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marriage license

Wedding Planning: How to Get a Marriage License

Photo: Blush Wedding Photography

A marriage license is essentially a permit -- legal confirmation that couples are free to marry each other, have obtained divorce or widowhood papers if necessary, are of legal age, and have had blood tests if required. The license pick-up location varies by state: 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.

>> Find an office: Look under "Marriage" in your phone book's city pages, search the Internet for state marriage license requirements, or use The Knot Marriage License Search.

Once you've located your marriage license office, call to ask when you should apply. Licenses are valid for a window of time (from ten days to six months), and there may be a short waiting period once you get the license. In most states you can walk in to apply, but some offices require an appointment, so be sure to ask when you call. Both bride and groom must be present in most states, although there are a few exceptions.

Licenses are valid for a window of time (from ten days to six months), and there may be a short waiting period once you get the license.

You will probably need:

  • Birth certificates (proof of age)

  • Proof of citizenship and/or residence

  • Photo identification

  • Parental consent if underage (usually 16-17; you may also need court consent)

  • Death certificate if widowed

  • Divorce decree if divorced

  • Blood test results (if needed; only a few states still require this)

After the wedding, your officiant will send your signed license to the marriage license bureau, and then you should receive a certified copy within a few weeks or months (depending on your state).

TYING THE KNOT NATIONALLY


California wine country
  • Fee charged
  • License valid for: 90 days, no waiting period
  • Blood test: no
  • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or call the Napa Valley County Clerk (707) 253-4246, or Sonoma County Clerk, (707) 527-3700

Florida

  • Fee charged; it's lower if the bride and groom are Florida residents and attend an eight-hour marriage course
  • Waiting period: None (a three-day waiting period for Florida residents can be waived by attending the marriage course mentioned above)
  • License valid for: 60 days
  • Blood test: No
  • More info - Florida Keys: Monroe County Clerk of Courts (305) 292-3550 (Key West), (305) 852-7145 (Isla Morada), (305) 289-6027 (Marathon); Disneyworld: Orange County Clerk of Courts Marriage License Division (407) 836-2067, Walt Disney World (407) 828-3400 or www.disneyweddings.com
.

Hawaii

  • Fee charged
  • Residency Requirement: None
  • Necessary Documents: Driver's license or passport; no proof of divorce is necessary, but those who are divorced must be able to list the date, state and county (or country) where the divorce was finalized.
  • Note: Licenses must be filed with the state health department office in Honolulu, or call the department for listings of agents in rural communities. Forms require the names of parents and their places of birth. Both parties must appear in person.
  • More info: Hawaii's Department of Health marriage licensing office or (808) 586-4544; or http://www.gohawaii.com

    Las Vegas

    • Fee charged
    • Waiting period: None
    • License valid for: Indefinitely
    • Blood test: No
    • More info: Clark County Marriage Bureau, (702) 455-4415, ext. 5

    Mackinack Island, Michigan

    • Fee charged
    • License valid for: 30 days, after a three-day waiting period
    • Blood test: no
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or call the Mackinac Island Chamber of Commerce, (800) 4-LILACS

    Nantucket, Massachusetts

    • Fee: Varies by county/town
    • License valid for: 60 days, after three-day waiting period, anywhere in state
    • Blood test: yes
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying.

    New Orleans, Louisiana

    • Fee charged
    • License valid for: 30 days, after 3-day waiting period
    • Blood test: no
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying, or call the Louisiana Office of Tourism, (800) 261-9144


    Tying the Knot Internationally

    Anguilla
    • Fee charged (it's much lower if one person resides on the island for 15 days)
    • Residency period: None, paperwork requires two days
    • Necessary documents: Passport, proof of divorce or death of spouse (if applicable)
    • More info: Two witnesses are required. For further information, call the Magistrate, (264) 497-3477

    Antigua

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passport, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying, or call the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Tourism at (212) 541-4117

    Aruba
    *** It is now possible for nonresidents to marry in Aruba, but there are many restrictions and requirements.

