What is a marriage license for?
In the State of Oregon, marriage is a civil contract that you must enter into voluntarily. A marriage license is a legal document that permits you to enter into a civil marriage contract. Your marriage cannot be legally solemnized or recorded without a valid and unexpired license.
Where to apply for a license?
Distribution of marriage licenses are handled by the county clerk's office of every county. Each of Oregon's 36 counties has at least one such office, with Umatilla County and Morrow County having two apiece.
Who issues the license?
The county clerk is responsible for issuing marriage licenses. The clerk is also accountable for recording your license after you're married. Sometimes a deputy clerk will take on these responsibilities.
In Oregon, every county decides for itself what it will charge to issue a marriage license. Half the counties charge $50, a third $60, with the rest scattered between $50 and $68.
Civil ceremony fee
Domestic violence fund
One marriage-related pricing constant is that $25 out of every license fee goes to the state's Domestic Violence Fund, by way of the Department of Human Services.
The fund provides important and potentially lifesaving services, such as shelters, crisis lines, safe houses, and education for grades 7–12, covering teen dating and domestic violence.
The marriage license application and marriage license are merged into a single one-page document. The Oregon Health Authority designs, prints, and distributes this form to all county clerk offices, which guarantees statewide uniformity.
The title of the marriage license is "Application, License, and Record of Marriage." Once this document is issued to you, you'd still refer to it as "marriage license" for short, instead of that longwinded designation.
Next, we're going to take a deep dive into the application, going field-by-field, explaining how certain answers should be formatted, why the question is asked, identifying optional questions, and how to deal with questions that you don't know the answer to.
Your application should be filled out in black ink. An ink color other than black may not show up properly on microfilm. At worst, you may use dark blue ink, but strive for black.
You'll be asked to choose between bride, groom, and spouse. This question is designed to enforce a gender-neutral form layout.
Current legal name
This is your current and legal first, middle, and last name, in that order. You can add a suffix (e.g., Jr., Sr., I, II, III) after your surname, but do not insert a nickname.
Legal name at birth
You must fill out your legal birth name if it's different from your current legal name. This is typically the name on your birth certificate. For women, this would be your maiden name.
Format your birth name the same as your current legal name: first, middle, and last, with optional suffix, but no nickname.
If you held a previous name that differs from your current legal name, then specify it here. This typically comes into play for people who were previously married and changed their name to their spouse's.
Previous name doesn't just refer to your surname; if any aspect of your first, middle, or last name had changed, specify it in full.
The form will ask you to specify your state or country of birth, for identification purposes. It's also used to study differences in how state residents, nonresidents, and foreigners marry; the impact that migration has on marriage; and other genealogical objectives.
In U.S., known
If you were born in the U.S., enter the state or territory name.
In U.S., unknown
If you were born in the U.S., but you don't know which state or territory, then enter "U.S., unknown."
Foreign country, known
If you were born in a foreign country, then enter the country name in full, no abbreviation.
Foreign country, unknown
If you were born in a foreign country, but you don't know which, then enter "foreign, unknown."
If you have no idea if you were born in the U.S. or another country, then just enter "unknown."
Date of birth
Your date of birth is used to assist in identification and to calculate your age to confirm if you're old enough to marry without having to obtain consent from a parent or guardian.
This is your current age, or age at your last birthday. While it may seem redundant to ask this along with your date of birth, having both boosts accuracy when cross-referenced. It's also used to perform analysis and comparisons against other characteristics, such as race, education, and where you live.
The question specifically cites "sex" and not "gender," so you'll be asked to write in "male" or "female."
Enter the occupation that you have at the moment. It can represent your job, profession, source of income, or livelihood. If you're in school, you can enter "student" as your occupation. "Unemployed" and "retired" are also acceptable answers if that accurately reflects your nonworking status.
If you leave this field blank, the county clerk will write in "refused" as your answer.
Previous marital status
If you've been previously married, write in single, divorced, or widowed. Do not answer this question with non-marriage relationships in mind, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions. If this is your first marriage, write in "single."
Parents' names at birth
This is the only aspect of the application that isn't gender-neutral; instead of asking for "Parent A" and "Parent B," the form specifically cites "mother" and "father" as your binary choice.
