalization record.
  • Marriage license valid: 60 days
  • Waiting period or residency necessary: 24 hours' waiting period 

Hawaii Marriage License Requirements

  • Where to apply: Department of Health; Marriage Licensing Office. 
  • Documents needed: If you are 21 years old or older, a current driver's license. If you are 20 or younger, you need to show a certified birth certificate. If you are 16 or 17, you'll also need the written consent of your parent or guardian.
  • Marriage License valid: 30 days
  • Waiting period or residency necessary: None

    Las Vegas Marriage License Requirements

    • Where to apply: Clark County Marriage Bureau Office
    • Documents needed: Identification such as a driver's license or ID card, proof of age, and Social Security number (not the card)
    • Marriage License valid: One year
    • Waiting period or residency necessary: None

    Florida Marriage License Requirements

    • Where to apply: County Court Judge or County Clerk of Circuit Court
    • Documents needed: Driver's license and Social Security number (not the card)
    • Marriage License valid: 60 days
    • Waiting period or residency necessary: Three-day waiting period between the date of application and the effective date of a marriage license.

    California Marriage License Requirements

    • Where to apply: County Clerk's Office
    • Documents needed: Valid picture identification such as a driver's license. Some counties also require a birth certificate.
    • Marriage License valid: 90 days
    • Waiting period or residency necessary: None