Marriage License Requirements in North Carolina

Understanding the Legalities of Matrimony in the Tar Heel State

Planning to tie the knot in North Carolina? Understanding the local marriage license requirements is a crucial step in ensuring your big day goes off without a hitch. Here's what you need to know about obtaining a marriage license in the Tar Heel State.

Eligibility and Identification

To apply for a marriage license in North Carolina, both parties must be 18 years of age or older. If either party is between 16 and 18, additional parental consent or court orders may be required. Applicants under 16 can only marry under specific and rare circumstances requiring a court order. Both parties must present valid government-issued photo identification such as a driver's license, passport, or military ID to prove their age.

Social Security Numbers and Divorce Decrees

Those with Social Security numbers must provide them, although they do not need to present the physical card. If either applicant was previously married, they must show proof of divorce with the final divorce decree or death certificate of the former spouse if widowed.

Application Process and Fees

The application process requires both parties to appear in person at a Register of Deeds office within the state. The fee for a marriage license in North Carolina is generally around $60, but this can vary slightly by county. Once issued, the license is valid throughout the state for 60 days. If the marriage does not occur within that timeframe, the license expires and a new one must be obtained.

No Blood Test Required

Unlike some states, North Carolina does not require a blood test or physical examination to obtain a marriage license.

Waiting Periods and Ceremony Requirements

After submitting an application, there is no mandatory waiting period; you can marry immediately once you have your license. North Carolina recognizes both civil and religious ceremonies, but they must be conducted by an ordained minister, magistrate, or an authorized religious official. Two witnesses are also required at every wedding ceremony.

Registering Your Marriage

Following the ceremony, it's important to ensure your marriage is legally documented. The individual officiating the ceremony must sign the marriage license along with both spouses and two witnesses. This signed license must then be returned to the Register of Deeds office where it was issued to be recorded officially.

Historical Context

The legalities surrounding marriage licenses have evolved over time. In historical context, North Carolina's process today is relatively straightforward compared to past eras where laws were more stringent or varied greatly between counties. For example, during colonial times, couples often had to post banns for several weeks before being allowed to marry. The modernization of these laws reflects changes in societal attitudes and bureaucratic processes over time.


In conclusion, while planning a wedding can be complex, understanding and following North Carolina's marriage license requirements will help ensure that your union is legally recognized without any unnecessary complications. By preparing the necessary documents and fees ahead of time and knowing what is expected during the application process, couples can approach their wedding day with one less thing to worry about.