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I’m Louise. Blogger. Wife. Designer of TruLu Couture Veils + Accessories.  If you’d like to know more, check out my bio.

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The Marriage License: Get Ye Extra Copies



Having moved to the wonderful new (to me) state of North Carolina, there have been many-a-thing I have been forced, under much duress, to do. One of these things is getting a new driver's license. FUN! I have always said that the DMV is the best place for fun. Yes, I have too always said that....

In addition to getting my new license, I also had to get a new license plate for the car. Now, we're talking some kinda fun!

Anyway, you need like 800 million things to register your car, one of them being the title. Now, I paid off my little 2004 Passat several years ago so the title has been under my name for like, forever, so it's still in my maiden name. I wondered if that would be an issue so I called the license plate place (different than the DMV) and they told me I needed to bring my marriage certificate. TO GET A LICENSE PLATE. Sooooo stoopid. Anyway, it was a lucky thing that I had extra copies made. You should too.

So I did a little poking around and found out some info on marriage licenses that you might need to know:

1. You'll need it if you're going to change your name. If you're going to do that, DEFINITELY READ THIS FIRST!

2. Every state requires a marriage license. 

Most, but not all, states require a waiting period of one to five days, between the time the license is issued and the time of the marriage ceremony. The purpose of the waiting period is to give a short time to cool off in case you decided at the spur of the moment to marry a total tool.  The waiting period can sometimes be waived. For example, if the groom is arriving in the bride's town only one day before the wedding, but the state has a three-day waiting period, the waiting period probably can be waived by a judge or clerk of court.

Twenty states require couples to wait a few days after applying for a marriage license before they receive the license:

0-day Waiting Period: VEGAS, BABY! Oops! I mean Nevada.

1-day Waiting Period: Illinois, New York, South Carolina, Delaware.

2-day Waiting Period: Maryland.

3-day Waiting Period: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington.

4-day Waiting Period: Delaware if both of you are non-residents.

5-day Waiting Period: District of Columbia, Minnesota.

6-day Waiting Period: Wisconsin.

3. You usually apply for a marriage license at your town hall, probate court, city/county clerk's office.

4. Four states still require a blood test: Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi and Montana (as well as Washington, DC). Did you know that the blood test is for freakin' syphilis? Apparently, this rule became standard before penicillin. Ew. And for the record, there are some states that now require that couples applying for a marital license must be offered an HIV test and/or must be provided with information on AIDS and tests available. Presently, no state requires a mandatory premarital HIV/AIDS test.

5. Some marriage licenses have a time limit. Generally, you can't go more than 30 days with an unsigned license. Check your state's rules and make sure you don't jump the gun.

6. If you or your fiance have been married before, you need to provide the divorce decree before getting a license. You don't want to have to start wearing your hair in braids with a front-style Snookie bump or one of those hideous prairie dresses.

7. After your ceremony, the officiant signs the license and sends it to whatever government authority your state requires. The city or state where you got hitched will then issue the certificate and send it to you. Voila! Proof of marriage!

8. And just for the creepy factor, here are some interesting factoids:

Close blood relatives cannot marry, although in some states, first cousins can marry (California, Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont) . Of the states that allow first cousins to marry, a few also require that one of the cousins no longer be able to conceive children (Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin). In the state of Maine, first cousins may marry if they submit to genetic counseling. Dude? Totally fucking gross. 

One must provide sufficient mental capacity (often this is determined as the ability to enter into a contract) prior to obtaining a marriage license. Personally, I challenge this provision. It is CLEAR that there are plenty of couples who DID NOT DO THIS.

Alrighty, so there you go. Make sure you check with the state you live in regarding marriage licenses, as well as with the state you'll be getting hitched in (if it's different). Laws change by the nano-second and you don't want to eff up the thing that makes it all legal and stuff. Hopefully, these nuggets of information have been helpful, if not entertaining.

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Reader Comments (8)

This is a great post, Louise. Before I was at the job I'm in now, I worked as an occupational analyst, and I was assigned a project to set up a bunch of new IT jobs within the NYS Bureau of Vital Records, housed (in NY) by the Dept. of Health. So, long before getting married I knew where to find all of the information I would need to secure a marriage license. To add, our officiant was my friend's dad, who is the city judge in my hometown, so he filled in any blanks about what we would need. (There are some states, for example, that require the officiant to say, in some fashion, that marriage is between a man and a woman. Fortunately, NY is not one of them. We were able to craft a ceremony with gender-neutral terminology.)

As an additional note, contrary to what you may have seen on the episode of The Office where Jim and Pam got married, ship captains are not authorized to marry in NYS. So if you have a destination wedding in Niagara Falls and decide last minute to elope behind your guests' back, you can't do it on the Maid of the Mist. Sorry. :)

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteririsira

@Irisira - I found similarly worded info regarding ship captains, but it was unclear on the specific states and/or WHERE they could marry you (on land versus sea), so I just left it out since I couldn't share precise info. However, I did a little further digging and found this:
"....this myth is so widely believed, not only among the general public but among sailors, that both the United States Navy and the British Mercantile Marine Office have taken the extraordinary step of explicitly forbidding captains to do free-lance weddings. Let me quote from the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 32, Subtitle A, Chapter VI, Subchapter A, Part 700, Subpart G, Rule 716, also known as 32 CFR 700.716):

"The commanding officer shall not perform a marriage ceremony on board his ship or aircraft. He shall not permit a marriage ceremony to be performed on board when the ship or aircraft is outside the territory of the United States, except: (a) In accordance with local laws ... and (b) In the presence of a diplomatic or consular official of the United States.'"

So there you go. Unless the captain is also a recognized minister or Justice of the Peace, he can't do diddly.

March 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

Here are a few additional state-specific facts for you: both Arizona and California are like Nevada in that neither requires a waiting period before you get married. In California, a license is good for up to 90 days (a fact we're taking advantage of in order to get that little chore out of the way so that there are no capital-I Important wedding tasks looming the week before the wedding).

In Tucson, you can get a license 24-hours a day, if you're willing t go to the window at the county jail to pick it up. My ex and I did this at midnight for the novelty of it. It was, in fact, kind of fun, but you don't get the big bag of fun "newlywed gifts" that you get if you go to the courthouse to pick up your license (like grocery coupons, sample toiletries and a roll of toilet paper. I kid you not).

March 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Newlywed gifts from the courthouse? I've never heard of such!

March 31, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

Indiana no longer requires a blood test. Thank goodness (my husband is so afraid of needles it may have been a deal breaker) They also have no waiting period.

April 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

@Candice: See - I checked all those states only a few days ago. I should never totally trust the internet. Thanks for the update!!

April 1, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

No blood test required in CT either. Just got married last month and we applied for the license just 4 days before the wedding. great for us last-minute do-ers. ha.

June 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaya

Hi there! Just found your post thanks to Google. For the record, Florida has a three-day waiting period.

I'm just beginning the name-change process (oh joy!), right before starting a new job. With a federal government contractor. During the partial government shutdown. Can we say FUN?!

Anyway, your post was really helpful, and especially the link to not doing the paid name change service, and additional links that took me to NameThatBride.com. That, too, was a big help.

October 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

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