Getting Your Virginia Marriage License + Other Legalities

First off, what is a marriage license?

A marriage license is a document obtained by the couple before the marriage. Then, after the license is signed at your wedding and the officiant returns it to the county clerk, a marriage certificate is issued. So basically, a marriage license is the application to be married and the marriage certificate is the document that proves that the union is legally official.

When should we go get our marriage license?

About a month and a half before your wedding date, choose a day for both of you to head to the Clerk’s Office to apply for and pick up your marriage license. In Virginia, after a marriage license is issued by the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, you have 60 days to use it before it will expire. If you don’t use it in that time, you’ll have to reapply and pay the fee again.

What do I need to get a marriage license in Virginia?

Firstly- grab your partner (+ spin them round and round). You’ll need them because both parties must be present to obtain the marriage license.

  • You’ll both need to be at least 18 years old, or an emancipated minor with a certified copy of emancipation order. 
  • The two of you will have to present a valid photo ID. Some offices take different types of identifications – most accept valid US driver’s licenses, passports, and military IDs.
  • You’ll need the full names of each applicant’s parents as they appear on your birth certificates and your mothers’ maiden names.
  • You should also be prepared with your social security number or a DMV license number.

Your marriage license must be obtained in the state you are getting married in. Your Virginia marriage license will be valid in any county you choose to get married in- not just the one you got the license from. There are no blood tests required. You don’t have to be a resident of Virginia. Out- of- state residents can apply at any Clerk’s Office throughout the state. And, in Virginia, there is no waiting period to get remarried after a finalized divorce. But, a copy of a divorce decree is required for some Clerk’s Offices.

How much does the marriage license cost?

It costs $30 (+ a credit card fee) and most Circuit Court Clerk’s Offices accept cash, or credit card. Some offices also take checks and others will not accept all types of credit cards so check the policies of your particular Clerk’s Office before you go. 

How long does it take?

The whole marriage licence application process can take as little as 20 minutes! But plan a little extra to park and to take your time filling out the forms. Some Circuit Court Clerk’s Offices even have the application online for you to fill out ahead of time to make this process even faster.

Does Virginia have a waiting period between getting a marriage license and having the ceremony?

Nope! No waiting necessary. This is super convenient because that means that if you’re flying or driving in from out of state to get married, you don’t have to wait to tie the knot. You could arrive, head straight to the nearest Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to pick up your marriage license and elope that same day! In comparison, Wisconsin has the longest wait time, with 6 days – so Virginia really makes it easy in this regard. 

Specific Circuit Court Clerk’s Office contact info

If your city isn’t on this list, just google “YOUR CITY marriage license” for more information.

This is the outside corridor of the City of Norfolk Courthouse- a popular place for couples to take their photos post-wedding.

Who can officiate a wedding in Virginia?

Virginia is one of the states with the most strict license requirements for officiants. Online ordinations (eg. the Universal Life Church) are not accepted. But you have a few options:

A qualified minister of any denomination, any judge, or anyone appointed by the court.

When hiring an officiant, double check to make sure that they are truly licensed or appointed by the courts.

A marriage commissioner at the courthouse

Be advised that some county courts do not provide “Justice of the Peace” services or have marriage commissioners on site. Or if they do, they will charge a fee up to $75 and you may need an appointment. You’ll want to call ahead or check the website of your local Clerk’s Office. Also keep in mind that some courthouses will not allow photos inside the building, so if capturing that moment is important to you, ask the commissioner if they can step outside

A friend or family member

Even though Virginia does not accept online ordinations, there are three ways you can still have a friend or family member perform your ceremony. It just requires a little planning.

  1. Have the friend or family member get one time civil celebrant authorization. The applicant must be a resident of the city in which they apply and post a $500 bond that will be returned after the signed marriage license is returned to the Clerk’s Office. There is an additional filing fee that can range from $50 to $150 depending on the city. This process is quite involved and I recommend googling “one time civil celebrant YOUR CITY, Virginia” for more specifics.
  2. Have a commissioner marry you at the courthouse legally, then have have a family or friend preside over the ceremony when you say your vows and exchange rings on the day of your celebration.
  3. Find an officiant that offers a quick “marriage license signing” package. Here’s how it works- you’ll meet up with a celebrant who will confirm your identity and that you two want to be married. You’ll all sign the paperwork and then the officiant will send it back to the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office to make it official. This type of package usually costs less than the price of full officiant services. This is the option I most recommend because it’s both more cost effective and takes less time than going to court.

Do we need witnesses?

Virginia does not require a witness to get married. Just you, your partner, and your officiant (+ a photographer to capture the moment *wink*).

