How to Get a Copy of Your Marriage License
A marriage license is a record of the union between two consenting adults. In most cases it is between two United States citizens, although there are exceptions to this rule. These exceptions generally involve both a US citizen and a non-citizen, or two non-citizens. Examples of this include cases of a US citizen marrying someone from another country, or two persons from another country being married in the US. In addition to these examples, there are other marriage ceremonies that can be performed outside of the United States, such as military weddings, or marriage abroad. As long as one of the parties is a US citizen, there will be a record of the ceremony in the United States.
Contrary to what many people believe, a marriage certificate is a state document. It is required for any marriage in the United States to be officially recognized. This means that certificates provided by religious organizations or other third party services are not acceptable to the state and are not considered a record of marriage. The only exception to this is when the marriage ceremony is performed by an individual licensed by the state to perform such ceremonies.
In general, a marriage certificate will always contain the following information, and may also contain additional details:
- The date of the marriage ceremony
- The full name of the bride and groom
- The county and state in which the marriage was recorded
Obtaining a copy of any marriage certificate will require the person requesting the information to establish proof of identification. In some states records can be immediately released, but in others it takes time.
While the person does not need to appear in person to retrieve these records, if their state supports it, they can often appear and may receive their record or a certified copy on the same day. Note, however, that same day service may not be possible in some cases, as records may not be easily accessible, or might require
accessing off site archives. These and other factors can increase the time it takes state workers to retrieve records.
Fees to retrieve marriage records are generally around $15, but can be up to $100, depending on how the records are requested, and whether the person making the request is doing it themselves or paying a third party. In all cases, cash and checks are the preferred forms of payment. Some locations will accept credit and debit card payments, but that is the exception and not the rule.
The most time efficient method to receive documents is by mail, and the process by which marriage certificates are requested and provided are relatively straightforward. When applying by mail, it is extremely important that all information is legibly and clearly printed or typewritten. Additionally, the preferred text for documents is black and white, with any signatures or additional notes appearing in blue ink. All last names should appear in caps.
These are the recommended items to include with every request to retrieve a marriage record:
- A letter detailing the request and attached documents
- Proof of identification
- The date of the request (date you are making the request)
- Full name of the husband
- Full name and wife (maiden name)
- The date of the marriage (or a range of dates if you are unsure of the exact date)
- Any other names, nick names, or aliases that may have been used
- The town and county where the wedding took place
- Proof of your relationship
- Why you are requesting the document
- Your signature
- A self-addressed stamped envelope
It is important to note that some states have additional requirements for the retrieval of documents, and that this list does not include everything required by every state. For this reason, we have provided lings to further information specific to the state or territory you will be requesting documents from. Please reference the. “Vital Records Department ” article for the information specific to your state.