If you're going to get married in New York State, you must first apply for and be issued a NY marriage license from any city or town clerk.
You must apply together and in person: no proxies or power of attorneys.
Origin and usage
Your marriage license must originate from New York State and can only be used in New York State.
Your marriage license application will be processed by the city or town clerk or one of their authorized deputies or staffers.
If you live on an island and the town clerk's office or residence is more than 25 miles off-island, you can obtain a license from any justice of the peace on the island.
The marriage license and certificate can be purchased separately.
A New York marriage license costs between $30 and $40—forty dollars is most common.
You'll receive one free certified copy of your marriage certificate with your license; additional copies cost extra.
A certified copy of a New York marriage certificate costs $15 in New York City and $10 everywhere else; non-NYC cities and towns can set the fee at or below this ceiling.
You can optionally purchase one or more certified copies of your marriage certificate when applying or after your marriage has been recorded.
New York doesn't impose residency requirements for obtaining a marriage license; you may apply in any city or town clerk's office and subsequently marry anywhere in the State.
Although your marriage license will be issued the same day you apply, it will not become effective for use until 24 hours later, unless a court of record waives it.
The date and hour the license becomes effective will be shown on the license.
Waiving the 24-hour delay
The 24-hour delay to marry may be waived by a judge's order if one or both parties to the marriage are facing imminent death, emergency circumstances exist, or waiting would cause permanent injury or extreme hardship.
You may seek a waiver from a Supreme Court judge or justice or a county judge in either's county of residence; however, if you're below the age of 18, you must go to your county's family court judge.
No automatic waiver for military
Although members of the U.S. Armed Forces are given triple the amount of time to use their license, they are no longer granted an automatic waiver of the 24-hour delay; that provision expired on July 1, 1973.
Your marriage license will expire 60 days after issuance, on midnight.
Armed Forces expiration
If you submit proof of being an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the license expiration date will be extended to 180 days.
The marriage license application will ask you to disclose the following:
- Birth name
- Surname after marriage (see options)
- Is residence within city or incorporated village limits?
- Social security number (collected for child support enforcement)
- Age and date of birth
- Sex (optional)
- Parents' names, maiden names, and countries of birth
- Occupation and type of business or industry
- Number of "this" marriage
- Number of marriages ended by divorce, death, and annulment
- Are any former spouses still alive?
- Last marriage:
- End date
- Ended by (e.g., divorce, death, annulment)
- Prior divorces and annulments:
- Date and place decreed
- Against whom (self or spouse)
- Address to mail marriage certificate to
Oath and signature
Before signing the application, the clerk will administer an oath where you must swear or affirm that the information you've provided is true to the best of your knowledge and no legal impediment to your proposed marriage exists.
Falsely swearing or affirming to facilitate the procurement of a license is perjury, whether committed by you, a supporting witness, or a parent or guardian.
Although your marriage license is issued to you, its instructions are directed to the officiant who will solemnize your marriage. You're basically the delivery person.
Affixed to your license will be a certificate of marriage registration, which your officiant must fill out at the end of your marriage ceremony.
Clerks are permitted by law to request proof of your last marriage ending, such as a certified copy of your divorce decree or certificate of annulment.
Although death certificates are typically not asked for, any clerk can still request it.
If you're applying for a license to hold a subsequent ceremony for your existing marriage, you may be asked to present a certified copy of your current marriage certificate.
You are required to present documentation that proves your age such as:
- Original or certified copy of a birth record
- Certificate of birth
- Baptismal record
- Driver's license
- Military identification card
- Government-issued identification card, with photograph
- State-issued identification card, with photograph
- Student identification card, with photograph
- Immigration or naturalization record
- Employment certificate
- Life insurance policy
- School record
- Court record
- Other government-issued document or record reflecting date of birth
If you are submitting identification that proves your age but does not contain your photograph, you are advised to bring a secondary piece of photo ID.
If satisfactory identification cannot be produced, the clerk may require you to produce one or more witnesses to vouch for your identity under oath.
Non-English birth records
Foreign, non-English birth records must be accompanied by a certified English translation.
Sickle cell anemia
If you are not Caucasian, Asian, or Indian, you must be tested for sickle cell anemia. If this blood test requirement violates your religious believes, it will be waived.
Rubella and blood disorders
The clerk is required to provide you information on Rubella (a.k.a. German measles), the blood disorder thalassemia trait, and other genetic conditions.
In New York, the age of majority is 18 years old. If you've reached legal adulthood, permission to marry from your parents, guardians, or a judge is not required.
If you're 17 years old, you may only marry after obtaining your caretakers' written consent and approval from a judge.
Age 16 and under
If you're 16 years old or younger, you cannot marry.
Sixteen year olds were previously allowed to marry, but current statutes prohibit it. New York is the only U.S. state that sets the minimum age of marriage at 17 years.
Who grants consent?
If you're a minor, the person or persons required to grant written consent to your marriage varies. Go down the following list of scenarios until you find a match:
If you have one or more guardians, you must obtain consent to marry from them instead of your parents.
2. Custodial parent
If you have one living parent or one parent has been awarded custody of you following a divorce or annulment, their sole consent to your marriage is enough.
3. Both parents alive
If both your parents are alive, competent, and maintain equal custody of you, then both must consent to your marriage.
4. Both parents alive, one incompetent
If one of your parents has been judged to be incompetent, the consent of the other parent is sufficient when supplemented with a certified copy of the judgment.
5. Both parents alive, one missing
If one of your parents has been missing for one year immediately prior to filing your application and efforts to track them down have failed, your other parent's consent and sworn statement is sufficient.
