Before you can get married in Illinois you must apply for an Illinois marriage license at a county clerk's office. The official who will process your application is called the county clerk. Occasionally, deputies and assistants to the clerk are authorized to issue licenses.
The application process takes about half an hour, so be sure to factor in the county clerk's office hours of operation. Furthermore, some offices have shortened or extended hours that are specific to processing marriage and civil union applications.
The rest of this document will provide detailed instructions to help you complete the marriage application process with utmost efficiency. Knowing what to do and expect before you walk into the clerk's office will save you and them time.
Apply at the county of marriage
You must apply for your marriage license in the county where your marriage ceremony will take place. This restriction applies to state residents and nonresidents alike. You and your prospective spouse must apply together.
Civil union licenses
Ever since June 1, 2011, every county clerk's office has issued civil union licenses along with their marriage licenses. All criteria documented in this article apply to both marriage licenses and civil union licenses, unless otherwise noted.
The civil union license option still remains available for same-sex and opposite-sex couples who prefer not be married.
The marriage license application is typically a single-page form for both you and your prospective spouse to fill out. The Illinois Director of Public Health stipulates what appears on the form. Be prepared to disclose the following about yourself:
- Full name, including suffix
- Last name at birth
- Residential address, including county
- Date of birth
- Place of birth (city and state, or foreign country)
- Sex (some forms specify "gender" instead)
- Email address (not asked by all clerks)
- Phone number (not asked by all clerks)
- Parents' or guardians' names, including last name at birth
- Parents' or guardians' addresses
- Parents' or guardians' birthplaces (state or foreign country)
- Social security number
- Highest grade of elementary or secondary school completed
- Highest grade of college completed
- If you are of Hispanic origin, specify which (e.g., Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban)
- What marriage "this" represents (e.g., first, second, third)
- When (month, day, year), where (state and county), and how (e.g., divorce, death, annulment) your last marriage or civil union ended
- If you're related to each other, specify the relationship (e.g., none, first cousins)
Information about your parents must be filled out for each parent individually. The address portion can be left blank for a deceased parent. However you answer or don't answer this section will not prevent you from getting a marriage license.
Social security number
Your social security number is solicited to enforce delinquent child support payments, as required by Title IV of the Social Security Act. If you don't have a social security number, skip it. Otherwise, it's required.
If you have a social security number, it must be disclosed. If you don't have one, skip it. Your social security number is used to determine if you're delinquent in child support payments as required by Title IV of the Social Security Act.
Oath and signature
You'll be administered an oath by the county clerk where you swear or affirm that the contents of your application and responses to all inquiries were truthful. Your signature—which must be signed in the presence of the clerk—certifies your declaration.
An Illinois marriage license will cost you somewhere between $15 and $75. Forty dollars is the most common price point. Every county board has the authority to set their county's license fee, but state law prevents it from exceeding $75.
Five dollars out of every license fee is remitted by the county clerk to the state treasurer who in turn deposits it into the state's Domestic Violence Fund.
Since you're required to marry in the county of marriage, you can't shop around for a better deal if your marriage ceremony site is preselected.
See the list of Illinois counties at the end of the page which provides links to county-specific pages containing county-specific pricing.
Residency is a nonfactor; it neither impacts the price nor procedure. The thing to remember is that you must apply in the county where the marriage ceremony will take place. The county clerk should alert you to this caveat before starting the application.
You must supply ID to confirm your identity and age. State law doesn't spell out which documents will or won't be accepted. It's up to each county clerk to determine which identification is reasonable to satisfy any suspicions.
Acceptable ID types
You'll be good to go if you bring in any of the following unexpired photo ID:
- U.S. driver's license
- U.S. state-issued ID card
- U.S. non-driver ID card
- U.S. military ID card
- U.S. passport
If you don't have one of the above credentials, then bring any two of the following secondary identification types:
- Certified copy of birth certificate
- Foreign passport
- U.S. naturalization papers
- U.S. resident alien card (a.k.a. green card)
- U.S. employment authorization document (EAD)
- Consulate ID card (CIC), including Mexican matricula consular card
If you're underage and your parents plan to accompany you to grant consent to marry, they too should bring identification. Guardians should bring guardianship papers.
If your picture ID doesn't show your date of birth, supply an additional document that'll prove your age, such as an original or certified copy of your birth certificate.
ID specific to minors
If you're below the age of 18, you must bring a certified copy of your birth certificate along with another piece of acceptable identification that shows your date of birth.
Non-English birth certificate
If you intend to present a birth certificate that's not written in English, it must be accompanied by a certified and notarized English translation.
