Here's an outline on how to get married in Texas:
- Apply in any county clerk's office
- Pay the $65–88 marriage license fee
- Take a premarital course to save money
- Submit an application
- Absent applicants apply absentee
- Show ID
- Minors get permission
- Get your issued license
- Endure the waiting period or get it waived
- Divorcees wait a month
- No blood test to worry about
- Hire an officiant
- Get married before it's too late
- Record your marriage
- Get your marriage certificate
- Change your name after marriage
In order to get married in Texas you must apply for a Texas marriage license at any county clerk's office. There are 306 such offices across the State's 254 counties.
The application process takes about 30 minutes to an hour to complete. Also be aware that some offices carve out shorter marriage license only hours.
The county clerk or one of their appointed deputy clerks will guide you through the application process and will subsequently record your license.
When you purchase a marriage license you're paying for issuance, prepping the application, administering of oaths, recording the completed license, and mailing the recorded license back to you.
Every county clerk's office accepts cash. Credit and debit cards may be honored at some locations, but there's usually a surcharge.
A Texas marriage license costs between $65 and $88, depending on the county.
Premarital course discount
If you present a premarital education course certificate that's less than one year old, the marriage license fee will be reduced by roughly $60.
Declaration of informal marriage fee
A Texas declaration of informal marriage costs between $30 and $82 to register. This is not the same as a regular marriage license that requires solemnization.
You and the other applicant will be asked to voluntarily and separately contribute $5 to the Texas Home Visiting Program that promotes healthy early childhood.
Texas trust funds
The Texas child abuse and neglect prevention trust fund receives $20 out of every marriage license purchased and $12.50 out of every declaration of informal marriage registered.
Moreover, the Texas family trust fund account is allocated $10 out of every license purchased, which funds the attorney general's premarital education handbook.
The marriage license application (form VS-180), designed by the bureau of vital statistics and furnished by the county clerk, will ask you to document the following:
- Name (must match what's on your identification)
- Maiden name, for females
- Address (street, city, state, and zip)
- Date and place of birth (city, county, and state)
- Social security number, if any
- Signature and date signed
Then answer true or false:
- You're not currently married?
- The other applicant is not currently married?
- You've not been divorced within the past 30 days?
- You're not delinquent in court-ordered child support? (doesn't affect issuance)
- You're not marrying an ascendant, descendant, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or first cousin?
- Would you contribute $5 to the Texas Home Visiting Program in support of early childhood development?
- Where to mail your recorded license (street or po box, city, state, and zip)?
Social security number
Your social security number is collected for child support enforcement purposes as mandated by Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.
Your social security number will be kept confidential by the county clerk and will be redacted if information related to your application is authorized for release.
Oath and signature
Your signature swears or affirms that the information you've provided is correct. Do not sign and date it until you're in the presence of the county clerk.
Note: Anyone applying as a proxy is not required to take an oath on behalf of the missing applicant.
Warning: Intentionally falsifying information on the application is a third degree felony punishable by two to ten years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
If you're 18 years old or older and unable to apply in person, you may assign a proxy to apply on your behalf. The proxy can be any adult, including the other applicant.
Note: Both applicants may apply absentee if at least one applicant is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving overseas in a military operation.
Affidavit of absent applicant
The affidavit of absent applicant marriage license (form VS-180.1) is similar to the regular application; it asks all the same questions as well as the following:
- Specify citizenship
- Do you desire to marry? (true or false)
- Name, age, and address of the other applicant
- Estimated date of marriage
- Reason for absence
- Who may act as your proxy for the ceremony (not the other applicant)
Note: Every county clerk's office provides blank absentee affidavit forms that anyone can pick up in advance.
There are no residency requirements. Texans or visitors, apply in any county clerk's office, then marry anywhere in the State.
