Before your wedding in the Washington, DC area is official, you’ll need to apply for and obtain a marriage license.  There are few things less exciting than red tape, but it will be worth it in the end to make your wedding in DC, Maryland and Virginia legal.

wedding-ring-photo-by-Katie-Stoops-Photography
Photo credit:  Katie Stoops Photography

Before you get started, there are a few things you need to know. Be sure to plan your ceremony accordingly because DC and Maryland have a waiting periods between the application and the issuing of the license, which means Virginia is the only place to have your Vegas-style same day wedding.  Also, after you apply in Maryland and Virginia the marriage licenses expire after a certain period of time, so you’ll need to perform your marriage ceremony before it expires.  In all locations, you must go in person to apply for your license.

Below is the specifics for how to get a marriage license in the metro DC area:

DC
Marriage licenses in the District of Columbia are issued through the DC Marriage Bureau.
Download the application and read the rules.

Fees:  $35 for the application, $10 for the license
Waiting period:  3 days

Maryland
Marriage certificates in Maryland are issued through the individual county Clerk’s Offices.  The county where your wedding ceremony takes place is the county that will issue your license.  Each county has a different procedure to apply for a license. Here is the directory to look for your county Clerk’s Office:
Directory of MD county Clerk’s Offices
Fee:  approximately $30 – $80, depending on county
Waiting period:  48 hours
Expiration:  6 months after date of issue

Virginia
Marriage licenses in Virginia are issued by individual Clerks of the Circuit Courts.  Couples can go to any circuit court in Virginia for a license and the ceremony can be performed in any part of the state.
Directory of Circuit Courts in VA
Fee:  approximately $30
Waiting period:  none
Expiration:  60 days after date of issue

Here are some final marriage license tips from DC area wedding planner, Vicky Choy owner of Event Accomplished:  “Give your license to the officiant at the rehearsal so that you don’t forget it on wedding day.  [And,] be sure to request multiple copies of your license back from the state because you’ll need them to make any name changes or beneficiary changes.”

Good luck making it legal!

*** Editor’s note: This post was updated with rates and links on May 2012.

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