If you've been previously married or in a civil union, you must document your ex-spouse's name, as well as the date, address, and court where the divorce, annulment, or dissolution was finalized. Widowers must provide the date and place of their former spouse's death.
Certificates for proof
Some county clerks will want to see documentary evidence that your last marriage or civil union ended, such as a certified copy of a divorce decree, annulment, dissolution, or death certificate.
Some clerks only choose to ask for certified proof if your divorce or spouse's death took place less than 60 days ago. Others may stipulate six months.
State law allows each clerk to decide what to ask for, if anything. It's recommended that you arrive prepared and operating under the assumption that proof is required.
You will receive your marriage license the same day you apply for it. However, there is a one day wait between the time you receive your license and when your ceremony can take place. The day your license becomes usable is referred to as the "effective date."
This one-day waiting period can be waived by a judge.
Once your application has been accepted and fee paid, the county clerk will copy a subset of your information onto a blank marriage license and certificate form. The certificate portion must be filled out by your officiant at the end of your marriage ceremony.
Your marriage license will expire 60 days after its effective date (the day after you apply). If you're license expires, you must reapply. Extensions or refunds will not be granted.
Which of the following four age groups do you fall under?
Age 18 and above
If you're 18 years old or older, you don't need parental consent to marry.
Age 17 today, 18 tomorrow
Technically, the law allows an applicant who's 17 years old to apply as an adult without requiring parental consent as long as he or she will turn eighteen on the marriage license's effective date, which is one day after it's been issued.
In other words, a 17 year old can apply today without parental consent if their birthday is tomorrow.
Age 16 and 17
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you need the consent of a guardian or both parents to marry. If your parents or guardian is unable or unwilling to grant consent, you can ask the court to intervene.
Age 15 and below
If you're 15 years old or younger, you may only marry with the court's permission. Illinois does not set a minimum age for marriage.
A consent form furnished by the county clerk's office must be signed by the consenting parent(s) or guardian(s) in the presence of the county clerk at the same time the marriage license application is submitted.
One parent is absent
If you have one consenting parent, but your other parent cannot consent because they're absent, there's one way around it. The consenting parent must provide a signed affidavit declaring a meaningful search to find the missing parent came up empty.
The signed and notarized affidavit must state the name of the absent parent and detail the steps put forth to find him or her. This document would hold the same weight as both parents consenting.
Parent or pregnant
Regardless of age, if you're a female who's previously given birth to a child out of wedlock and the other applicant provides an affidavit that he's the father, a marriage license will be issued. The child must still be living.
Likewise, if you're pregnant, a marriage license will be issued to you. The other applicant doesn't have to be the father.
Proof of pregnancy or prior childbirth must be given in one of the following three forms:
- Illinois Department of Public Health furnished affidavit from an Illinois-licensed physician confirming the pregnancy or prior childbirth.
- Copy of the child's birth record originating from Illinois.
- Affidavit from the mother asserting that she's pregnant or has given birth.
Generally speaking, an underage applicant can be issued a marriage license if the judge of a circuit court orders it. The judge must be from the same county where the license is to be issued.
This option is typically only available to 16 and 17 year olds. The court will only entertain marriage requests for those under 16 unless it's a special situation.
Seeking assistance through the court system is often seen by minors as a shrewd way to get married without their parents knowing, or to bypass their objections. This is a misconception.
If you're a minor who goes to court to seek permission to marry, the judge will attempt to notify your parents or guardians. Time will be given for them to come to court and make their case for or against your marriage. You'll be able to argue your position as well.
If you have no living parent or guardian, or the court is unable to locate them, the judge will unilaterally decide if you're mature enough to handle the responsibilities that marriage entails.
If the judge ultimately agrees that marriage would be in your best interest, you will be granted a court order that authorizes the county clerk to issue you a license to marry.
You are not required to submit to a blood test in order to receive a marriage license.
Fetal alcohol syndrome information
The county clerk must also give you a Department of Public Health pamphlet discussing fetal alcohol syndrome, which is a condition that can cause birth defects and brain damage to the unborn child of a pregnant mother who consumes alcohol.
Living spouse or partner
If you have a living husband or wife, you cannot remarry until your current marriage has been legally dissolved by divorce, annulment, or spouse's death. Doing otherwise would result in a bigamous marriage that's subject to voiding.
Existing civil union
If you're currently in a civil union or significantly similar non-marriage relationship (e.g., domestic partnership), you cannot enter into another civil union or marriage until your current civil union, domestic partnership, or similar has been dissolved.
