Marriage licenses are handed down by the clerk of court of any Louisiana parish, except for Orleans Parish where it's distributed by the state registrar of vital records or a city court judge. Once you obtain your license, you can marry anywhere in the state.
You don't have to apply together in the clerk of court's office; instead, you can have your application notarized, together or separately.
Member of armed forces
If either of you are members of the U.S. Armed Forces, only one signature is necessary, but a photocopy of the absentee's military ID card must be attached.
If neither of you are military, can't or don't want to go the notarization route, and extenuating circumstances exist, you can ask a judge to order the clerk of court to accept the application with only one signature.
You can file the request with a city, district, family, or juvenile court judge; justice of the peace, having jurisdiction over the area; or a First or Second City Court Judge in New Orleans.
State law provides guidelines for precisely how each parish must design its application, with slight deviations acceptable. The form is a single page document that must be filled out, sworn to, and signed before a notary public, clerk of court, state registrar, or authorized deputy.
The application is designed to be gender-neutral. Let's cover a few of the expected form fields and questions.
Current and prior name
Supply your full current legal name, including suffix. If your last name at birth differs from your current surname, specify that.
Birth date and place
Supply your date and place of birth. The identification you provide must corroborate the date.
Supply both your parents' birth names and places of birth.
Specify if you were married before, how many times you've been married, if you're currently divorced, and how your last marriage ended (e.g., divorce, spouse's death, annulment) and when it ended.
These questions are used for vital statistic purposes as well as weeding out applicants who goofily, and honestly, admit that they're about to commit bigamy.
Supply your home address, including parish/county name, and specify if it's within city limits.
Sex, race, education level
Your sex, race, and highest education level completed are collected for vital statistic purposes.
If you're entering into a covenant marriage, mark the "yes" box that corresponds with that question and print your names in the section confirming that declaration:
We, [your name] and [spouse's name] do hereby declare our intent to contract a Covenant Marriage and, accordingly, have executed a declaration of intent attached hereto.
You are not required to supply proof that you underwent counseling related to entering a covenant marriage.
Social security number
If you have a social security number, supply it; if you don't have one, you'll have to present an unexpired passport from your birth country or an unexpired visa supplemented by a I-94 Form, issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Child support enforcement
Upon request, the state registrar of vital records will pass on your social security number to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services' child support enforcement wing.
It will cost you $25 to $40 to purchase a Louisiana marriage license, therefore the fee is obviously inconsistent from parish to parish. If you need to know the exact price, consult the list of parishes at the end of the page.
Certified certificate not included
Keep in mind, this fee covers the marriage license only and will not result in a certified copy of your marriage certificate being automatically mailed to you after you are married.
If you need one or more certified copies, you can order them in advance, when you apply; they typically cost $5 per copy, plus a mailing and postage fee of around $0.50 for each order.
When you're issued a marriage license, attached will be three blank marriage certificates that your officiant is required to endorse following the conclusion of your marriage ceremony. These certificates are designed and disseminated by the Department of Children and Family Services, on behalf of every parish.
Attached certificates do not equal certified
The fees section explicitly mentions that a certified copy of your marriage certificate is not included as part of the marriage license fee, while this section says you'll be issued three blank certificates with your license. Why the seeming contradiction?
The three blank marriage certificate forms are meant to be filled out by your officiant after the ceremony. None of these are certified copies, which can only exist after your ceremony takes place and the "endorsed" marriage certificates are returned to the licensing official for recording.
A copy of your issued marriage license will be kept in office and available for public inspection. It will later be reconciled with your returned marriage certificate, to include endorsement details, such as the ceremony date and who performed your ceremony.
Another copy of the license will be forwarded to the state registrar of vital records, specifically the previously mentioned Department of Children and Family Services.
Two forms of identification will be required: birth certificate and photographic.
Regardless of your age, you are required to submit an original or certified copy of your birth certificate. It will be photocopied and attached to your application.
If you were born in Louisiana, you can submit a short-form birth certificate card in lieu of a full-fledged birth certificate. If you were born in another U.S. state or territory, your certificate must show the stamp or raised seal of the registrar authority which maintains such vital records.
Translation to English
If your birth certificate isn't in English, it must be translated to English. The translator must include a sworn statement that he or she is fluent in both the birth certificate's original language and English, and that the translation is credible. Both the original and translated copy must be presented.
Judge's waiver, if not found
Saying you can't find your birth certificate isn't sufficient. You'll have to get a signed letter from the vital records authority of your state, territory, or country that asserts a comprehensive search was performed but no birth certificate was found. The letter must be under the raised seal or stamp of the authority.
Once you have your letter in hand, schedule a hearing with a district, juvenile, or family court judge; a First or Second City Court judge within New Orleans; or a city judge or justice of the peace whose court is within the same jurisdiction as the clerk of court office.
