So you’re considering taking the plunge, but do you know exactly how to get married? Where to obtain a license? Where it’s legal?
The good news for D.C.-area couples is that you have three local options for tying the knot, as same-sex marriage is legal in D.C., Maryland and Delaware. Virginia lags but two lawsuits are working their way rapidly through the courts and could lead to marriage equality in the commonwealth in the not-too-distant future.
All couples, including same-sex couples, planning to get married in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware must first obtain a marriage license at a designated government office or courthouse.
Each of the three jurisdictions provides couples with the option of getting married at a courthouse or county government office in a civil ceremony performed by an official appointed by the jurisdiction. The couples may also select a member of the clergy to perform the marriage at a religious institution or other location of the couple’s choosing.
District of Columbia
D.C. Superior Court
500 Indiana Ave., N.W., Room 4555
• One or both of the parties or a designated surrogate must come to the Marriage Bureau to complete a marriage license application.
• Identification and proof of age is required for both parties in the form of a government-issued ID such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport.
• The minimum age for marriage in D.C. is 18. Persons of the age of 16 or 17 may marry with the consent of a parent or guardian.
• The marriage license application fee is $35 and the marriage certificate fee is $10. All fees must be paid in cash or by money order payable to the Clerk, D.C. Superior Court.
• Previous marriage information is required from both parties, such as documentation of a divorce or the death of a former spouse and the state or jurisdiction of the previous marriage.
• Religious celebrants and judges other than those of the D.C. courts must be authorized by the court and registered by the Marriage Bureau in order to perform a legal marriage in D.C.
• The full name of the intended celebrant must be given at the time the application is submitted.
• A recently enacted D.C. law, the Marriage Officiant Amendment Act of 2013, allows the couple getting married to select any adult to perform their marriage as a “temporary officiant.” The new law also allows the couple to perform their own marriage. The law applies only for marriage ceremonies performed outside the courthouse.
• Under a separate, longstanding D.C. law, three full days must pass between the time the marriage license application is submitted and the time the license can be issued. One or both members of the couple or a designee must return in person to pick up the license. The license has no expiration date.
• At the time the marriage license application is submitted, a request for a civil wedding at the courthouse may be made. A clerk will schedule the ceremony with a court official who will perform the marriage on or close to a date selected by the couple but not sooner than 10 business days after the license is issued.
• The marriage ceremony room accommodates approximately 10 to 15 guests. There is no fee for the ceremony.
• Marriage licenses in Maryland are issued by the Clerk of the Circuit Court in each of the state’s 23 counties and the City of Baltimore, which is treated as a county. The fee for a marriage license varies from county to county but is usually within the range of $35 to $55.
• Maryland law requires that the marriage license be obtained from the Circuit Court in the county where the marriage is to take place regardless of the place of residence of the couple to be married.
• The marriage license must be obtained at least 48 hours before the marriage ceremony. Couples may seek a waiver of the two-day waiting period from a judge, and military service or illness is considered grounds for a possible waiver.
• A divorced person must provide a copy of the divorce decree that shows where and when the divorce took place. A license cannot be processed without this information.
• Identification for both parties, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or military I.D. must be presented at the time the application is submitted.
• In some counties, such as Montgomery County near D.C., out-of-state residents may obtain a license application form by email for a fee of $55. The application must be returned along with the fee by mail. In Montgomery County, officials will mail the license to the couple.
• A marriage license in Maryland expires in six months if the couple doesn’t marry within that time.
• In many counties, a judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court or a designated deputy clerk of the court are available to perform civil marriage ceremonies at the courthouse for a fee. Couples interested in a civil ceremony by the court should contact the Circuit Court in the county in which they plan to marry.
• An individual of the age of 16 or 17 must present proof of consent of a parent or guardian in order to obtain a marriage license. An individual of the age of 16 or 17 that doesn’t have parental permission and an individual at age 15 may be granted a marriage license if a licensed physician provides a certificate stating that the woman to be married is pregnant or has given birth to a child.
• Marriage licenses in Delaware are issued by the County Clerk’s Office in each of the state’s three counties – New Castle County (Wilmington), Kent County (Dover), and Sussex County (Georgetown, which is near Rehoboth Beach).
• The couple must appear together at the county clerk’s office to apply for the license and must bring identification such as a driver’s license or birth certificate to confirm their identities.
• There is a one-day waiting period for obtaining the marriage license upon completion of the application for state residents and a four-day waiting period for out-of-state residents. The license is valid for 30 days.
• The application fee ranges from $30 to $100 depending on the county.
• In Sussex County a marriage license can be applied for online for an additional processing fee of $14.95. However, it must be picked up in person by both applicants at the Sussex County Marriage Bureau. It may be used anywhere in the state.
• Applicants must be at least 18 years old to be eligible for a marriage license. If either applicant is under the age of 18 they are considered minors and must petition the Delaware Family Court for authorization to marry.
• An original copy of a divorce decree or annulment decree is required for individuals who have been divorced or whose marriage has been annulled in order to be eligible for a marriage license in Delaware.
• If either applicant is on probation or parole, they must obtain written permission to marry from their probation or parole officer.
• In Sussex County, the Clerk of the Peace John Brady is available to perform “Memorable Marriage” ceremonies any day of the week and at any location within Sussex County, according to information on the Sussex County website, www.sussexcountyde.gov.
• Under state law, a witness is required to be present during a wedding ceremony. In Sussex County, the office of Clerk of the Court Brady has arranged for volunteers – including some associated with the Rehoboth Beach LGBT community center, CAMP Rehoboth, to serve as witnesses with a non-mandatory contribution suggested for the center.