How to Get Legally Married in Chicago and Plan Your Windy City Wedding

Paperwork might not sound all that romantic, but luckily securing your marriage license in the Second City is a piece of cake.
Rachel Kashdan
by Rachel Kashdan
Updated Aug 03, 2021

Ready to plan your Chicago wedding? While finding an officiant, a skilled floral designer, and a rockin' wedding band are all important parts of your wedding planning journey, don't overlook what is perhaps the most vital part of your big day: making your union is legally valid. Fortunately, in the state of Illinois the process for getting a marriage license (and changing your name, if you choose to) is a pretty straightforward one that doesn't take long to complete so long as you've got a good grasp of how the process works. As for that, we've got you covered with this in-depth guide to securing your Chicago marriage certificate.

How to Get Married in Chicago

While getting a marriage license in Chicago is pretty painless, there are a few quick and easy things you should know about the process before getting started. Start here and contact the Cook County Clerk's Office for more information.

Is there a waiting period to get married in Chicago?

In Chicago there is a one day waiting period before your marriage license goes into effect. The only way to forgo the waiting period is by filing a petition and demonstrating sufficient cause for an exception.

What are the legal requirements to get married in Chicago?

This one's pretty straightforward: If you are over 18 years of age, not legally already married, not closely related to each other, and both legally competent, you may marry.

What's considered a common law marriage in Chicago?

Illinois does not offer common law marriages. You can however, enter into a civil union by filing an application and paying a $60 fee if you are at least 18 years of age and not blood relatives.

Chicago Marriage License 101

If you're within 60 days of your wedding day, it's time to start the application process to secure your marriage license. Here's an outline of everything you'll need to do before the big day to make sure you've got the legal side of things in order.

What do you need to get a marriage license in Chicago?

First, brides- and grooms-to-be need to appear together by appointment at one of six Cook County Clerk's offices. You'll need to come prepared with a valid form of ID such as a driver's license and fill out and sign a Cook County marriage license application. For divorced applicants, you'll also need to share the date the divorced was finalized, and if you've divorced within the last 6 months you must come with a certified copy of your divorce decree as well.

What does a Chicago marriage license cost?

The marriage license fee is $60.

How long does it take to get a marriage license in Chicago?

The in-office process can take as little as 15 minutes. Couples can also speed up the process by beginning the application online.

Can you apply for a marriage license online in Chicago?

Yes. You can start filling out the application online here before heading into one of the offices in person to finish your application.

How do you get a copy of your Chicago marriage license?

There are several ways to get a copy of your marriage license:

You can order it online or by phone through VitalChek. Marriage licenses typically take 10-14 business days to arrive through regular mail.

You can also request a copy of your marriage license by contacting the Cook County Clerk's Office Bureau of Vital Records by mail. You'll need to include a completed Marriage Certificate Request form, a photocopy of your ID, a check or money order made out to the Cook County Clerk for $15 (plus $4 for additional copies if needed) and a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Orders sent by mail are typically processed within 20 working days after your request is received.

Request a copy of your marriage license online or by phone through Currency Exchange.

Finally, you can get a printed copy of your license in person at any Cook County Clerk's Office location for a $15 fee paid with cash, debit card, or credit card.

How to Plan a Chicago Wedding

Now that you've got a game-plan for getting your Chicago marriage license it's time for the fun part: planning your wedding day. Below you'll find some of the most gorgeous spots in the city and throughout suburban Cook County for celebrations, plus weather and wedding date tips, and advice on finding an all-star Chicago vendor team.

The Different Areas to Consider for a Chicago Wedding

When it comes to choosing "where" of your special day, you can't really go wrong with anywhere in the Chicago area. Downtown, you'll find hotels and museums like Adler Planetarium & Astronomy Museum and Millennium Knickerbocker Hotel which both make for fabulous wedding venues. Or if natural beauty is what you're after, consider a waterfront setting on Lake Michigan, such as Crystal Gardens at Navy Pier, for example, or a scenic spot in one of several green spaces like Promontory Point in Hyde Park on the South Side.

What to Look For in a Chicago Wedding Venue

When you're visiting Chicago venues, you'll find spots with historical flair, industrial edge, and waterfront views, but there are a few key points to keep in mind. If you're planning to host your marriage ceremony and reception on site, be sure to look out for venues that can easily cater to each part of your day and smoothly transition from one part of the event to the next. You'll also want to check for the basics like good acoustics and enough hookups for power cords. Lastly, don't forget to ask what's included in your rental fee, as Chicago has both full service venues as well as those that will require additional rentals and outside vendors.

How to Find Chicago Wedding Vendors

From killer photographers to in-demand caterers to top-notch planners, you'll find it all in Chicago. Not sure how to go about finding the perfect pro's for your big day? The Knot Marketplace is a great place to begin.

The Best Times of Year to Have a Chicago Wedding for Good Weather

Each season brings something special to the Windy City, but weather is certainly a factor to keep in mind when choosing a wedding date. In late spring and early fall you'll experience pleasant temps and gorgeous scenery. In summer temperatures typically remain within the 70s, making it a popular season for weddings in Chicago too.

If you're envisioning an enchanting winter wedding ceremony and reception or you're hoping to score a good deal during a less popular months for events, you can certainly plan a stunning snowy affair. Keep in mind, though, that temperatures in Chicago's winter months hover around the 20s and 30s and high winds occur from January to April. The occasional blizzard might also make it difficult for out-of-town guests to fly in for your big day.

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