Marriage celebrations can range from destination weddings, traditional marriage ceremonies in churches or other places of worship, simple ceremonies in a backyard or park, and more. Most couples solemnize their vows with a marriage ceremony to celebrate their love for one another.

The first step to getting married is to get your marriage license. The requirements for a marriage license can vary by state, so it’s important to know the basics of the process to make the experience a little easier. Once you have your marriage license, the marriage ceremony can take place. After all the celebrations are finished, the person who officiated your wedding is responsible for filing a marriage certificate with the appropriate recording agency.

In this post, we take a look at the general requirements to get a marriage license and provide some examples of state-specific requirements that you may not have known about.

How to Get a Marriage License in the United States

In order to get married, you need a marriage license. To get a marriage license, you and your future husband or wife need to go to the city hall or county clerk’s office in the city or town where you are planning to get married and pay a fee for the license. Once the application is completed, there can be a waiting period of anywhere from 1–5 days to receive the license.

Once you have your marriage license, you can have your marriage ceremony. Usually, a marriage ceremony needs to take place within 30 to 60 days from the date you got your license, although each state may have their own stipulations on time period.

Examples of general requirements for a marriage license:

  • In most states, you and your partner must be 18 years of age or older in order to get married, and you must be unrelated by blood (you can’t be a direct family member such as brother or sister).
  • All states require you and your fiancé(e) to present proof of identity. This can be any government-issued identification such as your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security number, or passport. Some states and jurisdictions may request a specific type of ID.
  • Proof of termination of any prior marriages may be required to apply for a new marriage license. Usually you can present a divorce decree or final order of divorce as sufficient proof.
  • Decide on your surname so it can be indicated on the marriage license. Neither partner is required to change their surname.

In general, most states also allow you to enter into private agreements prior to marriage. One example would be through a Prenuptial Agreement, which allows the couple to determine things like division of property and/or financial obligations in the event of separation or death.

State Requirements for a Marriage License

Marriage licenses are regulated by each state individually, so the requirements can differ between states.

As an example, Montana requires that women provide proof that they have rubella immunity before the marriage license can be issued. This immunity is usually confirmed with a blood test, and then a doctor’s note would be provided as proof.

This requirement can be waived by providing an informed consent form stating that you both understand the risks of not being tested, but regardless it still needs to be addressed before a woman can marry in the state.

Also, although the majority of states require that the couple be 18 years of age or older in order to apply for a marriage license, Arkansas has more lenient age requirements where the couple can be 16-17 years of age as long as they have parental consent.

It’s in your best interest to understand the state laws that apply to your marriage so you can prevent any surprises or disputes that may occur later on as not all the information is necessarily common knowledge.

Same-Sex Marriage Legalization

As of 2015, same-sex marriage is permitted in all 50 states. This means that lesbian and gay couples technically have the same rights to marriage as opposite-sex couples, so the requirements for a marriage license are generally the same.

A Legal Marriage in the United States

To make sure that you are properly and legally married, it’s important to check your state’s laws to determine what the requirements are. Once you’ve educated yourself on your state’s marriage laws, navigating the marriage process should be a lot easier and potentially hassle-free.

Does your state have interesting requirements for marriage licenses? Share them with us in the comments!

Posted by Lisa Hoffart

Lisa is an experienced writer interested in technology and law. She's been writing for LawDepot since 2017.