How to Get a Marriage License in Michigan

Michigan weddings are something special—but before you say “I do,” check out Zola’s guide to getting a Michigan marriage license.

By Emily Forrest

How to Get a Marriage License in Michigan
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • Anyone can get married in Michigan. However, if you’re a non-resident, you need to apply for your marriage license in the county where the ceremony’s taking place.
  • Although Michigan doesn’t require a blood test to apply for your license, they do have a mandatory three-day waiting period. Be sure to apply for your license at least three days before your ceremony.
  • At the state level, Michigan doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships. However, it’s possible to enter into this type of union in a few cities and counties. Check with your County Clerk to see if this union is possible where you live.
  • Timing is everything in Michigan. If you prefer warm temperatures and outdoor settings, summer may be the perfect season to get married.

Whether you’re a native Michigander or just a lover of blue lakes, lush foliage, and vibrant cities, Michigan is the perfect place to get married. But before you can tie the knot in the Upper Peninsula or Ann Arbor, you must first get a Michigan marriage license.

In this guide, we’ll cover all you need to know to get your Michigan marriage license. From breaking down the application process to the state’s unique marriage laws, we’ll do all the heavy lifting so you can save energy for what’s really important—having the Michigan wedding of your dreams.

Marriage License Laws

Unlike some states, Michigan doesn’t recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships at the state level. (It’s possible, however, to enter into civil unions in cities such as East Lansing and Detroit). In Michigan, the only way for the state to legally recognize your union is through a marriage license.

But before you even step foot into the County Clerk’s office, you must understand the state’s marriage laws. The last thing you want is a technicality preventing you from looking stunning in your wedding dress.

Knowing the following Michigan marriage laws will make getting your marriage license as easy as saying “I do:”

  • Residency: If either you or your fiance is a Michigan resident, you can apply for your marriage license in either parties’ county of residence. You can then hold your wedding anywhere in the state. However, if both parties are non-residents, you must apply for your marriage license in the county in which the wedding is to take place.

  • Age: If you’re 18 or over, you can apply for a marriage license—as long as you’re able to enter into a legal contract. If you’re 16 or 17, your parental guardian must submit a consent form to the county clerk. You cannot marry if you’re 15 or younger.

  • Fees: Just as residency status determines where you can get married, residency also determines how much it costs to file your application. If either you or your partner is a Michigan resident, the fee is $20. Non-residents must pay $30. If the cost is a financial hardship, the county clerk may waive the fee.

  • Familial Relations: While some states allow you to marry your first cousin, Michigan prohibits lawfully wedding your first cousin or any blood-related family members.

  • Blood Test: A blood test is not required to receive your Michigan marriage license. However, you’ll receive information about HIV and STD prevention.

  • Previous Marriages: To receive a Michigan marriage license, all previous legal unions must be dissolved. Failure to do so may result in a felony bigamy charge.

Application Process

Once you know Michigan’s marriage laws, it’s time to take the first step towards becoming legally wed—applying for the marriage license. Getting a marriage license in the Wolverine State is a fairly straightforward process. Before you know it, you’ll be walking out of the County Clerk’s office and to the altar.

Here are the steps you need to take to get your Michigan marriage license.

Step #1: Gather Your Documents

To save time and energy, it’s wise to gather your documents before heading to the County Clerk’s office. Nobody wants to wait in line for 20 minutes only to be turned away for lack of a birth certificate. To receive a marriage license, both parties will need to bring the following to a County Clerk:

  • A valid driver’s license or state ID showing proof of residency. You will also need to know your Social Security number.

  • A valid passport or birth certificate. If using a passport, you must also provide both parents’ names and the state or country where they were born. You cannot use a hospital or baptismal certificate.

  • Information relating to a dissolution of a previous marriage. This information should include the previous spouse’s full name, date of death or divorce, and state where the dissolution of the marriage occurred. If divorced within the past six months, you must leave a dissolution document with the clerk.

Once you gather all of your documents, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your County Clerk’s office.

Step #2: Locate Your County Clerk’s Office and Schedule an Appointment

Whether you want to meet with the county clerk in person or online, you’ll need to know the county where you live. If you or your partner are Michigan residents, you’ll need to file an application in the county of residence. You can then marry anywhere in the state. If both of you are non-residents, you’ll need to file in the county where the ceremony is taking place.

Although all Michigan counties have the same required waiting period and fee for marriage licenses, counties may vary in terms of business hours and required documents. In Ottawa County, for instance, applicants are required to show their Social Security cards, while in Wayne County simply knowing your number will suffice.

Step #3: Fill Out Your Application in Person or Online

While some couples prefer to fill out their marriage application online, others prefer to appear in person at their County Clerk’s office. Whichever you choose, you’ll be required to show the clerk your documents, as well as pay the required fee of $30 for non-residents and $20 for residents.

If paying in person, it’s a good idea to know what forms of payment are accepted. Some counties, such as Lapeer, accept personal checks; others do not.

Step #4: Wait Three Days for Your License to Process

Unlike the majority of states, Michigan is unique in that there’s a mandatory three-day waiting period after you file your license before you can pick it up. (In some counties, you may be able to waive the three-day waiting period for $10).

After the three-day waiting period, you may pick your original license up (and a duplicate) at the office where you originally filed your application. You’ll need to return the signed original license to the County Clerk’s office after the marriage is solemnized.

Step #5: Get Married

Because of Michigan’s three-day waiting period, you’ll need to apply for your license at least three days before your wedding date. Once you have your license, you have 33 days to solemnize the wedding. If you aren’t married within 33 days, the license expires and you’ll have to reapply.

Michigan has strict laws in terms of who can solemnize marriages. Whereas states like Colorado allow non-ordained friends to preside over weddings, Michigan is more formal. Only the following can solemnize weddings in Michigan:

  • A district court judge
  • A district court magistrate
  • A municipal judge
  • A judge of probate
  • A federal judge
  • A county mayor
  • A county clerk
  • An ordained minister or religious practitioner

Following the ceremony, you’ll need signatures from two witnesses over 18 on your marriage license, as well as the officiant’s signature, to make the marriage official. You then have 10 days after the ceremony to return the original license to the County Clerk.

Step #6: Change Your Name (Optional)

This last step is optional, but if one party wants to change their name after the ceremony, take the following steps to change your name:

  1. Gather your driver’s license and a copy of the signed marriage license. If you need additional copies of your marriage license, you can order them from the county where you applied for the license for $15 to 20.

  2. Print out the “Application for a Social Security Card” form on the U.S. Social Security Administration website and fill it out.

  3. Take your documents to your local Social Security office to finalize the name change. Because most, if not all, Social Security offices don’t have weekend hours and typically close by 4 p.m., you may need to take the day off of work to accomplish this step.

  4. Inform all necessary parties of your name change. Be sure to let your bank know of your name change, as well as your insurance company. You’ll also need to apply for a new passport.

Marriage Laws Unique to Michigan

Although we’ve covered Michigan’s general marriage laws, it’s helpful to also go over marriage laws unique to the state. For instance, you don’t want to spend months planning a private, music-filled elopement in Detroit only to discover you need witnesses. Some other unique Michigan marriage laws include:

  • Proxy Marriages: Proxy marriages are not allowed in Michigan. However, only one party needs to be present to apply for and receive a marriage license.

  • Secret Marriages: Although extremely rare, Michigan’s probate judges do have the ability to keep marriages out of public record. There are a few reasons why a couple might want to keep their marriage a secret, including a work policy preventing their union or their ages. It’s ultimately up to the probate judge to decide if there’s good reason to approve a secret marriage.

  • Common-Law Marriages: While a few states allow common-law marriages, Michigan’s not currently one of them. However, Michigan will recognize common-law marriages approved by another state.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage in Michigan

Still unsure about the process for obtaining a marriage license in Michigan? Check out the following FAQs to be up-to-date on the state’s current marriage laws.

When Should I Start Applying for My Marriage License in Michigan? Due to Michigan’s mandatory three-day waiting period between the time you apply for your license and when you receive it, you must apply for your license a full three days before your ceremony. Failure to apply for your license in time will prevent you from getting hitched on your scheduled date.

What Might Invalidate a Marriage License Application in Michigan? There are several factors that might invalidate a marriage license application in Michigan. These include lying to a County Clerk about either partner’s age or familial relationship. Another reason may be that either partner’s previous marriage hasn’t been legally dissolved.

Why is There a Waiting Period? A few states have waiting periods to give couples time to think things through before making it official. In Michigan, you must wait three days after applying for your license before receiving it.

Am I Allowed to Get Married at the County Clerk’s Office? In many counties, yes. However, be sure to check your county’s website for specific information. In Wayne County, for instance, you’re only allowed to bring six guests and must pay $150 for a private ceremony and $100 for a mass ceremony.

Can I Enter Into a Domestic Partnership in Michigan? This is a bit tricky, but the short answer is yes—if you live in a city that recognizes domestic partnerships. (The state of Michigan doesn't.) More on this below.

What’s the Difference Between a Domestic Partnership and a Marriage?

A domestic partnership is a type of union in which partners aren’t officially married, but still receive some of the benefits conferred by traditional marriage. These benefits include health insurance and the power to make financial and life decisions for your partner if they’re unable to do so.

