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Illinois Marriage Laws

Illinois marriage laws can be tricky, but Zola has everything you need to say “I do” in the Land of Lincoln.

By The Zola Team

Illinois Marriage Laws
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • To get married in Illinois, you’ll first need to procure a marriage license through the state’s marriage license application process.
  • Illinois marriage licenses have a 24-hour waiting period and expire after 60 days. Your license will only be valid if you’re married within 60 days of the date your license is issued.
  • You do not have to be a resident to get married in Illinois, but you must get your license from the county you’re getting married in.
  • You must be at least 18 years old in order to get married in Illinois. If you’re at least 16 years old, you can get married with parental consent.

Couples preparing for their upcoming nuptials in Illinois know that the world is their oyster. The diverse landscape of the state provides a cornucopia of wedding venue options and wedding styles for your consideration. But before you start booking and planning, you’ll want to make sure you’re familiar with Illinois’s marriage laws. The last thing you need is an unforeseen technicality to bring your wedding daydreams to a halt.

This simple guide will help steer you through thick and thin, so you’ll be prepared for your Illinois wedding.

Marriage Laws and Requirements in Illinois

Depending on where you tie the knot, you may have to meet different legal requirements for marriage for it to be valid. Marriage laws differ from state to state, and if you’re not familiar with the local requirements, you might find yourself in hot water. With timing and preparation being so important to most weddings, making sure you’re qualified under the government is key.

Let’s review some of the familiar requirements and phrases you may come across while preparing to get married in Illinois:

  • Marriage License: In order for your marriage to be legally binding, you’ll both need to apply for a marriage license. Without this document, you won’t be formally wed in the eyes of the law. In Illinois, you’ll need to apply to the local clerk in the county you’re getting married in to receive a valid license (we’ll go over the process in more detail later). After your wedding is officiated and your license signed and filed with the county clerk, you’ll receive a marriage certificate in return as proof of your marriage.

  • Marriage License Fees: To apply for your license, you’ll need to pay a small processing fee to the clerk’s office. The amount varies depending on which county you’re in, but it can range from $15 to $75. Make sure you bring payment in a form the office can accept.

  • Legal Age: You’ll both need to be at least 18 years old to get married in Illinois without parental consent. If you’re at least 16 years old and have consent from both parents to tie the knot, you can still get married in the state. In cases where there are no available parents to consent to your wedding, you can appeal to the court for judicial consent to your marriage.

  • Waiting Periods: Many states require a waiting period between when you apply for a marriage license and when you’re actually issued one. In Illinois, you’ll need to wait 24 hours to get married.

  • Expiration Dates: Your marriage license gives you legal approval to wed, but that permission has an expiration date. In the case of Illinois marriage licenses, you’ll have 60 days from receipt of the license to say your “I dos”—otherwise, the license will no longer be valid. Once you’ve picked a date for your wedding, you can plan a trip to the county clerk’s office with enough time to spare to walk down the aisle.

  • Blood Tests: Many states used to require blood tests in marriage license applications in an effort to prevent venereal disease transmissions. However, that’s not the case in Illinois. So if you’re afraid of needles, you don’t have to worry about this hurdle when getting married in Illinois.

  • Residency Requirements: You do not need to be a resident in the state of Illinois to get married there.

  • Witnesses: Some marriage licenses require one or two witnesses to validate the union, but in Illinois, it’s not a requirement.

  • Officiant Qualifications: Your marriage needs to be solemnized for it to be valid. All that means is that someone, usually an officiant, needs to perform the marriage ceremony marrying you to your spouse. state and federal judges (active or retired), religious officials or ministers, or even the circuit clerk can all serve as an officiant.

Illinois is unique in that it doesn’t regulate officiant qualifications, so if you want your best friend to officiate your wedding, you can do it without worrying about any legal hiccups.

  • Previous Marriages: If this isn’t the first time you’ve walked down the aisle, you’ll need to add a few more items to your to-do list to legally wed in Illinois. You’ll need to make sure any previous marriages are legally dissolved before embarking on your next. You’ll also need to provide the date your divorce was finalized when applying for a license. If you were divorced or widowed in the last six months, you may need to bring a certified copy of your divorce decree or the death record of your former spouse.

Following all of Illinois’s laws and requirements is important if you want to avoid accidentally invalidating your marriage. After all, needing to exchange your vows again a week after your wedding because of a technicality isn’t nearly as romantic. Making sure you have all your documents in order, such as your marriage license, is essential to guaranteeing your path to happily ever after is as smooth and seamless as possible.

