DC Marriage Laws

Nestled between the states of Maryland and Virginia, the District of Columbia is definitely a unique wedding destination for couples enamoured with the political and historical significance enshrined in the nation’s capital. And though its own marriage laws are relatively straightforward and flexible, the District demands strict adherence, which is why we here at the Universal Life Church have taken the time to translate specific legal codes into the chronological steps needed to secure a marriage license and plan a wedding ceremony that will be legally binding in D.C.

Wedding Ceremony Requirements

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes
Number of Witnesses Required:
None
Min. Age of Witnesses:
Not Applicable
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

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.

Requirements for the Couple

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18 or Age 16 with Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
First Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

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.

Requirements for the Minister

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Application w/ Marriage Bureau
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
Marriage Bureau
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
Before Ceremony
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

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.

Marriage License Facts

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
None
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.

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:
$45.00
Accepted I.D. Types:
Standard Government Issued I.D.
Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
Yes
Blood Test Required:
No

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.

Final Steps

Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
Minister
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!