Marriage License FAQs: How to Get a Marriage License?


It is so easy to lose yourself in the excitement of getting married that it skips your mind that you actually have to get married on paper as well. It starts with obtaining a marriage license before you walk down the aisle. A marriage license is a legal document issued by the county clerk’s office. It confirms that you and your partner are eligible to marry one another.

It’s obvious to have so many questions popping in your mind. In this article, we would talk about how to get a marriage license. We would discuss the procedure, the necessary documents and the waiting period to get your license to the everlasting union of love.

Marriage License FAQs

How to Get a Marriage License

  1. Figure out if you are qualified to get married.

  2. Get the documents ready.

  3. Head to the county clerk's office.

Well, it is not as easy as it sounds, read through the questions and answers below before you rush to the local office.

When to Get a Marriage License

You have to get your marriage license before your wedding day, in some states, it is required to get the license at least 72 hours before the ceremony. But don't apply for your license too far ahead, because the marriage license has an expiration date, which varies from 30 days to 90 days, depends on the state you are getting married in. So to apply your marriage license one week before your wedding day is a good idea.

Where to Obtain a Marriage License

Usually you could get a marriage license in your local county clerk's office. In some places, like New York, you can go to a town or city clerk's office. 

Can You Marry in the USA?

Before you apply for the license, you must realize that the requisites for getting a marriage license differ state to state. The age of the two people wanting to tie the knot, their relationship status, if the two are related by blood, or belong to the same-sex, etc. are the major norms taken into account throughout the country. Hence, you would need to research about the criteria applicable in the state you reside, you could use this site to find out. Listed below are general requirements.

  • Consent is the most important ingredient to marriage. There shouldn’t be any problem if both individuals give their consent to getting married. However, people who cannot provide informed consent may not be able to get married; such as those with serious developmental infirmities.

  • The legal age for marriage in all the states in the USA, except for two, is 18 years for both sexes. Mississippi and Nebraska have set the age bar at 21 years and 19 years, respectively. People under the legal age of marriage can get married with parental consent. The states have set the minimum age for marriage with parental consent. Check with your county clerk to know about the laws pertaining to the legal age in your state. Fortunately, the Supreme Court’s verdict on 26 June 2015 has legalized same-sex marriage across all the 50 states. So a couple belonging to the same-sex won’t have a problem in getting a marriage license anymore. 

  • All the 50 states in the US do not allow marriage between descendants and ancestors. Such relationships include those between parents and their children, aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, grandparents and grandchildren. Nevertheless, 26 states permit marriage between first cousins. States like Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota, Utah and Wisconsin put forth certain conditions; such as if the individuals are over 50 years or one of the two individuals is infertile.

What Documents Are Necessary to Apply for the Marriage License?

Now if you are qualified to get married, how to get a marriage license? Go to the local county clerk's office with all the documents required. What documents? See below.

  • To prove that you are of the legal age, you would need to provide your original birth certificate while applying for the marriage license. 

  • Apart from the age proof, you also need to produce an identity proof. Some states would accept your Social Security Card as your identity proof. Some states ask for a photo-ID issued by the government, such as your driver’s license or passport. The documents need to be produced in original for the purpose of verification when you go down to the office in person. Please note that some states allow online application before they call you down to their office.

  • If either party had been married earlier to some other person, they need to prove that their previous marriage has been terminated. The marriage can be terminated by divorce, annulment, or death of the spouse. In case either party is divorced, they need to produce a copy of the Final Order or Divorce. It is also known as the divorce decree. If either party has been widowed, they need to provide a copy of death certificate of their deceased spouse.

Would I Need to Change My Last Name?

It is not mandatory that you must take up your husband’s last name once you get married. Also, marrying doesn’t automatically change your last name. It is entirely up to you if you want to keep your own last name, adopt your husband’s last name or hyphenate.

Whatever you choose, make sure you mention it on your marriage license application form. It will allow you to legally opt the chosen last name once your marriage is solemnized. The folks at the Social Security would legally change your last name in their records on the basis of the marriage certificate. Some states do impose restrictions when it comes to changing the last name. You need to contact the County Clerk’s office to know about the restrictions imposed by your state. This is an important step in the process of getting a marriage license.

What Is the Fee to Obtain the Marriage License?

The processing fee for obtaining a marriage license usually ranges between $30 and $100. For example, the fee is $93.50 in Florida, $60 in Hawaii and $35 in the New York City. Some states accept cash while others accept credit cards and money orders.

Is There a Waiting Time Before We Are Issued a Marriage License?

The waiting period refers to the time between the day you submit the application and the day you get your marriage license. It varies from one place to another. Massachusetts and Florida have a waiting period of 3 days while Maine and California have no waiting period at all. If you are in a rush, you could marry in some other state. But be sure that the marriage will not be void in your state. For example, non-residents cannot apply for a marriage license in the NYC if the marriage would be void in the state you reside.

What Is the Expiration Date of a Marriage License

We've answered the question "how to get a marriage license", but that is not the only question you need to ask. A marriage license can get expired, so keep the expiration date in mind. Like everything else, this expiration date of marriage license varies from state to state as well. For example, the marriage license is valid for 60 days in Florida, 30 days in Hawaii, and 90 days in California. A few states offer indefinite validity; such as Idaho, New Mexico, Georgia, etc. You could visit this site to find out.

Once you get your marriage license, you should try to get married before the validity expires. If that doesn’t happen, you would need to reapply and pay the fees again.