Illinois’s Marriage License Application Process

Understanding legal processes can be mystifying for many people, but you’ll need a marriage license to get married in Illinois. The application procedure is relatively simple, and we’re here to guide you step by step so you have everything you need to wed.

Here’s what you need to know to apply for a marriage license in Illinois:

  • Decide Where You’re Getting Married: In order to get a valid marriage license, you’ll need to apply for it from the county you intend to get married in. That means that the first part of the process is actually deciding where your wedding will take place.

For any couples having trouble locking down a spot, Zola’s wedding venue search is a game-changer. It makes it easy to browse by location, capacity, availability, and venue type, so you can find the perfect location within budget.

  • Visit the County Clerk’s Office: Once you’ve landed on the location, you can look for your local county clerk here. Most offices don’t require appointments, but call ahead of time to confirm hours and availability before you go. Both you and your partner will need to apply in person together.

  • Apply for Your Marriage License: Pay the marriage license fee and fill out the application. It’ll ask for some basic information, such as your names, addresses, and date of birth, as well as the names and addresses of your parents or guardians. If either of you has been married before, now’s the time to disclose that.

  • Wait: Good things come to all who wait, and this is no different. You’ll need to wait at least 24 hours after your application to get married.

  • Get Married: The part you’ve been waiting for. Celebrate your wedding your way—just make sure you have an officiant to conduct the ceremony. Afterward, you, your new spouse(!), and your officiant can sign the marriage license.

  • File Your Signed Marriage License with the County Clerk: Luckily the hard part’s over for you. It’s typically your officiant’s responsibility to return the signed license to the county clerk (by hand or by mail), so your marriage can be officially registered.

And with that, you’re all set! If your county doesn’t automatically send you a certificate after receiving your license, make sure you formally request a copy—you may need it.

Marriage License or Marriage Certificate? Which Do I Need?

So what’s the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate? You might be confused hearing them discussed in the same breath, but that’s because you’ll need one to get the other.

Think of it this way:

  • Your license allows you to get married in the first place, so it’s for before your wedding.
  • Your certificate is proof that you got married, and you receive it after you’re registered.

Documents Required for Your Marriage License

Before you head over to the county clerk’s office, save yourself a second trip and make sure you have everything you need.

You’ll need:

  • Your names, addresses, sex, and date of birth
  • The names and addresses of your parents or guardians
  • Whether you are related to each other in any way
  • Information on any previous marriages (including proof of divorce or a death certificate in case of widowhood)
  • Valid photo ID with proof of age

Acceptable forms of identification include:

  • Your state driver’s license
  • A state-issued identification
  • Your passport
  • Your permanent resident card
  • U.S. Armed Forces identification card

Don’t forget to bring payment for the application fee. Consider calling the office beforehand to find out if they can accept cash, credit card, money orders, or checks.

Special Marriage Considerations in Illinois

By now you’re probably an expert on how to apply for a marriage license, but what else do you need to keep in mind when you’re getting married in Illinois? When it comes to your wedding day, it’s always a smart idea to know what’s expected.

Familiarize yourself with local regulations during the wedding planning process, especially if you’re from out of town. We’ll go over some of the things you should take into consideration while planning your Illinois wedding so you can always be prepared.

Timing Your Marriage License Application

You may know all the ins and outs of the marriage license process, but when should you plan to actually apply for it?

Since Illinois has a 24 hour waiting period for marriage licenses, that means you’ll need to wait at least a day after the application before you’re legally allowed to wed. In some counties, you can begin the application process online, but you’ll still need to go into the physical office to complete the application.

Until you’re issued a license, your marriage won’t be legally binding. If you truly can’t wait it out, you can try appealing the court to waive the waiting period. They might make an exception if there’s a good reason.

Timing Your Wedding Within the License’s Validity Window

Because Illinois’s marriage licenses have an expiration date, you’ll need to time your wedding so it takes place after the waiting period but before the license expires. Illinois’s licenses are valid for 60 days after they’re issued, so you’ll have at least two months to tie the knot. If you miss your window, you’ll need to reapply for a new license. Ideally, you should get your license about a month before your wedding.

Are you struggling to juggle all the different dates and deadlines? Here at Zola, we’re big believers in being prepared for your big day. That’s why we recommend using our free wedding checklist and timeline to keep track of everything that needs to get done when it needs to be done.

