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Legal How-To: Applying for a Marriage License

By Betty Wang, JD on August 06, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Before the sound of (your) wedding bells can start ringing, remember that you need to apply for a marriage license. So exactly how do you apply for a marriage license?

Getting "married" without a license can lead to all sorts of unnecessarily complicated legal issues -- problems that can potentially be avoided by taking the right steps.

So with that said, here's a general overview of the steps you'll need to take before you walk down the aisle:

  1. Make sure you and your prospective spouse meet the age requirement. It is not legal to marry unless you and your soon-to-be spouse actually meet the appropriate "age of consent" for marriage in the state where you're planing to tie the knot. This age will vary from state to state, but generally speaking, if you and your significant other are at least 18, it should be fine. Many states allow 16-year-olds to wed as well, as long as they get parental consent.
  2. Gather the necessary documents. It's best to check with the county clerk's office in your respective state as to what documents will be required of you and your partner when you apply. But, in general, most states will require some form of government-issued photo identification (such as a passport or a driver's license) when you pay the licensing fee. Some states may require proof of your status as a single person if you were previously married, whether that be proof of divorce or even proof of death of your former spouse.
  3. Go to the county clerk's office to apply and pay fees. Marriage licenses are usually issued by the county clerk or clerk of the court. So once you've gathered all the required documents, head over to your county clerk's office. Be sure to look up ahead of time what your state's licensing fees are as well (the range is usually between $25 to $100) and have that ready with you.
  4. Wait (maybe). Once you've applied and paid all the required fees, you might be set. This depends on which state you are in, however. Some states automatically issue you your license, while others may have a waiting period of one to five days.

Need More Help?

The above steps provide a general guide to how to apply for a marriage license. But be sure you check the particular laws and requirements on marriage in your state for any additional steps that you may need to take. This might include a blood test or additional documentation, such as one's birth certificate.

Because marriage laws can sometimes get complicated, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced family law attorney if you have questions about your specific marital situation.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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