Once you and your partner have decided its time to start the next chapter of your lives together, you’re well on your way to wedding bliss. But before wedding bells can start ringing, you have to face a little paperwork.
Familiarize yourself with Delaware marriage laws and the process to apply for your wedding license, and your big day will go off without a hitch.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to everything you want to know (and didn’t know you needed to know) about how to get married in Delaware.
Wedding planning is a romantic affair: diamond rings, bouquets, stunning clothes, and pastries galore. The process of making your marriage legal is just slightly less exciting. Nevertheless, thoroughly researching Delaware’s marriage laws and requirements will help you start your life as newlyweds on the right foot.
Let’s acquaint ourselves with some need-to-know terms and requirements in the world of weddings—and, more specifically, to Delaware marriage law:
Marriage License – Before you can get married legally in Delaware, you will first need to obtain a marriage license.
Marriage Certificate – Whereas your marriage license serves as your application to get married, you receive the marriage certificate after the wedding to record your marriage officially.
Residency Requirements – Couples don’t need to be Delaware residents to get married in the state. They do need to present photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
Witnesses – Delaware requires that marriages must be performed in the presence of at least two witnesses. These witnesses must be 18 years of age and trustworthy. They will sign the marriage license.
Legal Age of Marriage – In 2018, Delaware became the first state to ban child marriage. That means the legal age of marriage is 18. In other states, minors can get married with a parent and/or judge’s consent; however, that is not the case in Delaware under any circumstance.
Officiant Qualifications – There are two categories of individuals who can officiate a marriage. Any officiant must be over 18 years of age. The first category is any clergyperson or minister of any religion who resides in Delaware and is registered with the Clerk of the Peace in the county where they live. The second category is any clergyperson or minister who does not reside in Delaware but is registered with the Clerk of the Peace in the county where the marriage ceremony will be completed.
Special Marriage Types – Delaware does not allow any of the following types of marriage: proxy marriages, cousin marriages, or common-law marriages.
Now that you have a basic understanding of Delaware’s marriage laws, you can go forth into the marriage license application process.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to make the marriage license application process go smoothly.
The application for a marriage license requires the following information for both individuals:
Individuals must also provide a government-issued ID that includes both their full name and date of birth, such as a:
Delaware residents can also provide proof of residency to qualify for lower fees.
There are three instances in which you will need to provide additional documentation to receive your marriage license:
Previous Marriage – If either individual has been previously married or was in a similar union, he or she will need to present a certified copy of the final divorce decree or a death certificate.
Probation or Parole – If either individual is on probation or parole, they must provide an original letter from the probation or parole officer giving permission for the marriage.
Maiden Name – If either individual is divorced and has legally reclaimed their maiden name, they will need to present a certified or original copy of the name change court papers.
Couples that require an interpreter must provide their own. This interpreter must be at least 18 years old. Some counties in Delaware have a part-time Spanish-speaking interpreter. To learn more, contact your county offices.
Once you understand the process, it’s time to actually apply for your marriage license!
Couples can file online applications to receive their Delaware marriage license or apply in person at the Marriage Bureau Office during business hours on Monday through Friday.
As of 2019, Delaware charges a $50 fee for a marriage license for residents and a $100 fee for non-residents. Both of these fees are subject to an additional mandatory $20 recording fee. That leaves the final total as:
The fee can only be paid in person with cash. If you apply online, you can pay by credit card, but there is an additional $19.95 processing fee.
There are some additional types of fees that you may or may not encounter, depending on your plans, including:
Marriage license for Delaware residents – $50
Marriage license for non-residents – $100
Recording fee applied to all marriage licenses – $20
Certified copy of a marriage or civil union license – $25
Memorable Marriage Ceremony in the office for Delaware residents – $50
Memorable Marriage Ceremony in the office for non-residents – $100
Memorable Marriage Ceremony outside the office for Delaware residents – $100
Memorable Marriage Ceremony outside the office for non-residents – $175
Renewal of vows in the office for Delaware residents – $50
Renewal of vows in the office for non-residents – $100
Renewal of vows outside the office for Delaware residents – $100
Renewal of vows outside the office for non-residents – $175
Officiant's late return fees – $50
All of these fees can be waived, regardless of residency, for active US military members and veterans. These groups need to present a copy of DD Form 214 and apply in person for their fee waiver. While all application fees are final and nonrefundable, ceremony fees are transferable if the applicants can demonstrate good cause.
If these Delaware county marriage license fees are cutting into your wedding fund, give your budget a little TLC and use Zola to search for wedding vendors by budget.
