When Douglas Chadwick coined Montana the Last Best Place, he may have been referring to the sprawling Bob Marshall wilderness—showcasing the most beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and thick forests in Big Sky country—but the phrase certainly extends to its station as the Just Plain Best Place to Get Married.
In one respect, Montana isn’t any different from the other states—it has marriage laws that are unique to its counties. So, if you find yourself looking for love in Montana, and you want to make it official, you’re going to have to meet those requirements. Zola is here to make sure you know what to do, so you can tie the knot in the state of Montana.
The steps taken to legally represent that commitment are very specific and there are more than a few requirements that have to be met before anything is written in stone. So don’t wait any longer. Before you send out your stylish invitations from Zola, make sure you’re checking all the boxes to get your Montana marriage signed and sealed.
Marriage License: A marriage license is a document that authorizes a couple to marry. It is the essential piece of paper that denotes the approval of your union with your significant other in the eyes of the state and the country in which the service is performed. In Montana, marriage licenses can be obtained at the Clerk of District Court’s Office, and must be signed by the marrying parties as well as two witnesses.
Blood Tests: Before getting married, all females under the age of 50 are required by law to submit to a Rubella blood test.
Residency Requirements: There is no residency requirement in order to be married in the state of Montana. The only necessary geographical specification in order to have a Montana wedding is to make sure that the wedding takes place in Montana.
Witnesses: Two witnesses are required to complete your marriage license. Additionally, both witnesses must sign the marriage license along with the marrying parties—but only once the clerk has instructed the witnesses to do so.
Legal Age of Marriage: In the state of Montana, the legal age of marriage is 18 years. However, by meeting specific requirements, individuals aged 16 and 17 can marry. In order to complete this process legally, they must obtain:
Officiant Qualifications: In order to be considered a legally binding ceremony, a Montana marriage must be solemnized by a qualified individual. Those holding an office or title that is considered qualifying are as follows:
Note: The officiant does not need to provide his or her credentials to the Clerk of the District Court. Additionally, even if the person solemnizing the marriage was not legally qualified to do so, the marriage is still valid as long as one or both parties being married believed that person to be qualified.
Common Law Marriage: A common law marriage regards a partnership that foregoes a legal ceremony or the signing of a marriage contract while still maintaining the emotional and legal implications of marriage. A couple that lives together may be common law married. The three qualifications of a common law marriage in the state of Montana are as follows:
Both parties must be competent to marry. Meaning, both parties are old enough to marry and are not already legally married to another individual.
Both parties must agree that they are married by an intention to be legally married later, and with proof of that commitment in the form of an oath or pledge of marriage, rings or other jewelry, or any other decorations or signs of marriage.
Both parties must live together and present themselves as married. This includes interacting with the community as a married couple, owning property together, filing taxes together, and whether others in their community believe that the couple is married.
Domestic Partnerships: Although relatively limited in respect to the rights afforded by marriage, the state of Montana recognizes domestic partnership relationships that do grant some property rights above those afforded to undocumented couples, such as formal trust agreements, whereby property is deemed held for the benefit of a domestic partner.
Marriage by Proxy: This service is only offered to couples where one or both parties are members of the armed forces, on federal active duty, or a resident of Montana at the time of application. One party or their legal representative must appear before the clerk of the court and pay the marriage license fee. If a party (or both) is unable to be present at the solemnization, they can authorize (in writing) a third person to act as proxy. If the person solemnizing the marriage has consented to the union, but is unable to be present, they may also solemnize the marriage by proxy.
Every state in America has its own collection of government documents and properly completed paperwork that are deemed necessary in order to finalize the acquisition of a legally valid marriage contract. Listed below are those essential steps to make sure your Montana marriage moves forward without a hitch:
Montana has plenty of documents you’ll need to submit in order to begin the marriage license procedure. The following list states precisely what each spouse must submit independently:
In the state of Montana, a marriage license fee is $53.
There is no waiting period to observe after you receive your marriage license. Submit your application to the Clerk of District Court’s Office during its operating hours of 8:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m.. No appointments are necessary; however, it should be stated that marriage license applications and declarations of marriage are not processed after 4:30 p.m., so plan accordingly.
