Where you must apply for a marriage license and where you can marry afterward is based on residency.
One or both are state residents
If either you or your prospective spouse is a resident of Michigan, you must apply for a license in the county of either's residence. Afterward, you can marry anywhere in the state.
Proof of county residency must be presented to the county clerk.
Neither are state residents
If neither you nor your prospective spouse resides in this state, you must apply for a license in the county where the marriage ceremony will take place.
The cost of your marriage license is determined by your state residency status.
If at least one of you lives in Michigan, you will only have to pay $20 for a marriage license.
If neither of you live in Michigan, you must pay $30 for a marriage license.
Can't afford to pay
If you can't afford to pay the license fee, due to it imposing an undue financial hardship upon you, you may request a probate court to order the county clerk to waive the fee.
The marriage license application is in the form of an affidavit. It's a barebones document that should take you only a few minutes to complete.
You will be asked to specify the following about yourself:
- Full name
- Surname on birth certificate, if different
- Age and date of birth
- Residence, including county
- Total number of previous marriages
- Parent's names
- Parent's birthplaces
- Social security number (why is this asked?)
Depending on the county, you may also be asked to supply the following:
- Email address
- Daytime phone number
- If you want the date and place of marriage published in the newspaper
Attestation of signature
As mentioned at the outset of this section, the application is an affidavit that must be sworn to. Your signature at the end is a testament to the accuracy and truthfulness of what you've stated. Swearing falsely to any information you've provided is considered perjury and is prosecutable.
Online submission, one person pickup
Some counties allow applications to be submitted electronically, online. If you go this route, you or your prospective spouse can pick up the license alone and sign for both. Whoever's absent must provide the other their identification: original or photocopied.
Application is not a public record
Although the county clerk will forward your application to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), it will not become a public record. It won't even be accessible through freedom of information act requests; only you and the other applicant can access it, upon request.
Social security number
Child support enforcement
Your social security number will not appear on your issued license, is kept confidential, and will only be released to the child support division within the Department of Health and Human Services.
You're exempt from supplying a social security number if you don't have one or object to its disclosure on religious grounds. The county clerk should alert you to the latter exemption.
You may be required to sign an affidavit, separate from your application affidavit, attesting to your nonexistent social security number.
Anyone who releases your social security number in an unauthorized way is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $500.
Subsequent transgressions are elevated to felony charges, punishable by up to four years imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of $2,000.
If you've been married before, you do not have to bring a certified copy of your divorce decree or spouse's death certificate. You'll only be asked to document how many times you've been married on the application.
18 years old or older
If you're 18 years old or older, you're an adult who's free to make marriage decisions without your parent's input.
16 or 17 years old
15 years old or younger
If you're 15 years old or younger, you are prohibited from marrying. If such an underage marriage were in some way established, it would be void.
Which parent can grant consent?
If your parents live together, either can grant consent. If they're divorced, the custodial parent grants consent. Proof of custody must be presented.
Consent form or statement
Consent to marry from your parent or legal guardian must be in written form, whether delivered in person or not in attendance, so that it may be catalogued in the county clerk's office.
County clerk offices will often provide readymade, fill-in-the-blank consent forms, in lieu of a parent or guardian drafting their own consent statement from scratch.
In person consent
Your parent or legal guardian may accompany you to the making of the application to fill out a consent form in the presence of the county clerk. They should be prepared to present their own identification.
Not in person consent
If your parent is unable or unwilling to escort you to the making of the application, their consent can be put in writing and verified before a notary public or other official who's authorized by law to administer oaths.
Bring the completed consent form or statement to the county clerk along with a photocopy of your parent's or legal guardian's identification.
Possible consent exemptions
If you have no parent or guardian, or have been previously married, you do not require consent to marry. A minor who has been married is no longer under the legal control of a parent.
Of course, you will be required to substantiate your claim.
Identification is solicited to confirm your age and residency. The most preferred form of identification to confirm your age is a certified copy of your birth certificate.
Alternative forms of identification are also accepted, such as an unexpired driver's license, state-issued ID, military ID, or passport. If used for age verification, it must contain your date of birth. If used for residency verification, it must contain your current address.
Documents that are not written in English, such as a foreign birth certificate or foreign passport, must be translated into English and notarized. Bring both the original and translated version.
Non-English passports must also be accompanied by a I-94 Form.
Parent's or guardian's identification
If you're underage and eligible to marry, and have a parent or legal guardian who intends to consent to your marriage, in person, they must also present a valid form of government-issued photo identification.
