How to Register for a Marriage in the USA

by Teo Spengler

It is important to register for a marriage with the local government prior to the wedding ceremony.

marriage image by Mykola Velychko from Fotolia.com

In countries like England, India and Australia, couples "register" for a marriage. In the United States, the process of signing up at city hall to get married is usually called applying for a marriage license. Each jurisdiction has its own rules, procedures and fees, but most require the same type of information such as names, dates and places of birth and marital status.

Marriage Registration in USA

In the United States, you need to apply for a marriage license before you tie the knot. In many states, you apply for a license at the county level, and the rules, procedures and fees vary between counties. In some states, you apply at a county or city level.

The application is often available online from the arm of the government responsible. For example, in states like Washington and California, you go to the website or the office of the county assessor to get a "road map" for the application process. You can sometimes find fillable forms on the website and, more often, forms you can download and print.

The forms always ask for the full names, home addresses, dates of birth and places of birth of the two people getting married. They often ask for marital status and sometimes for parent names and additional birth information. Some states ask for your Social Security number. You might have to provide the details of the ending of prior marriages.

Applying for the License

In some states, you and your spouse-to-be can each sign the application before a notary and mail it in, but in other states you must actually appear, both of you, and sign the application before an official at the office. You must prove your identity and date of birth. A driver's license or passport takes care of this. You might be asked to provide a certified copy of a divorce decree or a certificate of death if one of you had a prior marriage that ended in divorce or the death of the spouse. Some jurisdictions require you to produce a Social Security card.

It's usually wise to call in and make an appointment to apply for the license. This is mandatory in some areas, like if you are applying for a license in San Diego. Usually you apply for a license in the area where you want to be married, not the place you live, if they are different.

You generally do not need a blood test or a witness. However, a few states do require a witness when you come in to apply for a license.

Fees vary from under $20 to over $50. Some states, like Indiana, charge over three times as much if you are not a resident of the state. Others have one fee for all applicants. Some licenses require a three-day waiting period before you can use them. Others can be used immediately when you get them.

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About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Spengler splits her time between French Basque Country and California.