There are many reasons to explore marriage license records, whether you want to research a family tree or satisfy your curiosity. You can obtain this information by filling out an online application or requesting records in person. While the process itself may not seem daunting, there are a number of different regulations that govern who has access to marriage records and who is able to legally obtain copies.
Understand your state, city or county requirements. Identify the requirements that govern records requests in your state, city or county. Many cities and states follow similar guidelines, but there are nuanced differences in the process of obtaining marriage license information. For instance, in Polk County, Iowa, you cannot confirm or explain marriage licenses over the phone, and requests must take place in person at the county’s administrative building. In New York City, however, you can submit marriage license requests online, in person or through the mail.
Identify access eligibility. Part of city and state requirements also include who can access these records. Many older records are public records, so anyone can access them. For newer documents, there may be special requirements that control access. Only authorized personnel, including attorneys participating in legal matters, as well as those authorized by the bride or groom to review the documents, can access marriage records. These requirements vary state by state, so it is important to be familiar with not only how to access marriage documents, but who can view them as well.
Gather as much information as possible. In order to find if someone has obtained a marriage license, you must hunt down as much information about the bride and groom as possible. This is important in narrowing your search for the documents. Knowing details, such as the approximate date on the marriage license, the name of the bride and groom and the city or state they were married in, are all valuable bits of information that will help make your search more productive.
Choose your method, and submit your request. Once you have familiarized yourself with the procedures that govern who can access marriage records and what steps you must take to find out if a person has applied for a marriage license, you can select which method works best in your particular circumstance. While the methods to obtain this information will vary according to location, many larger areas have online, in-person or mail options. For the fastest results, go to a city clerk's office or the branch that handles marriage licenses in your area. You can find this information on health department websites.
Wait for further directives. After bringing along all of the required information you have gathered, you will follow further directives about your ability to access the documents and options for receiving copies. In New York City, for example, there is a small fee for making copies of the marriage records.
Amanda Younger is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has had her work published in "The Chapel Hill Herald," "Time Out New York" and "Independent Weekly" among other publications. She is also a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism.