How to Get a Marriage License in Tennessee

Make your Tennessee marriage a breeze with Zola’s ultimate guide to the state’s marriage licenses.

By The Zola Team

How to Get a Marriage License in Tennessee
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • In Tennessee, all couples must acquire a state-issued marriage license in order to marry legally. Tennessee marriage licenses have no waiting period—i.e. you and your partner can marry immediately once the license is given.
  • Tennessee marriage licenses have an expiration date of 30 days. If couples fail to complete the license in that time, they must reapply for a new license.
  • In Tennessee, marriage license laws vary slightly by county. Fees, application details, and certified copy requests may differ depending on your chosen county office.
  • As an incentive, the Tennessee government offers discounted marriage licensing fees for couples who take a certified premarital course.

Rustic farmhouses, rowdy Nashville party rooms, cozy inns tucked in the Great Smoky Mountains—in Tennessee, it’s not hard to throw a picturesque wedding. But before you tie the knot, there are a few important steps to make your time at the altar count.

In Tennessee, there’s one major requirement for all weddings—a state-issued marriage license. Without one, your ceremony will just be a fun party instead of a beneficial legal contract.

Unsure where to start with your own Tennessee license? That’s where Zola can help. We’ve created a quick and easy guide for all things legal in a Tennessee marriage.

Tennessee Marriage License Application Procedure

Between caterers, cake flavors, and color schemes, we know that weddings already take a lot of planning (check out Zola’s Expert Advice for help there), but we guarantee a marriage license is a worthwhile addition to your to-do list. After all, it’s necessary for a legal marriage.

In Tennessee, getting a marriage license is a little more complicated than the other things on your wedding to-do list. That’s why we’ve broken down every step you should take as newlyweds-to-be. From documents to designated signatures, here’s the typical application process for a Tennessee marriage license:

  1. Application Filing: Tennessee couples can start their marriage license application at a county clerk's office or online (a great way to save time). However, all couples must pick up their license in-person at their issuing county clerk's office. Both partners must be present with all necessary documents, identification, and information to complete the license application.

  2. Waiting Period: Luckily for most Tennessee couples, there is no waiting period to use your marriage license. Once you are granted the license, you can immediately marry. Separate rules apply for minor applicants.

  3. Ceremony: A Tennessee marriage license requires a Tennessee wedding in order to be valid—i.e. your ceremony must occur within state boundaries to be legal. Additionally, you need an ordained officiant to conduct your ceremony.

  4. License Signatures and Return: To complete your Tennessee marriage license, you’ll need a few signatures. Your officiant, your partner, and you must sign the license either during or immediately after the ceremony. Then, your officiant has three days to return the signed license to the issuing county office. Once returned, your license is ready for official completion.

What’s Required in the Tennessee Marriage License Application?

So now you know the steps—but the devil (or the stamp of approval) is in the details. Along the road to a marriage license, you’ll need some documents, materials, and information to light the way. Keep these requirements in mind while preparing for your Tennessee marriage license.

Documents

All Tennessee couples must appear in-person to complete their marriage application form. But don’t arrive empty-handed—at the county clerk office, each partner will need to provide a few essential documents for their half of the application. In Tennessee, those include:

  • Photo identification with date of birth, such as:
  • Driver’s license
  • State ID card
  • Passport
  • Military ID card
  • U.S. Visa

  • Social Security number (if applicable)

  • Personal and family history (names, residencies, etc.)
  • Surname declaration
  • Divorce decrees or dates of previous marriages (if applicable)

Fees

Wherever you marry in the U.S., there’s a marriage license fee to go with it—and Tennessee is no exception to the rule.

Between its 95 counties, Tennessee offers a range of fees for marriage license applicants—anywhere from $90 to $110, depending on the county. However, there are a few exceptions that can adjust this amount:

  • Premarital Courses: In all Tennessee counties, the governing office cuts $60 off the license fee for couples who complete a state-certified premarital course.