If good cause is found and other documentation substantiating your date of birth is presented, the judge or justice of the peace will issue an order that instructs the clerk of court to waive the birth certificate requirement. A copy of the judge's or justice's order will be attached to your application.
Supplemental, photographic ID
In addition to your birth certificate, you must provide unexpired photo ID, such as a driver's license; state or federal government-issued identification card; U.S. or foreign passport; or a visa accompanied by an I-94 Form, which confirms you're in the country legally.
You have to be 18 years old or older to legally marry without having to obtain consent from a guardian, parent, or judge. Anyone below the age of 18 is a minor and must obtain some form of consent.
16 and 17 years old
If you're either 16 or 17 years old, you must obtain consent to marry from your guardian or parents, or a juvenile court judge.
15 years old and younger
If you're 15 years old or younger, you'll must obtain consent to marry from your guardian or parents and permission from a juvenile court judge.
Who grants consent?
If you're underage, and are not emancipated, you need consent to marry. It can come from a guardian, both parents, one parent, or a juvenile court judge. Who is authorized to grant consent varies.
Guardian or parents
If you have a guardian, he or she must grant consent.
One living parent
If you have only one living parent, he or she must grant consent.
Both parents alive
If your parents are not divorced or maintain shared or joint custody of you, both must grant consent. If your parents are divorced, you must obtain consent from your custodial parent. If only one parent's name is on your birth certificate, it's sufficient if only that parent grants consent.
Juvenile court judge
If all else fails, including your parent(s) unwillingness to grant consent, you can seek relief from a juvenile court judge. A judge will only grant permission for you to marry if it's found to be in your best interest.
The judge must either be from the same parish where you live or from the parish where the marriage ceremony will take place.
Consent from a guardian or parent must be granted in writing. A judge's consent will be granted as a written order.
Although you will be issued your marriage license the same day you apply for it, you cannot use it until 72 hours have passed. The exact date and time of issuance will be written or printed on your license.
72-hour delay waiver
If you can demonstrate good cause, you may be able to get a waiver of the 72-hour delay from a judge or justice of the peace who's authorized to perform marriages. They'll have to attach a certificate to the license that authorizes the waiver.
If you're not a resident of Louisiana, you can also get a waiver from anyone authorized to solemnize marriages in Orleans Parish. A certificate authorizing the waiver must be attached to the license. There is a catch: you must marry in Orleans Parish, by the officiant who grants the waiver.
Your marriage license will expire 30 days after it's been issued, at midnight.
Renewing expired license
You can get your expired marriage license renewed/reissued by surrendering it to the official who issued it.
Louisiana no longer requires you to get a blood test or submit a medical certificate in order to obtain a marriage license. That provision was repealed on July 7, 1988 and made effective on July 18, 1988.
Other than having to briefly document your marital history on the application, if your last marriage ended in divorce, you must present a certified copy of the divorce decree. If you're last marriage ended in the death of your spouse, you must present a certified copy of the death certificate.
You are prohibited from marrying any family member within the fourth degree of consanguinity (blood relations), which includes:
- Great aunt
- Great uncle
- Great niece
- Great nephew
- First cousin
Marriages that took place on or before December 31, 1992 are exempt from the fourth degree kinship prohibition and are deemed legal as long each party to the marriage was at least 55 years old at the time of marriage.
If you have a living husband or wife, you can't marry someone else until you get divorced. Doing otherwise would be an act of bigamy, and the bigamous marriage would be void.
How you answer the marital history portion of the marriage license application will confirm if you're about to partake in a bigamous marriage: specifically the yes/no are you "formerly married?" or "currently divorced?" questions.
If you enter a marriage that's considered bigamous, it won't be voided and subject to penalty if your prior spouse had been absent for five consecutive years at the time of your latter marriage, and you didn't know if they were alive or dead; or if you had reasonable, good faith belief that your spouse was dead, or that your prior marriage truly ended in divorce or annulment, or that your prior marriage was invalid or void.
Penalty for bigamy
If you enter a bigamous marriage, and it's not exempt from any bigamy exception, you may be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to five years of hard labor.
You must present your marriage license to whoever intends to solemnize your marriage. It must be valid, unexpired, and to the satisfaction of the solemnizing official.
The 72-hour delay must also be elapsed, unless it has been waived. Failure by a non-judicial officiant to abide by this waiting period could result in their authority to solemnize being revoked for up to one year.
Who may solemnize
The person who's authorized to "perform" or "preside over" your marriage ceremony is called the officiant. The state breaks down authorized officiants into two groups: judicial and religious.
Authorized judicial officials come down to judges and justices of the peace, although their jurisdictional authority varies.
Your marriage can be solemnized by the following set of non-federal judges: Supreme Court justice, anywhere in the state; court of appeals judge, inside the circuit; district court judge, inside the district; family, juvenile, city, or parish court judge, inside the parish; or municipal or traffic court judge, only for Orleans Parish.
A sliver of federal judges may solemnize as well, including a district or magistrate court judge of the Eastern, Western, or Middle District of Louisiana.
