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How to Get a Marriage License

in The Ceremony
Groom signs marriage licence on the wedding day.

In order to become legally married, you will need to obtain a marriage license in advance of your wedding day. Local marriage laws vary from state to state in terms of paperwork required and specific procedures for picking up your license. Additionally, a few states still require blood tests in order to get a marriage license.

Requirements for your state can be obtained through your town or county clerk’s office, or simply do a search for “your local area” “marriage license” (for example “new york marriage license”, “las vegas marriage license”, etc.) You will most likely be required to provide birth certificates, proof of residence/citizenship and a driver’s license or passport, but check with your local office to confirm local requirements. Also find out what the fee is to get a marriage license, and what forms of payment are accepted.

Tip: If you will be getting married in a state outside of your state of residence, you’ll also need to find out if there are any residency requirements in that state and whether there is a waiting period to obtain a marriage license. For destination weddings outside of the US, check with the local tourism board in the country you’ll be getting married in (ask your wedding planner or a coordinator at the venue you’ll be getting married at for help as well.)

Timing will be important here as marriage licenses expire after a certain period of time, so you’ll want to pick it up close to your actual wedding date to ensure that it is still valid. If there is a waiting period in your state from the date that you request your license to when you can actually pick it up, you’ll need to factor that in as well. A good rule of thumb is to apply for your license about 2 weeks before the wedding and pick it about 1 week before the wedding (if there is a waiting period.)

On your wedding day, make sure you bring your license with you – your officiant will sign the document (as well as witnesses and/or the bride and groom, if required) and return it to your local county clerk’s office for processing. After a few days or more, you’ll be able to pick up your official marriage certificate from that office.

Tip: If you will be changing your last name after marriage, make sure to request at least two extra certified copies of your marriage certificate when you pick it up — you’ll need these to change your name on your social security card, passport and other legal documents.