How to Get a Marriage License in Virginia

bride and groom

Photo by Kate Headley

With luxe Southern-inspired resorts, rustic locales in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and over 300 wineries, Virginia is a beautiful place to hold your wedding. Whether you opt for a grand celebration or a private elopement, there’s one thing you can’t get hitched without: your marriage license

Procedures for obtaining and using this important document vary from state to state, so you’ll want to be clear on all the ins and outs well ahead of your ceremony. To get the particulars, we consulted expert John Frey. Read on for everything you need to know about the Virginia marriage license, including how much it costs, how to get one, and who can legally perform your ceremony. 

Meet the Expert

John Frey is the Circuit Court Clerk for Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous county. His office is responsible for issuing marriage licenses. 

Virginia Marriage License Requirements 

In Virginia, you need to be at least 18 years old in order to apply for a marriage license. While many counties will allow you to complete your application online and ahead of time, you and your partner will still need to appear, together and in person, at a circuit court clerk’s office in order to formally have your application approved.

While Zoom was largely the norm during the pandemic, many marriage license bureaus are now shifting back to in-person appointments. Check with your local office for current operating procedures. 

A Virginia marriage license is only valid for use within the state of Virginia, but you do not need to hold your ceremony in the county in which you obtained the license. You also do not need to live in Virginia in order to obtain a Virginia marriage license, so go ahead and plan that destination wedding.

Bring Your Documentation

If you don’t prepare the necessary paperwork and information, your marriage license application can be denied. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Proof of Age. In order to be issued a marriage license in Virginia, you must show a government-issued ID to show proof of age. A driver’s license or state ID or works great.
  • Your Parents’ Full Names. This is as they appear on their birth certificates, so you'll need to know middle and maiden names. You do not need to bring their birth certificates.
  • Money. A marriage license will run you $30 in Virginia. The cost should not vary from county to county, but the types of payment accepted might. Fairfax County, for example, only accepts cash if you’re applying in person. Be sure to check ahead of your appointment so you’re prepared.

Only unmarried people can be granted marriage licenses. If you are a widower or have been married previously, Virginia does not require you to bring a divorce decree or death certificate to your appointment, but you will be required to swear in front of the government official reviewing your application that you are no longer married.

Get Married!

Once your application is approved, there is no waiting period to use your license, but it does expire within 60 days. Self-uniting marriages are not legally recognized in the state, so you’ll need to secure an officiant to perform your ceremony. From here, things can get complicated, as your officiant needs to be registered with Virginia in order to legally perform marriages in the state. If your officiant is based in Virginia, you likely won’t have an issue, but this can make it logistically difficult to bring in an officiant from out of state or have a friend perform your marriage ceremony as a one-time thing: Officiant approval happens at the county level and not all Virginia county clerks will accept online ordinations. If you are set on having an out-of-state officiant marry you, the officiant can register with any county in Virginia. They do not need to register in the county where your wedding will take place.

Per Frey, a legal resident of a Virginia county can petition their county to become a one-time civil celebrant in that county. Meaning: if you want your grandpa to officiate your wedding and it’s taking place at or near his house, the state will recognize him as an authorized officiant. Unfortunately, out-of-state non-ministers cannot be authorized to perform a one-time marriage. 

After your officiant performs your ceremony, they’ll need to sign both the A and B copies of your license—additional witness signatures are not required. They then have five days to return the signed licenses back to the circuit court. Upon receipt, the court will mail a certified copy of the license back to the couple and retain another copy for their records.

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