Justices of the peace
As for justices of the peace, they're authorized to solemnize marriages within their parish or within a parish that has no justice of the peace court, excluding Orleans Parish. On the other hand, a justice of the peace situated in Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, Red River, or Webster parish can perform solemnizations across any of these parishes.
Retired judges and justices of the peace
Retired judges retain the authority to solemnize. Retired justices of the peace may continue solemnizing if they've served a minimum of 18 years and they register with their parish; they're still bound by the jurisdictional limits previously outlined.
You can be married by a minister, priest, rabbi, or imam; clerk or congregation designee of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers; or a clergyperson of any religious organization, society, or sect.
The officiant must be an adult who's been granted authorization to perform solemnizations by the powers that be of his or her religion.
Officiants must be registered
Other than judges and non-retired justices of the peace, anyone who wishes to solemnize marriages must pay a one-time fee and register with the clerk of court within the parish they intend to perform most of their solemnizations; Orleans Parish is a little different: officiants must register with the state's vital records office instead.
An officiant's registration entails submitting an affidavit stating their full legal name, address, and denomination, if applicable.
You must have two competent adult witnesses attend your marriage ceremony. "Competent" means they're capable of understanding the seriousness of what they're witnessing and can provide testimony of what took place and who was involved. "Adult" means they're 18 years old or older. "Attend" means they were present during the entire ceremony and in the same room/space/vicinity as you, your spouse, and the officiant.
Endorsing the certificates
Once your ceremony has concluded, the business of endorsing your marriage license begins. Attached to your marriage license will be three marriage certificate forms that your officiant must fill out in triplicate.
Your officiant must document on each certificate when and where the marriage ceremony was held and their signature and title. You, your spouse, and both witnesses must also sign each certificate.
Returning the certificates
One copy to you
One of the three certificates will be given to you. Although your certificate is considered an original, it does not have the same legal force as a certified copy that comes direct from the clerk of court. The difference is the original has not been recorded by the clerk of court, while a certified copy has.
If you intend to change your name after marriage, you may be able to use your original certificate, but you'll definitely be able to use your certified copy.
Two copies to the issuing clerk
Your officiant must disseminate two of the three endorsed marriage certificates to the licensing official who issued them, within 10 days after the marriage ceremony was held.
Failure to return certificates
If your officiant improperly fills out the certificates or fails to return two copies to the licensing officer in the time allotted, he or she will be fined up to $20 for the first failure, $50 for the second failure, $100 for the third failure, and permanent revocation of their authority to solemnize marriages for a subsequent offence.
Once your two endorsed marriage certificates are received by the licensing officer who issued them, it will be signed and dated. One copy will be filed in office, while the other copy is dispatched to the state registrar of vital records.
Why does vital records want a copy?
Other than to help enforce child support provisions, the state's vital records division is required to submit annual reports about marriages on a statewide and per-parish level.
The registrar uses data from your marriage application, license, and certificate in its aggregations. Even if you call off your marriage, your application and license are still thrown into the data pool. This also serves critical genealogical purposes that extend beyond Louisiana and the country as a whole.
Marriage certificate copies
FYI, "marriage certificate" and "marriage record" refer to the same document. The state will often use the "record" nomenclature, so don't let it throw you off.
From Orleans Parish
If your marriage license was issued out of Orleans Parish, you can obtain certified copies of your marriage certificate/record from the state registrar of vital records for $5 per copy.
Not from Orleans Parish
If your marriage license was issued from any parish other than Orleans, you must obtain certified copies of your marriage certificate/record from the clerk of court office that issued you your license to marry.
Name change after marriage using a certified copy of your marriage certificate is only possible for woman in Louisiana; men must petition the court for a name change.
Options for first-time marriage
If this is your first marriage, you can keep your maiden name, take your spouse's last name, or hyphenate your maiden and spouse's surname.
Options for divorcees and widowers
If you're a divorcee or widower, you can maintain or return to your maiden name, take your spouse's surname, return to your prior or deceased spouse's last name, or some other last name combination thereof.
Replacing middle name with maiden name
Other than a multitude of last name change options, you can replace your current middle name with your maiden name. If you don't have a middle name, you can insert your maiden name as your new middle name.
Opposition to marriage
After your married, anyone can object to its formation and seek to overturn it. They'll have to make an oath before a judge and provide ample reasoning why your marriage should be suspended.
Court opposition is typically reserved for prohibited marriages or attempts to annul a marriage that violates underage marriage restrictions.
If such a hostile act against your marriage were undertaken, you will be notified to appear in court at a scheduled hearing. The total turnaround time will not exceed ten days, from filing to the judge's decision.
If the person looking to throw out your marriage fails to make their case to the judge's satisfaction, they'll have to pay costs.
What's the next step?
Now that you know all the ins and outs of what it takes to get a Louisiana marriage license, the next step is to choose a parish clerk of court office to visit, which is provided below.