Yeah Weddings

Everything You Need to Know to Obtain a Marriage License

Obtaining a marriage license is a non-negotiable step in the wedding process. Couples must have a marriage license for their marriage to be legally binding, but not all couples know how to get a marriage license when they first get engaged.

The process of getting a marriage license is one that can be extremely daunting.

Here is everything you need to know about marriage licenses, how to get one for you and your spouse, and the procedures you must follow.

What You Need to Know

rings and marriage certificate

The following information and steps are extremely important and will help to ensure that you obtain a marriage license properly. From what paperwork is necessary to who has to sign the license, here is everything you should know in order to obtain a marriage license. 


Set Your Date and Location

wedding location sign

Before you are able to apply for a marriage license, you must have your wedding date and location selected. Knowing where you will be getting married is especially important because you generally have to file for your marriage license in the county in which you are getting married. 

Knowing when you will be getting married is necessary because marriage licenses expire. Marriage licenses typically expire after 60 days. That is, if you obtain your marriage license more than 60 days prior to your wedding it will expire and you will have to apply for another one all over again.

You want to ensure that when you apply for the license you are within 60 days of your wedding date. How long a marriage license is valid for can vary from county to county so be sure to look up your county’s policy before applying for the license.  

In addition to not getting your marriage license too soon, you do not want to wait too long to get it either. Some counties have what is called a grace period where couples must wait a minimum amount of time after applying for their license before they can be married. If you wait until a day or two before your wedding to get the license, it is likely that it will not be valid on the day of. 


Gather All Necessary Information and Paperwork

official document and pen

After you have decided when and where you will be getting married, it is time to start gathering all of the paperwork and information that is needed to apply for a marriage license. What paperwork is needed varies from state to state so be sure to look up your state’s requirements. Generally, you will need to bring your driver’s license or passport and potentially your birth certificate as well. 

If this is not your first wedding, you must bring either your certificate of divorce or the death certificate. These will act as proof of your ability to remarry legally. 

You must also come prepared with information about your parents. This includes, but is not limited to both parents’ full birth names, birthdates, state of birth, and dates of passing, if applicable. 

There is typically a fee attached to applying for a marriage license. Come prepared with cash or a check in the amount that is charged by your specific county. Failure to pay will result in the inability to receive your marriage license.


Make an Appointment with the County Clerk

marriage certificate and rings

Now that you have all of your information and paperwork in order, make an appointment with your county clerk. In order to apply for the marriage license, both you and your future spouse must be present at the time of the appointment.

Some states also require you to bring a witness to the application. Make sure all necessary parties are able to be in attendance. 

During your appointment, the county clerk will verify your identities, gather any necessary paperwork you brought, and collect your application fee. From there, you will be granted a marriage license. The license will either be given directly to you or it will be mailed to you within the next few days. The processing times are different depending on the state. 

If you have decided that you are changing your last name, you are able to inform the court of this change during your visit to the county clerk’s office. In this case, you will keep your maiden name until the day of the wedding when it will legally be changed.

Doing this prior to your wedding helps to ensure that you will avoid the hassle of having to go through an official name change in the future. Knowing before you go to the county clerk will help you to save time and money in the future. 


Gather Witness and Officiant Signatures 

husband and wife signing marriage license

Once you have obtained the marriage license, you must gather any necessary signatures that your state requires in order for the marriage license to be valid. Most states require signatures from the couple, two witnesses, and the wedding officiant. Read up on your specific state’s policies before obtaining any signatures. 


Turn In the Completed Marriage License

marriage certificate

After the wedding, the officiant must return the signed marriage license to the county clerk. This can either be delivered by mail or by hand. Once the license is received, you will either be mailed certified copies of the license or you may be required to pick them up in person.

Copies of your marriage certificate are necessary for a number of different reasons. They will likely be needed to update your marital status for Social Security, the IRS, and insurance among many other things. If you ever need to obtain more copies, visit your county clerk and they will be able to provide you with more. 



Now that you know how to obtain a marriage license, here are some things you might need to know about that marriage license. 


What is a Marriage License?

marriage certificate and pen

A marriage license is a legal document authorizing a couple to marry. Marriage licenses are generally issued by a state authority, but can also be issued by a religious organization. 


Where Do You Get a Marriage License?

wedding guest outfits

The easiest place to obtain a marriage license is at your local county clerk’s office. There they will be able to help you through the process of applying for and obtaining a marriage license.


Can You Get Married without a Marriage License?

man and woman with wedding rings

A couple cannot be legally married without a marriage license present. It is illegal for the officiant to perform a marriage without a marriage license. In that case, they would be committing a misdemeanor. A marriage license is required to make a marriage legal.


Can You Remarry If You Are Still Married?

husband and wife

You are legally not allowed to remarry if you are still married to someone else. If two people get married while one of them is still legally married, the new marriage will be invalidated by the state. Also, getting remarried while still married is technically illegal in all 50 states. 


Why Are There Waiting Periods to Get Married?

person pointing to watch face

Many states require that a couple go through a waiting period after applying for a marriage license to ensure that both parties have ample time to think through their decision and help them to be certain they are making the right choice for themselves without any coercion from others. 


What is the Difference Between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate?

man and woman signing wedding license

A marriage license is a legal document that authorizes a couple to be married, while a marriage certificate is a legal document that proves a couple is married. The marriage certificate acts as a declaration on paper that a couple is legally married. 



wedding planning

Preparing for your wedding can be stressful, but applying for a marriage license should not be. With this information, you are sure to have a simple and easy time obtaining a marriage license. As with many things in the marriage process, always be sure to read up on your specific state’s rules, regulations, and policies.

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Laura Gooch

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