  • Credit Fees: Some Tennessee counties may place a small processing fee (around $8) on couples paying with credit or debit cards.

  • Out-of-State Residents: A few counties in Tennessee (like Sevier County) automatically grant a $60 license fee discount to out-of-state couples.

Premarital Course

You might be wondering—what is the premarital course? And is it worth a $60 marriage license fee discount?

In Tennessee, the state’s four-hour premarital course focuses on preparing newlyweds for a stable and supportive partnership. Main course topics include:

  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Communication skills
  • Financial responsibilities
  • Children and parenting responsibilities
  • Personalities and families-of-origin
  • Intimacy and sexuality

To receive the discount, couples must submit a signed course completion certificate within one year of their license application (either before or after). It’s not required, but it can reduce one item on your wedding budget sheet.

Previous Marriages

Polygamy (marriage to multiple people) is banned in all 50 states. For Tennessee couples, that means any past marriages must officially end through legal divorce or death—otherwise, your new marriage license will be invalid.

To successfully start a new romantic chapter, applicants with former marriages should become familiar with these Tennessee license rules:

  • Marriage Details: If divorced or widowed, you’ll need to provide the exact dates of the marriage’s start and end.

  • Divorce Decree: As an alternative to providing dates, you can hand over a certified copy of your divorce decree when applying for a new marriage license.

  • Surname Changes: According to state law, if the bride’s current driver’s license or ID does not reflect any post-divorce name change, then she must provide a certified copy of her divorce decree.

Waiting Periods and Expirations

Certain states require a marriage license waiting period—an enforced timespan between receiving the license and conducting the ceremony. But in Tennessee, there is no waiting period. Once you apply for the license, you can get married on the same day. The only exception to this rule is for 17-year-old applicants, who must wait three days.

However, Tennessee marriage licenses do have an expiration date: 30 days. If you fail to use your license within that time, you must reapply for a new license.

Ceremonies and Certificates: What to Do After Getting Your Tennessee Marriage License

Once the license is in your hands, it’s off to the wedding races—but hold on before you speed away. Even without a waiting period, Tennessee couples must meet a few checkpoints to complete a legal marriage. Let’s review every necessary step after receiving your Tennessee marriage license.

Location and Residency

Tennessee wedding licenses are valid only for Tennessee weddings. If married outside of state borders, your license and wedding will be legally invalid. To find a Tennessee venue that fits you (and your marriage license), check out Zola’s pre-screened wedding venue and wedding vendor database. Easy filters and handpicked options make your search a breeze.

The good news is that Tennessee marriage licenses do not require state residency. Out-of-staters are welcome to fulfill their Nashville wedding dreams.

Witnesses

In Tennessee, marriage ceremonies and licenses do not require a witness. However, if you wish to invite a family member or friend to do so, the state marriage license does include one witness signature line.

Officiants

Every legal wedding needs an officiant, or a person to lead the wedding ceremony. But who exactly counts as an officiant in Tennessee? According to state laws, all legal Tennessee weddings must be solemnized by an ordained officiant. In this case, “solemnized” means conducting the ceremony, signing the marriage license, and returning the marriage license to the issuing county clerk.

Tennessee couples can choose one of these officiant figures:

  • Religious leaders such as ministers, preachers, priests, rabbis, and other religious leaders
  • Tennessee government officials like county legislative bodies or clerks, mayors, state governors, speakers of the senate or house of representatives
  • Law enforcement chaplains
  • Judicial officials including state judges or chancellors, federal judges, municipal court judges
  • Notaries Public
  • Other registered and ordained officials

Besides conducting your ceremony, your officiant must return the torn-off signed portion of your marriage license within three days after the wedding. Once they return the license to the issuing clerk, you can receive a certified copy of your marriage license—signed and recorded.

Certified Copies of Marriage License

Once your officiant has properly returned the signed license form, your Tennessee marriage is official.

