How Soon Should You Apply for a Marriage License?

Don't forget to time this important detail right.
maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
by Maggie Seaver
maggie seaver the knot wedding planning expert
Maggie Seaver
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Maggie Seaver is an Associate Digital Editor at RealSimple.com.
  • Maggie writes about life, career, health, and more.
  • Maggie was an editor at The Knot from 2015 to 2019.
Updated Jul 17, 2018

When it comes to applying for your marriage license, timing is more important than you think—and it's not just about being an early bird or not procrastinating. Most states require both a waiting period between when you obtain your marriage license and when you get married, as well as an expiration policy dictating the window of time in which you must say "I do" after obtaining your license. 

Every state is different, so do your homework to avoid headaches and surprises. Getting married in Delaware? You have to wait 24 hours after applying for your license before you can seal the deal—then you have 30 days during which your license is valid. If you're having a ranch wedding in Montana, however, there's no waiting period to worry about, and you have 180 days before your license expires.

While you can (and should) start researching requirements as soon as you'd like, don't bother rushing to the city clerk's office to apply the moment you get engaged or even before you've set a wedding date. If you're not getting married for another year or so, why haul yourselves to apply if there's a chance it might expire before the ceremony? Once you've set a date and looked online (or called your local marriage license bureau) to confirm the guidelines, go ahead and make a game plan for your license to wed.

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