Submit unexpired identification to prove your age and identity, including:
- Driver's license (not more than two years expired)
- State-issued ID card (not more than two years expired)
- Canadian province-issued ID card (not more than two years expired)
- U.S. passport
- Foreign passport
- Consular document
- Certificate of naturalization
- Certificate of U.S. citizenship
- U.S. citizen identification card (no longer issued, but still valid)
- Permanent resident card (a.k.a. green card)
- Employment authorization document/card (EAD)
- U.S. Department of State document, with photograph
- Department of Homeland Security document, with photograph
- Military ID card, with photograph (active duty, reserve, or retired)
- Birth certificate (original or certified copy)
- Consular report of birth abroad (issued by U.S. Department of State)
- Certificate of birth abroad (issued by U.S. Department of State)
- School records (secondary or post-secondary education)
- Court order for name change (original or certified copy)
- Court order for sex change (original or certified copy)
- Insurance policy (active for the past two years)
- Motor vehicle certificate of title
- Military records (e.g., discharge, selective service)
- Marriage license (original or certified copy)
- Divorce decree (original or certified copy)
- Voter registration certificate
- Pilot's license (FFA or U.S. government-issued)
- License to carry a
- Temporary driver's license (issued by TxDPS)
- Temporary ID card (issued by TxDPS)
- Offender ID card (issued by Texas Department of Criminal Justice)
Warning: Deliberately presenting false identification is a Class A misdemeanor.
Issuance of license
Once your application is accepted, the county clerk will issue you a marriage license that merely contains your name, date and time of issuance, and name of any appointed proxy to stand-in for you during the ceremony.
The original application will be archived in the office and a copy dispatched to the bureau of vital statistics for statewide indexing and genealogical purposes.
Lost or destroyed license
If your marriage license is lost or destroyed, you don't have to go through the entire application process again: simply request a duplicate license.
Your marriage ceremony must not take place until 72 hours after your marriage license is issued.
72-hour waiting period waiver
The 72-hour waiting period can be waived if any of the following is true:
- You're an active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces
- You're an employee or contractor working for the Department of Defense
- You present a premarital education course certificate of completion that's less than one year old
- You obtain a written waiver from a judge
Your marriage license will expire 90 days after it's been issued.
Update: Effective September 1, 2013, the expiration date has been extended from 31 days to 90 days.
Age 18 or above
If you're at or above the age of 18, you do not need consent from a parent or guardian to marry.
Age 16 or 17
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you may only marry by presenting a certified copy of a court order from this state or another removing the disabilities of minority.
Age 15 or below
Update: Effective September 1, 2017, no person at or below the age of 15 is allowed to marry under any circumstance. Before this date, fifteen year olds and younger could marry if permitted by a court.
Disabilities of minority
Update: Effective September 1, 2017, Texas Senate Bill 1705 amended the law to no longer allow minors to marry by obtaining the consent of a parent, guardian, court, or virtue of having previously been married.
From now on, a minor may only marry if their "disabilities of minority" are removed by a court order, which would bestow upon them full legal rights of an adult. A certified copy of the court order must be presented to the county clerk.
The motivation behind this change in law is to mitigate the risk of a non-emancipated minor being exploited when contracting marriage with an adult.
You can petition the court to remove disabilities of minority if you're a Texas resident who's 16 or 17 years old and financially self-reliant. Sixteen years old must live apart from their parents.
If the court finds marriage to be in your best interest, you'll be issued a certified copy of the court order removing disabilities of minority which would provide you full legal rights of an adult.
If you're a 16 or 17 year old nonresident who's had disabilities of minority removed in your state of residence, file a certified copy of the court order in any county's deeds records. Upon filing you'll possess the legal rights of an adult.
Although you are not required to get a blood test, you will be given information on AIDS and HIV, as well as testing sites and counseling services.
If you've been divorced within the last 30 days, you cannot obtain a marriage license unless you're remarrying your former spouse or a court waives the prohibition.
Marrying current spouse
If you're planning to renew your vows, you can still apply for a marriage license. Answering "false" to the application question that asks if you're currently married is acceptable if you're marrying your current spouse.
Premarital education course
If you and your intended spouse complete an 8-hour premarital education course from a trained instructor, you'll receive a certificate—valid for one year—to discount the license fee by about $60 and waive the 72-hour waiting period.
The following officials—active or retired—are authorized to solemnize marriage ceremonies in Texas:
- Authorized official of any religious organization
- Court of appeals justice
- Supreme court justice
- Justice of the peace
- County court judge
- District court judge
- Probate court judge
- Juvenile court judge
- Municipal court judge
- County courts at law judge
- Court of criminal appeals judge
- Court of domestic relations judge
- County court at law associate judge
- Statutory probate court associate judge
- Federal court judge or magistrate of Texas
Warning: Texas does not permit self-solemnized or self-uniting marriages.
