After the Covid-19 pandemic, many courthouses began making marriage license applications available online.
While you will need to look up the courthouse where you intend to get married to find out whether you can get a marriage license online, there are some general principles about applying that we can share with you.
Determine Your Eligibility
The first thing you’ll want to do is check your eligibility requirements against the ones listed on your courthouse’s website. Common requirements include:
- Both parties must be currently unmarried.
- Both parties must meet the jurisdiction’s age requirements, usually age 18.
- Both parties must not be nearer of kin to each other than second cousins.
- Both applicants must have a current photo ID.
In some jurisdictions age requirements may be a little lower if parents or guardians give permission for the marriage. Usually the parents will have to submit a notarized statement of consent. Sometimes a person may get married a little younger if they are legally emancipated.
Know Your License Requirements
Most courthouses will not require you to reside in their jurisdiction just to get a license. Destination and out-of-town weddings are common enough that they only require you to have a valid photo ID. Many jurisdictions do not even require you to have a social security number before you can get married.
Few locations require blood tests any longer, though there are still states that will refuse to issue a marriage license if you test positive for certain STDs. If that happens to you then you can choose to get married in a jurisdiction that does not require a blood test. Some couples may want to get the blood test just to test for HIV or for certain genetic diseases.
Fill Out the Marriage Application
Find your courthouse’s online application. For example, here is the online marriage kiosk for King County in Washington State.
The form is usually pretty simple. You’ll enter an expected ceremony date and then share some details about each spouse, including name, date of birth, birth state, address, marital status, gender, mother’s birth name and state, and father’s birth name and state. Make sure you have that information handy before you apply.
On most online marriage license forms, the process is as simple as hitting “submit.”
Pay Your Fees
Once you submit your marriage license application you will be asked to pay your fee. Fees can be as low as $5 or as high as $150, depending on the jurisdiction where you are filing for your license.
Fees are usually clearly and openly published so there are no surprises.
Order a Copy of Your Marriage License
Usually the application fee will cover having a copy of the marriage license sent to your address. The license does expire, which means you will need to get it signed by your officiant within a 30 to 90 day window of time, depending on your jurisdiction.
The license will not always be available online right away. In most jurisdictions you’ll get a paper copy in the mail which you’ll have to send back.
Some jurisdictions are a lot more forward-thinking and have changed their laws to allow for the acceptance of “any electronic reproduction of a marriage signature.“
These jurisdictions have embraced electronic records and have taken to sending all the records out via Docusign. You can have your officiant log in and sign them and you can log in and sign. Then the whole thing can be sent back to the county clerk’s office via email. You’re certainly in luck if your jurisdiction has adopted these sorts of laws!
Once you send back your marriage license the county will process it and issue a marriage certificate. When that’s done you are married in the eyes of the law. Many individuals have their officiant sign the license, and sign the license themselves, on the date of the ceremony.
Schedule Your Ceremony
As mentioned, you’ll only have a short amount of time to finalize your marriage license. If you are getting married at your local courthouse this is an ideal time to lock in your wedding day and schedule your ceremony. Many jurisdictions continue to offer virtual ceremonies if you prefer to stay out of large crowds, even as more and more people get vaccinated.
If you are planning a larger, more traditional wedding, of course, the ceremony is likely to already be scheduled. Just make sure you have applied for your marriage license close enough to your wedding date to have it on-hand in time to get it signed and sent. In some states you must wait at least 3 days after the license is issued to get married. Others allow you to get married on the same day.
Know your waiting periods. If you’ll be receiving your license by mail then you should leave 7-14 business days to allow that to happen.
What if you can’t apply for your marriage license online?
Few offices are requiring in-person appointments anymore. If an online option isn’t available it’s often possible to apply for your marriage license by mail.
Usually the jurisdiction will have you download an application, fill it out, print it and send it along with a check and a photo copy of your driver’s license.
Their websites will tell you exactly where to send them. The clerk of court will then process the application and mail the marriage license along. Sometimes, the jurisdiction will send your marriage certificate at the same time, and you’ll only be required to get the certificate signed and sent back. The certificate usually has to be signed by your witnesses as well.
Some jurisdictions combine the license and the certificate. Make sure you’re familiar with local requirements.
Timing is Everything
No matter how you get your marriage license, it’s very important for you to pay attention to the timing.
Research your local requirements well in advance of your wedding day. That way you’ll be able to calendar in the right steps at the right time for your marriage or ceremony.