You May Need to Apply for a Wedding Permit

Illinois is home to many gorgeous historic sites and stunning skylines, so it’s no wonder some couples are tempted to take advantage of the view. If your wedding activities are taking place on public land, though, you may need to look into whether you’ll need a wedding permit. This can range from bridesmaids’ photo shoots to the ceremony itself.

If you plan on making use of Illinois’s stunning public locations, make sure you do your research beforehand to avoid interruptions.

How to File Your Marriage License After Your Vows

After your officiant performs the ceremony, both you, your new spouse, and the officiant complete and sign the marriage license. Illinois doesn’t require witnesses for weddings, so that’s one less thing you have to worry about on your special day.

After the license is completed, it's your officiant’s duty to return it to the office of the county clerk where it was issued within 10 days of your marriage. Once it’s filed with the county clerk, your marriage is officially registered, and you can request a copy of your marriage certificate.

Illinois doesn’t have any special qualifications for who can serve as an officiant, so it can be anybody from your minister to your best friend. We recommend you choose someone responsible whom you can rely upon to file your marriage license promptly. Your little niece might make an adorably photogenic officiant, but she’s probably not an acceptable stewardess of a legal document.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Married in Illinois

If you feel like you have question after question when it comes to getting married, you’re not alone. It’s a major life event, so it makes sense you want to make sure you’re dotting Is and crossing your Ts.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions about Illinois marriage laws so that you’ll be able to put all your worries to rest.

I’m a Non-resident Getting Married in Illinois. Where Should I File My Marriage License?

All marriage licenses in Illinois should be filed at the county clerk’s office where you got your license. It should also be the same county that you got married in, not where you live.

When Should I Start the Marriage Application Process?

Ideally, you should time your marriage license application about a month to six weeks before your wedding to give yourself some wiggle room. That said, the waiting period is only 24 hours, so you can wait until the last day if you’re stretched for time. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to get married within 60 days before the license expires.

How Soon Can You Get Married After Receiving Your Marriage License?

Illinois’s waiting period for marriage licenses is 24 hours, so you can get married as soon as that time is up.

Why Do Marriage Licenses Expire?

In some states, such as Mississippi, they don’t expire, but in Illinois, you have 60 days before you’ll need to get a new license. Marriage licenses expire, so that the county can more easily keep track of new marriage records. It’s also a good idea in case the information on your license gets outdated over time, such as your age or addresses.

Are Same-Sex Marriages Recognized in Illinois?

Yes. As of 2014, the state of Illinois has embraced love and legal marriages between all genders. Same-sex marital unions are recognized in Illinois.

What Are Proxy Marriages, and Are They Allowed in Illinois?

Proxy marriages take place when one or both parties in the marriage are not physically present for the wedding. Sometimes they are represented by other parties. The state of Illinois does not recognize proxy weddings.

Are Cousin Marriages Allowed in Illinois?

While closely related individuals may not wed one another, first cousins can get married in Illinois if they are older than the age of 50. They could also get married if one person can prove that they are permanently sterile.

If I am in a Civil Union, Can It Automatically Be Converted Into a Marriage?

No, but you can apply for a marriage license free of charge if you’re already in a civil union. You’ll be recognized as a married couple on the date of your marriage certificate though, not the date you entered the civil union.

How Do I Get a Copy of My Marriage Certificate?

You can request a copy of your marriage certificate from the county clerk’s office. There may be different types of certificates available. In Chicago, for example, there are three. You could order a standard certificate or a wallet-sized one for $15. There’s also an art-quality commemorative certificate printed on canvas available for $65.

You should order at least one copy of a standard certificate for emergencies. It can act as proof of your marriage in any legal situation.

That said, a commemorative certificate is a fantastic piece for a scrapbook or wedding album. If you’re interested in making a beautiful keepsake of your wedding, Zola’s album wizard can help you effortlessly design and arrange your photos and certificate into an elegant album.

With Zola, Planning Your Illinois Wedding Will Be a Breeze

Amidst the hustle and bustle of planning a wedding, it can be easy to forget that marriage is a legal contract between you and your partner. That’s why we’re here—to help make sure that your union is legally binding and so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

But we’re not just all about the paperwork—we enjoy linen patterns and floral arrangements as much as the next person. At Zola, we strive to be your go-to spot for all things weddings. From sending your save the dates to managing your RSVPs through our Wedding Guest List Manager, Zola has all the tools to help you navigate your way to your beautiful wedding.

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