In order to get married in Kentucky you must apply for a marriage license at a county clerk's office. The licensing officer is the county clerk, who is an elected official. Authorized deputy clerks may also assist.
You and your prospective spouse must apply together, in person. Proxy, absentee, or power-of-attorney applicants will be rejected.
Any marriage ceremony that is solemnized in this state without an unexpired state-issued marriage license will be null and void. That goes for common-law marriages as well.
Throughout this document, the terms clerk and license will be used as shorthand for county clerk and marriage license, respectively.
A marriage license issued in any county can be used anywhere within the commonwealth; even on an airplane in flight, as long as it's over Kentucky air space. A Kentucky-issued marriage license can only be used in this commonwealth.
Absent county clerk
If the county clerk is absent, or the position is vacant, a county judge or county executive can fill in temporarily to issue you a license. They would have all the authority and responsibilities of the clerk. Any actions taken must be documented and provided to the clerk upon their return.
If you're a female applicant below the age of 18, you must apply for a marriage license in the county of your parent's residence. Afterward, you can marry in any county.
Incidentally, there's no actual provision in the law that stipulates how long residency must be established.
Adult females exempt
This residency requirement does not apply if you're a female who's 18 years old or older, a widow, or a non-resident of Kentucky: in that case, you could apply in any county.
A Kentucky marriage license costs $35.50 in all 120 counties, except for Greenup County, which inexplicably charges $37.50.
The license fee is broken down as such:
|39%||$14.00||Retained by county clerk for licensing, indexing, recording, and certificate issuance|
|28%||$10.00||Domestic violence shelter fund|
|14%||$5.00||Certified marriage certificate mailed to applicants|
|3%||$1.00||Postage for certified copy mailed to applicants|
|3%||$1.00||Postage for documents mailed to state registrar|
|13%||$4.50||Legal processing fee|
You will receive one certified copy of your marriage certificate as part of the standard marriage license fee. Your copy will automatically be mailed to you after your marriage license is recorded by the county clerk following the completion of your marriage ceremony.
Additional certified copies can be purchased for $5 each, if picked up in office. If it's being mailed, it'll be an additional $1 for postage.
The Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives (KDLA) is responsible for determining what information will be asked of you on the application. Clerks must adhere to these standards; although, additional questions beyond this may be asked (e.g., phone number).
Applications are fairly consistent from county to county, so you shouldn't expect much in the way of surprises no matter where you apply. The application questions are rudimentary and shouldn't require much, if any, advanced preparation.
Forms should be partially non-gender specific, where you can specify if you're the bride, groom, or spouse; although, some counties have not fully updated to this format yet.
If you choose to save time by picking up a blank application in advance, do not sign it until you're back in the presence of the clerk and administered the oath.
You'll be required to provide the following information about yourself:
- Full legal name
- Current residence
- County, for state residents
- Date of birth and age
- Place of birth
- Father's name
- Mother's name, including maiden name
- Marital status (e.g., single, divorced, widowed, annulled)
- Number of previous marriages
- Relationship to one another (e.g., none, second cousins)
Once you submit your application, you'll be required to take an oath that the information you've provided is true to the best of your knowledge. Your signature will certify your oath.
Documents you'll receive
If the county clerk is satisfied that there's no legal impediment to you marrying, the contents of your application will be copied onto a license that will be issued to you. Attached will be two blank marriage certificate forms. You must provide all three documents to whoever will solemnize your marriage.
Identification is solicited to verify your age. Be prepared to present a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, current state ID card, or passport.
Some county clerk's may also request your social security card. Your social security number will not be retained or recorded on the issued license and certificates.
Additional ID for minors
If you're below the age of 18, bring a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Age 18 or older
If you are 18 years old or older, you can marry without having to obtain consent from a parent or guardian, or permission from a judge.
Age 16 or 17
If you are either 16 or 17 years old, you must obtain consent to marry from an authorized figure. However, if both your parents reside outside of Kentucky, you will not be issued a marriage license, consent or no consent.
Age 15 or younger
If you are below the age of 16, you can only marry if you're pregnant and obtain permission from a judge.
Who grants consent?
Depending on your living situation, who has the authority to grant consent can be quite complicated. Here's a Q&A exercise to help you determine which person, or persons, must grant consent. Go top-down through each scenario until you find a situation that applies to you.
- Do you have a legal guardian with full guardianship?
