Requirements for the Couple
- Min. Age of Couple:
- Age 18 or Age 17 With Guardian Consent
- Not Required
- Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
- Second Cousins
- Marriage Equality:
In Washington, only adults 18 years of age or older can legally marry. There are some exceptions, however. A 17-year-old can get married as long as they have parental consent, and younger minors can petition a court for “special circumstances” to wed. These would be determined on a case by case basis.
It doesn’t matter where either member of the couple is from, whether they be citizens of any U.S. state or even another country.
Like all U.S. states, Washington honors marriage equality so same-sex couples can wed. Unlike most other states, Washington actually enacted this policy by popular vote with R-74 in 2012.
(1) Marriages in the following cases are prohibited:
(a) When either party thereto has a spouse or registered domestic partner living at the time of such marriage, unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage; or
(b) When the spouses are nearer of kin to each other than second cousins, whether of the whole or half blood computing by the rules of the civil law.
(2) It is unlawful for any person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
(3) A marriage between two persons that is recognized as valid in another jurisdiction is valid in this state only if the marriage is not prohibited or made unlawful under subsection (1)(a) or (2) of this section.
(4) A legal union, other than a marriage, between two individuals that was validly formed in another state or jurisdiction and that provides substantially the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as a marriage, does not prohibit those same two individuals from obtaining a marriage license in Washington.
(5) No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, license, or refuse to contract with any religious organization based on the opposition to or refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.
(6) No religiously affiliated educational institution shall be required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, including a use of any campus chapel or church. A religiously affiliated educational institution shall be immune from a civil claim or cause of action, including a claim pursuant to chapter 49.60 RCW, based on its refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage under this subsection shall be immune for civil claim or cause of action, including a claim pursuant to chapter 49.60 RCW.
[2012 c 3 § 2 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); 1998 c 1 § 4; 1927 c 189 § 1; Code 1881 § 949; 1866 p 81 § 2; 1854 p 96 § 115; RRS § 8438.]
Marriage License Requirements
- Min. Age of Witnesses:
- 18 Years
- Couple's Consent Required:
- Pronouncement Required:
Members of the couple are responsible for obtaining the marriage license, as is the case across the country. Usually these are obtained from a county clerk’s office, though they can also be issued by some probate courts.
Washington is similar to most states in that a marriage license should be obtained from the same county in the state where the ceremony will be held. Ministers need to be aware of this so they advise the couple appropriately, should the wedding be in a county other than the one where the couple resides.
Typically the couple needs to pick up the license in person. Though the cost of the application varies from office to office, they will always need to present some form of official government-issued identification, and proof of divorce from a previous marriage if applicable.
No state requires blood tests from the couple in order to obtain the marriage license.
RCW 26.04.140 Marriage license.
Before any persons can be joined in marriage, they shall procure a license from a county auditor, as provided in RCW 26.04.150 through 26.04.190.
[ 1985 c 82 § 1; 1939 c 204 § 2; RRS § 8450-1. Prior: Code 1881 § 2390; 1866 p 83 § 12.]
Marriage License Facts
- ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
- Mandatory Waiting Period:
- 3 Days
- License Valid For:
- 60 Days
- License Must Be Submitted:
- By Expiration
The marriage license obtained must be good for a religious ceremony solemnized by a minister, and not just for a civil ceremony officiated by a celebrant or justice of the peace. This is the case even if none of the participants is religious, and even if no mention is made of faith or an appeal to deities during the ceremony. ULC ministers perform legally binding weddings by way of their ordination, so by definition all would be considered “religious” actors.
Please be aware that simply having completed the license application process is not a green light to go ahead and have the wedding immediately. In Washington, there is a mandatory 3-day waiting period that must be observed before proceeding with the nuptials. This means that, for example, if the application is completed on Monday, the wedding cannot be held until at least Thursday. This waiting period typically cannot be waived for any reason.
A Washington marriage license is good for 60 days after issuance, which just means the wedding must take place sometime within that roughly 2 month window. It also must be submitted back to the office that issued it before it expires.
The county auditor may issue the marriage license at the time of application, but shall issue such license no later than the third full day following the date of the application. A marriage license issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter may not be used until three days after the date of application and shall become void if the marriage is not solemnized within sixty days of the date of the issuance of the license, and the county auditor shall notify the applicant in writing of this requirement at the time of issuance of the license.
[ 1985 c 82 § 4; 1979 ex.s. c 128 § 1; 1963 c 230 § 3; 1953 c 107 § 1. Prior: 1943 c 250 § 1; 1939 c 204 § 6; Rem. Supp. 1943 § 8450-5.]
