New York Marriage Laws

From waiting periods to witnesses, Zola has the ultimate guide to New York’s marriage laws for all couples.

By The Zola Team

New York Marriage Laws
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

From the beautiful Adirondacks to NYC’s bustling streets, New York hosts thousands of weddings every year. But there’s more to a legal marriage than throwing a fantastic celebration. To (officially) tie the knot, this state’s engaged couples must take a few essential steps.

So, where to start? In New York, couples must follow an application process with its own laws and requirements. For every almost-newlywed, we’ve created a simple guide to make your NY wedding a legal breeze.

Marriage Laws and Requirements in New York

For centuries, every state has written and upheld specialized wedding laws. While they’ve grown more similar over time across the country, it’s still useful to know your state’s own requirements. After all, you don’t want a legal technicality to hold back your lifelong partnership.

Let’s start with the personal marriage requirements and laws that soon-to-be newlyweds must meet in New York:

  • Marriage Licenses: Unlike Texas or Kansas, New York state does not accept common law marriages or marriages-by-proxy. In New York, you must obtain a marriage license through a town hall, city clerk’s office, or official government website. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck at square one on your path to a legalized New York wedding.

  • Legal Age: Overall, New York has heavy restrictions on marriage for underage applicants. For those 18 years or older, the state requires no outside consent. For 17-year-olds, there are parental and legal consent requirements for a marriage license. For those under 17 years old, New York prohibits marriage.

  • Family Relations: For health and ethical reasons, New York has certain familial restrictions on marriage. You cannot marry your sibling, parent, child, uncle, aunt, niece, or nephew in this state. However, first and second cousins can legally marry in New York.

  • Residency: You do not need to be a New York resident to obtain a New York marriage license or certificate. Out-of-towners can still marry in the state. Just make sure you pick a wedding venue within New York’s borders to use your license (Zola’s localized pre-screened wedding vendor database can help with that).

  • Blood Tests: Blood tests are not required by New York law prior to marriage.

  • Previous Relationships: If currently married to another living person, New York forbids marriage to a new partner. For the formerly married, you must present evidence of your legal divorce or your former partner’s death certificate to enter another marriage.

In the government’s eyes, these laws aren’t just guidelines—they’re requirements. If you fail to follow New York’s marriage laws, your marriage might be invalid or revoked. Make sure that you and your partner know the personal standards required to marry in New York.

New York State Marriage Licenses and Certificates

In New York, there’s only one way to legally wed—with a marriage license.

You might wonder, how else can you legally get married? Well, certain other states recognize common law marriages (unwed partners that qualify over time as legally married) or marriages-by-proxy (a wedding where one party isn’t present). However, neither is legal in New York. To make your New York wedding official, you’ll need to get your hands on a state marriage license.

Unsure where to start? Let’s break down the New York state marriage license steps and requirements.

Application Process

Although it may seem a bit tedious or stressful, getting a New York marriage license is well worth the trouble. With some detailed planning, the state government will have zero ifs, ands, or buts to hold back your “I dos.”

Here are the general steps for applicants to receive a New York State marriage license:

  1. Application Filing: Before, New York couples had to complete their application in person at a city or town office. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a state executive order authorized virtual or video conference applications. For either situation, both partners must be present—not just one. For virtual applications, couples must still be physically located in New York.

  2. Waiting Period: Once your application is approved, the city or town clerk will issue your marriage license. Then, you must wait a determined time by the state before marrying (in New York, it’s typically 24 hours).

  3. Ceremony: Following the waiting period, licensed couples should hand over their license to their marriage officiant—a religious leader, judge, or other ordained person conducting the wedding.

  4. License Signatures and Return: Once the ceremony ends, the officiant, wedded couple, and one witness must sign the marriage license. Then, the officiant returns your marriage license to the issuing city or town clerk office.

Documents and Information Required

Getting your marriage license is a little more complex than signing up for a Netflix account. In New York, you and your partner will need several documents and materials to successfully apply for a marriage license. Currently, these are the state-required documents for both applicants:

  • Photo ID
  • Proof of age
  • Documentation of previous marriages (if applicable)
  • Surname declaration
  • Family history (names, residencies, etc)
  • License fees

Waiting Period

Like many states, New York holds a “waiting period” for its marriage license recipients—i.e. you can’t get married until this period passes. Typically, this period lasts 24 hours for New York couples.

However, there are a few exceptions to the 24-hour rule. If pressed for time, you can request a Judicial Waiver from your County Clerk or issuing office when applying for your license. If a Supreme Court justice or local judge deems your situation sufficiently urgent, then you’re free to get hitched immediately.