If you answered yes, your legal guardian must grant consent.
2: Non-parent custody
- Has someone been granted custody of you who is not a parent or guardian?
If you answered yes, whoever has custodial charge of you must grant consent.
3: Parents together
- Are both your parents alive, still married, and not legally separated?
If you answered yes, either parent can grant consent.
4: Parents alive, sharing custody
- Are both your parents alive, divorced or legally separated, and have joint or shared custody of you?
If you answered yes, both parents must grant consent.
5: Parents alive, not sharing custody
- Are both your parents alive, divorced or legally separated, yet only one parent has full custody of you?
If you answered yes, whichever parent has full custody of you must grant consent.
6: Surviving parent with custody
- Does your surviving parent have full, joint, or shared custody of you?
If you answered yes, your surviving parent must grant consent.
7: None of the above
- You're pregnant?
- You're an emancipated minor?
- You've been previously married?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, schedule a hearing with a district judge to obtain the court's permission to marry.
Prove authority to grant consent
If you're a minor whose parents are divorced, bring custody papers for the consenting parent. If you have a guardian granting consent, bring guardianship papers.
In person or in writing
Consent can be granted in person, before the clerk, or in writing, via notarized affidavit. If done in writing, it must be attested to by two adult witnesses aged 18 or older.
One of the witnesses must show up in person and swear under oath that they witnessed the consent being granted. Some counties require both witnesses to be county residents.
You can typically pick up a readymade "Consent to Marriage Form" (84-FCC-501) from the county clerk's office to serve as the affidavit's foundation.
District judge's permission
A district judge may be willing to issue a court order allowing you to marry as long as you or your prospective spouse is pregnant and below the age of 16. Proof of pregnancy is not required.
Pregnancy alone is not the sole determining factor; the judge must also believe it's in the best interest of both parties to marry.
If the judge assents, a certified copy of their written court order will be provided to you, which you can present to the clerk.
The court will charge you $5 to hear your case, regardless of how the judge's decision comes down.
Your marriage license will be issued the same day you apply for it. Once you receive your license, you can get married immediately thereafter.
There used to be a three-day waiting period before your license was issued, but that requirement has been repealed.
Your marriage license will expire 30 days after it's been issued, including the current day. If you do not marry before the specified date of expiration, your license will be invalid and unusable.
If your marriage license expires and you're still determined to marry, you must reapply. Extensions and refunds will not be granted.
Kentucky no longer requires you to get a blood test in order to be issued a license to marry. Laboratory tests and medical exams haven't been required in the commonwealth since July 15, 1982, when its repeal became effective.
As discussed in the questions portion of the application section, you are required to document your previous marriages, but you are not required to present documentary evidence of their ending, such as a divorce decree or death certificate.
You cannot marry a blood relative where the kinship is less than second cousins. Whole bloods and half bloods are treated the same. This means you are barred from marrying any of the following family members:
- First cousin
A marriage established with any of the preceding family relations is considered incestuous and liable to be voided.
If you have a living husband or wife, you cannot marry until your current marriage has been dissolved in a court of law. Venturing into another marriage without your prior one being legally severed would constitute an act of bigamy.
You cannot marry someone who has been deemed mentally disabled by a court that has authority to judge such matters.
Mental disabilities include, but are not limited to, senility, dementia, and mental illness. To be judged mentally disabled would have required court proceedings: competency hearing, psych evaluation, and judgment.
If you are considered mentally disabled and wish to marry, or you wish to marry someone who is considered mentally disabled, mental capacity must be regained or restored before marriage can take place.
Who may solemnize?
Only certain types of people are authorized to solemnize marriages in Kentucky: judicial and religious.
Judges and justices of a court of justice may solemnize, whether active or retired. If such a judge or justice was removed from their position by cause or a felony conviction, then their authority to solemnize would be stripped.
County judges and county executives can solemnize. The governor, county judges, and county executives have the power to authorize fiscal court commissioners and justices of the peace to solemnize.
Any minister associated with any religious denomination can solemnize as long as they are a regular attending member of the religious society. Ministers are not required to be licensed, ordained, or residents of Kentucky.
Ministers—who were residents of Kentucky—were once required to post bond and possess a license to solemnize marriages in the commonwealth, but that provision was repealed, effective July 15, 1996.
