Everything you need to do, step-by-step, to get your marriage license.

Without a doubt, the ceremony and celebration are the most memorable parts of a wedding. However, the most important step to make this union official and legal is often the most easily forgotten by couples: getting a marriage license.

This license is basically your permit for an everlasting love story, the legal confirmation that you and your partner are willing to marry one another. It may not be the most exciting part of planning a wedding, but it is the single most important document that will legally confirm your union. Being well informed and knowing what documents are needed to make your marriage official in the U.S, will spare you big headaches and future legal disputes.

So here’s everything you need to do, step-by-step, to get your marriage license:


  • Set the wedding’s date and location: 

Requirements when applying for a marriage license will vary depending on the state and county where you’re planning on getting married. This step will determine the documents you will need to bring with you. Also, depending on the expiration and waiting policies of each state, it will determine the optimal timeframe to apply.

  • Figure out the optimal timeframe for you to apply:

Some states have a waiting period before you can use your marriage license. Also, some require you to use it within a certain amount of time. So, if you don’t apply at the right moment, it might expire before the wedding day or it might not be ready for when you need it.

  • Visit the County Clerk:

Once you know when you want to get married, plan your visit to the county clerk accordingly. It’s important that you’re both present at the time of the application. Once again, each state's requirements will slightly vary so make sure you’ve done previous research before heading.

Typically, however, you'll both need to show:

  • ID (passport, birth certificate, driver license).
  • A witness (mandatory only in some states).
  • Parent’s full birth names, birthdates and birth state.
  • If applicable, documentation proving you’re able to legally remarry (divorce or death certificate from the previous partner). 
  • If you're under 18, you'll need parental consent.
  • Fee (typically between $35 and $150 depending on the state and county).

Once you've turned in the paperwork, and paid the fee, some states will give you the marriage license right then, while others will mail it out to you within a few days.

  • Bring the license to your wedding day:

After you get married by someone authorized (be it a religious leader, judge or friend), you must sign the marriage license. This includes the person who married you, two witnesses, you and your partner. So bring a pen and do it before the party gets going and the drinks start flowing. You don’t want to forget this step.

  • Return the license:

After the ceremony, have someone (usually it’s the officiator) return the marriage license to the county clerk’s office.

After that, you're all set!