Enter your mom's and dad's legal name at birth, not a married name or other changed name. Do not abbreviate or include a nickname.
If you're an underage applicant, your mother's or father's birth name is used to corroborate parentage on any submitted consent to marry affidavit. It's also used to further develop the state's genealogical catalog.
The birthplace of your mother and father is solicited for identity verification and genealogical reasons, same as their birth names.
This is the full address (street name and number, city or town, state or country, and postal code) for where you live: the place you call home. Do not use a mailing address (e.g., PO Box), drop box, or temporary location, such as a vacation home, hotel, motel, or someplace that you're just visiting.
If you're in college or a member of the U.S. Armed Forces on a tour of military duty, you can use the address allocated to those assignments as your real address.
Your place of residence is used to perform statistical analysis comparing where you live against where you apply and where you marry.
County of residence
If you live in the U.S., enter the county in which you live. If you live in another country—even one with county equivalents, like Canada—leave it blank.
Legal name taken after marriage
If you plan to take on a new name after marriage, specify it on the application. Oregon's name change options are so vast we've devoted a separate name change section to explore your options.
Signature and date
Your signature is a legal declaration that you're telling the truth, to the best of your knowledge, and that you believe your marriage would not violate Oregon law.
If you happen to pick up a blank application in office to fill out in advance, do not sign and date it until you're back in the presence of the county clerk.
Vital statistic application questions
The Health Statistics Unit of Oregon's Health Authority is required to collect the following information for statistical purposes, none of which will appear on certified copies of your marriage record. The county clerk is required to write in "refused" for any field you leave blank.
Social security number
If you have a social security number, enter it. If you don't know what it is, then enter "unknown." If you don't have one, then enter "none."
Number of this marriage
Specify the ordinal number that this marriage will represent, such as first, second, or third. Spell it out instead of using the numeric short form. If you've never been married, enter "first."
Marriage history data is collected to study marital trends for those who have been married more than once, and to analyze the affect that multiple marriages has on population growth and shifts, and how it impacts pregnancy and childbirth.
Statistics have shown that there's a correlation between multiple marriages and age, fertility, and the likelihood of current and subsequent marriages ending.
If you've been previously married, specify how it ended: divorce, dissolution, death, or annulment. If you've never been married, enter "never married."
If you last marriage ended in divorce, specify the date it was finalized. If it ended in the death of your spouse, specify the date he or she died. If you've never been married, leave it blank.
Information about previous marriages allows the study of how long it takes for a new marriage to begin after the prior one ends, based on how it ended. Aggregating this data can shed light on how likely it is for a marriage to end in divorce, widowhood, or remarriage, based on a person's age.
The Social Security Administration also culls this information to help determine how benefits and pension funds are allocated to divorcees and widowers.
Enter your race, such as African American, American Indian, Hispanic, or White. If you represent several races, enter them all, separated by commas. Entering race is optional; if you'd prefer not to answer, leave it blank.
Although specifying "Asian" is acceptable for Asians or Pacific Islanders, the state prefers your ethnic or national origin be cited, including but not limited to Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese.
Collecting information on race is important to assure racial groups are equally represented in the state's studies on family development, marital patterns, and population growth. Data is aggregated and cross-referenced with other attributes, such as age and education.
The education question is asking you to specify the highest education level you've reached. This field is split into two blocks: K-12 (elementary and secondary school) on the left and college on the right. Only enter a numeric value in one of these blocks.
If you've been to college, but stayed less than one year, it would not constitute a college education in the state's strict interpretation. In that instance, fill out the preceding elementary/secondary education block instead. Only reference formal education completed; do not include art, beauty, barber, business, technical, trade, or vocational school.
Your education level is used to study social and economic impact when used in conjunction with other characteristics, such as race, residence, and sex.
18 years old and over
If you're eighteen years old or older, you can marry without parental consent.
17 years old
If you're seventeen years old, you need parental consent to marry.
16 years old and under
If you're sixteen years old or younger, you cannot marry.
Written consent to marry
If you're 17 years old, consent to marry must come from your parent or guardian in the form of a written affidavit. Consent forms are available in the county clerk's office.
The consent requirement can be skipped if you've lived in Oregon for the past six months, but your parent or guardian lives out-of-state. You must prove this to the clerk's satisfaction by providing an affidavit from a third-party source stating these facts.
