How to Get a Marriage License
Your union won't be official until you obtain your marriage license. Here's everything you need to know before you head to the marriage bureau.
Amid the blur of organizing your wedding and honeymoon plans, it's surprisingly easy to forget that you actually have to get married on paper. A marriage license is basically your permit for eternal love—the legal confirmation that you and your partner are free and eligible to marry one another. Sure, it's paperwork, but it's still exciting (not to mention necessary).
So where do you even start? The internet will likely be your best bet here. Most, if not all, states have a government website with ample information on what materials and documents are required and the office's contact information. (Psst—check out this helpful website on US marriage laws.)
Once you know in which municipality (city, district and county) your nuptials will take place, you'll need to locate where to obtain the license. It might be city hall, the city or town clerk's office, or the marriage license bureau in the county where you plan to wed. For example, in Connecticut, marriage licenses are issued by the municipal clerk's office in the town where you'll be married, whereas in Iowa, couples may apply at any county registrar or recorder's office. In some states, like New Jersey, you can simply download a marriage license brochure and the license itself to be filled out by you and your spouse-to-be.
Other than the physical paperwork, it's important to be wary of timing. Some states require a several-day waiting period between granting the license and your nuptials taking place. Also, most marriage licenses are only valid for a window of time—anywhere between 10 days and a year—during which you must have the ceremony, sign the license (together with your officiant) and file for a certified license and marriage certificate.
Requirements do vary by state, but they all want to confirm the basics: that you have proper identification, that you're not currently married to anyone else (if you previously were, you need proper divorce or widowhood papers) and that you're of legal age to marry. A good checklist of necessities includes:
- Birth certificate
- Parental consent if underage (usually under 18); you may also need court consent in this case
- Photo identification (driver's license, state ID card, passport or birth certificate)
- Social Security number
- Proof of citizenship and/or residence
- Divorce decree if divorced
- Death certificate if widowed