Montana marriage licenses are effective immediately and remain valid for 180 days from the date of issuance.
Within 30 days after the ceremony, however, the license must be returned to the clerk’s office that issued the license in order to be officially registered with the state.
Despite sharing many elements of the marriage process with other states, there are still a litany of ways in which the Montana marriage process is unique.
Getting Certified Copies: It is absolutely essential to obtain certified copies of your marriage license. These documents are incredibly useful for typical marriage to-dos like changing your last name, joining your bank accounts, and filing joint tax returns. Using a certified marriage certificate copy is the easiest way to conquer these mighty changes. In Montana, certified copies of marriage certificates can be obtained in-person at the Clerk District Court’s Office, by written request, or emailed. A regular copy costs $5. A certified copy is $7.
Invalid Marriages: There are certain unions that the state of Montana considers to be non-binding. The following list states the circumstances that define such unions:
A marriage entered into prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage by either of the two parties.
A marriage between an ancestor and descendant or a brother and sister, including half-siblings and first cousins.
A marriage between an uncle and a niece or between an aunt and a nephew, including half-blood relations.
When it comes to wedding planning logistics, it’s normal to have plenty of questions. Fortunately, the wedding experts at Zola are always happy to help turn clouds of confusion into big, clear, sunny Montana skies. Here, a helpful list of frequently asked questions:
If you’re planning to marry in Montana, you can keep things simple: File for marriage in Montana. Your marriage is bound to the location of the ceremony and the clerk’s office where you filed. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. Just remember: The marriage license has to be returned to the same clerk’s office that issued the license in the first place.
Because a Montana marriage license is only valid for 180 days after its issuance, plan ahead to make sure your application is still valid by the time your big day rolls around. Our advice? Procure your marriage license two to three months in advance—it’s one more thing you can check off your list a little sooner to make the planning process a little easier.
After you receive your marriage license, you have 180 days until the license becomes invalid. As long as no one gets cold feet before the ceremony, a signed marriage license simply has to be returned to that same clerk’s office that issued it originally in order to be registered.
A marriage license and a marriage certificate are two very different documents:
Marriage License: The marriage license is the legally binding document that permits you by the power vested in the state (of Montana, in this case) to pronounce you married. This is the document that requires so many signatures and must be submitted to the clerk’s office.
Marriage Certificate: The marriage certificate is more like a diploma—it shows that you have completed your marriage ceremony and stands to recognize your union in the eyes of the law as physical evidence that it took place.
Whether you’re a true blue Montanan or just want to say your vows at Glacier National Park, we’ve included a few things to know:
Mobility: If you’re coming from out of state and you’re not staying in a busy city with plenty of public transit, you may want to consider renting a car. Montana is a big state and there aren’t many other ways of getting around it.
Weather: Montana can have many different climates. Be sure to research the projected climate during your wedding. In the winter, it can get down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (with as many as 50 inches of snowfall per year!). However, in the summer, especially in July and August, temperatures can reach the high 80s.
Venues: Montana has such a breadth of options when it comes to wedding venues—it’s important to consider them all. There are lodges, scenic national parks surrounding the over 100 mountains in the state, ranches, ski resorts, not to mention the unexpected waterfront option to have your ceremony in front of one of the dozens of breathtaking lakes, rivers, and creeks found all over the beautiful Montana landscape. Once you’ve found the perfect place, pack it tight with your closest friends and relatives using Zola’s Wedding Guest List Manager. It’s free, easy to use, and takes the drama out of making sure the people at your wedding are exactly who you wanted.
Vendors: If you’re thinking “open bar,” why not use Zola’s wedding vendor list to track down your favorite of Montana’s renowned distilleries and micro-breweries found all over the state?
Here at Zola, it’s our mission to make planning a piece of (wedding) cake. From the engagement photos to walking down the aisle, our wedding experts are here for you every step of the way.
Planning a wedding takes time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard. Ditch the stress and jump straight to the celebration. Start planning your wedding the modern way—with Zola!