If your parent or guardian will not be in attendance with you during the application process, bring a photocopy—front and back—of their identification.
If a custodial parent is granting consent, bring proof of custody. If a guardian is granting consent, bring the guardianship papers.
Issued marriage license and certificate
Your issued marriage license is a single-page, two-part document; the top half is titled "marriage license" and the bottom half is a blank form titled "certificate of marriage." The license and certificate will be issued in duplicate, like carbon copy duplicate checks.
License is a public record
Unlike the nonpublic application, a facsimile of your issued marriage license will become part of the public record, whether or not you actually get married.
There is a three-day waiting period—which can be waived—between the day you apply for a marriage license and when you must return to pick it up. The day you submit your application is included in the wait time.
The table below illustrates the day you can pick up your license based on the day you apply.
|Apply on||Pick up on|
Note: county clerk offices are closed on weekends and legal holidays.
Although you aren't absolutely required to pick up your license the precise day it becomes available, understand that you are fighting a losing battle against the expiration clock the longer you wait.
If you can demonstrate good cause for why the county clerk should waive the three-day waiting period, your license may be issued immediately. You will be required to pay a small waiver fee, which varies from county to county.
Your marriage license will expire 33 days after your application has been filed. Be clear that the expiration countdown begins the moment your applicant is submitted, not when you pick it up following the three-day wait.
Blood tests and counseling
You are no longer required to get a blood test or premarital counseling in order to receive a marriage license. The long forgotten blood test requirement was eliminated on January 1, 2001.
HIV, STD, and prenatal care materials
In lieu of a blood test, you will be given information on prenatal care and the transmission and prevention of HIV and other STD's. This was the tradeoff for eliminating the blood test requirement.
You are prohibited from marrying the following members of your family:
- First cousin
If you have a living husband or wife, you cannot enter into another marriage contract until your prior marriage is dissolved or annulled.
The person who solemnizes, conducts, performs, or presides over your marriage ceremony is called the officiant, officiator, or solemnizing official. For the sake of simplicity, we'll use the term "officiant" to describe this individual.
There are five groups of authorized officiants: judges, mayors, clerks, clerics, and religious societies.
Your marriage may be solemnized by a district court judge, district court magistrate, or probate court judge, anywhere in this state; a federal judge, anywhere in this state; or a municipal court judge, but only in the city or township of their jurisdiction.
Your marriage may be solemnized by a mayor, but only within the county in which their city is located.
Your marriage may be solemnized by a county clerk, within the county in which he or she serves, or within another county if written permission is obtained from that other county's clerk.
The county clerk of Wayne County and Oakland County are legally permitted to designate any employee—typically a deputy—to solemnize marriages on their behalf, due to their respective populations exceeding 1.5 million.
Any religious denomination can authorize any member of the clergy to solemnize your marriage, including, but not limited to, ministers of the gospel, priests, rabbis, or imams. The cleric's residence is irrelevant, meaning non-Michiganders can solemnize.
Any religious society, such as the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, or the Spiritual Assembly of the BahÃ¡'Ãs, is authorized to execute their solemnization procedures however they see fit, which includes having the ceremony performed by a clerk, congregation, the couple themselves, or a combination thereof.
By a clerk
If you're to be married by a county clerk, or their designee, you will be charged a solemnization fee that's set by the county commissioners.
Collected fees must be dispatched to the county treasurer and deposited into the county's general fund, by the end of the month.
By a mayor
If you're to be married by a mayor, understand that he or she is required to charge and collect a solemnization fee set by the city council, so what you'll pay may vary from city to city.
Monies collected must be forwarded to the city treasurer and deposited in the city's general fund, by months' end.
Solemnization is the presiding over, performing of, conducting of, officiating of, or solemnizing of your marriage ceremony.
Before the ceremony begins, you must hand over your marriage license to the officiant.
Form or ritual
The form or ritual for how your marriage must be solemnized is up to you, your prospective spouse, and officiant or congregation.
The only procedural condition the state imposes is that you and your soon-to-be spouse solemnly declare to take each other's hand in marriage before the officiant and two witnesses.
Two adult witnesses, who are 18 years of age or older, are required to attend your ceremony. A witness can be anyone other than the officiant, you, and your prospective spouse.
