In Minnesota, a marriage license is required for you to get legally married. Whoever solemnizes your marriage must have a valid, unexpired marriage license in order to fulfill their duties. A marriage in Minnesota is considered a civil contract.
To keep things short and simple, future reference to the term license will refer to marriage license and references to registrar is meant to reference the marriage licensing authority in any county.
In Minnesota, marriage licenses are obtained at county level offices. There isn't one type of designated office that handles this responsibility. It varies across counties, but most officers are referred to as recorders or registrars. The official who tasked with issuing licenses is also referred to as recorders or registrars.
As mentioned in the prerequisite terms intro, we'll refer to all licensing authorities as registrar for short.
You don't have to know the type of office type or designee as long as you consult the county list at the bottom of the page. It'll provide office details for each county wherein the office and employee titles are provided.
You can apply in any county throughout the state, then use your license in any county. Your license must be used within Minnesota's borders.
The marriage license application is the precursor to getting your marriage license. What you specify on the application will be copied over to the license. Some of these form fields have big implications down the line. If the first time you see the application is the moment you apply, you may be caught off guard and unready.
Let's cover some of the less obvious and potentially troublesome form fields. We'll also explain why you're being asked for certain personal details and how consequential your answers may be.
You'll be asked for your address (street, city, county, zip). So will your spouse. That's not what's important. What's key is that you'll be asked for a third, single address for you and your spouse. This is the address after marriage. The third address will be used to mail you a certified copy of your marriage certificate after you're married.
Social security number
Although your social security number will be asked on the application, it will not appear on the issued marriage license or marriage certificate. If you don't have a social security number, you can tick the box on the application that declares that to be the case.
Your social security number may be used to find out if you're delinquent in child support payments. The registrar doesn't perform this check. The check isn't typically done in the same day. Even if it were, it wouldn't prevent you from getting a marriage license, it wouldn't later prevent you from getting married, nor would it invalidate your marriage after the fact.
If you've been previously married, you'll be asked to specify how the last one ended. If your last marriage ended in divorce, provide the date and place the divorce was finalized. If your last marriage left you as a widow, provide the date and place your spouse died.
Name after marriage
In addition to asking you your current name and previous married name, you'll be asked to specify any new name you intend to take after you're married. This is an optional field, but if you don't specify it now you'll likely face trouble changing your name after you're married.
Your marriage certificate will copy over the new name you specified when you applied, and any omission could preclude you from changing your name after marriage. This is one of those fields you'll want to think about well ahead of time so that you're not facing a deer in the headlights moment on application day.
You'll be asked if you and your prospective spouse are related by blood and, if so, how. You won't be issued a marriage license if your answer falls within the range of prohibited marriages.
In Minnesota, it costs $115 to get a marriage license. It's the most expensive license fee of any state.
If you and your prospective spouse are willing to take a premarital preparation course, the license fee will come down to $40.
Certificate is included
The license fee includes a complementary certified copy of your marriage certificate. After your marriage is solemnized, and original certificate recorded and archived by the registrar, a certified copy of your certificate will automatically be mailed to the address you specified on your application.
Many other states require certificate copies be purchased separately, but Minnesota has incorporated it into the main fee.
What you're paying for?
When you apply for a marriage license, the only thing you'll see is the making of the application. The registrar has to carry out a host of other tasks after you leave the building, and even after you've married.
The registrar's licensing duties include designing and printing applications, licenses, consent forms, and certificates; issuing the license; archiving the application; indexing and archiving a copy of the issued license within office records; recording the marriage certificate after you're married; processing future certificate copy searches and deliveries; and compiling and sending information for all licenses issued and marriages performed to the state vital statistics office.
One-third of Minnesota's marriage license fee goes into funding community programs focused on strengthening marriage, improving parenting, and family planning. The remaining two-thirds are used by the county and state to keep the government running.
If you're curious about how the county and state will spend your license money, the following is how the breakdown is arranged.
County and state split
For the regular $115 license fee, the county gets $25 and the other $90 is sent to the state's commissioner of management and budget.
|22%||$25.00||Retained by the county|
|78%||$98.00||Remitted to the commissioner of management and budget|
For the discounted $40 premarital preparation course fee, the county still keeps $25 while the commissioner is sent $15 to distribute.
Regular license fee split
The regular $115 license fee is split the following six ways:
|22%||$25.00||Retained by the county|
|3%||$3.00||Parenting time centers|
|2%||$2.00||Education now and babies later|
|22%||$25.00||Displaced homemakers program|
|3%||$5.00||Couples on the brink project|
Course license fee split
The $40 course fee is split the following four ways:
|62%||$25.00||Retained by the county|
|8%||$3.00||Parenting time centers|
|5%||$2.00||Education now and babies later|
|25%||$10.00||Displaced homemakers program|
- $55 out of the regular $115 fee goes to this program.
- $0 out of the $40 course fee goes to this program.