If I’m eloping, what are my options logistically and legally?

  1. Elope with an officiant or your friend presiding over the ceremony wherever you choose.
  2. Sign your marriage license with an officiant, or get married by a marriage commissioner at the courthouse, then go somewhere later or on a separate day to say your vows and celebrate. 

This second option is more commonly used when you want to have the experience of getting married and saying your vows out of the state or the country. Marriage licenses are not transferable from state to state. So sometimes, it can be logistically easier to get legally married before your wedding ceremony if you’re worried that your marriage won’t be recognized as legal in another country or if you want to elope in another state without having to deal with that state’s marriage license waiting period.

Weddings abroad and out of state are subject to the legalities and requirements of the locality where the wedding is being performed. For example if you want to elope in the state of Washington, when you arrive in the state, you’d have to apply for your marriage license in Washington and then wait three days before you could be married. But if you didn’t want to have to wait you could legally get married at the courthouse or by an officiant in Virginia before you left.

I also recommend this option if you want complete privacy or would prefer to celebrate the day by yourselves without an officiant. 

AND REMEMBER: You can celebrate your wedding anniversary on either the day you sign your license and get married in the eyes of the court or the special day that you plan and say your vows (or both!).

Do I need any extra permits to get married in VA?

It depends. But probably- Check out this blog post about permits for more information.

How do I legally change my name after getting married?

Once you’ve said your vows and signed your marriage license, your officiant will return the signed marriage license to the Circuit County Clerk’s Office. After that, you’ll be able to contact the Clerk’s Office to request your certified copy of the marriage license (also known as the marriage certificate). For most offices you can do this either in person or by mail. Each copy costs less than $3. I recommend getting a few of these because you’ll need these to prove you are legally married to your spouse in order to change your name for many agencies.

Keep in mind, if you aren’t taking the name of your spouse and would like to hyphenate your names instead or make your maiden name your middle name, you’ll have an additional step. After you get your certified marriage license, you’ll need to apply for a change of name by filing a petition with your Circuit County Clerk’s Office.

Here are a few places you’ll want to let know of your name change:

  • Social Security Administration- new social security card
  • DMV- New driver’s license + changing name on title/registration
  • Voter registration
  • U.S Department of State- New passport
  • TSA precheck if you have it
  • Your banks- Name change on accounts, credit cards, insurance policies etc.
  • Your insurance- car, life, home, medical, etc.
  • Your employer- you can still go by your old last name professionally if you’d like, but it’s good to let them know for the sake of payroll
  • The Post Office- with USPS it is treated as a change of address
  • Your or your children’s schools
  • Automatic payments- now that the information from your bank has changed, you should update your information for anywhere that takes automatic payments. Think about any recurring payments you might have like utilities or other subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify, Apple, etc).
  • Doctor’s office
  • Your landlord- lease agreement
  • Airlines + rental car companies- to transfer over any miles or points you may have

This legal stuff is important but if you are ever feeling overwhelmed by all your planning, take a deep breath and remember the reason you are doing this- you’re going to get to spend the rest of your life with your best friend! And the wedding day you’re creating is going to be the perfect celebration for that occasion!

My goal is to help make the wedding planning process easy, so that when the day comes, you won’t be worried about anything else and can just focus on enjoying the moment with your partner. I’d love to help you plan your dream elopement!

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  1. Hi,
    This may be a dumb question, but both parties getting married and the officiant sign and complete the marriage license AFTER the wedding ceremony, right (assuming the wedding includes a traditional vow exchange)? This cannot be done in advance, can it? I’m a bit confused on when the marriage license itself can be signed and completed before it can be returned to the county clerk.

    1. Hi! Not dumb at all- I believe that in VA, actually just the officiant fills out and signs the license and not actually the couple (but not 100% positive). But the license signing CAN be done before the ceremony, it does not have to be after.

  2. Question;
    I‘ve already had my marriage license in D.C. but would like to hold my ceremony in VA, I just want to do a pure ceremony without signing a new VA marriage license (as that would mean I have two marriage licenses which I do not like), but the minister we found says we need to have a VA marriage license ready…problem is we do not ask for officiation but just ceremony host, is that possible or doable in VA?


    1. You don’t need a Virginia marriage license if you have a D.C marriage license AND have legally had your ceremony in D.C. before your Virginia ceremony. So you can do a quick “I Do,” like at the courthouse in D.C, and then have your ceremony in Virginia without a marriage license it will just be symbolic. But if you don’t want to have a legal ceremony in DC before your ceremony in Virginia, you will need to get a Virginia marriage license. I hope that makes sense.