Getting married in the United Stated

Applying for a marriage license

Every US state and county has its own specific laws and requirements for marriage licenses and ceremonies. Here we offer general information, plus specific information and links for individual states. Find out what you need to bring with you, and get more information on US marriage license laws before applying.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Marriage laws and license requirements change continually, so please check the latest information with your local marriage license bureau office or county clerk's office before making your wedding or travel plans, and before inviting your guests.

The license laws for marriage between a man and a woman vary from state to state. There are differences between requirements in different states, but a marriage between a man and a woman performed in one state must be recognized by every other state under the United States Constitution.


If a marriage is performed in another part of the United States or overseas, it is generally considered valid in any state as long as the marriage is legal in the location where it took place.

Some of the requirements may include:

  • Applying for a marriage license issued by the county clerk or clerk of the court on the payment of a fee. Some states, such as Florida, offer a reduced fee on the completion of a short premarital preparation course.

  • The man and woman should be 18 or older, or have the consent of a parent or a judge if either or both is younger.

  • Proof of immunity or vaccination for certain diseases.

    Many states no longer require compulsory premarital physical exams or blood tests. Blood tests for venereal diseases may still be required in some states, and some also test for rubella (or German Measles, a disease that is very dangerous to unborn babies), tuberculosis, and sickle-cell anemia.

    Although no state currently requires a mandatory premarital HIV/AIDS test, many states require that the bride and groom are offered this test and/or given information on the disease and the tests that can be carried out.

  • Proof of the termination of any prior marriages by death, judgment of dissolution (divorce) or annulment.

  • There is often a waiting period from the time the marriage license is issued to the time the marriage ceremony can be performed. This is usually one to five days, and gives the bride and/or groom the chance to change their minds if they wish.

    States listed below require a waiting period, if your state is not mentioned then no waiting period is required.

    No waiting period on completion of approved premarital preparation course: Florida, Texas.
    1-day waiting period: Illinois, New York, South Carolina, Delaware.
    3-day waiting period: Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington.
    4-day waiting period: Maryland, Delaware if the bride and groom are both nonresidents.
    5-day waiting period: District of Columbia, Minnesota.
    6-day waiting period: Wisconsin.

  • The marriage ceremony must be performed by a person recognized by the state to have been authorized to perform the ceremony (such as a minister, priest, rabbi, judge, or licensed officiant). Either one or two witnesses are required to sign the marriage certificate, depending on the state.

  • Religious ceremonies should be conducted under the customs of the religion by religious officials, such as ministers, priests, or rabbis. Native American ceremonies should follow the customs of the tribe, and be conducted by a tribal chief or other designated official.

  • Civil ceremonies are usually conducted by judges, but in some states, county clerks or other government officials may conduct civil ceremonies. Ship captains are not authorized to perform marriages in any state.

  • The marriage license is recorded after the marriage ceremony is performed. The person performing the marriage ceremony is obliged to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the county or state agency that records marriage certificates. The marriage is not necessarily made invalid if the certificate is not sent to the right agency, but it makes it difficult to prove that the marriage exists.

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Your comments

Comments (1)

  1. Sarah:
    Dec 27, 2011 at 05:31 PM

    Wow, I never knew the rules were so different in each state, gonna have to make sure I get it right when I get married next year! thanks

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