Expiration of License

On the opposite end of the timeline, New York also has an expiration date for your marriage license. Couples must use their New York license within 60 days of receipt. For active military personnel, that period is stretched to 180 days.

Receiving Your Certificate of Marriage Registration

A marriage license is only a temporary permit. What wedded couples eventually want is a Certificate of Marriage Registration—your permanent document of marriage.

Once the officiant returns your signed marriage license to its issuer, the New York government automatically gives a Certificate of Marriage Registration (bonus—the first one is free). Your certificate should arrive within 15 days of your license’s return.

However, for couples who need multiple certificate copies, you’ll need to submit an application. Similar to a marriage license application, you must submit proper documents and fees to the same clerk that issued your marriage license. In New York, the state government requires all certificate applicants to provide:

  • Photo ID or official documents proving identity (utility bills, government letters)
  • A certificate fee

Fees

Even if you’re planning a budget-friendly New York wedding (hint hint: check out Zola’s price-filtered vendors and digital tools to help out there), you’ll need to set aside money for your marriage license and certificate fees.

In New York state, marriage licenses (which include one Certificate of Marriage Registration) cost $35, regardless of payment method. For excess marriage certificates, online and phone orders cost $53, walk-in orders cost $45, and mail orders cost $30.

Marriage Ceremony Considerations in New York

Whether planning a 300-plus garden ceremony or a bare-bones City Hall affair, every New York wedding needs a few crucial details to stick the legal landing.

To complete a marriage license, New York enforces certain ceremonial rules for its couples-to-be. Make your celebration count by abiding by these laws on your big day:

  • Witnesses: Commonly, state governments require witnesses for all marriage ceremonies. In New York, you need only one person who is 18 years or older as a signing witness.

  • Officiants: The term “officiant” means anyone legally permitted to conduct a wedding ceremony—so not your average Joe. In New York, that includes governors, mayors, state legislators, qualified justices or judges, ordained religious leaders, and other ordained people. If your friend wants to officiate your wedding, they must be legally ordained as specified under Section 11 of New York’s Domestic Relation Law.

  • Location: To receive a New York marriage license, you can be a tourist or a lifelong resident. However, a couple with a New York marriage license must hold their ceremony in New York—otherwise, it’s not legally valid. During the pandemic, New York has permitted couples to hold video conference ceremonies, so long as the couples, witness, and officiant are situated in New York.

Special Marriage Considerations in New York

While touched on above, New York’s marriage rules have a few more details that differentiate them from other states. From age to previous marriages, let’s explore the special considerations that New York couples should review before booking their wedding band.

Age Restrictions

For years, New York allowed people aged 14 years or older to marry, so long as they followed certain consent requirements. However, that law changed in 2017. Since then, New York has banned marriage for all people under 17 years old.

If over 18 years old, there are zero age restrictions on your ability to marry. However, a 17-year-old can marry in New York, so long as they provide:

  • Written consent from both parents (or one parent if the other is dead, missing, or legally unfit to parent)

  • Written consent from a currently appointed Supreme Court justice or local judge

Same-Sex Marriage

Since 2011, New York has celebrated and embraced love of all kinds with the Marriage Equality Act. Overall, this progressive declaration has made a few big differences in the state’s wedding laws, including:

  • Legalizing same-sex marriage across New York
  • Prohibiting the denial of marriage licenses based on gender
  • Prohibiting the denial of marriage rights or protections based on gender
  • Changed gender-specific terms in state marriage laws to gender-neutral terms

Before, not all states recognized same-sex marriage. Luckily, a 2015 Supreme Court order declared that all states must permit and recognize same-sex marriages. New York couples of all genders can now receive equal marriage rights across the country.

Previous Marriages

New York requires detailed records of all previous marriages from both applicants. That way, no citizen can be “double-married,” or wed to two partners.

If previously married, you’ll need to prepare the following documents and information covering all former legal marriages:

  • Full name and living status of prior spouse
  • Date of divorce decree
  • Location of divorce decree
  • Certified Decree of Divorce or Certificate of Dissolution of Marriage

Application Timing

Fortunately for New York applicants, the state gives a generous window of time to use your marriage license. When planning your big day, schedule the ceremony to fall between 24 hours and 60 days after your license application. That way, you’ll avoid having to waive the waiting period or reapply.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Married in New York

From legal contracts to joyous receptions, weddings are filled with detailed plans—which means plenty of questions. Get up to New York-speed with our wedding FAQs:

I’m Getting Married in New York But I Live in a Different State. Where Do I File My License?

