Getting Married in Another State

There are many reasons why you may want to get married in another state. Maybe you and your fiancé are planning a destination wedding, or you want the celebrations to be closer to your family.

Whatever the reason, to be married legally in the United States, you need a marriage license.

Since marriage licenses are often only valid in the state where they were issued and marriage laws change by state, it is best to plan ahead and have all the documents ready.

Is a Marriage in One State Valid in Another?

Each state normally requires that couples obtain a marriage license. However, the requirements to be granted a marriage license vary by state.

This is because each state has jurisdiction over its celebration laws — that is to say, deciding who should be allowed to wed and under what circumstances.

Although state laws are more aligned now, there have been several interstate debates throughout history. Same-sex and interracial marriage, as well as unions involving minors and members of the same family, have proved contentious

This is why states also approve their own recognition laws that establish when the state is willing to respect a different decision made by another state.

One state’s marriage license in itself has no legal validity in another state. However, most marriages performed in the United States are recognized across the country, as long as they do not violate federal or state laws.

What states do not require a marriage license?

Most states require a marriage license. Couples who perform a marriage without a license in these states will not see their union recognized in any municipality.

Some states still recognize common law marriage. Like all other common law institutions, common law marriages do not follow state requirements because they date back to a time where state laws had not yet been established and written down.

A common law marriage does not require a marriage license. Instead, couples normally need to cohabit and hold themselves out as a married couple for enough time (this is usually proved by using the same last name and/or submitting joint tax returns). Specific requirements vary.

Common law marriage in the US

At the time of writing, states with common law marriage are:

  • Colorado
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

Requirements for Getting Married in Another State

Since marriage laws vary by state, so do requirements for having a marriage approved and a marriage license issued.

In general, couples must provide proof of identity and entitlement to be wed in the state of their choice.

Here are some examples of the documentation that may be asked of the intended spouses:

  • A completed marriage license application and the payment of the marriage license fee (if applicable)
  • Photo ID like a US passport or driver’s license
  • Original birth certificate
  • Divorce decree if previously married
  • Basic information about each intended spouse’s parents, including maiden names and dates of birth
  • Social security card so that marriage records can be linked to the spouse’s identity

Foreign citizens who wish to get married in the United States are exempt from some document requirements such as having to provide a US social security card or number.

Americans planning to celebrate their marriage abroad will need to check the local requirements as well as how to get it recognized in their state.

Other state-specific marriage requirements

Some states have residency requirements in place, meaning that at least one spouse must be a state resident for the union to be recorded.

In some counties, although there is no residency requirement at state level, nonresident intended spouses are required to wait a specific amount of time in the country (normally a few days) before they are able to have a wedding ceremony performed by a county marriage official.

Other states require that one or more witnesses be present at the ceremony for the marriage to be legally valid.

A few states still perform mandatory premarital blood tests to check for venereal diseases, rubella, and some genetic conditions.

Can You Get a Marriage License Online?

Many states allow couples to apply for their marriage license online. This is especially useful when planning a destination wedding since the couple is unlikely to remain in the state where the wedding is to take place long enough to complete and submit all the relevant paperwork.

For example, Hawaii accepts online applications from nonresidents. Couples are still required to provide proof of identity and entitlement but can send their documents electronically together with the marriage license application form.

Difference between Marriage Certificates and Marriage Licenses

A marriage license is proof that a couple is entitled to get married legally. A marriage certificate is proof that the marriage took place.

Marriage certificates are considered vital records and can be used to apply for:

  • Legal name changes
  • Family health benefit plans
  • Family tax breaks

Usually, the marriage certificate is filed by the person who officiated the ceremony with the courthouse that granted the marriage license.