Kentucky Marriage Laws

A Kentucky marriage is bound to be romantic, but to make sure that it’s also official, here’s Zola’s guide to Kentucky marriage license laws.

By The Zola Team

Kentucky Marriage Laws
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

  • In Kentucky, a marriage license is required before you can be legally married. To obtain a marriage license, you and your future spouse must apply in person at the local county clerk’s office.
  • Because Kentucky doesn’t implement any waiting periods, you’ll receive your marriage license the same day that you apply for it. You can even get married on the same day.
  • You must file your marriage license within the 30 day period following your wedding day to receive your marriage certificate.
  • If you’re getting married in Kentucky, consider hosting a classic barn wedding with a rustic chic or rustic vintage style during the spring or fall months when the weather is most temperate.

When you imagine your wedding day, you likely picture the dreamy floral arrangements decorating your venue, the elegant dress that you’ll wear, and the look on your partner’s face as you walk down the aisle. While we’re all about these romantic, fairytale aspects of your wedding, the state that you’re planning on getting married in has a few less-than-enchanting requirements that you need to complete before your big day.

If you’re getting married in the state of Kentucky, you’ll want to be familiar with the state’s unique marriage laws to ensure that the day you’ve been waiting for goes along without a hitch. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Kentucky marriage license laws.

Marriage Laws and Requirements in Kentucky

While the 50 states may be married under one flag, they all have their own unique laws and requirements surrounding legal marriage.

From state to state, you’ll notice differences in certain aspects, such as:

  • Marriage License – A marriage license is a document you’re required to obtain before your wedding in order to be legally married. During or after your wedding ceremony, you, your partner, your officiant, and your witnesses sign the license. Later, this license is submitted to the state in exchange for a marriage certificate—proof that you and your spouse are legally bound to each other.

While a marriage license may not be as romantic as your hand-written vows, this document plays a vital role in your marriage. In the state of Kentucky, both you and your partner must be present to apply for a marriage license, which you can receive from any county clerk’s office.

  • Marriage License Fees – Money can’t buy love, but it is necessary to buy a marriage. Every state charges a fee to apply for a marriage license. Fortunately, the fees in Kentucky are relatively low. While the exact fee varies depending on the county, you can expect to pay about $35.50 for your marriage license.

  • Waiting Periods – You may feel as though you’ve waited your entire life to marry your partner, but some states want you to triple-check that you’re making the right decision. Enter, waiting periods. A waiting period is a state-mandated period of time you’re required to wait between applying for your marriage license and receiving your marriage license.

While some states require a waiting period of between one and three days, other states, including Kentucky, don’t have a waiting period at all.

  • Blood Tests – It may seem strange for a state to require a blood test to approve a marriage license, but this was previously the norm. Marriage license blood tests checked for the presence of venereal diseases, such as syphilis, and genetic disorders, such as sickle-cell anemia, to ensure that each partner was aware of the risk of contraction and/or birth defects before making their commitment.

However, since 1980, all of the states except Montana have eliminated the marriage license blood test requirement. Therefore, if you’re getting married in Kentucky you don’t have to undergo a blood test to receive your marriage license.

  • Residency Requirements – Most states in the US, including Kentucky, don’t require you or your partner to be a resident of the state in order to obtain your marriage license there. This allows couples the option to explore wedding venues across the country to find the venue that best meets their needs, suits their style, and showcases their love.

  • Witnesses – Whether you have a 200+ guest list for your wedding or you’re planning to elope, every state requires you to have witnesses at your marriage ceremony (not including you, your significant other, or your officiant). Acceptable witnesses could be your parents, your maid of honor and best man, or even complete strangers. Your witnesses are responsible for watching the marriage ceremony and signing your marriage license afterward. In doing this, they help prove to the state that a ceremony took place, you said your vows, and sealed the deal with a kiss.

In Kentucky, you’ll need at least two other people to be present at your ceremony in order to be legally married.

  • Legal Age of Marriage – Each state imposes its own laws regarding the legal age of marriage, both with and without parental consent. In Kentucky, you must be at least 18 years old to be married without parental consent.

For those who are 16 or 17 years old, parental consent must be given, and the marriage license must be issued by the county of whoever is underage. If the bride and groom are both underage, the bride’s county of residence must issue the marriage license.