Refusal to solemnize
No person or religious organization is required to provide services, goods, or facilities in celebration of a marriage if it violates their sincerely held religious beliefs and no civil or criminal cause of action may be brought against them.
Any person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage without authorization is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Any person who knowingly performs a bigamous or unlawful underage marriage is guilty of a third degree felony.
Fallout from an unlawful solemnization will be isolated to the officiant if either party to the marriage genuinely believed the ceremony was lawfully conducted.
Witnesses are not required to attend your marriage ceremony. Any witness who does attend should not sign your marriage license, which risks invalidation.
Texas allows marriage-by-proxy as long as the absent party applied absentee and appointed a proxy to serve as their stand-in during the ceremony.
Completion and return
Once the ceremony is over the officiant must document on the license when and where the marriage took place, as well as their name, title, signature, and address.
The completed license must be returned to the issuing county clerk within 30 days after the ceremony so that it may be recorded.
If the officiant fails to return the license, they will be guilty of a misdemeanor which carries a fine between $200 and $500.
After the county clerk receives your returned marriage license, it will be recorded and mailed back to the address you provided on the application.
Recording entails dredging up your archived application and filling in the remaining "for office use only" blanks: date and place of marriage and officiant's name.
Upon request and payment, the county clerk will issue a certified copy of a recorded marriage license (a.k.a. marriage certificate).
Note: The Texas bureau of vital statistics does not issue certified copies of marriage records; however, for $20 they can search for and confirm the existence of a marriage established between 1966 and today.
License vs. certificate
What's the difference between a marriage license and marriage certificate?
- A marriage license allows you to get married.
- A marriage certificate confirms that you are married.
- A marriage certificate is basically a "recorded" marriage license.
- They're both the same documents; the only thing that changes is the status.
Mistake on certificate
If you find an error on your marriage certificate, you and your spouse can file a notarized affidavit with the county clerk requesting a correction.
Instead of editing the original record, the affidavit will be recorded and filed alongside it as an amendment. Future certified copies will have the affidavit attached.
Affidavit correction forms are available in the clerk's office.
Name change after marriage
You can change your name after marriage with the Social Security Administration, DMV, passport agency, and other government and non-government institutions by using a certified copy of your marriage license/certificate.
Warning: If you do not notify the Texas DMV of a change of name or address within 30 days of the change, you may be fined an administrative fee of up to $20.
Declaration of informal marriage
An informal marriage is a marriage minus the ceremony, is available to adults age 18 and above, costs $30–82, and takes place instantly in the county clerk's office.
You'd submit a "declaration and registration of informal marriage" instead of an "application for marriage license." The questions on both forms are identical.
You must approximate the date your marriage was established when registering. Between that time and now you could not have been married to anyone else.
A declaration of informal marriage is similar to a common-law marriage—which is also legal in Texas—but makes it more official due to registration.
Declaration recording and certificate
Once your registration form is accepted, fees paid, and oaths administered, the county clerk will "execute" your declaration as follows:
- Prepare a "certificate of informal marriage" showing date and time of issuance.
- Dispatch a copy of the registration form to the bureau of vital statistics.
- Record and archive a copy of the registration form.
- Record and archive a copy of the certificate.
- Give you the original registration form.
- Give you the original certificate.
Texas does recognize common-law marriage, which is a marriage where the spouses present themselves as married without legal solemnization.
Common-law marriage should not be confused with the similar declaration and registration of informal marriage that Texas law formally offers.
You do not have to register or declare a common-law marriage; you and your spouse must simply mutually agree that you are married and present yourselves as such.
The marriage laws of Texas apply to residents who marry out-of-state. Any attempt to evade the statutes of this State is a risky proposition.
If you enter into a marriage in Texas with any of the following members of your family—whether related by the whole blood, half blood, or adoption—it will be void.
- First cousin
- Stepchild (current or former)
- Stepparent (current or former)
You would be guilty of bigamy by knowingly entering into a marriage, informal marriage, or common-law marriage when you or your spouse had an existing spouse.
Bigamy is a felony of the first, second, or third degree depending on the age of the victimized party: 16, 17, or 18+, respectively.
Pick a county clerk's office
Now that you understand the required steps for getting married in Texas, your next move is to choose a county clerk's office to apply in.
Your questions or comments regarding Texas marriage law are welcome.