6 Things to Know About Getting a Marriage License

A bride and groom signing their marriage license.

Getting married is an incredibly exciting time. You have a venue, a full guest list, and a reception timeline to get through. Between choosing colors, flowers, and menu items, however, some important things might slip through the planning cracks. While forgetting about some things is fine and normal, there is one thing that’s crucial to your wedding day: the marriage license. You can’t get married without it!

This legal document might seem intimidating or confusing at first. It’s a part of the wedding planning process that’s always surrounded with questions: Where do I get a marriage license? How much does it cost? What information do I need to bring? When do I need to get it? If you’re full of questions like these, don’t worry. We’re here to answer your questions and tell you six of the most important things to know about getting a marriage license.

1. Where do you get a marriage license?

If you want to get a marriage license in the easiest way possible, swing by your county clerk’s office. You can also get it at the court clerk in whatever state you plan to get married. If you plan on getting married in a different city than where you live, ensure you build enough time in your travel plans to spend a couple of hours waiting at the local county clerk. If possible, see if you can set up an online appointment to cut your waiting time down and ensure you get your marriage license.

2. How much does a marriage license cost?

The price of a marriage license varies from state to state. In places like New York, you can get one for as little as $35. In Minnesota, however, it’s $115—though you can reduce that fee to just $40 if you go through 12 weeks of premarital counseling. Keep in mind that some cities only accept cash payments, so do some research about what’s required in your specific state and city before going to the clerk’s office.

3. What information do I need to bring to get my marriage license?

A marriage license with gold rings.

Both you and your partner need to go to the clerk’s office to get your marriage license and you both need to bring identification. The requirements for exactly what you need varies from state to state, so always check with your state’s county clerk before going. Here are some pieces of identification that are often required:

  • Photo ID (such as a driver’s license)
  • Proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate or passport)
  • Proof of divorce if you’ve been married previously
  • Proof of parental consent if you’re under 18 years old, depending on the state

4. When do I need to get my marriage license?

You need your marriage license to be ready by or on the day of your wedding if you want it to be legal. Keep in mind, however, that some marriage licenses have an expiration date rather than being good indefinitely. This means that some are only valid for 30-90 days and expire if you don’t get married within that time. Check your state requirements to see when the best time is to fill out your marriage license application. Usually, you can do it within 30 days of your wedding.

5. Do I need to be a resident in the state where I’m getting married?

A bride and groom signing a marriage license.

No. If you’re getting married in a state in which you don’t live, you simply need to bring all the required documentation for that state and the proper payment. As an American citizen, you can get married in any state you choose and your marriage is still valid.

6. What are the steps to getting a marriage license?

It might sound overwhelming, but it’s perfectly doable. People get marriage licenses all the time! The exact process for getting your marriage license may vary from state to state, but here is a simple step-by-step guide to how you get your marriage license:

  1. Research the requirements in the city you plan to get married
  2. Set up an appointment with the county clerk’s office
  3. Gather all the required identification and payment and bring it to the clerk’s office
  4. Depending on the state, you’ll either get your license right away or endure the waiting period for it to be mailed
  5. Get married by a certified, legally-recognized wedding officiant
  6. Sign the marriage license
  7. Drop the signed marriage license off at the same clerk’s office where you applied
  8. Purchase copies of your marriage license and add it to your wedding album or personal files
  9. Celebrate! You did it!

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