Religious society is a broad term defined to loosely reference any religious organization that's established to worship God. It can be considered an umbrella or catch-all term designed to prevent the exclusion of any devout organization.
If a religious society has no designated minister or official who's tasked with solemnizing marriages, the society can assign a clerk to perform solemnizations at their typical place of worship as long one of the parties to the marriage is a member of the society.
The clerk of the society is not actually required to attend your marriage ceremony as long as other witnesses belonging to the society are present. The society clerk will eventually have to fill out and transmit the marriage certificates.
If you happen to have the misfortune of having your marriage solemnized by someone who had no authority to do so, it wouldn't necessarily invalidate your marriage. As long as either of you or your spouse believed the person who performed the solemnization was credible, your marriage will not be voided.
There must be two witnesses present at your solemnization. Witnesses can be anyone other than you, your prospective spouse, or the person who performs the solemnization.
Witnesses should not sign the marriage certificate; the person who solemnizes the marriage must print their names instead.
Witnesses are not required to meet a minimum age requirement as long as the person who solemnizes your marriage is satisfied that they are mature enough to understand and remember (if the need arises) the event and parties involved.
When one presides over your marriage ceremony, such as a judge or minister, it's referred to as solemnization. One of the most important parts of the ceremony comes near the end: completing the marriage certificates.
Filling out the certificates
As previously mentioned in the documents you'll receive section, your issued marriage license will have two blank marriage certificates attached. Where the license permits you to marry, the certificates prove that you are married. The person who solemnizes your marriage must complete both certificates.
Both certificates must contain the date and place where the ceremony was held; the name, title, and signature of the person who performed the solemnization or the name and established location of the religious society; and the names of both witnesses (printed not signed).
Dispatching the certificates
One completed marriage certificate must be given to you. Although it's a short document that should take only a few minutes to fill out, the person who conducts the solemnization isn't legally required to give it to you immediately. If there's going to be a delay, you must work out the delivery arrangement amongst yourselves.
The second marriage certificate, along with the marriage license, must be returned to the county clerk that issued them within one month following the date of your ceremony so that it may be recorded.
Once your marriage license and certificate is returned to the county clerk office that issued them, the certificate details will be recorded in a dedicated marriage record log book kept in the office.
Marriage record log book
Each marriage log book entry must contain the following information:
- Date your certificate was recorded
- Signature and title of the clerk or deputy clerk that recorded it
- You and your spouse's name
- Name of the person or religious society that performed the solemnization
- Date your marriage took place
Log books should be indexed to facilitate public records searches, typically by book volume and page number. Feel free to return to the county clerk's office to examine your—and every other couple's—marriage record.
License and certificate archived
Once the details of your marriage certificate have been recorded, the certificate and the original marriage license will be permanently archived within the county clerk's office.
The details of your license and
Forward to state registrar
A transcription of the information in your marriage license and certificate will be sent to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) (a.k.a. The State Registrar) by the 10th day of the following month. One dollar out of the marriage license fee is used to pay for the postage.
Certified copy requests
If you ever need to acquire a certified copy of your marriage records, you must direct your request (in person or in writing) to the clerk's office that issued you your marriage license and subsequently recorded its return.
You can also order certified copies of your marriage certificate—dated June 1958 to the present day—from the State Registrar's Office of Vital Statistics.
Keep in mind, the state registrar won't be able to sell you a copy until the county clerk forwards them information about the returned license and certificate. In other words, county clerk offices will always be able to produce certified copies faster than the state.
Kentucky does not recognize common-law marriages established in the commonwealth. It's not that it considers common-law marriages invalid or void—it simply considers them nonexistent and impossible to acknowledge..
You cannot get married by proxy in Kentucky. The law requires you, your prospective spouse, and two witnesses be present during the entire marriage ceremony.
If the county clerk is lead to believe that you'll be attempting to execute a proxy marriage, you will not be issued a marriage license.
If you're a resident of Kentucky who marries in another state or country, your marriage will be recognized as valid in this state as long as it's not a prohibited marriage and doesn't violate Kentucky marriage law.
Marriages that take place outside of the commonwealth do not have to be registered or recorded with the county clerk office.
Getting married in the great commonwealth of Kentucky is not much different than other states. In many ways it's easier, as there are no waiting periods, residency restrictions for adults, and a predictable license fee shared amongst all counties. Your next step is to choose a Kentucky county to apply in.