Wedding Ceremony Requirements
- Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
- Minister Required to be Present:
- Number of Witnesses Required:
- Min. Age of Witnesses:
- Not Applicable
- Couple's Consent Required:
- Pronouncement Required:
DC law strictly forbids the territory from interfering with the specific theological doctrines and beliefs of any religious faith, a fact that extends to weddings.
Couples and ministers therefore retain full control over the manner in which their wedding ceremonies take place. That being said, the District of Columbia does require that both members of the couple be physically present for the ceremony, that each at some point formally declare their intention to take the other as husband or wife, and that the minister declare the couple married, even though no witnesses are required.
§ 46–412. Form of license; return; coupons. Licenses to perform the marriage ceremony shall be addressed to some particular minister, magistrate, or other person authorized by § 46-406 to perform or witness the marriage ceremony and shall be in the following form: Number .......... To ...................., authorized to celebrate (or witness) marriages in the District of Columbia, greeting: You are hereby authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage between ...................., of .........., and ...................., of .........., and having done so, you are commanded to make return of the same to the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia within 10 days under a penalty of $50 for default therein. Witness my hand and seal of said Court this .......... day of , anno Domini ........... Clerk. By Assistant Clerk. Said return shall be made in person or by mail on a coupon issued with said license and bearing a corresponding number therewith within 10 days from the time of said marriage, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I, ...................., who have been duly authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage in the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that, by authority of a license of corresponding number herewith, I solemnized (or witnessed) the marriage of .................... and ....................., named therein, on the .......... day of .........., at .........., in said District.
Requirements for the Couple
- Min. Age of Couple:
- Age 18 or Age 16 with Guardian Consent
- Not Required
- Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
- First Cousins
- Marriage Equality:
Only persons aged 18 years and older can legally consent to a marriage in the District of Columbia. Minors aged 16 and 17 will require the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, and there’s technically no minimum age restrictions for any couple possessing both guardian consent and a judge’s approval to marry.
The state clearly defines marriage as the union of any two persons regardless of gender, provided they are not any closer in blood than first cousins or still locked in a previous marriage that has not been terminated through either death or divorce.
§ 46–401. Equal access to marriage.
(a) Marriage is the legally recognized union of 2 persons. Any person may enter into a marriage in the District of Columbia with another person, regardless of gender, unless the marriage is expressly prohibited by § 46-401.01 or § 46-403.
(b) Where necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, gender-specific terms shall be construed to be gender neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil law.
§ 46–401.01. Marriages void ab initio —
In general. The following marriages are prohibited in the District of Columbia and shall be absolutely void ab initio, without being so decreed, and their nullity may be shown in any collateral proceedings, namely:
(2A) The marriage of a person with a person’s grandparent, grandparent’s spouse, spouse’s grandparent, parent’s sibling, parent, step-parent, spouse’s parent, child, spouse’s child, child’s spouse, sibling, child’s child, child’s child’s spouse, spouse’s child’s child, sibling’s child.
(3) The marriage of any persons either of whom has been previously married and whose previous marriage has not been terminated by death or a decree of divorce.
§ 46–411. Consent of parent or guardian. If any person intending to marry and seeking a license therefor shall be under 18 years of age, and shall not have been previously married, the said Clerk shall not issue such license unless a parent, or, if there be neither father nor mother, the guardian, if there be such, shall consent to such proposed marriage, either personally to the Clerk, or by an instrument in writing attested by a witness and proved to the satisfaction of the Clerk.
Requirements for the Minister
- Min. Age of Minister:
- Age 18
- Not Required
- Document(s) Required:
- Application w/ Marriage Bureau
- Online Ordination Recognized:
- Relevant Office of Registration:
- Marriage Bureau
- Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
- Before Ceremony
- Minister I.D. # Issued:
The District of Columbia recognizes a wide range of civil and religious celebrants, societies and even temporary officiants capable of solemnizing a marriage on its soil.
This includes current or retired judges of any court, clerks and even the mayor of D.C., any minister, priest, rabbi or authorized member of a religious denomination, and all religious societies without recognized leaders, provided they are at least 18 years old, that they file an application with the Marriage Bureau prior to the ceremony and pay the $35 application fee. The registration fee for any temporary officiant, meanwhile, shall not exceed $25. No religious official or society shall be required to officiate any wedding contradicting its beliefs, or be civilly liable for doing so.
Please note that ministers ordained online by the Universal Life Church will be legally recognized as religious actors, regardless of their own gender and religious beliefs, in the District of Columbia once their application is filed with the Marriage Bureau. ULC ministers in D.C. have told us that the Ordination Package, available on our website, is a nice complement to their online ordination.
§ 46–406. Persons authorized to celebrate marriages.
(a) For the purposes of this section, the term:
(1) “Civil celebrant” means a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies.
(2) “Religious” includes or pertains to a belief in a theological doctrine, a belief in and worship of a divine ruling power, a recognition of a supernatural power controlling man’s destiny, or a devotion to some principle, strict fidelity or faithfulness, conscientiousness, pious affection, or attachment.
(3) “Society” means a voluntary association of individuals for religious purposes.
