BRIDES Chicago: A Guide to Getting Your Marriage License in the Chicago Area

Chicago, Planning Tips

You're finally ready to say I do, and like all big life moments, before the party comes the paperwork. Here, we give you the low-down on how to obtain a marriage license and officially tie the knot in Chicago and suburban Cook County.

Find the Clerk's Office.
The Cook County Clerk's Office is located at Daley Center (50 West Washington Street, Chicago, IL 312.603.7790). After making it through the TSA-like security checkpoint (yes, you have to empty your pockets and push your purse through a scanner), head to the lower level and follow the signage. Check the website for additional office locations.

It's mandatory for you and your fiancé.
Remember when you forced your hubby-to-be to accompany you to see the sample bouquets and boutonnieres? Or when you promised him the post-wedding-brunch tasting would be the final tasting, since he'd already approved the rehearsal and reception dinners? Well you lied. You must apply for the marriage license in person, together. You'll fill out the application, submit proof of identification (either a state driver's license or U.S. passport will do) and fork over $60.

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Be prepared to wait.
Like all smoothly run government offices, the Cook County Clerk's Office provides ample time to survey the ever-interesting sampling of patrons while your marriage license is issued. But honestly, this is the calm before the storm. In just a few days, you'll be surrounded by family and friends and find yourself talking over and over about how happy you are together with not so much as a quiet moment alone. So who cares if the woman with three children is making you rethink what you said about starting a family during that pre-marriage counseling? You're alone with your honey, and with the wedding planning nearly complete, you may find yourselves holding hands and anticipating how fun the upcoming big day will be. Enjoy it. You're about to get married in Uncle Sam's eyes, and he's keeping tabs on you!

Hurry up and tie the knot.
After you sign on the dotted line, the license becomes effective the following day and remains effective for 60 days, so the clock is officially ticking. After the ceremony, the officiant will fill out a few remaining details and return the license to the Clerk's office. Do him a favor and paperclip an addressed and stamped envelope to the license rather than making him return it in person.

Immediately order a copy (or two).
Do not expect a copy of your marriage certificate to be waiting in your mailbox when you return from the honeymoon. We recommend immediately requesting a copy and springing for a few extras ($15; $4 for each additional copy). You can order them in person, online, or by phone, and it's worth buying a few extra now rather than later. You'll need them more often than you think, updating everything from health insurance to changing your name... but that's another whole afternoon!

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