How to Get a Marriage License

Everything you need to know to make your union official on paper.
Bride signing marriage license
Photo by Lens CAP Productions

Amid the blur of organizing your wedding and honeymoon plans, it's surprisingly easy to forget that you actually have to get married on paper. A marriage license is basically your permit for eternal love—the legal confirmation that you and your partner are free and eligible to marry one another. Sure, it's paperwork, but it's still exciting (not to mention necessary).

So where do you even start? The Internet will likely be your best bet here. Most, if not all, states have a government website with ample information on what materials and documents are required and the office's contact information. (Psst... check out this helpful website on US marriage laws.)

Once you know in which municipality (city, district and county) your nuptials will take place, you'll need to locate where to obtain the license. It might be city hall, the city or town clerk's office, or the marriage license bureau in the county where you plan to wed. For example, in Connecticut, marriage licenses are issued by the municipal clerk's office in the town where you'll be married; whereas, in Iowa, couples may apply at any county registrar or recorder's office. In some states, like New Jersey, you can simply download a marriage license brochure and the license itself to be filled out by you and your spouse-to-be.

Other than the physical paperwork, it's important to be wary of timing. Some states require a several day waiting period between granting the license and your nuptials taking place. Also, most marriage licenses are only valid for a window of time—anywhere between 10 days and a year—during which you must have the ceremony, sign the license (together with your officiant) and file for a certified license and marriage certificate.

Requirements do vary by state, but they all want to confirm the basics: that you have proper identification, that you're not currently married to anyone else (if you previously were, you need proper divorce or widowhood papers) and that you're of legal age to marry. A good checklist of necessities includes:

  • Birth certificates
  • Parental consent if under age (usually under 18); you may also need court consent in this case
  • Photo identification (driver's license, state ID card, passport or birth certificate)
  • Social Security number
  • Proof of citizenship and/or residence
  • Divorce decree if divorced
  • Death certificate if widowed

With all of this general information in mind, we've listed the top 10 best US destination wedding spots and their specific marriage license processes! Read on to find what you'll need.

Florida

  • Fee charged, but it's lower for Florida residents who have completed a premarital prep course
  • Waiting period: three days for Florida residents (waived if couple completes the above-mentioned course); no waiting period for non-residents
  • Issued by county; apply at any county clerk's office
  • License valid for 60 days
  • Click here for general information, then here for clerks of court offices by county

Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Fee charged; varies by county and required at time of application
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by clerks of local county marriage license bureau (Clark County); both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for one year
  • Officiant has 10 days to submit documentation after the ceremony
  • Click here for all Clark County marriage license requirements

Maine

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by county; apply from local municipal clerk's office
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Click here for general information and here to filter by county, city or town

Massachusetts

  • Fee charged; varies by town or city and required at time of application
  • Waiting period: three days
  • Issued by city or town clerk's office
  • Valid for 60 days
  • Click here for general information and here for a clerk's offices by city and town

Napa Valley, California

  • Fee charged; varies by county and required at time of application
  • Waiting Period: none
  • Issued by county clerk's office; both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Click here for all Napa County marriage license requirements

Newport, Rhode Island

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by city or town clerk's office
  • License valid for 90 days
  • Marriage must take place in the presence of two witnesses who are 18 years or older
  • Click here for how to get a marriage license in Rhode Island

New York City, New York

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: 24 hours
  • Issued by city clerk's office; both parties must appear in person at one of the five borough offices
  • License valid for 60 days
  • Click here for marriage license info from New York's Office of the City Clerk website

Aspen, Colorado

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by any state county clerk's office; both parties must appear in person
  • License valid for 35 days
  • Click here for all Pitkin County marriage license requirements

Tucson, Arizona

  • Fee charged
  • Waiting period: none
  • Issued by justice court offices; both parties must appear together in person to
  • License valid for 12 months
  • Click here for Pima County's Office of the Clerk

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