At that point, you and your partner should request multiple certified copies of your Tennessee marriage license. Why? A few reasons, including:

  • Insurance: changing marital status for certain insurance policies
  • Social Security: changing surnames, if applicable
  • Bank Accounts: opening joint accounts or granting access
  • IRS and Taxes: joint filing and deductions

Depending on the county, you may request official copies via online, phone, or in-person, usually for a fee around $5 to $10 per copy. Alternatively, you can also order a certified copy from the Tennessee Office of Vital Records either in-person, by mail, or online for $15.

Marriage Laws Unique to Tennessee

Every state has its own particular marriage laws, including Tennessee. So before you book that gorgeous Knoxville farmhouse venue, double check Tennessee’s specific legal standards. That way, there’ll be no surprises or hang-ups on the road to your “I dos.”

From family ties to common-law unions, here are Tennessee’s unique marriage laws for all interested couples:

  • Legal Age: In Tennessee, anyone 18 years or older can apply for a marriage license. For 17-year-old applicants, the state adds a few extra requirements. These include signed affidavits from both parents (unless dead or deemed legally insufficient) and a birth certificate. If the applicant’s other partner isn’t also a minor, then they must be less than four years older. Lastly, no one under 17 years old can legally marry.

  • Marriage by Proxy: In most cases, Tennessee bans marriage by proxy, or weddings where one or both partners is absent. However, there are exceptions for those with incarcerated or severely disabled partners. In those situations, a notarized statement with the applicant’s name, age, address, and closest family’s address can be accepted as “present” by the county clerk.

  • Common-Law Marriage: Tennessee does not establish common-law marriages—i.e. unmarried life partners considered legally married. However, Tennessee does recognize common-law marriages lawfully established in a different state.

  • Family Restrictions: Like all states, Tennessee has restrictions on marriage between family members for health purposes. First and second cousins can legally marry. Parents, children, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, siblings cannot legally marry.

  • Blood Tests: Tennessee does not require a blood test for its marriage applicants. Traditionally, these are done to check for venereal or genetic diseases from either partner.

  • Same-Sex Marriage: In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex marriage was unlawful. Since then, Tennessee law has followed suit. For couples of all genders and sexualities, Tennessee marriage licenses remain open for all to apply.

FAQs About Your Tennessee Marriage License

No matter the state, questions are bound to arise when applying for a marriage license—but we’ve got the answers. Here are some FAQs about all things marriage licenses in Tennessee.

How Long is the Waiting Period After Applying for a Marriage License in Tennessee?

For most Tennessee applicants, there is none. If you and your partner are both 18 years or older, your marriage license is ready to use when issued. If you wish to be married immediately, some counties even offer their clerk offices as a venue.

There is one exception: If either partner is 17 years old, then a couple must wait three days to conduct their ceremony under an issued license.

When Does a Tennessee Marriage License Expire?

Tennessee marriage licenses expire 30 days after issue. If you fail to complete and return your license within that time, you must reapply for a new marriage license.

Is a Blood Test Required to Marry in Tennessee?

Tennessee does not require blood tests for its marrying couples.

When Should I Start Applying for My Marriage License in Tennessee?

With online application forms, the answer is however early you can. Start your online form early, and you can save a ton of time when filing at your chosen Tennessee county office.

But remember: Your in-person county office appointment must occur 30 days or less before your marriage ceremony. Otherwise, your issued marriage license will expire and be invalid. Line up calendar dates by booking your wedding locale ahead of time (Zola’s calendar search filter can help with venue plans).

What Might Invalidate a Marriage License Application in Tennessee?

The Tennessee state government can invalidate a marriage license application or revoke a marriage license for numerous reasons. Whether on purpose or by accident, these actions can lead to an invalid marriage license:

  • False information given on the marriage license application
  • Force or coercion into the marriage of either partner
  • Mental incompetence of you or your spouse during the marriage application or ceremony
  • Unresolved previous marriages
  • Expiration of your marriage license (past 30 days)
  • Using a Tennessee marriage license for a ceremony outside of Tennessee
  • Hiring an unordained or unlawful officiant to conduct the wedding ceremony

What Happens if I Lose or Damage My Marriage License?

