Each state has its own laws and statutes that dictate how legal unions are formed. If you’re getting married or planning to perform a wedding, it’s important that you know these rules and how to follow them.
Here’s the thing: marriage laws can be complicated, and the legal code involved is often dense and difficult to understand. Our Marriage Laws guide explains the legal requirements for the ceremony officiant and the wedding couple in plain language, laying out in simple terms the processes necessary to ensure a newly-formed union is legally recognized.
Use the map below to find whichever state you’re interested in and read up on the relevant rules and statutes for officiating a successful wedding ceremony there!
Understanding Marriage Licenses
No matter where the wedding is taking place, one of the most important aspects of a legal union is the marriage license. This is a legal document – filled out and signed by both the couple and the officiant – which is then submitted to a government office to make the union official.
A marriage license application document can be confusing if you’ve never seen one before. Should you find yourself scratching your head, check out our guide on how to fill out a marriage license that covers the process in detail. For couples that are soon-to-be married and are searching for a minister to officiate the ceremony, the Find a Minister resource on Get Ordained™ is a helpful tool to find a knowledgeable minister wherever you need.
IMPORTANT: Laws vary by state and county, but marriage licenses are generally only valid for a period of 30-90 days. Communicate with the couple and do your homework — the license should not be obtained too far in advance, and should be returned promptly to the correct authority after the ceremony to ensure that it doesn't expire. In many areas, this is the officiant's responsibility. While it is sometimes acceptable to mail the signed license, dropping it off in person is preferred in order to avoid any unforeseen complications.
How to Ensure a Marriage is Legally Recognized
It’s vital that you fully understand the legal requirements for officiating in your area before performing a wedding ceremony. These requirements can vary from state to state (and even from county to county), which means it’s often necessary to contact the government office that will be issuing the marriage license directly to learn how they handle the process and what they may need to see from the officiant and the couple.
You can find contact information for marriage offices across the U.S. via our guide for performing weddings. Important note: you’ll likely need to speak with the office in the jurisdiction where the wedding will take place (in case that’s different from your local office).
When you reach out, explain that you’re a minister planning to officiate a wedding and you’re curious to know what documents they’ll need to see from you. You can order a copy of your ordination credentials, a letter of good standing, and any other supplies you might need by visiting our official church catalog.