There’s one major rule for New York marriages: If getting married in New York, you must receive a marriage license in New York. Your residency doesn’t matter, just your wedding location. If you throw your wedding in a different state, your marriage will be void.

Will My New York Marriage Be Valid in a Different State?

Your New York marriage certificate should be legally recognized in all 50 states. So long as your marriage adhered to New York’s laws, then it will be valid across the country. However, your New York marriage license (pre-ceremony) can only be used in the state of New York.

What Is The Waiting Period, and Why Is It Required (or Not)?

The “waiting period” is the necessary time that a couple must wait to marry once they receive their marriage license. This rule prevents marriage decisions based on haste, intoxication, or unhealthy circumstances. Under certain circumstances, couples can request a sitting justice or judge to waive New York’s waiting period. If ruled sufficiently urgent, then you may immediately marry after receiving a license.

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

New York requires couples to wait 24 hours before marrying once they receive their license. With a signed Judicial Waiver, you can marry immediately with a valid license.

Why Do Marriage Licenses Expire?

For legal and practical reasons. Without an expiration date, licensed couples that no longer adhere to New York marriage laws (for example, outdated age or family restrictions) could potentially still marry with an old license. Also, expiration dates help state governments better track the completion of marriage licenses over time.

What’s the Difference Between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate?

Think of a marriage license for before and during the ceremony, and a marriage certificate for after the ceremony. In New York, a marriage license is basically your (temporary) golden ticket to legal marriage. Once you’ve properly applied for, received, signed, and returned your marriage license, you then can receive a marriage certificate. This is your permanent and legal proof that you and your partner tied the knot.

When Should I Start the Marriage Application Process?

The short answer—as soon as possible. In New York, marriage license appointments get snatched up fast. Once you know your wedding date, immediately try to book your appointment. Whether you choose a virtual or in-person appointment, you should account for the license’s 24-hour waiting period and 60-day expiration date. Just to be safe, plan for a license application date that gives you a seven-day cushion on either end.

Can I Revoke My License or Have My Marriage Declared Invalid?

Yes. The New York government can revoke a marriage license or certificate for both purposeful and accidental reasons. A few of the most common ways that couples lose their marriage license or validity:

  • Expiration of your marriage license (past 60 days or 180 days for military personnel)
  • Use of a New York marriage license for a ceremony outside of New York
  • Mental incompetence of you or your spouse during the marriage application or ceremony
  • Unresolved previous marriages with either partner
  • Force or coercion into the marriage of either partner
  • False information on the marriage license application

What Happens if I Lose or Damage My New York Marriage License?

If the dog chewed up your marriage license, you’ll need a replacement. You’ll need to apply for a Duplicate Marriage License at a fee of $25. Luckily, New York only requires one partner to apply in-person or virtually through the same office that issued the original marriage license.

Tips and Tricks for a New York Wedding

For New York weddings, we’ve highlighted a few pointers to de-stress the process from our expert wedding advice library. Start with these tips and tricks:

  • Book Your Venue: Marriage licenses all come down to timing. To schedule your marriage license application, you first need to book a ceremony date within the state. Start with Zola’s wedding venue database to find the perfect New York venue. From date to price filters, our search makes it easy to book the venue that fits your needs.

  • Time Your License Registration: There should be two big dates on the calendar—one for your wedding ceremony and one prior to your marriage license application. Whether virtual or in-person, pick a marriage license appointment that places your ceremony within the license’s time window.

  • Prepare Documents With Your Partner: A marriage is a trusting partnership filled with shared responsibility. Keep the process honest and clear by preparing all marriage license documents together. That way, you’ll have no surprises on the application day.

  • Permits: In New York, your dream outdoor locale might require a wedding permit, especially if on public property. Always check with the venue ahead of time, so you can apply for and receive a permit if needed.

  • Peak Season: From New York’s gorgeous riversides to its big city penthouses, the state makes for a popular wedding destination. If you want to avoid long appointment waits or booked-out venues, consider a wedding date outside of peak season (June through November).

Make Your New York Wedding Come True With Zola

Weddings are more than a beautiful declaration of love—they’re a significant contract. Preparation, research, and care are necessary ingredients. But you shouldn’t stress over paperwork while dancing on the reception floor. With Zola’s marriage law guide, you can throw a New York wedding that’s smooth-sailing and legally binding.

For all things wedding, Zola is happy to lend a hand. Need some local recs for a New York caterer? Walk down the digital aisles of our vendor collection, featuring handpicked New York photographers, stylists, and more. Designing virtual invitations? Customize your wedding invitations, wedding website, and wedding registry through Zola’s digital platform. For a one-stop solution, Zola makes planning your wedding as easy as saying “I do.”

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