The marriage license application might not be as romantic as the wedding ceremony. But it is one of the most crucial steps the couple must take to get married.
This article contains a helpful summary of the most common requirements for marriage licenses—from birth certificates to waiting periods, and more. Always double-check your state's laws, as the conditions may vary.
Marriage License Requirements: Waiting Periods
Many states require a waiting period after applying for a marriage license. The waiting period between the time of application to the wedding ceremony ensures that couples have time to think things out and ensure they are making the right decision. There's no spur-of-the-moment, Elvis-type wedding for couples in these states. You must wait a specified number of days before you can have your marriage ceremony.
Application for a marriage license often requires the couple to submit an identification document. This could include a birth certificate, driver's license, and social security card.
The couple will also need to provide their full names and contact information. Here are some examples of waiting periods:
The following states have a one-day (24-hour) waiting period:
Maryland has a two-day (48 hours) waiting period.
The following states have a three-day waiting period:
Optional Step: Marriage Preparation Classes
Several states will discount the marriage license fee or waive the waiting period if a couple completes a premarital preparation program to promote healthy marriages. These programs teach skills such as effective communication and conflict resolution. Minnesota reduces the fee by $75 for attending 12 hours of marriage education classes. Texas gives a $60 discount for 8 hours.
Suppose a person in the couple is a minor. Parental consent, legal guardian consent, or a court order from the district court may be required. There may be a request to present a court order or consent to the county clerk's office when processing the marriage application.
This requirement may also vary in each state. For instance, in Alabama, a marriage license is no longer required (starting August 29, 2019). Instead, the marriage certificate form should be filled out by the couple getting married.
Thus, checking your county clerk's office to learn more is essential. This article by FindLaw about the "age of consent" also provides a helpful guide.
No Longer Required: Blood Tests
None of the 50 states still require a blood test to obtain a marriage license. Montana was the last state to repeal its requirement for blood tests in 2019.
Expiration of the Marriage License
Once you've received your marriage license, it's only valid for a specific time. The validity of a marriage license varies in every state. Suppose your marriage license is already expired at the time of the intended wedding date. In that case, you will likely have to go through the licensing process again unless you can renew the original license.
Each state holds a marriage license as a vital record, thus giving it particular importance. Below is a list of the expiration periods for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Marriage Ceremony and Post-Ceremony Requirements
The marriage ceremony officiant can be either of the following:
Religious wedding officiant:
Civil wedding officiant:
- County Clerks
- Ordained wedding officiants
The list of marriage officiants may vary in each state. It is important to check with your local civil registrar or county clerk's office for more details.
The officiant should sign the marriage license after the wedding ceremony and return it to the county office that issued it. The next step is the issuance of the marriage certificate. The couple would receive a certified copy of their marriage certificate. The certificate of marriage will be the official proof of their marriage record and will be recorded with the local registrar.
Some people opt for a name change after the wedding. They would then need to use the marriage license to change their maiden name.
Getting Legal Help Completing Your Marriage License Requirements
Couples may have legal questions about the marriage application process. Various matters will come into play when contemplating the big day. Since getting married has broad legal and financial implications, consulting a family law attorney is recommended.
Consulting a family law attorney might be particularly helpful for those with a previous civil union, divorce decree, or annulment.
FindLaw has a directory of family law attorneys in every state. The website also contains articles that cover comprehensive topics about family law. These articles can help you better understand the marriage application process and requirements.