As warm weather becomes the norm during spring, many couples may be planning to tie the knot in North Carolina. Dates in May and June are the most preferred time to book a wedding in the Tarheel State.
But before saying “I do,” couples in North Carolina must obtain a marriage license. Here’s what couples should know about applying for a marriage license and performing the marriage ceremony.
Marriage license requirements
According to the N.C. Judicial Branch, the following requirements must be met to obtain a marriage license:
- Both parties must intend to marry
- Both parties must not be currently married to anyone else
- Both parties must be at least 18 years old unless specific requirements for minors are met
- The parties cannot be more closely related than first cousins
- The parties cannot be double first cousins (the children of two sisters who married two brothers)
How to get a marriage license in North Carolina
Couples whose weddings are in North Carolina can get a marriage license from the Register of Deeds in any county in the state. Applicants must pay a fee of $60 and fill out a form stating their names, ages, marital status and intention to marry. In most cases, both partners must visit the Register of Deeds office, but some counties, including Mecklenburg, allow online applications to be submitted before visiting the office to save time.
Performing a marriage ceremony in North Carolina
Weddings in North Carolina “must be conducted by a recognized officiant” in order to be legally binding, according to the state’s Judicial Branch. Under state law, “any minister who is ordained in a religious denomination or authorized by a church” can serve as a “recognized officiant.”
“Marriages can also be performed in the recognized manner of any religious denomination that does not use officiants, or in the recognized manner of any federally or state-recognized Native American tribe,” the Judicial Branch says.
For a secular ceremony, magistrates can perform weddings. Many magistrates, including in Mecklenburg County, “set aside certain days and times when they are able to perform marriages at the courthouse or other court office,” Judicial Branch spokesman Charles Keller, Jr. told the Observer.
You should contact your county’s magistrate office for more information. If you’re interested in having a loved one officiate your wedding and they plan to get ordained online, you should contact your county clerk’s office to make sure the program they are using is acceptable under North Carolina law.
Many wedding planning websites offer lists of wedding officiants available for hire. You can narrow your search based on the location of your big day and the type of ceremony you’re looking for (religious, interfaith, secular, etc.).
How to get a copy of your marriage license in North Carolina
You can order a copy of your marriage license online, by mail or by phone at 1-800-669-8310 through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The processing time for online and phone orders is four to five months, and the processing time for mail-in certificate orders is six months to one year. Copies of marriage licenses can also be ordered in person by appointment only at the North Carolina Vital Records Office in Raleigh. Appointments can be made online, or by calling 919-733-3000. Copies can also be obtained at the Register of Deeds office where the event took place.
This article has been edited for clarity and space constraints per agreement. It appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.