The general fund is the state's largest reservoir of funding. It accounts for 24% of all funding, with the game and fish fund at 21%, natural resources fund at 18%, and the outdoor heritage fund at 16%.
Parenting time centers
- $3 out of the regular $115 fee goes to this program.
- $3 out of the $40 course fee goes to this program.
Parenting time centers (PTC) are facilities that provide supervised parenting time. When courts order supervised parenting time, but there's no local environment that can facilitate that, these centers can fill that role.
Counties are encouraged to financially support parenting time centers in their area. If none exist, they're encouraged to establish new centers.
The $3 that comes out of every marriage license transaction goes into maintaining these centers and building new ones through the use of grants.
Education now and babies later
- $2 out of the regular $115 fee goes to this program.
- $2 out of the $40 course fee goes to this program.
Minnesota's education now and babies later (MN ENABL) is an educational program that's focused on reducing adolescent pregnancy in youngsters between the ages of 12 to 14. This program receives the smallest amount of funding of all five programs.
Displaced homemakers program
- $25 out of the regular $115 fee goes to this program.
- $10 out of the $40 course fee goes to this program.
For people who have spent a lifetime as homemakers caring for their families, it can be difficult to reenter the workforce. The displaced homemakers program offers training, counseling, and job placement services for homemakers looking to reestablish their professional careers.
The commissioner establishes arrangements with private and nonprofit institutions that are experienced with helping displaced homemakers. In addition to that, the commissioner helps displaced homemakers to apply for various welfare programs.
Couples on the brink project
- $5 out of the regular $115 fee goes to this program.
- $0 out of the $40 course fee goes to this program.
The Board of Regents of the University of Minnesota created the Minnesota couples on the bring project in order to help couples salvage their marriage when talk of divorce has started to surface.
Discernment counseling is offered to determine if marital problems are resolvable. It's usually about five 90 minute to two hour counseling sessions.
You'll be issued a license to marry the same day you apply for it: no wait. You can get married as soon as you get your license.
Minnesota marriage licenses expire six months after they've been issued.
If you didn't get married prior to the six month expiration period because of illness or some other extenuating circumstance, you can return the license and have another one reissued, free of charge.
Premarital preparation course
The premarital preparation course is an optional class that you and your prospective spouse can attend to learn about strengthening your marriage before it takes place. It must last a minimum of 12-hours.
If you finish the course, you'll be given a statement of completion by your provider that you can use when you apply for your license. It'll knock $75 dollars off your license fee.
Complete course before applying
This should go without saying, but you must complete the course before you apply. You can't apply and pay for a license, complete the course, then retroactively attempt to get a prorated refund.
Licensed and ordained ministers are eligible to teach the course as well as those they designate. Licensed family and marriage therapists are also eligible to teach.
In actuality, any person who has the authority to solemnize marriages can teach the course, but it's unlikely you'll find many judges participating in the program. In all likelihood, you'll be interacting with a minister or therapist.
If you need assistance finding a provider, you can ask the registrar if they have a list of references. Some offices maintain such lists, while others leave it to you to find your own provider.
You should expect to be given lessons on improving communication, conflict management, financing, and managing children and family. Providers have discretion to teach the course how best they see fit (e.g., verbally, video training, digitally) as long as these core topics are covered.
Some providers work for free while others charge a fee. Some will offer you the course on a sliding scale. If there is any fee to take the course, it'll be your responsibility to pay it.
Statement of completion
Once you finish the course, your provider will give you a signed, dated, and notarized statement of completion. The statement should contain the church seal (or equivalent marking) of the person who taught the course along with their name on their official letterhead.
Make sure the name your provider puts on the statement will match the spelling of the names you'll put on your application.
In Minnesota, you have to be 18 years old or older to marry without involving your parents or a court. Anyone below the age of 18 needs to obtain parental consent and a judge's approval. If you're 15 years old or younger, you can't marry.
If you're underage you'll need to obtain consent to marry from your guardian or both custodial parents. Let's repeat that: both custodial parents. If only one parent has custody, then you'll only need that one's consent.
Consent can be done in person or in writing.
In person consent
Your parents or guardian can accompany you at the making of the application to provide consent in person. In person consent does not mean verbal consent. The registrar will have your parents or guardian fill out a consent form. It's the same form that would have been used had they stayed home and done the consent in writing.
The only advantage of in person consent is forgoing the need to track down a notary public and paying their fee.
If your parents or guardian don't want to come with you, they can give consent in writing. It must be done as a sworn affidavit. You can go to the registrar and get a blank consent form to be filled out in advance.
The consent form will have your parents or guardian swear that they're really your parents, will state your name and age, and declare this to be your first marriage.
The consent form is just the first part. Next is getting a judge to sign off.
Once you've got the consent form squared away, you'll need to have a hearing scheduled with a district court judge. The judge is going to want to see that consent form. The judge has to be established in the same county where the underage party lives.
