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Make it legal: How to get a marriage license

Obtaining a marriage license in most states is simple and often there is only a minimal waiting period, if any. States do not require you to have residency in the state you wish to get married in.

What is a marriage license?

A marriage license is not a marriage certificate. These two documents are often confused. A marriage license is acquired before the actual ceremony. After the ceremony, the license is signed by the couple and their witnesses. The signed marriage license is mailed or brought to the county clerk’s office for processing. Once processed, most often the marriage certificate will be received by mail within a few weeks. The marriage certificate is your actual proof of marriage and is considered a public record.


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Requirements for getting a marriage license

Where to get a marriage license in your state

You can obtain a marriage license from the county clerk’s office in the city or town you are getting married in. Some cities allow you to schedule an appointment online. To save time, you should print the form and fill it out ahead of time if possible. In most cases, both applicants must appear in person when the application is submitted. The marriage license fees are often in the range of $30 to $100.

How long does it take to get a marriage license?

In most cases, you can obtain a marriage license right away or within a few days. If you are planning to get married in a different state or city, make sure you research the waiting period and expiration dates when making your travel plans.

Why is there a waiting period?

Waiting periods for marriage licenses range from nothing to a few days. The only purpose of the waiting period is to dissuade impulse weddings. It is intended to give the couple a few days to “think about it” before they commit.

ID required to apply for a marriage license

When applying for a marriage license, you’ll need legal documentation to prove who you are and your age. Acceptable forms of ID may vary by area, but generally, the following forms of ID are acceptable:

  • Current driver’s license
  • Passport (US or foreign)
  • Government-issued ID (such as a state ID)
  • Military ID
  • Alien registration card

If you can, it may help to bring two forms of acceptable ID. Make sure your identification documents are up-to-date and not expired. If applicants are aged under 18, they may need to also supply their birth certificate and may need special permission from the courts.

Can marriage licenses be denied?

In most situations, assuming proper ID has been provided and the local laws followed, few wedding licenses are denied. However, there are instances when a marriage might be deemed illegal. Examples of illegal marriages might include a couple who marries in an attempt to gain citizenship or if it discovered that one of the applicants is already legally married. For the second reason, some states may ask you for proof of divorce.

Who needs to sign the marriage license?

The marriage license needs to be signed by the spouses, officiant and usually one or more witnesses (depending on local laws). The witnesses should be able to provide proper ID and be over the age of 18. Make sure that your wedding officiant has the legal authority required to perform the ceremony. Who may be an officiant varies by state, but in many states, those who perform weddings are clergy people or public officials.

If you have questions about getting married or need important documents like a Prenuptial Agreement, Rocket Lawyer is here to help. Get started for free today!

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