How to Get a Marriage License in Michigan

Plus: The one document you’ll be surprised to learn you need.


Photo by K.R. Moreno

Whether you choose to wed in an art museum in downtown Detroit or on an idyllic farm just outside of Ann Arbor, if you’re marrying in Michigan, you’ll need a marriage license to make your union legally official.

Every state has different requirements and regulations when it comes to obtaining this important document, so we asked expert Elizabeth Schultz to break down all the essential info for the Great Lake state. 

Meet the Expert

Elizabeth Schultz is the Vital Records division supervisor for Washtenaw County, Michigan, which includes Ann Arbor. Her department oversees the approval of marriage licenses for the county. 

Read on for everything you need to know about obtaining and using a Michigan marriage license, including the one document you may be surprised to learn you’ll need to bring to your appointment. 

Michigan Marriage License Requirements

If you are over the age of 18, you can legally wed in the state of Michigan without parental consent. Michigan residents must apply for their marriage licenses in the county in which they live, but may use the license anywhere in the state. Non-Michigan residents who wish to marry in the state must apply for their marriage license in the county in which they plan to wed. The license will only be valid for use in that county. 

In Michigan, marriage licenses are granted by the county clerk’s office. Most counties give the option of completing your paperwork online ahead of your appointment, but not all do. Counties also vary on who must attend the appointment: Some require that both members of the couple be present, while others only require that one member of the couple—typically the resident of the county in which you’re applying for the license—be present.

In the same vein, if neither party is able to attend in-person, some Michigan counties, such as Washtenaw, do offer virtual appointments and affidavit procedures, but not all do. Be sure to consult the your county clerk’s website ahead of your appointment so you can best prepare.

Bring Your Documentation 

You’ll need to have the following on hand for your Michigan marriage license appointment: 

  • Identification. If you’re a Michigan resident, you’ll need a current driver’s license or state-issued ID to show proof of residency. Non-residents should also bring identification. 
  • Social Security Number. Some counties will request to see a copy of the card, others will just require you to know and list the number. Applicants without a social security number are still able to obtain a Michigan marriage license, but will require additional documentation, and some counties do require the applicant to appear in person for the appointment. Requirements vary from county to county, so it’s best to check in advance. 
  • Birth Certificate. Michigan is one of the rare states that requires a birth certificate issued by a government office for both U.S. and foreign-born citizens. (Hospital and baptismal certificates will not be accepted.) Some counties require a certified copy, while others do not, and some will accept a passport in lieu of a birth certificate. Non-American birth certificates that are not written in English may need to be translated and certified by a notary. Because these requirements vary by county, it’s best to consult your county clerk’s office ahead of your appointment. 
  • Payment. A Michigan marriage license runs $20 if one or both applicants is a resident of the state, and $30 if neither member of the couple is a resident. Accepted forms of payment vary by county. 

If you have been married previously, Michigan does not require proof of divorce or death of a spouse in order to apply for a marriage license. 

Get Married! 

Once your application is approved, there is a three day waiting period before you can use the license. The license does expire if not used within 30 days after it becomes valid. If you wish to waive the three-day waiting period, that is possible in some counties, but the waiver comes with an additional fee. 

Self-uniting marriages are not legally recognized by the state of Michigan, so you will need to secure an officiant to perform your ceremony. Good news: your officiant does not need to register with the state, so an out-of-state celebrant or a friend that got ordained online will work just fine. After the ceremony is complete, your officiant and two additional witnesses over the age of 18 will need to sign your marriage license, so plan accordingly if you’re thinking about eloping. The license needs to be returned to the country clerk office from which you obtained it within ten days after the ceremony occurs. 

Marriage certificates are not issued automatically after a marriage license is processed; couples will need to purchase them separately. Costs vary per county: In Washtenaw, a certified copy of a marriage certificate runs $15 for the first copy and $5 for every subsequent copy purchased at the same time; in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, it will cost $24 for the first copy and $7 for each additional copy purchased at the same time.

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