Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Marriage License

Congratulations, you got engaged! But logistics don't stop after securing your wedding venue. You actually have to get married on paper, too. The entire process isn't difficult, but there are several things to keep in mind before heading to the courthouse.

Step 1: Find out where you can obtain a marriage license.

This can be city hall, the county clerk's office, the registrar's office, etc., in the city or district of your nuptials. You can locate by state. Make sure to make an appointment in advance if required.

Step 2: Bring identification.

US marriages require both parties to provide valid photo ID that includes your birthday (driver's license, passport, birth certificate, etc.). District of Columbia, Mississippi, and Montana are the only three US states that require a premarital blood test (to show if either has a STD) to be provided. Some states may also require proof of citizenship.

If you've been previously married, you must provide proof of divorce.

Step 3: Get married.

If you're opting out of a big wedding and want to make it official on the spot, someone will be appointed to perform your marriage or you may choose a certified officiant legally recognized in your state. You'll also need one witness to sign the license to validate your marriage; a witness will not be provided.

If you are planning on having a wedding, take your license with you and have your officiant and a witness sign the license after your ceremony.

Step 4: Return the signed license.

Whoever performed the marriage must submit the license back to the clerk within 10 days of the ceremony date.

Step 5: Purchase a copy of your marriage license.

You must request and pay for a certified copy of your marriage license or else you won't receive one.

Other things to note:

  • Some states have a waiting period (up to six days) from applying for a marriage license to receiving it by mail. Most don't make you wait and you'll receive your license that day.
  • Don't apply for your license too early because they usually expire within months of applying. You'll have to get another license if it expires before you get married.
  • There's a license fee. For example, it's $35 in New York, while it's $108 in San Francisco.

Be sure to double check what applies to your specific city in terms of requirements and process!