If you're getting married in the state of Illinois you are going to need a marriage license. Unlike other states, in Illinois, you must get your marriage license in the county in which you are getting married, not the county where you live. It's a little tricky because the state has 102 counties and each county clerk's office that oversees the process does things a little differently.
To help us navigate this process we turned to Jeffrey Petersen, a wedding day officiant who also works at his family's wedding venue, Chapel in the Pines Wedding & Banquet Center in Sycamore, Illinois. He answered questions about where to get your license and which documentation not to forget. He also shared common mistakes couples make, so you don't have to repeat them. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to get a marriage license in Illinois.
Meet the Expert
Jeffrey Peterson is a wedding day officiant who also works at his family's Illinois wedding venue, Chapel in the Pines Wedding & Banquet Center.
Where to Get a Marriage License in Illinois
In Illinois you must appear in person at the county clerk's office to get your marriage license; marriage licenses are issued while the couple waits. While some counties let you start your application online, they all require you to appear in person to have it issued. Some counties also require you to have an appointment before you show up. These slots can fill up, so prepare well in advance of your wedding.
You must get your marriage license in the county in which you are getting married, which is a mistake many people make, shares Peterson. "It is not unusual for couples to obtain a license in the county they reside in. If that happens, the couple can return the license and obtain a license in the county they are getting married in."
Different counties have their own locations where you can appear to get your marriage license. For example, Cook County, where Chicago is located, has six locations while DuPage County, the second biggest county, only has one location. Head to the county clerk's website in the county in which you are getting married to find out where to go.
Requirements to Get Your Marriage License
All counties require you to fill out and sign a marriage license. Peterson said it's best to check what information you'll need to fill out before you get there. "The marriage license application requires a lot of information most people don't know off-hand, which requires them to make a call to their parents, such as their parents' address and birthplace," he says. "If the applicants were previously married, they need to know the date the previous marriage ended and the county and state the marriage was dissolved in."
You must also pay a one-time fee to get your marriage license. The fee varies by county. In Cook County, for example, it's $60, while in DuPage it's only $35. Again, you must get your license in the county in which you will be married.
Documents to Bring
- Proof of Identity and Age. When getting their marriage license couples will have to present proof of identification, which can be a U.S. driver's license or a passport. If someone doesn't have those primary forms of ID they can use two other forms of identification including a certified copy of a birth certificate and a life insurance policy. The idea is to show proof of age, which in Illinois is 18.
- Proof of Divorce. Applicants who have divorced within the last six months must also show a certified copy of their divorce decree.
- Money. Don't forget to bring money to pay for your marriage license. While each county is different, most accept cash, check, or credit card (with a small processing fee.)
You will have to wait for your marriage license to be processed, so make sure you have snacks and water if you need them! Some couples like to celebrate getting their marriage license with champagne and special treats.
Your marriage license only gives you permission to marry; it isn't proof that you are married. That is what the marriage certificate is for!
Marriage licenses are valid the day after you get them. That means you can't go to the county clerk's office the morning of your wedding so plan ahead! They are also only valid for sixty days, which means you can't get them too far in advance of your wedding. Timing is everything when it comes to getting your marriage license. It's one more item on the to-do list, but once you have that important document in hand, you'll be ready for the fun part to start.