The Common Law

How do I get a marriage license?

I just got engaged, and we need a marriage license, but I'm not sure how to get it. What's the process to get a marriage license? Is it a big hassle?

Before any two people get married and experience the excitement of beginning a new life together, they first have to share the mundane process of getting a marriage license, which is required by Texas law. The notion of long lines, endless forms, and government bureaucracy gives people nightmares. Luckily, the actual process of obtaining a marriage license is relatively painless, particularly if you come prepared with the right information and follow some basic instructions.

In most circumstances, a couple getting married will apply for a marriage license with the county clerk's office where they plan to be married. For example, in Austin, the couple would go to the Travis County Clerk's office located at 5501 Airport.

The couple will be required to fill out a marriage-license application and otherwise supply the clerk with specific information. Both bride and groom should bring proper identification (valid driver's license, passport, or certified copy of birth certificate) as well as their Social Security numbers. If one spouse had a divorce that was finalized within the last 30 days, that person should bring a certified copy of the divorce decree stating the 30-day waiting period is waived.

The marriage-license fee is generally between $30-45 depending on the county (the marriage license costs $41 in Travis County). Contrary to popular myth, blood tests and physical exams are not required in Texas.

If all relevant information is provided, the couple should receive their marriage license immediately. Texas law, however, imposes a mandatory waiting period of three days (this can be waived due to active-duty military status). The marriage license will expire 30 days from the date that it's issued. So the trick is to get the license early but just not too early – a safe bet is to get the marriage license two to four weeks before the marriage ceremony.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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