Planning your wedding in the US? Find out what the marriage requirements are in your state, how to obtain your marriage license, and more in this quick guide to getting married in the United States.
Once you have decided on the wedding location and date, you will need to gather certain documents in order to apply for a marriage license at the County Clerk for your chosen city.
What Do You Need to Apply for a Marriage License in the USA?
Although marriage requirements vary by state, they are all geared towards confirming the following legal requirements to get married:
- Not being currently married to anyone else
- Date of birth to confirm you are of legal age to wed
Pro tip: When filling the marriage license application form, you may be asked whether the bride wishes to change her surname after marriage, so this should be decided before filing. You may want to bookmark our article on how to change your last name after the wedding.
Although marriage license laws vary by state, documents needed to get a marriage license in the US are as follows:
- Certified copy of US birth certificate
- Government-issued photo ID such as a driver's license, State ID card, military ID, or passport
- Social Security Number
- Proof of citizenship and/or residence
- If under 18: Parental consent —certain states may also require court consent
- If divorced: Divorce decree
- If widowed: Death certificate
Pro tip: If you do not have your birth certificate at hand, make sure to order a replacement birth certificate online to have it delivered to your door without having to wait in line at the vital records office.
Processing time varies depending on the state you were born in, so consider that while planning the wedding as well —the sooner you order and have your birth certificate on file, the better.
Where Do I Go to Get a Marriage License in the US?
A marriage license —basically a legal document that states that you and your future spouse are free and eligible to marry one another— can be obtained from one of the following agencies, depending on where you plan to wed:
- The city hall
- The marriage license bureau
- The registrar’s or recorder’s office
- The county, city or town clerk's office
Once you have decided on the date your nuptials are taking place, it is important to be mindful of timing.
How Far Ahead Do You Need to Apply for a Marriage License?
Timewise, there are 3 things you need to consider when getting married in the US:
- Marriage license processing time
- Marriage license waiting period
- Marriage license validity
Furthermore, you need to consider processing time for the marriage license as well. Although some states may issue marriage licenses on the same day, others will send them to your preferred address by mail, which lengthens turnaround time.
For example, South Carolina has a marriage license processing time of just 1 day, while Minnesota processed marriage license applications in 5 days, and Wisconsin in 6 days.
The following states take 3 days to process marriage license applications:
- District of Columbia
- Florida (after completion of premarital preparation course)
- New Jersey
In the United States, certain states require a **waiting period between approving a marriage license and the wedding date.
The waiting time before the wedding after having obtained a marriage license can vary from one state to another:
- Delaware, Illinois, and New York have a waiting period of 1 day, once the marriage license has been granted
- Maryland has a waiting period of 2 days after the marriage license is issued
- Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas require a 3-day waiting period after issuing a marriage license
What States Have No Waiting Period for a Marriage License?
United States citizens over the age of 18, can get married on the same day in the following states:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- Washington DC
- West Virginia
How Long Is a Marriage License Valid in the US?
Marriage licenses in the USA are only valid for a specified period of time that varies according to the state in which the nuptials are taking place.
The validity period of an approved marriage license depends on whether it carries a marriage license expiration date or not. The following table will help you plan how many days before the wedding date you must obtain your marriage license.
|Marriage license expiration date after issuance||State(s)|
|20 days||South Dakota|
|30 days||Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin|
|60 days||Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia|
|90 days||Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas|
|6 months||Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey|
|1 year||Arizona, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming|
|No expiration||District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina|
How Much Does a Marriage License Cost in the USA?
A legal marriage certificate typically costs between $5 to as much as $26. The cost of a marriage certificate varies based on county, city or municipality, residential status.
For more detailed information, please call or visit the bureau where you intend to apply for a marriage license.
What's the Difference Between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate?
In short, a marriage license is the legal document you obtain before getting married, that states that two citizens are fit to marry each other.
A marriage certificate, on the other hand, is a document issued after the marriage that states that 2 citizens are married to each other.
Now that you have all the information you need about the documents and requirements to get married in the US, make sure you have a copy of your birth certificate. If you don’t have a copy at hand, you can easily apply for a birth certificate replacement, the form takes just a few minutes to complete.