How to Find Marriage Records

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Learn How to Locate a Marriage Record

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.

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Why You Might Need a Copy of a Marriage Record

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:

  • Changing your name with the DMV, social security, your bank, etc.
  • Proving your date of marriage
  • Adding your spouse to health benefits
  • Applying for immigration benefits
  • Complying with an IRS audit
  • Filing for divorce
  • Applying for alimony

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:

  • Validating information about a person
  • Family history
  • Probate court after the death of one or both spouses

Who Can Get a Marriage Record?

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:

  • Full names of both spouses (including any maiden names)
  • Day, month and year of the wedding ceremony
  • County and state where the ceremony took place

What Information Will You Find in a Marriage Record?

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:

  • Full names of both spouses (including any maiden names)
  • Gender of both spouses
  • Date of birth for both spouses
  • Birthplace of both spouses
  • Blood type of both spouses
  • Date of wedding ceremony
  • City, county and state of the wedding ceremony
  • Name of ceremony officiant
  • Full name of witnesses at the ceremony

How to Find Marriage Records

There are several ways to find marriage records, depending on the type of record you need.

Certified Copy

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.

  • County Office: You can get a certified marriage license by contacting your local Clerk of Courts office, either in person or by phone. They will provide you with a request form, which you then complete and return to the Clerk of Courts Office, along with the required fee. You must complete all the requested information about the marriage, along with your name, contact information and reason for the request. It may take several weeks to receive your copy in the mail, depending on your local office.
  • State Office: If you prefer, you can contact your state’s Department of Vital Records to obtain a certified copy of a marriage license. You will still need to know the county the wedding took place in when making a request. Some states offer convenient online services, but you also can make this request by mail. You must submit a complete request form, along with your name, contact information, a reason for request and payment. Delivery times vary from state to state, but it will likely take two to six weeks to receive your certificate.
  • Online Vendor: Some third-party vendors are authorized by the government to provide certified copies. Their online services make it very convenient to request a marriage record, but you will pay more for their services. You must still provide the required information listed above, as well as your name, contact information and reason for the request. It can take up to 20 days to receive your marriage license in the mail, but you can pay more for overnight express.

Standard Copy

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.

Genealogy Records

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.

signing marriage cerfificate

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