Every marriage in the United States is officially recorded in the city or county where the ceremony takes place. Once the wedding has taken place and the required paperwork is submitted, the couple will receive their certified marriage license. These records are maintained by both the state and local governmental offices, but not by the federal government. They are considered public records, which means they are available to view if you know where to look.
It is recommended to keep your original marriage license, as well as a copy of your marriage license in your permanent files. However, things happen, and sometimes records become lost or damaged. You may want to replace your marriage record simply for sentimental reasons, or you may need your marriage records for other reasons, including:
In many of these cases, especially when dealing with governmental agencies, you will need a certified copy of your marriage record versus just a standard copy.
There are also reasons why you may want to look for someone else’s marriage records, such as:
Marriage records and all the information within them are public domain and therefore available to anyone for any reason. However, not everyone has access to certified copies of the marriage record. You must be one of the spouses listed on the marriage record, an immediate family member (such as parent or child) of one of the spouses, or authorized by the court to obtain this information (such as in the case of working through probate court).
Before requesting any type of marriage record, you will need to gather several pieces of information, including:
Since marriage licenses are regulated by state governments, each state determines exactly what information is requested when applying for a marriage license. Most records include basic information, such as:
There are several ways to find marriage records, depending on the type of record you need.
If you need a certified copy of a marriage record, your options are limited. Remember that you must be one of the spouses listed on the marriage record or an immediate family member, or be granted permission by the courts.
If, on the other hand, you do not need a certified copy and you only want access to the information in the marriage record, you have additional options. In addition to certified copies, your local Clerk of Courts office, state’s Department of Vital Records and authorized online vendors offer standard copies of marriage records. You can follow the same steps above to request this information from any of those organizations.
There also are a number of other third-party vendors that offer instant access to these records. Search Quarry offers a free marriage records search.
If you are looking for historical records for genealogy purposes, you may have trouble getting them from governmental agencies or standard third-party sites. Instead, try the local historical society in the county where the ceremony took place, or check with online sites that specialize in genealogy records.