Couples who lose or damage their Tennessee marriage license must replace it. As soon as you can, request a duplicate copy through the original issuing clerk's office. The fee will vary by Tennessee county (anywhere from $5 to $15).

Does Tennessee Have Marriage Certificates? Or Just Marriage Licenses?

In some states, a marriage license permits you to marry, while a marriage certificate proves your marriage as legal. Tennessee law replaces the term “marriage certificate” with “certified copy of marriage license.” Once you’ve properly completed your Tennessee marriage license, you then receive a certified copy for record-keeping.

How Do I Request a Certified Copy of My Tennessee Marriage License?

In most Tennessee counties, your first certified copy is free. However, couples usually need extra copies of their marriage license for formal reasons. To secure those, you’ll need to submit a request through the issuing county clerk office or the Tennessee Office of Vital Records.

If requesting a certified copy from a county clerk, you must use the same office that issued your license. Depending on the county, you can place the order by mail, phone, online, or in-person. To place a valid request, you should provide:

  • Names of both spouses
  • Date of marriage
  • Records fee (anywhere from $3 to $15, depending on county)

As an alternative, all couples married in Tennessee can request a certified copy through the Tennessee Office of Vital Records. The fee varies by order methods (in-person vs. online vs. mail), but ranges from $5 to $15. While a mail-order can take six weeks, in-person orders can be completed within a day.

Does Tennessee Recognize Domestic Partnerships?

No. The Tennessee state government does not recognize domestic partnerships as legally binding relationships. This means that unmarried couples won’t receive the legal and financial benefits of marriage, such as:

  • Tax deductions and joint filing
  • IRA joint contributions
  • Tax-free estate inheritance
  • Health insurance policy optimization
  • Hospital visitation rights

Getting Married in Tennessee: Everything Else You Need to Know

Between the misty peaks and Southern charm, Tennessee makes for a popular, all-American wedding destination. To avoid crowded wedding venues and sweaty ceremonies, here are Zola’s top tips for planning your Tennessee wedding:

  • Weather: With Tennessee’s range in nature comes a big range in seasonal weather. During the summer, temperatures can reach the 90s (and that’s alongside peak humidity). Meanwhile, winters in the Appalachian Mountains can drop below freezing, even bringing a few inches of snow. If planning an outdoor affair, plan accordingly for the weather, such as providing shaded areas or nearby heaters.

  • Wedding Season: Every state has its prime wedding season. For Tennessee, it’s the fall months of September, October, and November. During this time, the tree leaves adopt brilliant warm shades, temperatures hit ideal numbers—and wedding venues get snatched up. If planning a Tennessee fall wedding, start booking your services as early as you can.

  • Expenses: Luckily for Tennessee-bound couples, this state won’t place a major dent in your wallet. The average Tennessee wedding costs about $16,000, which is $4,000 less than the average American wedding. Overall lower prices pay off in this Southern state.

  • Local Traditions: Whether you’re a lifelong native or an out-of-state fan, Tennessee has its fair share of fun local traditions. And if you’re getting married in the state, it’s only fair you partake. Throw your ceremony in a historic state farmhouse or add some Tennessee BBQ to your reception menu (Zola’s local wedding caterer collection can help there).

Take on Your Tennessee Wedding With Zola

We know—cake tasting and music selections rank higher on the fun-o-meter than marriage license applications. But in Tennessee, this document is a legal necessity, not just a smart suggestion. Follow our Tennessee marriage license guide to make your fantastic wedding count in spirit and in court.

Not quite sure where to sign your Tennessee marriage license? Zola can help you pick the ideal local venue—and more. Browse our wedding vendor collection for pre-screened wedding services, from Tennessee’s top caterers to glam beauty stylists. Not to mention, Zola offers digital tools for easy wedding planning, like our online wedding registry and customized wedding websites.

Find Your Wedding Vendors at Zola, All Pre-Screened for You