Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Licenses

The document is crucial to making your big day official.

Sometimes lost in all the hectic wedding planning processes is the legal aspect of marriage. Here's your guide to marriage licenses!

Photo: Images by Berit, Inc.

everything you need to know about marriage licenses

Photo by Michael Segal Photography; Planning & Design by Bluebell Events

Sometimes lost in all the hectic wedding planning processes is the legal aspect of marriage. While certainly your shared love and the ceremony that showcases it is important, it’s the marriage license that makes everything official. For some, a religious ceremony is what makes a marriage real, but should the couple want to be recognized as a married couple in the eyes of the law, the marriage license is of the utmost importance. Thus, you’ll want to make sure you have it filled out properly and returned in time to be considered valid. No one wants to go through the whole process of a wedding only to find out they aren’t actually married!

While we hope to offer some guidelines to couples who need to obtain a marriage license, please keep in mind that the laws vary by state. For example, in Mississippi and the District of Columbia, it is required to get a blood test when you apply for a marriage license. In Montana, this is only a requirement for women. Some states have no waiting period between applying for the license and receiving it, while others make couples wait up to five days before they can receive the license. In Florida, the three-day waiting period is waived if the duo takes a class on marriage preparation. Most states allow you to get married immediately after receiving the license, while some states have an additional waiting period between one and three days. The average marriage license expires if not filed after 60 days, but some expire as early as 30 days and some do not expire at all! There is also often a fee that can range from $30 to over $90. You may need to pay with cash, so check before you go.

To get your marriage license, you need to bring your birth certificate and/or your Social Security card along with your photo ID, though your passport may suffice in some cases. If this is not your first marriage, you may need to provide either a death certificate if you are widowed or proof of divorce, in order to make it clear that you are legally able to wed. Certain states or counties will be satisfied with the date and reason your marriage ended. After your vow exchange, your officiant, one or two witnesses, and you and your new spouse must sign the marriage license. Within the time period that it is valid, the document must be dropped off at the county clerk’s office. Some officiants will do this on your behalf as part of their services, or you may do it yourself. 

For more advice, read financial tips for married couples and find out whether you should consider a prenup