Wisconsin Marriage Laws

Wisconsin, birthplace of the ice cream sundae and the Harley Davidson museum, also has some rather specific laws governing the performance of marriages. For those planning a wedding in Wisconsin, the Universal Life Church has scoured the state's marriage laws and subsequently detailed every step on the path to a legally recognized union in this state.

Wedding Ceremony Requirements

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes

All relevant parties must be physically present for the marriage ceremony. In Wisconsin, that means the couple, officiating minister and at least two ‘competent’ adult witnesses.

Not one to dictate the finer details of any wedding, the state of Wisconsin will require the couple to declare some form of official consent to marry during the ceremony, agreeing to take each other in marriage, which the officiating minister must then pronounce to the witnesses. This is normally the "I do" moment for the couple, and the "I now pronounce you..." moment for the minister.

Requirements for the Couple

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18, or Age 16 with Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required (Required During COVID)
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
Second Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

Adults wishing to marry in Wisconsin must be at least 18 years or older. Minors who are at least 16-years-old may also wed with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

The state of Wisconsin will not allow weddings between divorced couples that haven't been legally recognized as such for at least six months; nor between first cousins, unless the woman in the couple is over 55 years of age, or either party proven to be permanently sterile by way of a medical affidavit.

Although Wisconsin doesn't normally require that either member of the couple actually live in the state, it will in fact do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wisconsin, like all states, also recognizes marriage equality and therefore welcomes same-sex couples.

Requirements for the Minister

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Varies by County
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
County Clerk
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
Varies by County
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

Officiating ministers in Wisconsin must be at least 18 years of age, which works out perfectly for ULC-ordained ministers. A minister’s state of residence, gender and belief systems are of no consequence to the state.

Interested parties should first get ordained online, if they haven't already. Then they can kick-start the registration process by visiting the office of the county clerk. The documents required to get the ball rolling will vary by county.

The minister must contact the exact same office that will be issuing the marriage license to clarify what (if any) physical ministerial documentation will be required in order to perform the ceremony. We recommend ministers order the Classic Wedding Package for this exact reason. The ULC generally recommends ministers carry their ordination certificates with them throughout the marriage process.

Marriage License Facts

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
5-7 Days
License Valid For:
30 Days
License Must Be Submitted:
Within 3 Days of Ceremony

While marriage licenses obtained in Wisconsin (and in every state, really) can be solemnized in both religious and civil ceremonies, reflecting the specific wishes of the couple, ULC ministers are ordained, rendering them "religious" actors by law.

Couples looking to tie the knot in Wisconsin will be required to wait roughly 5-7 days between receiving their marriage license and performing the ceremony. Those that find themselves in a particular rush can pay an extra fee of no more than $25 to speed up the process, an amount the county clerk must deposit into the county treasury.

Marriage licenses in Wisconsin are delivered with stark written warnings about fetal alcohol syndrome and cocaine use during pregnancy. Once granted, the license is only valid for roughly a month's time, and must be submitted within 3 days of the ceremony.

Marriage License Requirements

Min. Age of Witnesses:
18 Years
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

Couples in Wisconsin will need to apply for a marriage license, in person, from a state county clerk, although the state has allowed for virtual applications during the COVID-19 pandemic. It costs $45.50, plus fees, to apply.

Under normal circumstances, marriage licenses must be picked up in person after presenting both a birth certificate and government-issued photo ID. Proof of prior divorce is required to complete this process, while proof of residency will also be required during the COVID-19 pandemic. No state will ever require that blood tests be taken to disprove consanguinity in order to secure a marriage license.

County clerks unsatisfied with the veracity of the documents provided to them are technically allowed to petition the local judge for an opinion on their sufficiency.

Final Steps

Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
Minister
Church/Ordaining Body:
Universal Life Church Ministries
Address of Church:
Minister's Home Address

A minister's job doesn't simply end once the wedding ceremony is over.

They are required to fill out the relevant section of the marriage license, mark their title as "minister" and the relevant ordaining body as "Universal Life Church Ministries," and to provide their home address if a church address is sought.

In Wisconsin, this task must be completed in unfading black ink, and then the completed marriage license needs to be submitted back to the register of deeds in the same county in which the marriage was performed no later than 3 days after the wedding.

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