6. No parents or guardians
If you have no living parent or guardian as far as you know, you must obtain consent to marry from whoever has care or supervision over you.
Granting written consent
Consent to marry from a parent, guardian, or judge must be put in writing before submitting your application.
Whoever grants consent to your marriage must do it in writing and in the presence of the clerk. The clerk's office will provide the consent form.
If you're a minor, you need written approval to marry from a Supreme Court justice or family court judge having jurisdiction over the city or town of application.
The person who presides over your marriage ceremony is called the officiant. Following is a list of officials authorized to officiate marriages in New York:
- Clergyperson or minister of any religion
- Religious society (e.g., Quakers, Baha'i Faith)
- Leader of any Ethical Culture Society
- Governor (current or former)
- County executive
- Village mayor
- City mayor (for populations over 100,000)
- City police justice (for populations over 100,000)
- NYC mayor (current or former)
- NYC clerk
- NYC deputy clerk
- NYC recorder
- NYC magistrate
- NYC police magistrate
- County clerk of New York, Bronx, Kings, Queens, and Richmond
- Indian chief, headman, tribal council member, or designee
- Indian tribal court judge
- Judge of the federal district court of NY
- Judge of the U.S. court of international trade
- Judge of the court of appeals for the second circuit
- Judge or justice of the unified court system (active or retired)
- Housing judge of the civil court of NYC (active or retired)
- Federal administrative law judge overseeing NY
- Clerk of the appellate division of the Supreme Court (any department)
Note: Anyone who wishes to solemnize marriages in City of New York must register their name and address with the NYC clerk's office.
Refusal to solemnize
No religious individual, institution, organization, corporation, or non-profit corporation is required to provide solemnization goods, services, or facilities to any marriage.
Refusal to solemnize by any religious person or entity cannot result in legal blowback by way of a civil suit, cause of action, or penalty from the state or local government.
One or two competent witnesses must attend your marriage ceremony. Their names and signatures must be applied to the certificate portion of the license.
You must deliver your marriage license to the authorized officiant before your marriage ceremony can be solemnized.
Completing the license
At the conclusion of your ceremony, the officiant must complete and endorse the certificate section of the license by documenting the following:
- Date, time, and place of marriage
- Names and residences of the couple
- Names and signatures of one to two witnesses
- Ceremony type (e.g., religious, civil, specify other)
- Officiant's name, title, mailing address, and signature
Making the return
The officiant must return the completed license to the issuing city or town clerk within five days after the ceremony so that it may be recorded and indexed.
Failure by the officiant to make the return is a misdemeanor and upon conviction carries a fine between $25 and $50 for each infraction.
Once your completed license has been returned to the issuing clerk, it will be recorded and indexed. At this point, certified copies of your marriage certificate are available.
A certified copy of your marriage certificate serves as proof of marriage and becomes available after your returned marriage license has been recorded by the clerk.
Certified copies are considered prima facie evidence of the facts therein and are equivalent to the original record for legal and administrative purposes.
Note: "marriage certificate" and "certificate of marriage" are synonyms.
Your purchased license includes one complimentary certified copy of your certificate. The clerk will have it delivered within 15 days after your license has been recorded.
If your certificate doesn't arrive within four weeks following your ceremony, contact the issuing clerk to investigate.
Additional certified copies
Buying extra certificates at the time your license is issued is not obligatory; one or more copies can be purchased any time after your license has been recorded.
Your marriage certificate will document the following about you and your marriage:
- First name
- Last name before marriage
- Last name after marriage, if specified on the application
- Date and place of birth
- Current residence
- Date and place of marriage
- Clerk's signature, seal, and office location
- Indexed record number, record year, and copy date
If there's an error on your certificate, you can request a correction if the mistake wasn't fraudulent or unlawful and the accuracy of the revisions are proven to the clerk's satisfaction.
Correcting mistakes that are not the clerk's fault may incur a fee of $10 or less.
Name change after marriage
When filling out the application, you may choose a new last name to take after marriage, which will be reflected on your eventual marriage certificate. The surnames you and your future spouse choose do not have to match.
Government institutions such as the Social Security Administration, DMV, and passport office will use the new name on your marriage certificate to update their records.
Following are your last name change options:
1. Current or former surname
You can choose to take either's current surname or any former surname.
2. Combination or segment
You can combine all or a segment of your current or any former surname with all or a segment of your intended spouse's current or any former surname.
You can hyphenate your current or any former surname with your intended spouse's current or any former surname.
Prohibited family marriage
If you were to marry any of the following members of your family, the marriage would be declared incestuous and void:
- Sibling (half or whole blood)
First cousin marriage
You are allowed to marry your first cousin since New York law doesn't expressly forbid it.
Punishment for incestuous marriage
Punishment for entering into an incestuous marriage—a class E felony of incest in the third degree—is a fine between $50 and $100 and possible imprisonment for up to six months.
Anyone who knowingly solemnizes or assists in bringing about an incestuous marriage is guilty of a class A misdemeanor which carries a similar punishment.
Living husband or wife
If you enter into a marriage while having a living husband or wife or you knew your spouse had a living husband or wife, you would be guilty of bigamy, which is a class E felony, and the subsequent marriage would be absolutely void.
A marriage can be annulled by a court of competent jurisdiction if either spouse is underage, mentally or physically feeble, consented due to force or fraud, or has experienced permanent mental illness for at least five years.
New York does not recognize common-law marriage.
Marriage-by-proxy is now allowed in New York. You and your spouse must both be in attendance during the application process and marriage ceremony.