There is one thing you absolutely, positively can’t forget on wedding day, otherwise, you won’t legally be married. And that’s your marriage license! Seems so silly for a piece of paper to be that important – but trust us, it is.


With the help of Officiant Amber Olsen, we’re going over some basics everyone should keep in mind when it comes to their marriage license.


State Rules


Each state and sometimes even each county has different marriage license requirements.


"Each state has different requirements for obtaining a marriage license, so be sure to look up the county website in which you plan to marry, for details,” explained Amber.



There might be an application you need to download and fill out ahead of time. There might be an application you fill out on site. Check the requirements for your marriage license before you go to the courthouse so that you aren’t wasting a trip there.



You will likely need a form of ID and if you’ve been married before, possibly proof of the end of your previous marriage. Again, be sure to check so that you don’t go all the way there only to have to go back home to get the right documentation. 



Some marriage licenses will have time restrictions to them. Like, you must get your license within 60 days of your wedding date or you can’t get your license more than 30 days before your wedding day. Make sure you plan the timing accordingly.



It’s common for a marriage license to have a small fee associated with it. Make sure you know the form of payments accepted ahead of time.



Check if your state or county required a witness or two on your license and if your witnessed must be present when the license is acquired or on the day of the wedding.


"Most states require witnesses to sign off on your marriage license,” said Amber. “Choosing witnesses for your wedding can be fun! Perhaps you are still looking for a job for that special aunt that helped raise you, or maybe you want your best friend to play a part."



If you don’t return your license after the wedding, you won’t officially be married by the law. This is something your wedding officiant should take care of for you. However, if your officiant is a family member or a friend, you may want to double check with them that they will take care of it – and even confirm after the fact that it was taken care of!



A couple days or weeks after the wedding, you should receive a notarized copy of your marriage license – confirming your marriage is legal. It’s good practice to order additional copies to have for safe keeping. We recommend keeping 2-3 copies on hand. You will need this for things like legally changing your last name or bank account information.


"You MUST have a marriage license physically present at the ceremony in order for it to be a legally binding ceremony,” Amber explained. “Without this important piece of paper from the county office, your wedding is nothing more than a fun party."


A fun wedding day is great, but don’t let the day become just a fun party. Get your marriage license and make your marriage legal! Be sure to include acquiring your marriage license in your wedding planning timeline so you don’t forget!




Officiant Amber is an award-winning officiant and published author located in eastern North Dakota that specializes in custom-written non-denominational wedding ceremonies. She recently published a book loaded with information on planning a wedding ceremony called, "Navigating Your Wedding Ceremony," which is available on Amazon (and soon, on the American Marriage Ministries website!)

Photo credit: Jeffrey Lynn Media