(4) “Temporary officiant” means a person authorized by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Court”) to solemnize a specific marriage. The person’s authority to solemnize that marriage shall expire upon the filing of the marriage license, pursuant to § 46-412.
(b) For the purpose of preserving the evidence of marriages in the District of Columbia, a marriage authorized under this chapter may be solemnized by the following persons at least 18 years of age at the time of the marriage:
(1) A judge or retired judge of any court of record;
(2) The Clerk of the Court or such deputy clerks of the Court as may, in writing, be designated by the Clerk and approved by the Chief Judge of the Court;
(3) A minister, priest, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination or society;
(4) For any religious society which does not by its own custom require the intervention of a minister for the celebration of marriages, a marriage may be solemnized in the manner prescribed and practiced in that religious society, with the license issued to, and returns to be made by, a person appointed by the religious society for that purpose;
(5) A civil celebrant;
(6) A temporary officiant;
(7) Members of the Council;
(8) The Mayor of the District of Columbia; or
(9) The parties to the marriage. (b-1) All persons authorized by subsection (b) of this section to solemnize marriages shall comply with the requirements of § 46-412.
(b-2) The Court shall charge a reasonable registration fee for authorization to solemnize marriages; provided, that the registration fee for a temporary officiant shall not exceed $25.
(c) No priest, imam, rabbi, minister, or other official of any religious society who is authorized to solemnize or celebrate marriages shall be required to solemnize or celebrate any marriage.
(d) Each religious society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that particular religious society’s faith.
(e)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious society, or a nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats, that is in violation of the religious society’s beliefs.
(2) A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in a District action to penalize or withhold benefits from the religious society or nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society.
Marriage License Facts
- ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
- Mandatory Waiting Period:
- License Valid For:
- Does Not Expire
- License Must Be Submitted:
- Within 10 Days of the Ceremony
Marriage licenses issued in the District of Columbia are immediately valid. They also do not expire, providing couples complete flexibility as to the precise location and timing of their wedding ceremony. DC does require that the authorized marriage officiant return the completed marriage certificate and license to the same clerk’s office where it was issued within 10 days of the ceremony.
Licenses to perform the marriage ceremony shall be addressed to some particular minister, magistrate, or other person authorized by § 46-406 to perform or witness the marriage ceremony and shall be in the following form: Number .......... To ...................., authorized to celebrate (or witness) marriages in the District of Columbia, greeting: You are hereby authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage between ...................., of .........., and ...................., of .........., and having done so, you are commanded to make return of the same to the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia within 10 days under a penalty of $50 for default therein. Witness my hand and seal of said Court this .......... day of , anno Domini ........... Clerk. By Assistant Clerk. Said return shall be made in person or by mail on a coupon issued with said license and bearing a corresponding number therewith within 10 days from the time of said marriage, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I, ...................., who have been duly authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage in the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that, by authority of a license of corresponding number herewith, I solemnized (or witnessed) the marriage of .................... and ....................., named therein, on the .......... day of .........., at .........., in said District. A 2nd coupon, of corresponding number with the license, shall be attached to and issued with said license, to be given to the contracting parties by the minister or other person to whom such license was addressed, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I hereby certify that on this ....... day of .........., at .........., .................... and .................... were by (or before) me united in marriage in accordance with the license issued by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Name ...................., Residence
Marriage License Requirements
- Who Picks Up License:
- The Couple
- Where License is Valid:
- Anywhere in D.C.
- Marriage License Pick-Up:
- In Person
- Cost of License:
- Accepted I.D. Types:
- Standard Government Issued I.D.
- Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
- Blood Test Required:
Normally, couples seeking a marriage license in the District of Columbia would physically present themselves before a clerk in order to fill out the necessary application, provide their full names and ages, the names of parents or guardians if applicable, list previous marriages and divulge the degree of any blood relations between them – all which would have to be sworn to on risk of perjury.
All applications are now virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, until further notice.
While it costs $45 to apply for said license, this fee will be waived if the applicant presents an original DC Domestic Partnership Certificate during the application process.
§ 46–410. Issuance of license — Duty of Clerk; false swearing by applicant deemed perjury. It shall be the duty of the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia before issuing any license to solemnize a marriage to examine any applicant for said license under oath and to ascertain the names and ages of the parties desiring to marry, and if they are under age the names of their parents or guardians, whether they were previously married, whether they are related or not, and if so, in what degree, which facts shall appear on the face of the application, of which the Clerk shall provide a printed form, and any false swearing in regard to such matters shall be deemed perjury.
- Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
- Church/Ordaining Body:
- Universal Life Church Ministries
- Address of Church:
- Minister's Home Address
Once the ceremony is over, it is the job of the authorized officiant in question to fill out all the relevant information required on both copies of the marriage certificate, including the names of the couple, the date and place of the ceremony, as well as their own name. They must return one copy to the couple and the other to the issuing clerk of record within 10 days of the completed ceremony.
Failure to return the completed license and certificate will result in a $50 fine.
Finally, enjoy helping two people celebrate their love, and have a great wedding!
§ 46–413. Failure to make return. Any minister or other person, having solemnized or witnessed the rites of marriage under the authority of a license issued as aforesaid, who shall fail to make return as therein required, shall be liable to a penalty of $50 upon conviction of said failure upon information in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.