  • Officiant Qualifications – To ensure that your marriage is official, you’ll need a qualified officiant to perform the ceremony. In all states, ordained ministers are authorized to officiate weddings, but in Kentucky, qualified officiants also include:

  • Justices of the Court of Justice

  • Judges of the Court of Justice
  • County judges
  • Retired justices and judges
  • Fiscal court commissioners

Kentucky’s Marriage License Application Process

Saying yes to a lifetime with your partner is easy—while we can’t say that the marriage license application process will be as easy as that, we’ve broken it down into a few simple steps:

Book a Venue

Before you apply for your marriage license, it’s a smart idea to lock down your venue and set an official wedding date. Why? Your marriage license is only valid for 30 days after its issue date (but more on that later). Fortunately, Zola offers personalized, pre-screened wedding venue recommendations to help narrow down your search based on your wedding style and budget. With miles of rolling hills and breathtakingly open blue skies, Kentucky is ideal for elegant, rustic barn weddings or beautiful botanical garden weddings.

Find Your Kentucky County Clerk’s Office

In Kentucky, both you and your future spouse must appear together at your local county clerk’s office to apply for your license. If neither of you are residents of Kentucky, you can choose any county office, but you might want to consider choosing the county in which you’re getting married. Before you go out of your way to apply, make sure that you’re prepared with all the necessary application documents. This is especially important if you live out of state and need to travel to Kentucky before the wedding to complete your application.

Marriage License Document Requirements

To apply for a Kentucky marriage license, you and your partner will need:

  • Your driver’s licenses or other proof of identification
  • Your birth certificates
  • Your social security cards
  • Payment (accepted in the form of cash, check, or credit card)

The Waiting Period

After applying for a marriage license, some couples have to endure a waiting period, but not you. Do you want a marriage license? You got it. There’s no waiting period in this southern state. In Kentucky, you’ll receive your marriage license the same day that you apply for it.

If you can’t bear to wait any longer to commit yourself to your future spouse, you can even get married the same day that you receive your marriage license. (Just be sure that those important witnesses can make it to the ceremony.)

Not ready to run down the aisle that quickly? Don’t worry—you’re not required to get married on the same day that you receive your marriage license. However, you do need to make it official before your license expires.

Marriage License Expirations

In Kentucky, a marriage license is valid for 30 days from the date of issuance, so it’s important to plan the date of your application accordingly. If your wedding day isn’t for another year, it’s not necessary to go through the hassle of applying for your marriage license right away. It’s best to wait to apply for your marriage license until your wedding date is within the window of your license’s validity.

Because Kentucky doesn’t impose a waiting period, you have exactly 30 days of wiggle room from the date of application (ie. the date you receive your license) to hold your wedding. If your marriage license expires before you officially tie the knot, you’ll have to apply for a new marriage license and repeat the process over again.

Registering Your Marriage License

After you’ve said “I do,” signed your marriage license, and popped bottles to celebrate with family and friends, there are still a few legal requirements that you’ll need to check off your wedding to-do list. In particular, you’ll need to register your marriage license to receive your marriage certificate. To do this, return your signed license to the county clerk’s office that issued it within 30 days after the date of your wedding. You can either mail the signed license, or deliver it to the office in person.

In Kentucky, the cost of your marriage certificate is included in the cost of your marriage license, so there’s no need to make additional payments when you register your license, unless you’d like extra copies of your certificate. If you do need extra copies, you can request them from the county clerk’s office for $10.50 per certified copy.

Having a few copies of your marriage certificate on file can be helpful if you need to change your marital status or name for:

  • Health insurance
  • A new social security card
  • Your bank account
  • Your credit cards

Special Marriage Considerations in Kentucky

If you need to travel to Kentucky for your wedding because you live out of state, be sure to arrive several days before the big day. This will allow you and your soon-to-be spouse ample time to visit the local county clerk’s office, apply for and receive your marriage license, and hold your wedding within your license’s validity window.

If you’re leaving the state after your wedding, make sure to either return your signed license to the county clerk’s office, or take the license with you to mail to the office once you return home. Remember, the county clerk’s office must receive your signed license within the 30 days following your wedding day. It may be best to return the license in person before you leave the state to both prevent any mailing mishaps and ensure that they receive it in a timely manner.

If you return your marriage license in person, you’ll receive your marriage certificate the same day. If you choose to mail your license back, you’ll receive your marriage certificate in the mail soon after. Then, you can celebrate again! That piece of paper is legal proof that you and your beau are officially married.

Speaking of paper, have you chosen your wedding stationery yet? From gorgeous Save the Dates to elegant wedding programs, Zola’s wedding stationery selection will have something for every taste, plus customizable options along the way.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Married in Kentucky

With all the hustle and bustle surrounding your wedding day and the wedding planning process, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused about marriage laws and requirements. Fortunately, we’re here to walk you through every step of the process. That way, when it’s time to walk down the aisle, you can soak up all that wedding day bliss without worrying about whether you correctly checked off all those legal boxes.

Take a look at the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about getting married in Kentucky:

I’m Getting Married in Kentucky, but I Live in a Different State. Where Do I File My License?