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: (copies of all the following must first be faxed for review, then sent via courier, such as FedEx, at least 14 days in advance) passports; raised-seal birth certificates for both parties and the witnesses; divorce decrees/death certificates if previously married; apostilles (documents from your local government declaring you are eligible for marriage).
    • Civil ceremonies -- must take place inside City Hall in Oranjestad. Once you have a civil ceremony you may have a religious blessing.
    • Catholic -- contact a Catholic church for details.
    • Protestant -- contact the church of your choice. Ceremonies may take place in a church or anywhere else on the island.
    • Jewish -- both parties MUST prove they are Jewish with documentation from their home rabbi; a petition for permission must also be submitted to the Jewish community; ceremonies may take place at the synagogue or anywhere else on the island.
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying and the Aruba Tourism Authority, (800) TO-ARUBA

    Bahamas

    • Fee charged
    • Residency requirement: 24 hours
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); declaration certifying both parties are unmarried U.S. citizens, sworn before a U.S. Consul at the American Embassy in Nassau, or a marriage license from the Commissioner's Office on other islands; proof of arrival in the Bahamas.
    • Knot Note: Both parties must apply in person.
    • More info: Bahamas Ministry of Tourism Romance Director at (888) NUPTIAL or http://www.bahamas.com

    Barbados

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); letter from officiant performing service
    • Obtain marriage license from Ministry of Home Affairs or (246) 228-8950

    Bermuda

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports and a "Notice of Intended Marriage" form from Bermuda's Registrar General's Office (The form is available by phone request or at bermudatourism.com. Fill it out and mail it -- along with a cashier's check or bank draft made payable to the Accountant General, Hamilton, Bermuda -- back to the Registrar General. Your license will be valid for three months and can be picked up at the Registrar's office by you or a designated person.)
    • Note: "Notice of Intended Marriage" must be filed
      2 weeks before the wedding
    • More info: Bermuda's Registrar General office, (441) 297-7709 or -7707; the Bermuda Department of Tourism office nearest you; or bermudatourism.com

    British Virgin Islands

    • Fee charged; it's lower if you've been in the BVI for more than 15 days. It's less expensive to get married at the registrar's office than elsewhere.
    • Residency period: 3 days
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable)
    • Note: Publishing banns may be necessary for church weddings. Make plans with appropriate clergy.
    • More info: BVI Registrar's Office, (284) 494-3701 ext. 5001/2/3; British Virgin Islands Tourist Board, (800) 835-8530

    Cayman Islands

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); return or ongoing tickets; proofs of entry (Cayman Islands International Immigration Department pink slips or cruise-ship boarding passes); letter from authorized officiating marriage officer
    • More info: Cayman Islands Government Deputy Chief Secretary; (345) 949-7900 or (345) 914-2222

    Fiji

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Passports, original birth certificates, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse(s) if applicable
    • Note: There are no non-denominational ministers; requirements vary by religion
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or contact the Fiji Visitor's Bureau, (800) YEA FIJI

    France

    • Total cost of civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency period: One of you must reside for 40 days in the town or district (in Paris) where the wedding will take place
    • Necessary documents: Passport; certified copy of final divorce decree or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable; both birth certificates (from the Bureau of Vital Records, not from a hospital); a notarized "Affidavit of Law;" and a certificate of health
    • Note: Requirements may vary by region and city and blood test requirements vary by gender; all documents need to be professionally translated; and all documents translated in the U.S. must be legalized with an "apostille" from the Secretary of State of the state they are issued in. We highly recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements or contact the French Consulate in your area to review your paperwork.
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the hotel where you'll be staying, the French Consulate in your area, or the Marriage Bureau of the City Hall in the town or district where you will be wed

    French Polynesia

    • Residency period: At least one of you must live in French Polynesia for 30 days (no fighting, now!)
    • Necessary documents: Birth certificates (issued within 3 months of your wedding and translated into French), medical certificates, 1 certificate of residency, 1 copy of notarized marriage contract, customary certificates, certificates of celibacy, and a certificate of publication of marriage bans in the non-resident's hometown
    • Note: Assuming one of you can establish residency, we highly recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings or in Tahiti as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements.
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or a travel agent that specializes in Tahiti or destination weddings. Tahiti Tourism, (800) 365-4949

    Greece

    • Total cost for civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency requirement: None
    • Necessary documents: It is possible to use an American marriage license, but only if it meets certain requirements; passports; certified birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); certificate from U.S. Consulate in Athens, stating that there is no impediment to the marriage; two announcements in local Greek newspaper (one announcement for each person)
    • Note: Greek tourism officials advise that gathering and preparing required documents could take a few months. All documents must be translated into Greek by the Greek consulate in your area. The Greek National Tourist Organization, (212) 421-5777, will fax instructions and supply names of companies that specialize in arranging weddings for foreigners. Greek law does not provide for certain interfaith marriages such as Christians to non-Christians or Jews to non-Jews. Proof of religion, such as baptismal certificates, may be required.
    • More info: Greek National Tourist Organization, (212) 421-5777, or the Greek Consulate, (212) 988-5500.

