After months of planning your wedding you are ready to walk down the aisle. Your vendors are all secured, your design plan is amazing, and your planner has the timeline and logistics on lock. Then is dawns on you, how do we actually get married? What makes this a legal arrangement. Well, the answer is not that simple.
Depending on the state you live in, the laws can very greatly. I can’t speak on other states, but I do know how to make it official in Virginia, DC, and Maryland. Although you can’t technically get married until you are closer to your date, you do need to be aware of the laws in the state you are getting married in. Officiants book up quickly, and if you haven’t budgeted for hiring a professional, it may come as a surprise a few weeks prior to your big day.
You must obtain your license in the state in which you are getting married in. You can’t get married in one state, if you have filed your marriage license in another. This is something to keep in mind if you are traveling, or planning on coming into town the weekend of your wedding. You will need to make the proper accommodations to be in town with enough time to get your license. Please adjust for holidays, early court office closings, travel delays, etc.
Getting Married in Virginia:
- A marriage license in Virginia is issued by the Clerk or a Deputy Clerk of a Circuit Court in any county or city in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- If you are planning on filing in Northern Virginia you can apply on-line at the following Northern Virginia county court clerk’s offices: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William Counties. Both parties will still need to be present when they are picking up their license.
- The ceremony may be performed anywhere within the state.
- You do not have to be a previous or current resident of Virginia to obtain a marriage license. After all, Virginia is for Lovers.
- No proxy marriages are allowed in Virginia. Both parties must be present.
- You will both need to provide government issued identification, social security number, full birth names of each of your parents including middle names and the application fee of $30.00. In some counties this fee is payable only by cash so make sure you call ahead.
- Your license will be issued immediately and there is no waiting period following issuance. However, the marriage must be performed within 60 days or the license will expire.
- If this is an encore marriage, you must provide date of your divorce or the date of your spouse’s death. Bring a certified copy of the divorce decree or death certificate.
- If you are under the age of 18, but older than 16, you must have a parent or legal guardian with you. You are not allowed to get married before the age of 16 in the state of Virginia.
Who can Marry You:
This comes as a surprise to many couples when we start talking about who can legally marry them. Many people wish to have their family member, colleague, friend, etc. marry them. Virginia requires all officiants be licensed by a Virginia court to perform weddings. Virginia does not accept online ordinations. I feel like this needs to be repeated. Virginia does not accept online ordinations.
If you don’t have a friend who is appointed by the state, here is who can make it official.
- A minister of any religious denomination who is authorized by a circuit court to celebrate the rites of matrimony. To obtain such authorization, the minister must produce proof of his ordination and regular communion with the religious society of which he is a reputed member. If you are expecting your childhood pastor to marry you, make sure they are still in good standing with the state.
- The court in each city and county has appointed persons who are eligible to perform civil marriage ceremonies. These may be any judge or justice of a court of record, any judge of a district court, any retired judge or justice of the Commonwealth, and any active, senior, or retired federal judge or justice who is a resident of the Commonwealth.
If your friend or family member would like to become authorized by the courts they will have to petition the court system and pay the administration fees. Any circuit court judge may issue an order authorizing this person resident in the circuit in which the judge sits. The rights of this authorization can be rescinded at any time. No oath is required, and this person will not be considered an officer of the Commonwealth. It is not an easy process to go through and each court system works on their own timelines. If you are truly serious about having someone authorized, please contact your local court system asap.
Fees for Celebrating Marriages:
The law states that: Any person authorized under to celebrate the rites of marriage shall be permitted to charge the parties a fee for the ceremony not to exceed $50 for each ceremony.
However, the officiant is able to charge for their time, travel, and their ceremony scripts. Each officiant varies in their services so it would be a good idea to talk with them before booking. It is unlikely they will only charge the $50.
Some Work Arounds:
1. A friend or family member can file for a one-time civil officiant license but they must live in the county where the wedding is being held. This is not 100% guaranteed but you will have a better chance if your friend is local and only asking for a one time pass.
2. You can go to the court house and be legally married. The issue with this is the date you are technically married on may not align with your wedding day as very few courthouses are open on the weekends.
3. Find an officiant who offer “license signings.” This is when the court authorized officiant arrives on site, prior to or after the ceremony, and signs the license. The officiant will confirm your identity, that you do in fact consent to marriage, sign the paperwork, and mail in the license into the clerks office.
This is a really great option as you are legally married, you had the personalization of your friend or family member actually standing up and conducting your ceremony, and your dates match.
For more information please contact your local County Circuit Court
As always, I would love to chat.