If the district judge is unavailable or absent, and there's no assigned substitute, then you can go to any other county's district judge.
If the judge ultimately finds it to be in your best interest to marry, a written order will be handed out telling the clerk to issue the license. That, along with your consent form, will be all that you need.
You can't marry if you're currently married: that would constitute bigamy. You can't marry certain types of family members: ancestors or descendants. For instance, you can't marry your parent, grandparent, sibling, child, auth, uncle, niece, nephew, or first cousin. Whole blood, half blood, and adoptive relationships are treated the same.
Blood tests aren't required to get a marriage license in Minnesota.
The act of getting married, exchanging of vows, the "do you take this person to be your lawful wedding [fill in the blank]" is called solemnization. The person who solemnizes is called the officiant.
Minnesota law doesn't just allow anyone to solemnize a marriage. Must judges are cleared by default, but ministers have to be registered with the state. Let's cover all the authorized types.
As long as a judge is or was a judge of a court of record, they can solemnize. A court or record just means a trial or appellate court that had a clerk or court report log the happenings of court proceedings. Most judges fall into this category. Court of record judges can be active or retired.
Court administrators are good to go if they're active. Retirees can still do the job as long as the chief judge of the judicial district gives them the green light.
Former court commissioners can also solemnize, as long as they still work for the court system in some capacity and have been cleared by the judicial districts' chief judge.
No, this isn't the superintendent of schools within each district. There are hundreds of those. State law has carved out one superintendent in particular who has the power to solemnize: the superintendent of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf and the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind.
One person currently holds both jobs and they're the only person the law has shined a light on as a special case. They can solemnize, not just for students and faculty, but for anyone in the state. Of course, being superintendent is a busy job, so it's doubtful you'll be able to hire them to do officiate your wedding on the side.
Ministers can solemnize, obviously. They can be of any religious denomination, but they must be registered with the state.
Registering isn't typical. In most states, as long as a religious organization says a person is authorized, the state says it's ok: not Minnesota.
Ministers have to prove their bona fides to the registrar's satisfaction. That means providing their license or ordination papers. If the religious organization they belong to doesn't provide licenses or ordination, then a statement from the spiritual assembly to that effect must be shown.
The registrar needs something to authenticate those who want to solemnize in order to weed out unauthorized officiants who can potentially pollute the marriage rolls with invalid solemnizations.
The minister will receive a certificate to solemnize by the registrar once they're cleared. If you plan to have a minister solemnize your marriage, you can ask to see their certificate.
It may seem like a cop out to throw "other" out there as an authorized official, but it's true. Any person who's been assigned by any religious organization to solemnize marriage is permitted to do so.
The difference between this catch-all group and the previously discussed ministers, is that the latter must be registered with the state.
Method of solemnization
Judges who solemnize on state property during regular business hours have to conduct solemnizations as civil ceremonies, typically in a non-religious manner.
Anyone else can solemnize however they see fee. Religious organizations can execute their solemnizations based on the rites and practices of their denomination.
Any religious organization can refuse solemnization services for any reason if they claim participation would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. Services, goods, and property can all be refused.
The meaning of religious organization is broad, but is typically held to mean any institution, society, or corporation that's involved in practice or schooling of religion.
If a religious organization refuses service, goods, or facilities pertaining to the celebration of a marriage, they can't be held liable in a criminal or civil suit. A cause of action, penalty, or fine cannot be brought against them.
The state cannot penalize organizations that abstain from participating in solemnizations by depriving them of state business or participation in state-sanction programs or grants, or stripping their tax exempt status.
Two witnesses who are at least 16 years old must attend your marriage ceremony. The officiant cannot serve as a witness.
Once your marriage ceremony has concluded, your officiant must prepare a marriage certificate. It must be sent to the registrar that issued your license no later than five days following your marriage ceremony so that it may be recorded.
The certificate must contain details about the event and who participated; the date, time, and place where the ceremony was held; the officiant's name; the county where their credentials are filed (if they reside in Minnesota); you and your spouse's names, intended names to take after marriage, places of residence (county and state), and birthdays; and the signatures of your witnesses.
Failure to return
If your officiant does not return your marriage certificate for recording within the time allotted by law, they may be fined up to $100.
Once you've been married, and your marriage certificate has been prepared, it must be sent to the registrar who issued you your license so that it may be recorded. Your marriage doesn't officially exist within the state's eyes until it's been recorded. As a matter of fact, it doesn't exist anywhere until it's been recorded.
Certified copy of marriage certificate
Once your marriage certificate has been recorded by the registrar, a certified copy will be prepared and mailed to the address you specified when you applied. The original certificate will be held in the county office.
You should expect to receive your certified copy about 10 days after the registrar receives and records your marriage certificate.
Failure to record
If the registrar fails to record your certificate once it's been returned, they may be fined up to $100.