If you’re saying “I do,” in Kentucky, but you aren’t a resident there, you should still file for your marriage license in Kentucky. You can choose to file your license at any county clerk’s office, but to save time, you may want to choose the county where you’re holding your wedding.

When Should I Start the Marriage License Application Process?

In Kentucky, marriage licenses are valid for 30 days after they’re approved. Because Kentucky doesn’t implement a waiting period, you’ll receive your marriage license the same day that you apply for it. This means that you should start the application process no more than 30 days before your wedding day. To prevent any mishaps, consider applying for your license one to two weeks before your wedding day. This will provide you and your partner plenty of time to receive the license, even if there are any hold-ups during the application process.

How Soon Can I Get Married After Receiving My Marriage License?

Kentucky is just as excited about your wedding day as you are. Because the state doesn’t make you wait between receiving your license and getting married, you can technically get married the same day that you receive your marriage license.

Are Proxy Marriages Legal in Kentucky?

A proxy marriage—wherein the bride, the groom, or both—are absent for the ceremony is not legal in the state of Kentucky. If you want to be legally married to your forever partner, you have to physically be there to say “I do.”

Are Common Law Marriages Recognized in Kentucky?

Common law marriages recognize couples as married after they’ve lived together for a certain period of time and consider themselves married, even if they’ve never applied for a marriage license or held a wedding ceremony. In the state of Kentucky, these types of marriages are not recognized.

Getting Married in Kentucky: Everything Else You Need to Know

When exploring Kentucky wedding venues, you may notice a recurring theme—barns, barns, and more barns; this is because barns are pure Kentucky ethos. A barn venue provides the sense of southern comfort and authenticity that defines the Kentucky attitude, while incorporating traditional wedding elegance.

A barn venue also naturally lends itself to the increasingly popular rustic chic wedding style. To decorate your venue in this style, you can:

  • Cover your reception tables with lace tablecloths.
  • Hang delicate fairy lights across ceiling rafters.
  • Use slices of wood or mason jars filled with natural wildflowers as rustic centerpieces.

You can even create a sense of rusticness through Zola’s free wedding website builder to set the tone of your wedding before your guests experience the magic for themselves on the day. Plus, at Zola, you can pair your wedding website design with your paper suite so that your Save the Dates, wedding invitations, and website will match and will also perfectly capture the charm of your barn wedding.

Before you pick your wedding date, you may also want to consider the state’s weather. Spring and fall bring the most temperate weather to Kentucky, as summers can become sweltering and winters are fairly cold. However, storms are also common in the spring, so it’s important to create a backup plan for your ceremony and reception if you’re holding an outdoor wedding.

You can also try your luck with this fun Kentuckian wedding tradition: Because bourbon is made in Kentucky, people believe that if the bride and groom bury a bottle of bourbon at the wedding venue, rain won’t ruin their wedding day. However, there are a few stipulations:

  • The bottle of bourbon must be unopened and buried upside down.
  • The bottle must be fully covered (not popping out of the ground).
  • The bride and groom must bury the bottle on a day where the weather matches the weather they’re dreaming of for their wedding day.

After the ceremony, you and your spouse can dig up the bottle and share it amongst your family and friends (to celebrate your lack of rain, of course).

Another way to beat the Kentucky heat is to consider choosing lightweight, light-colored suits for the groom and groomsmen. In fact, it’s customary for men to wear light-colored suits during Kentucky weddings, as weddings are typically held outdoors and at the mercy of the southern sun.

Aside from the weather, if you’re getting married in Kentucky, you’ll also want to be aware of popular events that can drive excess tourists to the area, increase the cost of your wedding venue, and create a tricky traveling experience for your guests.

Events you may want to avoid are:

  • The Kentucky Derby, which is typically held the first Saturday in May.
  • The Kentucky State Fair, which takes place mid to late August.
  • The Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which draws tourists in mid-September.

Make the Most of Your Memorable Day at Zola

By understanding Kentucky marriage laws and requirements, you can ensure a memorable and stress-free wedding day that places the focus on the most significant aspect of marriage—the love between you and your significant other.

To guarantee a wedding that’s held in the venue of your dreams, with stunning, themed decor, and a wedding registry fit for a queen, choose Zola. Through our comprehensive, yet easy-to-use website, you can:

  • Fast-track your venue and wedding vendor search with prescreened recommendations.
  • Create a curated wedding registry that features classic gifts, unique experiences, and honeymoon funds.
  • Design customized save the dates and invitations that fit your wedding style (and with free shipping, free guest addressing, and free envelopes, they’ll fit your budget too).

No matter where you’re getting married, Zola is there for all your wedding needs.

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