However, domestic partnerships come with some disadvantages. The most prominent is the inability to transfer assets without paying a steep tax.

Everything You Need to Know About Domestic Partnerships in Michigan

While the state doesn’t recognize domestic partnerships, it’s possible to enter into this type of union in a few cities and counties. These include Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Ingham County, Kalamazoo, Washtenaw County, and Wayne County.

In general, to enter into a domestic partnership, couples must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be legally able to get married (not married to anyone else or blood-related)
  • Be committed to each other in ways that signify a traditional marriage

If you live in one of these cities or counties and are interested in domestic partnerships, it’s best to check with your County Clerk for specific information regarding this type of union.

Tips and Tricks for Getting Married in Michigan

Now that you know how to get a marriage license, it’s time to go over some tips and tricks for having the perfect Michigan wedding. Whether you’re planning on getting hitched in one of Detroit’s historic churches or having a casual ceremony in a rustic barn outside of Grand Rapids, we’ll cover all you need to know so that your big day is a success.

Tip #1: Plan for the Weather

It’s no secret that Michigan is a land of extremes. While the summers are very pleasant, the winters can be downright brutal. If you enjoy cold weather, getting married in February on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan may be your dream scenario. However, if you’d rather soak in the sun, it may be wise to get married during the late spring or summer. To help you figure out which Michigan season is more your style, we’ve broken down the four seasons below:

  • Springs in Michigan are known for their cool temperatures, high humidity, and precipitation, and beautiful blooming marigolds. The average high is 56 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 35 degrees.

  • It’s hard to beat summers in Michigan. While it’s still humid, the lake breeze keeps temperatures manageable. In July on Lake Michigan, for instance, the high rarely gets above 83 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer may be the perfect time for your Michigan wedding—especially if you enjoy hiking, boating, and fishing.

  • Not to be outdone by summer, fall is also a beautiful season to get married. In addition to the changing leaves, temperatures are mild and the humidity is low. In October, the average high is 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 39 degrees.

  • As alluded to, winters in Michigan can be harsh, but if you enjoy winter activities, a winter wedding may be for you. In February, the average high is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the average low is 14 degrees.

Whichever season you choose, be sure to research all of the spectacular venues Michigan has to offer.

Tip #2: Look Around to Find the Perfect Venue

With so many beautiful venues to choose from, it may be hard to select the Michigan venue that best suits your wedding style and tastes. Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find the top three places where Michiganders tie the knot:

  • Detroit: From its modern architecture to its Motown roots, Detroit is a very popular place to get married. Getting married in a city its size has major perks. Not only do
  • possible venues include historic churches and hotels, they also include museums and concert halls. And if you’re an auto enthusiast, you’ll be excited to get married in the birthplace of Ford.

  • Grand Rapids: Known for its art scene and beautiful landscape, Grand Rapids is the perfect place to get married if you’re looking for an outside venue. Potential venues include golf courses, farms, and gorgeous estates.

  • Traverse City: If you enjoy sandy beaches, picturesque lighthouses, and sprawling cliffs, consider booking a venue in Traverse City. Located close to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Traverse City offers couples a laid-back, beautiful wedding location you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

Searching for a venue can be one of the most stressful aspects of wedding planning. In addition to researching the above locations, be sure to click on Zola’s wedding vendors tab to find pre-screened venues and vendors ready to give you that rustic wedding you’ve always wanted.

Tip #3: Eat Like the Locals

One of the best parts about weddings is the food. This is especially true in Michigan. Because of the state’s heavy German population and Midwestern locale, hearty, delicious comfort food is a mainstay of the state’s cuisine. What’s more, Michigan has a huge farm-to-table culture. Why not treat your guests to the ultimate Michigan experience by serving them food the locals eat?

Your guests will be especially happy to know that Michigan is one of the leading apple-growing states in the country. This means hot, fresh mini apple pies for dessert. Additionally, check out the following popular wedding caterers in Michigan:

  • Two Unique Caterers, Royal Oak
  • Joe’s Gourmet Catering, Detroit
  • Lafayette Market, Pontiac
  • Glass House Catering, Ann Arbor

Michigan: The Wedding State

You’re marrying the love of your life. Why settle for a location that doesn’t match your love’s beauty? Getting married in Michigan means you’ll tie the knot in a state that’s both breathtaking and comforting, full of energy and swirling in passion. From the historic churches of Detroit to the ochre sand beaches of Traverse City, the state is teeming with awesome wedding venues.

By following this guide, you’ll have your Michigan marriage license in no time. Then it’s time to head to Zola to make a free wedding website showing your guests the beauty that awaits them.

Before you know it, you’ll be saying “I do” on the banks of Lake Michigan, a warm breeze blowing gently behind you.

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