You are forbidden from marrying any of the following members of your family, whether related by the whole-blood, half-blood, or adoption:
- First cousin (exemptions exist)
First cousin exemptions
The first cousin restriction will be waived if either of the following two conditions is met:
- Both cousins are 50 years old or above.
- Either cousin shows the county clerk a certificate signed by a licensed physician that he or she is permanently and irreversibly sterile.
Evading marriage laws
If you enter into a prohibited marriage here or elsewhere, you risk the marriage being voided everywhere.
Warning to residents
If you're a resident of Illinois whose out-of-state marriage would have been prohibited in this state, the marriage would be null and void in this state upon your return.
Warning to nonresidents
If you're a nonresident of Illinois who contracts a marriage in this state and you intend to return to your home state, territory, or country where the marriage would be illegal, then your marriage could be retroactively voided here to defer to the laws of where you live.
County clerks cannot police whether a nonresident is marrying here in order to circumvent their state's marriage statutes. That's not their job. What we're talking about is a provision in the law that says if you get married here to evade your state's marriage laws, the marriage would be null and void here.
Having said that, some county clerks may ask nonresidents to sign an affidavit asserting that their marriage in Illinois would not be in conflict with the marriage laws of their state, territory, or country.
The person who solemnizes is called the officiant. Judges, religious officials, and the couple themselves are authorized to perform marriages.
Pretty much any active or retired judge of a court of record can solemnize. A judge that's been removed from the Judicial Inquiry Board are ineligble.
Retired judges who solemnize don't get compensated by the state, county, or local jurisdiction for their service. If you're to be married by a retired judge, it'll be on their own time and dime.
If you're looking to be married by an active judge, you'll have to set that up separately from the application process. You will be charged an extra fee for the service.
Getting married by an active judge is a good option if you want to bypass the one-day ceremony wait. You can get the judge to waive it and marry you in one fell swoop. That's assuming you're able to schedule everything on the same day.
If you're to be married in a religious ceremony, then any authorized official in good standing with their religious organization has the authority to solemnize your marriage. This includes Indian Tribes or Nations or Native Groups.
The couple themselves
You and your prospective spouse can act as your own officiant by performing a self-solemnized marriage ceremony. You will be responsible for completing and returning the marriage license and certificate form.
Cook County clerk (maybe)
State law stipulates that a county clerk whose county's population exceeds two million may solemnize marriages. Cook County is the only Illinois County that meets that criterion; however, the clerk is not obligated to perform civil ceremonies.
The act of presiding over your marriage is called solemnization. It's basically your marriage ceremony.
Witnesses are not required to attend your marriage ceremony.
Completing the certificate
Once your marriage ceremony has concluded, it is the duty of the officiant to fill out the bottom certificate portion of the marriage license by documenting the date and place of marriage along with his or her contact information.
The completed marriage license and certificate must be returned to the issuing county clerk no later than 10 days following the ceremony by mail or hand delivery.
If your marriage is solemnized by someone who did not possess the authority to do so, it would not invalidate your marriage as long as either you or your spouse reasonably believed them to be authorized.
Marriage in the wrong county
Although you're supposed to get married in the same county where you obtain your license, doing otherwise wouldn't necessarily invalidate your marriage, assuming it was in all other respects legal. Still, the provision should not be violated as it can result in problems recording and filing your marriage record.
Illinois has "religious freedom" statutes that allow religious persons or organizations to opt out of marrying anyone if it violates their religious beliefs.
This is typically employed to abstain from participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. It can also be used if a religious organization objects to providing marital services or resources to an atheist or person who's a member of a different religion.
This objection extends to facilities as well. For instance, if a church, synagogue, temple, mosque, or equivalent doesn't want someone to use their property or resources to conduct a wedding, that's their prerogative.
State law shields individuals and organizations from being sued if they exercise their right to refuse anything even tangentially related to solemnization. There's no penalty that would be applied, be it civil or criminal.
Once your completed marriage license is returned to the county clerk, it will be recorded and registered with the state. Afterward, certified copies of your marriage certificate will be available for order from the same county clerk's office.
You can neither apply by proxy nor marry by proxy. Both parties to the marriage must be present during the application process and marriage ceremony.
The incarcerated, physically disabled, and members of the U.S. Armed Forces are not exempt from this restriction.
You cannot enter into a common-law marriage in Illinois. Moreover, a common-law marriage established in another state will not be recognized here.
For historical reasons, Illinois does continue to recognize common-law marriages that took place on or prior to June 30, 1905.
Conclusion and the final step
Now that you know what it takes to get married in Illinois, further below you'll find a list of Illinois counties containing county-specific marriage license fees, office locations, and hours of operation. Good luck to you on the remainder of your marriage journey.