This is a question we get asked a lot: Just exactly how do I get a marriage license? Well, Lakeshore in Love recently asked us this question too, so Elizabeth wrote a little post to explain it all. Now go forth and get those marriage licenses!
As a wedding planner, we always tell our clients that the small things on the wedding day are the most important and easiest to forget: those pesky rings, the marriage license, deodorant…. but literally do not forget about deodorant.
Since we can’t actually go and get your marriage license for you (although, we would if we could!), here’s a quick guide to making it happen as painlessly as possible.
First things first
The first step is to click this link and read everything to wrap your brain around the process. Make sure you are eligible (18 years of age or older, not blood relatives, not already be married to someone else.) If you are lined up in the basement of a Cook County government building, I’m guessing you have these things under control, but this is not that place you want to realize you are still married to someone else, or vice versa. Triple-check that one.
As with any great system, there are a few exceptions. Feel free to stay in line if you are first cousins older than 50, or if you are 16 or 17 years old, you have to have a parent with you to give consent. (If this is you, click the link because there are a few more hoops to jump through.)
To jumpstart the process, you can fill out the application online here. Either way, you’ll need to head to one of the locations listed and keep in mind a few key points: you both have to be there, you both need a valid form of ID (driver’s license or passport) and you are going to need $60.
You’ll get it while you wait, it’s valid the next day, and it’s valid for 60 days in total, so plan that accordingly. If you can get your signature legible enough and in the box provided, (this took us a couple of tries) you’ll walk out with a piece of paper that gives you license to wed.
Going at odd hours will increase the likelihood that you won’t have to wait. (A lot of people go before and after 9-5 working hours and at lunch, so if you can go at 3:00 in the afternoon, you probably won’t have to wait as long.
Whatever ID you show, your name will be written on your marriage license exactly how it is on that specific form of ID. If you care whether your middle initial is used, or your full middle name is used, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Weird Science: You need to know your mother’s maiden name and you need to know what state your parents were born. I found these two questions to be the strangest.
Give your license to your wedding planner at the rehearsal at the very latest. We like to take it when we pick up all of your place cards, table numbers, etc. so you can forget about it and we can double-check that we have everything ready on the day of. If you are working with Anticipation Events, we make sure it gets filled out and we scan a copy and email it to you the next day.
Fun fact: In Cook County, the only person who has to sign your marriage license is your officiant, so no witnesses necessary. You don’t even sign it! Just your officiant.
Then we just go ahead and drop it in the mail for you, because it does need to get to the Clerk’s office in short order and hopefully you are jetting off to a honeymoon. If you want a commemorative copy to hang in your kitchen or keep in your wallet, you have to request a copy. Don’t assume one is coming in the mail for free. This is the government we are talking about.
The easiest parts of wedding planning are things that don’t require you to make any decisions and you have to get a marriage license if you want to make it legal. So let this be an easy task to cross of your growing list and then treat yourself to a cocktail for a job well done!
*eye candy courtesy of Ryn Manby Photography (photo 1), Braxton Black for Jeremy Lawson Photography (photo 2) and Ryan Moore Photography (photo 3).
Anita Vaughan says
Yay! Thanks for sharing this helpful information!
Also- make sure you are actually getting married in Cook County. We live in Cook but got married in Dupage and didn’t think about this until we were waiting in line downtown ♀️ Whoops!
Ha! Good point! Glad you realized it before the wedding!
SO true! 🙂