Completing the certificate
Following the conclusion of your ceremony, it is the responsibility of the officiant to complete, or certify, the blank certificate portion of the license. He or she must type or legibly print his name and title, your name, your spouse's name, the name and residence of both witnesses, when and where the marriage took place, and round it out with his or her signature.
Returning the certificate
As mentioned in the earlier license and certificate section, the license has a duplicate attached. Your officiant must deliver the duplicate to you at some point in the future—typically done immediately, as a courtesy. He or she must also return the original to the county clerk office that issued it no later than 10 days after the ceremony.
If whoever's responsible for returning the completed license and certificate fails to do so, he or she will be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days of jail time or a fine no greater than $100, or both. The court decides how harsh the penalty will be.
Objection to a marriage during the ceremony, due to a legal impediment existing, may seem like a dramatic gesture confined to movies and novels, but it's a serious matter that must be resolved to the satisfaction of the officiant, for fear that imprisonment or a fine be incurred.
If your marriage was performed by someone who had no legal authority to do so, its validity will not be called into question if either you or your spouse sincerely believed the marriage was legitimately solemnized at the time. However, the unauthorized officiant may face penalties, upon conviction.
Punishment for the officiant
Generally speaking, if an officiant performs a ceremony that in any way contradicts the laws of this state, he or she will be subject to a maximum fine of $500 for each offense.
Moreover, if an officiant performs a marriage without authority or forges ahead when knowledge of an impediment exists, he or she may be charged with a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, be imprisoned in the county jail for up to one year and/or fined between $50–500.
Once the county clerk receives your completed, original marriage license and certificate of marriage, the information on the certificate will be registered in a marriage log book kept in the office.
Original sent away, replica kept
The original license and certificate will later be forwarded to the state registrar, who's appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The county clerk's office will retain a replica of your certificate, which that can be used to generate certified copies.
If you find an error in your recorded license and certificate, you can request the county clerk correct it by submitting an affidavit that proves your allegation. If the circuit court approves, the original record will be amended.
After your marriage license and certificate of marriage has been recorded, your marriage is official and existent in the state's eyes. At this point, certified copies are available for purchase.
Ordering certified copies
Certified copies of your recorded license and certificate can be ordered from the county clerk office that issued them. A certified copy is a must if you intend to change your name after marriage.
Genuine certified copies of your vital records (marriage, birth, and death) can also be ordered direct from the Department of Health and Human Services by mail or online, but only after the original has been forwarded to them by the county clerk, so there may be a delay immediately following your ceremony.
Certified license vs. certificate vs. record
You might have been confused earlier when the "marriage license" and "certificate of marriage" document was discussed in the license and certificate portion of the page.
There's generally great confusion when it comes to understanding the difference between a marriage license, marriage certificate, marriage record, and certificate of marriage, especially when it comes to certification.
In reality, they all refer to the same document. Think of them as synonyms. When you need to order a certified copy of your marriage certificate, it's the same as ordering a certified copy of your marriage license or marriage record or certificate of marriage.
Name change after marriage
If you plan to change your last name or middle name after marriage, you'll need to obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate/license/record—it's the same document.
Once a certified copy is in hand, you can use it to change the name on your social security card with the Social Security Administration, state ID or driver's license with the Secretary of State's office, passport with the Department of State or local passport office, or any other government or nongovernment institution.
Do not use your duplicate copy
The duplicate copy of the license and certificate your officiant gives you immediately after you're married does not have the same legal force as a certified copy, because it's a non-recorded document that does not have the county clerk's signature, date of recording, and seal. It is highly unlikely to be accepted by a government institution or court of law.
Common-law marriages are no longer recognized, except for those that took place prior to January 1, 1957.
If you and your spouse are residents of Michigan who got married in another U.S. state, your marriage will be recognized as long as it could have legally taken place in this state. This means, you cannot go to another state in order to effectively sidestep the marriage statues of this state.
Interestingly, state law doesn't specify what it thinks of marriages that take place in a foreign country or U.S. territory or jurisdiction that may contradict this state's marriage laws.
Inert constitutional amendment
Although no longer effective, Michigan's Article I, Section 25 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is still on the books, as written:
To secure and preserve the benefits of marriage for our society and for future generations of children, the union of one man and one woman in marriage shall be the only agreement recognized as a marriage or similar union for any purpose.
Now that you know all that it takes to get married in Michigan, including how much it costs, where to go, and ID to bring, it's time to choose the proper county to visit. Consult the following list of Michigan county clerk offices to get you on your way.