There are so many places to get married in Georgia. From Atlanta's hip venues to Savannah's historic homes to the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is something for everybody. Another plus of getting married in Georgia: marriage licenses are affordable (one costs $56 dollars, and you can reduce the fee by taking a pre-marriage class.)
However, it can take a bit of planning. You and your partner both need to appear in person (often on a date scheduled by the courts) at a specific bureau to get the license. For help navigating the process, we turned to expert Melinda Guess. She gave us a step-by-step guide to how to get a marriage license in Georgia as well as pitfalls to look out for. The idea is to make this process as easy as possible so you can get to the fun part: getting married!
Meet the Expert
Melinda Guess is a professional wedding officiant in Atlanta.
Where to Get a Marriage License in Georgia
If one or both people getting married are residents of Georgia, the process is a little easier. You can apply for a marriage license in any county in Georgia, regardless of where your wedding is taking place. However, if neither of you is a Georgia resident (maybe you are having a destination wedding?) you must apply for the marriage license in the county where your ceremony is taking place.
Each county has its own procedures for securing a marriage license. In Fulton County, for example, where Atlanta is located, you may apply at one of three probate courts. They are all open from 8:30 am to 4 pm, and walk-ins are welcome (although you may have a wait).
In Chatham County, where Savannah is, you can request a marriage license by email or by placing an application in a dropbox inside the probate court (do this with time to spare, because they will then schedule an appointment to meet in person). In Clayton County, a more rural part of the state, you must apply for a marriage license online before securing an in-person appointment required to sign the forms.
The good news is there is no waiting period in Georgia, which means you can get married as soon as you get your marriage license. They also don't have an expiration date, so you can get a license far in advance of your festivities.
“In the state of Georgia marriage licenses don’t expire, so I encourage my couples to go as early as possible to check it off the list,” says Guess. “Some Georgia probate courts have changed to an appointment-only process, and are months out with appointments. The metro counties that have walk-ins typically have long lines and wait time, up to two hours. So it’s best to get it done on a day when you have nothing planned.”
And while all marriage licenses are issued the same day you apply, the marriage certificate process also might require a little perseverance, shares Guess. After the ceremony, the officiant will sign the marriage license and submit it back to the court. Then, the court will send the couple their marriage certificate, which declares them legally married. Per Guess, this process can take up to 30 days. “I just tell couples to have patience and follow up with the clerk if they have not received their marriage certificate within 30 days," she adds.
Bring Your Documentation
There are a few items you will need to get a marriage license in Georgia. Bring them to your in-person appointment.
- Proof of Age. You must be 18 years old to get married in Georgia, and you have to have proof of your age. The following documents will do the trick: birth certificate, driver’s license, baptismal certificate, passport, immigration papers, hospital admission card with the full name and date of birth, etc.
- Proof of Divorce. If one of you has ever gotten a divorce, you will need to enter your divorce date on the application. If a divorce was granted 30 days or less from when you are applying for your license, you will need a copy of the divorce decree. “One of the biggest mistakes couples make when applying for a marriage license is not bringing their divorce decree with them,” said Guess.
- Money. Marriage licenses cost $56 in Georgia. You can pay in cash (but no bills larger than $20), money order, or credit card. To reduce the price to $16 you can complete a state-approved premarital educational program.
Your marriage license is not proof of marriage or a legal document showing you are married. Rather, it’s a license that gives you permission to marry. Your officiant will examine your marriage license before your ceremony and then complete it after it's over. It should be returned to the probate court within 30 days.
Make It Special
Many couples view securing their marriage license as one more task they have to complete before their wedding, says Guess: “Obtaining the marriage license isn’t typically a momentous occasion, just more of a task checked off the list.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it special if you want to. When it arrives in the mail, or you go home with it after an appointment, open a bottle of your favorite wine or make a special meal. Remember, this is your first step in legally becoming a married couple. We've celebrated after completing less worthy tasks.