Identification is solicited to verify age. The state doesn't designate which identification is and is not acceptable. It's up to the county clerk to decide if the identification you provide is sufficient.
Generally speaking, any government-issued photo ID—foreign or domestic—would be adequate, such as a driver's license, military ID card, passport, or visa.
Rotten or nonexistent ID
If the identification you provide, or fail to provide, does not satisfy the clerk, an affidavit from a third-party confirming your age would be an acceptable substitute. The affidavit cannot be from your prospective spouse, parent, or guardian. Get an acquaintance, friend, or family member to vouch for you.
In real world circumstances, if you look old enough to marry the clerk may accept your application—at her or her discretion—even if you don't submit proper identification.
You will be issued a marriage license the same day you apply. However, there is a three-day wait before it becomes "effective" and ready for use.
The current day is included in the three-day waiting period, so if you apply today you cannot use your license today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. The issuance and effective date will be written or printed on the license.
The table below shows you which day you can marry based on which day you apply.
|Apply on||Can marry on|
Note: County clerk offices are closed weekends.
Waiting period waiver
If you need to bypass the three-day waiting period, you can request a written waiver from a probate court judge; circuit court judge, if there's no probate judge available and the circuit judge's jurisdiction covers this statute; county judge, if there's no probate or circuit judge available; or the county clerk.
Obtaining a waiver from the county clerk, assuming you can demonstrate good cause, would be the most efficient route, since that's who will be processing your application anyway.
Keep in mind, a signed written waiver must be obtained before you apply for your license. It may cost you extra: about $20 dollars, give or take.
Your marriage license will expire 60 days from the date it becomes effective. The date your license expires will be written or printed at the top-right.
Blood tests and health
You are no longer required to get a blood test or physical exam in order to receive an Oregon marriage license.
Fetal alcohol syndrome
The county clerk is required to give you an Oregon Health Authority designed pamphlet that discusses fetal alcohol syndrome: what it is and its causes and effects.
You cannot marry if you have a living husband or wife, including someone you are legally separated from. Your prior marriage must be legally dissolved before you can enter into another. Doing otherwise would constitute the crime of bigamy.
Prohibited family intermarriage
Marriage between any of the following family members is considered incestuous and would be absolutely void if established:
- First cousin, with exception
Degrees of separation
You cannot marry any ancestor or descendant, regardless of degree. For example, you cannot marry your great-grandparent, great-great-grandparent, great-grandchild, or great-great-grandchild.
Related by blood
Whole blood and half blood relationships are treated equally and are likewise forbidden.
Related by adoption
Relationships established by adoption are treated the same as blood relations, and are equally forbidden.
First cousin exception
First cousins are exempt from the family intermarriage prohibition if they're both related by adoption.
Stepparents and stepchildren
A stepparent can marry a former stepchild if the stepparent divorced the stepchild's other parent and did not previously adopt the stepchild.
Who may solemnize?
Persons authorized to solemnize marriages fall into three camps: judicial officers or judges, clerks, and religious organizations.
Judges and justices of the peace
Nearly any Oregon judge may solemnize your marriage, including but not limited to justices of the peace and appellate, circuit, tax, and municipal court judges. Active federal judges or magistrates may also solemnize.
Clerks and deputies
The county clerk and their deputy are authorized to solemnize your marriage in the form of a civil ceremony.
Any religious organization or congregation can authorize a clergyperson or any designee to solemnize your marriage, in their name.
To solemnize is to preside over or perform a marriage ceremony. The person who does the solemnizing is generally referred to as the officiant. Before your ceremony can begin, you must present your marriage license to the officiant for examination.
Two adult witnesses, who are 18 years of age or older, must be present during your entire marriage ceremony.
Endorsing the license
Once your marriage has been solemnized, the officiant must endorse, or certify, the license by filling out the following portions assigned to them, in black ink only:
Date of marriage
This is the month, day, and year your ceremony was conducted. The month should be written out in full: no abbreviation or number.
Your ceremony date is used to determine if your marriage took place within an acceptable date range—between the effective date and date of expiration—and is used for statistical analysis.
This is the city, town, or location where your marriage took place. If the location is a well known landmark, the city or town can be omitted.