    .

    Ireland

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: One person must establish a residency of 15 days, the other must fulfill a minimum 7-day residency
    • Necessary documents: Passports; birth certificates; certified copy of final divorce decree or death certificate (plus original marriage certificate) of former spouse/s if applicable; Notice of Marriage (provided by the Registrar and published twice with a one-week interval in a Dublin newspaper)
    • Note: You must notify the Registrar for Marriages at least three months before the wedding date. We recommend that you contact a wedding planner who specializes in destination weddings as early as possible to help you fulfill the requirements.
    • More info: Contact the wedding coordinator at the hotel where you'll be staying or call the Registrar for Marriages at 011-353-1-676 3218

    Italy

    • Total cost for civil service: Varies by region
    • Residency period: four days
    • Necessary documents: Passports or armed forces ID cards; certified copies of birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); declarations "atto notorio" sworn to by four people attesting that they know of no reason to object to the marriage under the laws of the couple's home country; declaration sworn to by both parties that there are no obstacles to the marriage under U.S. law
    • Note: Certain documents must be translated into Italian with special "apostille" seals from the secretary of state from the state from which the documents originated. Additional requirements apply if one of the parties is an Italian citizen or resident of Italy. Requirements may vary by region and city. It is highly recommended that you work with a wedding planner to help you fulfill all requirements properly.
    • More info: Italian consulate nearest you; Italian Tourism Board, Italy weddings websiteor http://travel.state.gov/italy_marriage.html

    Jamaica

    • Fee charged
    • For a higher fee, the wedding coordinater at your resort will arrange for for the officiant to go into Kingston to the Ministry of National Security, (876) 922-0080, to get the marriage license. Otherwise you have to go yourself.
    • Residency period: 24 hours
    • Necessary documents: Certified copies of both birth certificates; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable; and name change or adoption papers if applicable

    Malta

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: One day
    • Necessary documents: Birth certificates, a sworn statement that neither person is married, proof of divorce or death of former spouse (if applicable), and completed application and Sworn Declaration forms (available from the Marriage Registry) must be sent to the Registry Office between six weeks and three months before your intended date
    • Note: These requirements apply to civil ceremonies only. Religious weddings have a different set of conditions; work with a destination wedding planner or speak with the Marriage Registry office (below) to make sure all requirements are fulfilled.
    • More info: Marriage Registry office, 011-356-626-221775, 225291/2 or More info: , (877) GO MALTA

    Mexico

    • Total cost of civil service: Varies across country
    • Residency requirement: None
    • Necessary documents: Certified copies of birth certificates previously "legalized" by the Mexican consulate with jurisdiction over the place of birth; driver's licenses or passports; certified proof of divorce or death certificates of former spouse/s (if applicable) previously "legalized" by the Mexican consulate with jurisdiction over the place of filing; judge's form; tourist cards; Mexican-performed blood test results
    • Note: The marriage requirements in Mexico vary from city to city and judge to judge. The Mexican Ministry of Tourism recommends that you budget two to four days to complete all requirements. It is recommended that you work with a wedding planner to help you fulfill all requirements properly.
    • More info: Mexico tourist board, (800) 44-MEXICO

    St. Lucia

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: 2 days
    • Necessary documents: Passport, birth certificate, proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s if applicable, and name change or adoption papers if applicable
    • More info: Call the wedding coordinator at the resort where you'll be staying or contact the St. Lucia Tourist Board, (888) 4-STLUCIA

    U.S. Virgin Islands

    • Fee charged
    • Residency period: None
    • Necessary documents: Driver's licenses or passports; proof of divorce or death certificate of former spouse/s (if applicable); letter accompanying application for marriage stating date of visit, length of stay, and preferred wedding date if having ceremony performed by a judge
    • Note: Application must be received at least eight days prior to wedding.
    • More info: USVI Division of Tourism, (800) 372-8784; Territorial Court, St. Croix, (340) 778-9750.

-- The Knot

See More: Wedding Planning Basics