How to Get a Marriage License in USA?


Despite the popular notion of marriage as a romantic bond, it is primarily a social institution and in a civil society where individuals have rights and duties, it is actually a legal contract as well. This is why marriages need to be registered and a license taken out in almost all civil societies of the world. If you are living in the USA and are planning to get married, here is a brief guide on getting a marriage license.

What is a marriage license?

A marriage license is a document issued by a governmental authority that allows two people to get married. However receiving a marriage license means that you are legally allowed to get married - It does not mean that you are married and will not stand up as a proof of marriage in a court of law.

How can you get one?

Since in USA marriage is part of civil law, the process and requirements of obtaining a marriage license will differ from one state to another. So the first thing you need to do to get a marriage license is to decide which state you will be getting married in and then contact your local marriage bureau, usually at the city or county clerk's office. The bureau or a similar governmental authority will provide you with a marriage license application form and also inform you of other requirements that go with obtaining a marriage license. You and your partner will then need to fill out the application jointly and both must appear in person at the time of applying.

The regulations and charges for applying for a marriage license usually differ between the states so find out the required details before completing the application form. Among the necessary details will be:

  • The social security number – in United States, you have to give your Social Security Number while filling out a marriage license application because it is a federal law. A foreigner on the other hand will need to show his/her passport while applying for the same.
  • Photo identity proof – a driver’s license is usually the most common photo identity proof which is necessary while filling out a marriage license application form.
  • A single status affidavit - this is a sworn statement that you are eligible to marry. In the US individuals requiring this document need to consult an attorney or the services of a notary. In case either of you have been previously married, you may also need to present Proof of death of the former spouse, divorce, or annulment of the former marriage.
  • Proof of age - this is to show whether you are above age of consent and free to marry. If you are below the required age that is eighteen, you will have to show consent of parent, guardian, or judge in order to obtain a marriage license.

Some states require the applicants for a marriage license to go through certain blood tests to verify that they are not carrying syphilis, a sexually-transmitted disease. As of 2010, blood tests were mandatory in the states of Mississippi and Montana; if required, completed blood tests and doctor's certificates for you and your affianced will have to be submitted along with the marriage license application. Sometimes a state may also require pre-marital counseling for a couple usually under special circumstances like if they are below the age of consent or if they are applying for covenant marriage. In this case while applying for the marriage license you will have to show evidence that you and your partner have gone through the counseling as required by your state laws.

If you are having a destination wedding, or getting married in a state other than where you live, your marriage license application may also depend upon residency requirements which relate to how long you must be in the county before you can apply.

Birth certificate and proof of citizenship are among documents which may be needed along with or in lieu of the above.
The next step is to pay the necessary fee to go with the marriage license application. A check, cash or money order is the usual mode of payment whereas credit cards are not always accepted.

After completing the marriage application form and swearing that the information provided is true, a couple will be given a marriage license. Some jurisdictions like the state of Hawaii issue the marriage license immediately while others have a waiting period, like the state of New York has a waiting period of 24 hours. After a couple is married and after the marriage license is signed by the bride and groom and their witnesses, the officiant of their wedding files the marriage license with the local government authority that issued the license. With this registration process the marriage becomes part of the public record. A marriage certificate is then issued and usually mailed to the recently married couple.

Does it come with any time limit?

A marriage license is valid for only a specific time period such as thirty in states like Hawaii or sixty days in states like Florida’ in fact in California the license is valid for ninety days too. However it is better not to wait till the last minute before the wedding to apply for the marriage license as legal processes can take time and you don’t want last-minute delays ruining the most important day of your life.

Finally keep in mind that it is very important to be truthful while filling out a marriage license application. In most states in the US, you could be breaking the law if you lie when you fill out your marriage license application. The legal consequences of giving false information on a marriage license application include being charged with a misdemeanor or with perjury.