To receive their marriage license, couples must also certify four things:
First, that they are not related by a prohibited degree, including parent, grandparent, child, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or first cousin.
Applicants must also certify that they are not under the influence of liquor or narcotics.
Next, they must certify that their documents are properly executed.
Finally, they must certify that there are no known legal barriers to the marriage.
Although many states no longer have waiting periods for marriage certificates, Delaware still enforces this requirement. If the couple consists of non-residents, the waiting period is 96 hours. If only one member of the couple is a Delaware resident, then the waiting period is 24 hours.
Regardless of whether or not you order the marriage license online or in person, both individuals in the couple must pick the license up from the county office together.
Marriage licenses in Delaware are only valid for 30 days. If a couple doesn’t get married within 30 days of the time of application, then their marriage license will expire. The good news is that couples can reapply for a new license. The Clerk of the Peace can also extend the marriage license to up to 180 days if the couple can demonstrate a valid cause.
As you’re beginning to learn, the process of obtaining a marriage license and making your union legal requires a little bit of forethought and elbow grease. Here are some special considerations to help your Delaware wedding avoid snafus:
Timing the application – Sussex County in Delaware estimates that the online marriage license application process takes 20 minutes. Budget more time if you apply for the license in person.
Filing the license – The officiant will fill out the wedding license and then the newlyweds will return it to their county clerk. The license needs to be returned before its 30-day expiration date.
Getting copies of the marriage certificate – You will apply to the Office of Vital Statistics to receive copies of your marriage certificate.
Getting copies of the marriage license – You can obtain certified copies of your marriage license through your county Clerk of the Peace Office. Copies can be obtained by mail, online, or in person.
In the whirlwind of wedding planning, details can get lost easily. Check out these frequently asked questions about how to get a Delaware marriage license and get married:
You can obtain your marriage license through the office of the Clerk of Peace in your county.
Birth and death records can be obtained in person, by mail, or online through the Delaware Office of Vital Statistics.
Contact the records department of your county’s family court to request marriage records, including copies of divorce or annulment decrees, either in person or by mail.
If your partner is a Delaware resident, file the license in his or her county of residence. If neither partner is a Delaware resident, file the license in the county where your wedding will take place.
If you’re an out-of-stater, you might not yet be versed in everything Delaware has to offer. Easily browse potential wedding locations with Zola’s free wedding venues search tool to find your dream spot.
Because a Delaware wedding license expires in 30 days, you should apply within 30 days of your wedding date. However, you should start the application process much earlier. Ensure that you have all the proper documents readily available. There could be delays in receiving certain documents, so order necessary documents, such as copies of birth or death certificates, as soon as possible.
Delaware residents can get married 24 hours after receiving their marriage license. Non-residents must wait 96 hours.
There are several steps to legally change your name in Delaware. After your wedding, you must pick up a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the office of the Clerk of the Peace in your county. Provide the certified copy of your marriage certificate to relevant government agencies and businesses to update their records with your new name.
If you want to change your name on your driver’s license, you must visit your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office to change your name on your social security card before you visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
In 2013, Delaware passed the Delaware Civil Marriage Equality and Religious Freedom Act. This act legalized same-sex marriage, so the state no longer offers civil union licenses.
Unlike other states, Delaware doesn’t recognize common law marriages. So, if you want the legal rights of a married couple in the state of Delaware, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license.
Now that you’ve figured out the less than exciting legal details of marriage licenses, waiting periods, officiants, and more, it’s time for the fun stuff—starting with venues.
Delaware may be a small state. But no matter what kind of wedding venue you’re looking for—from all-inclusive resort-like venues to more intimate outdoor spaces, historic buildings to more modern event spaces—you’ll be able to find it in DE. Do your research, visit a few venues, and choose the space that feels like the perfect backdrop for your “I do’s.”
Once you know where you’re going to get married, it’s time to choose when. From a weather perspective, the best time to get married in Delaware is in the late spring through the early fall, when you won’t be at risk for any of the Northeast's notoriously challenging winter weather. However, if you’re looking to save money and aren’t as concerned about weather (for example, if most of your wedding guests are local and don’t need to travel and you’re getting married indoors), a winter wedding could be a solid option.
Need more help with the wedding planning process? Make sure to check out these resources from Zola:
Delaware's marriage laws are pretty standard. But it’s still a lot to keep track of—and all of those wedding planning logistics can feel stressful.
Luckily, at Zola, your wedding will be planned in no time at all. Use our real wedding inspiration style boards and photos to hone in on your wedding theme, and then begin browsing wedding vendors who will bring your vision to life. Top it off with a free wedding website to guide your loved ones from their RSVP to their seat at the ceremony.