From the beaches of Wilmington and the Outer Banks to the luxury mountain lodges of Asheville and Highlands and the charming college campuses of Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina has a beautiful setting for every type of wedding style. No matter how you choose to get hitched, however, you'll still need a North Carolina marriage license.
Every destination has different rules and requirements when it comes to obtaining this important legal document so we tapped expert Martina Gonzalez Britt to set the record straight when it comes to the Tar Heel state.
Meet the Expert
Martina Gonzalez Britt is the Register of Deeds Supervisor for Wake County, North Carolina’s most populous county. Her department is responsible for issuing marriage licenses.
Read on for everything you need to know about the North Carolina marriage license, including how much it costs, what to bring to your appointment, and who can legally marry you.
North Carolina Marriage License Requirements
In North Carolina, you must be at least 18 years old in order to apply for a marriage license without parental consent. You do not need to be a resident of North Carolina, but the license is only valid for use in the state.
Many counties will allow you to pre-fill your paperwork online, but you will still need to appear in person at a county Register of Deeds office to complete the application process. Per Britt, if one member of the couple is not able to attend the appointment due to incarceration, hospitalization, or deployment, they can fill out an Affidavit in Lieu of Personal Appearance form (example here) and have it notarized. Their partner can bring the form, along with copies of the necessary documentation, to the in-person appointment and share it on their behalf.
Bring Your Documentation
Completing your marriage license application online will make your in-person appointment a quick and easy affair—and so will having the required documentation. Here’s what to bring:
- Proof of Age. If you’re between 18 and 21, you’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate. If you’re over the age of 21, a government-issued ID (driver’s license, passport) works just fine.
- Social Security Number. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you’ll need proof of your social security number. This can be your social security card or a tax form such as your W-2. If you do not have a social security number, you can still obtain a marriage license in North Carolina, you’ll just need to sign an affidavit attesting to this fact.
- Proof of Divorce. A certified copy of your divorce decree is only necessary if your previous marriage ended within 30 days of your next marriage license appointment. If the divorce occurred over 30 days before your appointment, no proof is necessary, but you will need to provide the month and year your last marriage ended.
- Money. The cost of a marriage license in North Carolina is $60. That rate is the same no matter what county you apply for the license in, but you’ll want to determine what types of payment methods are accepted ahead of your appointment.
If you are a widow or widower, North Carolina does not require proof of death of your former spouse in order to be approved for a marriage license.
Once you have your marriage license, you have 60 days to wed. In North Carolina, there is no waiting period to use the license. A North Carolina marriage license allows you to marry anywhere in the state, so you do not need to wed in the county that granted your license, but know this: self-uniting ceremonies are not recognized by the state, so you will need to have an officiant marry you.
Unlike in nearby Virginia, an out-of-state officiant does not need to register with North Carolina in order to legally perform your ceremony, but they do need to be ordained. After your ceremony is complete and you’ve declared your consent to marry, your officiant will need to sign the marriage license. You’ll also need two additional witnesses present to observe the marriage and sign the license. Per Britt, it is “strongly suggested” that these witnesses are over the age of 18—and, if you’re married by a state magistrate, “the magistrate requires all witnesses to be 18 years of age or older with a valid ID”—but there is not a space on the license for your witnesses to formally declare how old they are. This means if you’re hosting a small, family-only elopement, it is permissible to have your teenage children serve as witnesses.
Once everyone has signed on the dotted line, your officiant or someone designated by your officiant has 10 days to return the license back to the county that issued it. A certified copy of what is now your marriage certificate will not automatically be sent back to the couple, but you can request one online or in-person at the county’s Register of Deeds office. The fee is $10 per certificate.