Marriage License*This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.
Civil engagements in a courtroom differ greatly from criminal engagements. There are some civil responsibilities that all American citizens must undertake at some point in their lives. While not every citizen will need a marriage license, many will – and many don’t know what a marriage license is until the time comes for them to get one.
Language and legality take on new meanings in a courtroom setting. If you’re preparing to get married, you’ll need to know what your state’s expectations regarding a marriage license are, what the waiting period is like and more.
If a marriage license appears during a public records check, you’ll also need to know what your subject had to go through to retrieve that license. Make sure you take the context of its use into account so as to thoroughly understand the data with which you’ve been presented.
What is a Marriage License?
A marriage license allows two individuals to get married. You need a marriage license to get married in all 50 states, and each state has its own requirements you must fulfill to receive your license.
While these licenses aren’t the most romantic wedding accessory, they help your state and federal government stay on top of your relationship status. With this additional information, both bodies can better ensure that you’re paying your taxes correctly and that, should you choose to legally change your last name, there is a record of you doing so.
What Does Getting a Marriage License Require?
Each state requires different things for two people to receive a marriage license. Montana, for example, requires its female applicants to have a blood test before they’re given their marriage licenses. Why? Because Montana has yet to abolish the marriage license requirement that demands each couple be checked for immunity to rubella, or German measles. However, both parties getting married can sign an informed consent form to waive the need for a blood test.
It’s also worth noting that Montana is the only state in which this kind of test is considered necessary. Other states may require you to bring your Social Security card, driver’s license, birth certificate, and so on to the courthouse to legally receive your license.
Will Getting a Marriage License Cost Anything?
Yes. Each state has a different amount that it charges couples for their marriage licenses. However, you can often reduce the cost of your license by taking a marriage preparation class.
Do You Need to Take Marriage Preparation Classes to Receive a Marriage License?
No. However, some states will offer couples discounts off of their marriage licensing fees if the couple agrees to go to a premarital preparation program. These courses teach couples how to communicate with each other and how to solve complicated conflicts.
Why Do I Have To Wait to Get Married After Getting a Marriage License?
Each state also requires its recently-licensed couples to wait a set amount of time after receiving their license before getting married. Why? Because most states want their couples to think about the commitment they’re making to each other. While you can have a shotgun wedding in some states (like Nevada, which has no waiting period), these waiting periods are in place to lower divorce rates in the future.
Waiting periods for different states break down as follows:
- 1 day – Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, New York, South Carolina
- 2 days – Maryland
- 3 days – Alaska, D.C., Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington
- 5 days – Wisconsin
Will My Marriage License Expire?
Yes. Each state also has a set expiration date for its marriage licenses if you don’t actually get married within a certain period of time after obtaining the license. These expiration dates are:
- 10 days – Oklahoma
- 20 days – South Dakota
- 30 days – Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin
- 33 days – Michigan
- 35 days – Colorado
- 60 days – Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia
- 65 days – Connecticut
- 90 days – Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Texas
- 6 months – Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey
- 1 year – Arizona, Nebraska, Nevada, Wyoming
- No expiration – D.C., Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Carolina
(Please note that these waiting period and expiration dates are current as of October 2019. They are subject to change.)
What Does It Mean If a Marriage License Appears in a Public Records Report?
If you’re reading a PeopleFinders public records report and you note that your subject has a marriage license or received a marriage license in the past, the explanation for doing so is fairly straightforward. Applying and paying for a marriage license only indicates that an individual was interested in getting married at some point in the past. You should be able to tell if they went through with that marriage or not based on additional information in their report, so make sure to read carefully.
Currently, the availability of marriage license info to the public is fairly limited. For more information on the states and date ranges of available marriage information, go to our Marriage Records page.