Gone are the days of waiting in long lines at the county clerk's office to apply for a marriage license. With the rise of online services, applying for a marriage license can now be done from the comfort of your own home. In fact, many states now offer online marriage license applications, making the process faster, more convenient, and more accessible than ever before. However, the thought of applying for a marriage license online can be intimidating, especially if you're not familiar with the process.

A guide on how to apply for an online marriage license

In this article, we'll guide you through everything you need to know to apply for an online marriage license, including which documents you'll need to provide, and how to navigate the online application process. Read on to learn how to apply for an online marriage license and make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Girl with laptop applying for online marriage license

Find out the marriage license requirements for your state

As with in-person weddings, the process of obtaining a marriage license varies from state to state. Some require that you and your partner get tested for certain communicable diseases before applying, while others don't. Some states allow couples who are not local to apply at an office other than where they plan on holding their ceremony, while others don't.

Check with the county clerk's office to find out if your state permits an online application

The next step is to make sure you're legal. In most states, applying for a marriage license can be done online. Better yet, in some cases it can be completed without making an appointment. (In Alaska and Indiana, for example, you have the option of going to the county clerk's office in person or filling out an online application.) You'll need your full names, birthdates and places of birth

A few states require an appointment to apply for a marriage license: Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut are among these. In these states, you are also required to have at least one witness present at the wedding ceremony.

Gather the required documents

Once you've set the date, there are a few crucial items that you'll need to gather before getting started. While the exact procedure will vary depending on your state, most states will require:

  • A valid photo ID (passport, driver's license)
  • Social Security Number (if applicable)
  • If previously married, you must provide a copy of your divorce decree/annulment decree or death certificate (if applicable).

Decide on a marriage ceremony date and location

Choosing when and where you're going to tie the knot is probably the biggest factor in determining how much you'll spend on your wedding ceremony. And, if you're doing it virtually, it's also one of the most fun parts!

You can choose a location that means something to you as a couple or make sure everyone feels included by having certain family members officiate from their homes. You'll want to keep in mind the length of time your ceremony will take place and whether it will be hosted indoors or outdoors. If possible, opt for an outdoor ceremony; this way, even if someone in your home forgets to mute themselves during the ceremony no one will be able to hear them over the open air. Additionally, sunshine and flowers make for beautiful photos! If you do decide on an outdoor venue, though, consider whether it might rain or snow that day and plan accordingly. In addition to looking at weather forecasts, make sure there's enough light out so that guests are able to see what's going on around them.

Prepare to pay the state fee

Prepare to pay the state fee. If you live in New York, that’s $40. In California, it’s $35. In Texas, it’s $71. They can be paid by cash, check or credit card—and some states have a 72-hour waiting period for newlyweds and waive the fee if you take a premarital counseling course (but since we don’t believe in those, I would say just pay the money).

Fill out the application online if possible

  • Fill out the application online if possible. This will save you time and money, as you will only need to visit the clerk’s office in person to pick up the license once it is ready.
  • You will have to pay the fee online. The fee to get a marriage license varies from state to state. For example, in California it is $98, but in Arizona it is $83. It must be paid with a credit card or debit card with a Visa or MasterCard logo that can be processed online.
  • You will have to submit documents online, such as birth certificates and proof of residency (sometimes). In order for your application for a marriage license to be successfully submitted, you must upload any required documentation, like birth certificates and proof of residency (if necessary) during your online application process (or present these documents at the clerk’s office when applying in person). Some states require you show proof of being divorced if applicable, so keep that in mind too!
  • If you cannot apply online, you must apply in person by visiting your local county clerk's office or other designated location during business hours on weekdays only (not weekends). The process takes about 10 minutes per person—so don't forget about those rings!

Make an in-person appointment to apply for your license if you can't apply online

To apply for a marriage license, you’ll need to make an appointment with the county clerk’s office. This can be done online with some counties, but if it isn't possible, then you will need to call them up. Select a date and time that works for you—just make sure it falls within their office hours! Additionally, due to the coronavirus pandemic, many offices have restrictions in place that could affect your appointment. For example, most are requesting only one person go into the office for their appointment and are not allowing anyone under 18 years old inside.

Once you've secured your spot at the county clerk's office, make sure you gather any documentation they might require before leaving home:

  • The fee (usually around $30)
  • A witness who is at least 18 years old

Pay the fee and submit your application in person or, if available, online

You need to start by applying for a marriage license. The fee is usually around $25, but this varies by state. For example, in Washington, the fee is $67, while in New Mexico it's only $25 (and additional counties may have their own fees). You can apply online or in person with your partner at a county office. If you're planning an elopement-style wedding with just yourself and your partner present, then you can apply online and complete the process virtually or in person at your local court house.

Now that all the formalities are done, it's time to plan your wedding!

Now that you've gotten all the legal details out of the way, it's time to start planning your celebration.

  • Make a list of all the people you want to invite to your wedding. You can send out a formal invitation via e-mail or text message (since this is going to be a Zoom wedding). You might want to consider making separate guest lists for groups of people who are close friends and family, and those who are acquaintances; this will help determine how long you should make your wedding ceremony, since guests may drop off as the ceremony goes on if they're not friends with you or family members.
  • Find a wedding officiant, which could be anyone from a friend or family member with appropriate training (perhaps someone who's already worked in ministry) to an official ordained minister. If you're having trouble finding clergy for your Zoom wedding, there are plenty of online resources where people can get ordained as ministers or officiants. A web search will turn up many options for getting married over Zoom!

Researching how to apply for a marriage license ahead of time can help make things smoother

  • Applying for a marriage license is something you can do ahead of time, so if you're feeling extra prepared and are planning out your wedding in advance, this would be a good step to take.
  • If you live in a state where licenses can be applied for online, that's likely the way to go. This will make the process quick and easy—you won't have to leave your home or even put on pants! Most states will require you to scan and upload documents such as birth certificates or divorce decrees with your application, but don't worry—the website will tell you exactly what's required when it's time for you to submit your application.
  • You'll also need to pay a fee when submitting your application. The amount varies by state, but they are usually around $15-30 USD per person.
  • Each state also has different wait times after submitting the application before licenses can be issued (although many states allow them to be issued right away). You'll want to keep this in mind—there is often no rush once you've submitted the application and paid the fee, so waiting until closer to the date of your wedding may help ensure that you don't accidentally receive the license before it's needed.

The better option? Skip the courthouse entirely!

Apply for a US marriage license 100% online, and get legally married within 24 hours by one of our ordained officiants—only on Courtly!

Let us handle the paperwork.

Getting married is complicated. Courtly simplifies the process and provides everything necessary to get married online, including providing a licensed officiant who can perform a remote ceremony.

Get Married