County of marriage
The county field was added due to couples obtaining an Oregon marriage license and unlawfully marrying outside the state. Its presence has the added benefit of allowing statistical aggregations and comparisons to be run on the county level.
Signature and title
The officiant's signature and designated title, such as judge, reverend, or county clerk, must be applied. Most officiants don't consider "officiant" to be an actual title, but if the organization that authorizes them to solemnize is fine with that generic classification, it can be used.
The contact portion is asked twice: once for the officiant and another for the organization that permits them to solemnize. These should be real physical addresses, not mailing addresses, PO Boxes, drop boxes, or website addresses.
If there's a problem in the recording of your license, these contact details will allow the county clerk to get in touch with the proper officials.
Officiant's contact info
The officiant must enter their name, personal place of residence, and direct phone number.
Religious organization's contact info
If your officiant was authorized to solemnize your marriage by a religious organization or congregation, that organization's or congregation's name, address, and phone number must be specified.
The officiant must print the full name of both witnesses. Witness signatures will not be required.
Returning the license
The officiant must return the completed marriage license to the county clerk's office that issued it within five days after the ceremony so that it may be recorded. This clerk's copy is denoted "original—vital records copy." The officiant may keep the duplicate designated "officiant's copy."
If your marriage was solemnized by a charlatan or someone who had no authority to do so, it would not invalidate your marriage if either you or your spouse believed the marriage was legitimately performed by an authorized officiant.
Once your marriage license has been returned to the county clerk, it will be signed and dated. A copy of the original will be indexed, filed in office, and kept available as a public record. At this point, your marriage has been officially registered.
Dispatch to vital records
After your license has been recorded, it will be forwarded to the Center for Health Statistics. The original copies of your application, license, and record of marriage will remain there.
Oregon has two types of marriage certificates: commemorative and certified.
The commemorative version is a non-legal, keepsake; it's basically a fake certificate. Every commemorative certificate must contain the following words signifying its pretend status:
This is a commemorative certificate. This certificate is not the legal marriage record.
Each county clerk office is responsible for designing and printing its own fancy letterhead fill-in-the-blank commemorative certificate template. At a minimum, it must be designed to contain spots to enter you and your spouse's name and address, clerk's name, date of issuance, officiant's signature, witnesses' names, and when and where the ceremony was held.
You'll get this template the same day your license is issued. The clerk will partially fill it in with known information, but you'll have to complete the remainder on ceremony day. Of course, you don't have to use it; toss it in the trash if you prefer.
Certified marriage certificate copy
The certified copy of your marriage certificate is a legal copy of your marriage record that can be ordered from either the county clerk's office or state's vital records division. The certified copy is what you'll need if you plan to change your name after marriage.
Name change after marriage
Oregon's name change after marriage options are quite sprawling. You have a variety of hyphenated and double-barreled (space separated) choices, along with straight replacements, swaps, and full or partial combinations.
Since you must choose your new legal name on the day you apply for your marriage license, this is a choice to be considered carefully beforehand instead of on the spot.
Last name change options
- No change
- Take your spouse's complete surname
- Take a portion of your spouse's surname (must be whole word)
- Combine surnames using a hyphen or space
- Partially combine surnames (must be whole word) using a hyphen or space
Middle name change options
- No change
- Drop your middle name
- Replace it with your current surname
- Replace it with your last name at birth
- Add your current surname using a hyphen or space
- Add your last name at birth using a hyphen or space
First name change options
You must get a court order to change your first name in Oregon: you can't change it through marriage.
Proof of name change
After your marriage ceremony is held and license returned to the issuing county clerk for recording, a certified copy of your marriage license will be available for order.
The certified copy is what you'll need to show government institutions, such as the Social Security Administration, DMV, and U.S. Department of State in order to change the name on your social security card, driver's license, and passport, respectively.
You cannot establish a common-law marriage in Oregon. However, if you have a valid common-law marriage established in another state, it will be recognized as legitimate in this state.
Oregon does not permit marriage by proxy, which is when one party to the marriage is unable to attend the ceremony, so a surrogate is swapped in to exchange vows on behalf of the missing person.
Now that you know what it takes to get a marriage license in Oregon, from application to recording, it's time to choose a county to apply in. Below is a list of every county in the state, with county clerk office locations and specific license fees contained therein.