Requirements for the Minister
- Min. Age of Minister:
- Age 18
- Not Required
- Document(s) Required:
- Varies by County
- Online Ordination Recognized:
- Relevant Office of Registration:
- County Clerk
- Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
- After Ceremony
- Minister I.D. # Issued:
Ministers officiating weddings in Washington must be at least 18 years of age, which is the same age requirement to get ordained online by the Universal Life Church. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter where the minister lives, what they believe, or their gender.
The minister needs to contact the exact same office that issued the marriage license to ask if they need to provide ministerial documentation in order to perform the ceremony. The answer to that question can vary from office to office. The ULC generally recommends that ministers have their ordination certificate on-hand, though some clerks may not require any documentation. We recommend ministers order the Classic Wedding Package to have all relevant documents.
If documentation is required, it’s best to submit it with the completed marriage license after the wedding has taken place. You will not need a church-issued I.D. number to put on the license in order to complete it.
The following named officers and persons, active or retired, are hereby authorized to solemnize marriages, to wit: Justices of the supreme court, judges of the court of appeals, judges of the superior courts, supreme court commissioners, court of appeals commissioners, superior court commissioners, judges and commissioners of courts of limited jurisdiction as defined in RCW 3.02.010, judges of tribal courts from a federally recognized tribe, and any regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization. The solemnization of a marriage by a tribal court judge pursuant to authority under this section does not create tribal court jurisdiction and does not affect state court authority as otherwise provided by law to enter a judgment for purposes of any dissolution, legal separation, or other proceedings related to the marriage that is binding on the parties and entitled to full faith and credit.
[ 2019 c 52 § 2; 2017 c 130 § 1; 2012 c 3 § 4 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); 2007 c 29 § 1; 1987 c 291 § 1; 1984 c 258 § 95; 1983 c 186 § 1; 1971 c 81 § 69; 1913 c 35 § 1; 1890 p 98 § 1; 1883 p 43 § 1; Code 1881 § 2382; 1866 p 82 § 4; 1854 p 404 § 4; RRS § 8441.]
Wedding Ceremony Requirements
- Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
- Minister Required to be Present:
It’s very important that all legally relevant parties be physically present for the ceremony. This includes the officiating minister, 2 adult witnesses, and both parties of the couple, as Washington does not allow for marriage by proxy.
The contents and flow of the ceremony can be entirely customized to the couple’s wishes. However, while exact wording doesn’t matter, the couple must give some form of consent to marry and the officiating minister must pronounce them as such. This would be the familiar “I do” and “I now pronounce you…” parts of the wedding we are all rather familiar with.
In the solemnization of marriage no particular form is required, except that the parties thereto shall assent or declare in the presence of the minister, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization, or judicial officer solemnizing the same, and in the presence of at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses.
[2012 c 3 § 6 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); Code 1881 § 2383; 1866 p 82 § 5; RRS § 8443.]
- Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
- Church/Ordaining Body:
- Universal Life Church Ministries
- Address of Church:
- Minister's Home Address
Once the wedding is over, there remain a few important tasks left to ensure it is legally binding.
There is a section of the marriage license that the officiating minister must fill out. If it asks for a title, you should put “minister,” and for the name of the church or ordaining body, put “Universal Life Church Ministries.” If the license asks for the address of the minister’s church, it should be the ordained individual’s own address and not that of the ULC headquarters (it sounds odd, but that is the best option).
Make sure that the license is filled out completely – and correctly – by all the parties involved. Take care to not make any errors, as doing so could result in the couple needing to purchase a new license.
In Washington, the completed marriage license needs to be submitted back to the office where it was obtained within 60 days of issue. This is typically done by the minister, though the couple can perform the task as well. Officiants should take note that any failure to return the license that can be attributed to negligence or malice on the part of the wedding minister is considered a crime, and carries financial penalties between $25 – $300.
ULC ministers do not record or share with church headquarters any information about weddings they perform, or plan to perform. That said, it is recommended that personal records be kept, particularly if a contract was involved or any reimbursement for services rendered.
Any person solemnizing a marriage, who shall wilfully refuse or neglect to make and deliver to the county auditor for record, the certificates mentioned in RCW 26.04.090, within the time in such section specified, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall pay for such refusal, or neglect, a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than three hundred dollars.
[ 1967 c 26 § 6; 1947 c 59 § 3; 1886 p 66 § 2; Code 1881 § 2387; 1866 p 83 § 9; Rem. Supp. 1947 § 8447.]