Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Licenses

wedding planning

Photo by Kelley Jordan Photography

Oh, the marriage license. It’s one of those little things that can easily slip through the cracks on your wedding to-do list. While focusing on the wedding invitations to the flowers to even making sure your soon-to-be husband has bought his groomsmen gifts is important (and way more fun), the marriage license is one of those annoying details you CANNOT forget about!

So, what do you need to know about getting your marriage license? There are SO many questions that it can be hard to know where to begin…Where do you get a marriage license? What identification do the bride and groom need to bring to get a marriage license? How much does a marriage license cost? Do you need a blood test to get a marriage license? How long are marriage licenses valid for? Read on below to find out the answers to these questions and more.

TIP: Your wedding day is almost here! Check the other big items off your list with our Wedding Planning checklist.

Where Can You Get a Marriage License?
The easiest place to get your marriage license is the county clerk’s office or the court clerk in the state where you are getting married. It’s a good idea to go to the local county clerk in the city where you are getting married. If you are getting married in a different city than where you live, make sure your travel plans leave you enough time to spend an hour or two sitting in the waiting room of that city’s county clerk. I suggest going during the week before or after lunch (it tends to get busier when people at work try to get their errands done on their lunch break.) Some County Clerks offer online appointments, too, which I highly recommend to help you cut down on the wait-time. Find your local county clerk’s site here.

What Identification Do I Need to Bring to Get a Marriage License?
There are some minor variations between states (so make sure you check with your state’s county clerk first), but these are the pieces of identification you need to bring with you to get your marriage license:

  • Birth certificate (or some proof of citizenship like a passport)
  • A photo ID (like a driver’s license)
  • Proof of divorce (if you have been previously married)
  • If you’re under 18, you need proof of consent by a parent

Do I Need a Blood Test to Get a Marriage License?
For the most part, no. Most states have done away with the tradition of mandatory blood tests for two people who want to get married. The current exception is Montana, which states the following:

The bride, if under the age of 50, must provide proof of a Rubella blood test or a doctor’s statement regarding sterilization. This information must be submitted on the State of Montana Premarital Certificate and must be signed by a physician. Or the bride and groom may choose to read and sign an Informed consent Waiver (part B of the Premarital Certificate) which waives the requirement for the medical certification of blood testing for rubella immunity. This form may be obtained from the Clerk of District Court in any county in the State of Montana.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Marriage License?
The price of a marriage license is the one aspect of this whole process that varies the most from state to state. It can be as little as $35 in certain areas of New York State, $93.50 for Florida, and $115 in Minnesota (though there is a reduced fee if you get 12-weeks of premarital counseling, which will bring the cost down to $40). One very important note: Some cities and states such as Las Vegas and Hawaii (among others) only accept CASH. So make sure you stop by the ATM before you head over to the county clerk office to get your marriage license. Check here to see how much it costs in your state.

Do I Have to Be a Resident of the State I’m Getting Married In?
No, you don’t. As long as you bring the proper identification and the payment required, you can get a marriage license for any state in the United States. The only time there may be an issue is if you’re marriage would not be recognized in that state. For example, if you are having a same-sex marriage, you can’t have it in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages (but then again, why would you want to get married in a state that doesn’t recognize you?).

Is There a Waiting Period From the Time You Apply for the Marriage License Until You Actually Get it?
Most states have no waiting period, but there are some exceptions from state to state:

  • Alaska – 3 day waiting period
  • Delaware – 24 hour waiting period (if you’re not a resident that bumps up to a 96 hour waiting period)
  • District of Columbia – 5 day waiting period (Why? I don’t know.)
  • Florida – 3 day waiting period (unless you complete a “marriage preparation course”. I’m guessing 99% of Florida residents go ahead and skip this course. Although I would love to see what this syllabus looks like)
  • Illinois – 24 hour waiting period
  • Iowa – 3 business days (note that it’s business days here, which means you should apply the Monday before your weekend wedding just to be safe)
  • Kansas – 3 days
  • Louisiana – 72 hours, except non-Louisiana residents can get married in New Orleans without the waiting period. Isn’t New Orleans the best?
  • Maryland – 48 hour waiting period
  • Massachusetts – 3 days
  • Michigan – 3 days
  • Minnesota – 5 days
  • Missouri – 3 days
  • New Jersey – 72 hours (which is just another way of saying 3 days)
  • New York – 24 hours
  • Oregon – 72 hours
  • Pennsylvania – 73 hours (just kidding, it’s 72 hours)
  • South Carolina – 1 day
  • Texas – 3 days
  • Washington state – 3 days
  • Wisconsin – 6 days (!)

If your state wasn’t mentioned here, then there’s no waiting period between the time you apply for your marriage license and when you actually get your marriage license.

How Long is a Marriage License Valid For?
Right now you’re probably saying, “Wait, what? Why do marriage licenses expire?” Most marriage licenses are good for a minimum of 30 days (some are good indefinitely, while others are good for 60 or 90 days). The only takeaway you need for this is to make sure you don’t try and be a super bride and get your marriage license application done more than a month before your actual wedding (if you’re in a state that only has their licenses valid for 30 days.)

So, after reading all this, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. After all, you’re just trying to get this little piece of paper that makes the most special day of your life valid in the eyes of your county clerk (we’re guessing you left him or her off your guest list). Trust me, this isn’t nearly as complicated as it sounds. Here’s how the whole process works:

Step 1: You bring your identification, your payment (remember some only accept cash!) down to your county clerk’s office and apply for your marriage license.

Step 2: Depending on your state (sometimes there is a 24-hour or longer waiting period), you either get your marriage license on the spot, or you wait around for the waiting period. If you have to wait, they can either mail you your marriage license, or you can stop by the county clerk (or you can make your future husband run that errand) and pick it up once the waiting period has ended.

Step 3: You get married by a certified wedding officiant (finally!). I know this step is the best part, but make sure that your wedding officiant is legally recognized as a wedding officiant in your state or you are going to have to redo your vows with some stranger, which would be a huge pain in the behind.

Step 4: Your wedding officiant, one or two witnesses and the bride and groom sign the marriage license. This is the most official step of the whole process. Once that bad boy is signed, you are married in the eyes of the state government. (Congrats!)

Step 5: Don’t forget this one. Take that signed marriage license and drop it off at the same county clerk’s office where you applied for it. This way they’ll have it on file the next time George Clooney tries to contest your wedding…again! (He’s so stalkery-y).

Step 6: Usually within a week or so you can purchase copies of your marriage license so you can add it to your wedding album. Or put it wherever you keep those insurance documents that you’re keeping for reasons that are never quite clear.

Step 7: Enjoy the fact that you don’t have to go back to the county clerk’s office until your car tags expire.

12 Comments

  • Erica says:

    I sent my marriage license in the mail after we got married a month ago. I have not revived anything back. What do I do now? I was told I would get something in the mail in a few weeks so that I can change my name.

  • ezabel says:

    If my fiance has his birth certificate but dont have a valid passport …will he be required to renew his passport?

  • AWolfe says:

    In Missouri they print them out same day, usually takes 20 minutes or so… it may be different in larger cities but even when I lived in KCMO the clerk was hardly busy…

  • Molly says:

    I’m getting Married in NJ but i live in PA where do i apply for my marriage license? NJ or PA?

  • Bruce says:

    So I officiated my brothers wedding on a Sunday. They forgot to get their marriage license. They went to the county clerk’s office on Monday to get the license (Texas). They just sent it to me to sign and mail back to the county clerk. The license shows Monday’s date (day after). My question is can I date it on Sunday or do I need to date it on Monday? Hope this makes sense.

  • Bella says:

    My marriage license in Minnesota is $115. It was $113, but I applied online and they said $115 in the email. It’s more expensive than Florida.

  • Elizabeth irace says:

    I got married in 2002, and since then I have been divorced. I am getting married again can I have the same person be a witness

  • Ivy says:

    so after I drop it off I don’t have to pay a fee for it every now and then for the marriage license to be valid

  • amy says:

    i got married august 9 2015 and i handed in the marriage license to the county clerk but in salina kansas u get a duplicate and u have to send it off to topeka kansas urself with a $15 payment. I totally forgot to send it to get the certified copy and the license has now expired. Am I still legally married and what do i have to do to get another one. Do i have to get married all over again.

  • Megan Mayorga says:

    this was so helpful! thank you so much

  • Elissa says:

    How long after the wedding do you have to turn license back in?

  • Nicola says:

    What if a friend of mine is an offiant and I had my marriage certificate in NJ but we had a little ceremony in New Hope, PA and he signed it there?

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