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Marriage Certificate Search

Marriage certificates, like most vital records, are maintained by the County, Town, or City Clerk in the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred. A marriage certificate search aids the location and dissemination of these certificates within the provisions of US statutes.

The Clerk’s Office is also responsible for issuing and maintaining marriage licenses and all other public marriage records. However, some counties designate this responsibility to the Court Clerk's Office in local county courthouses. At state level, it is the responsibility of the State Department of Health or State Vital Records Office to generate and maintain vital records, including marriage certificates. The office will also provide a birth certificate, death certificate and divorce certificate to eligible requesters.

Marriage certificates serve various functions. They are proof of the registration of a civil union and are required to access rights and privileges that marital status confers on couples, such as tax deductions. Marriage certificates are also used as a form of identification.

Each US state is responsible for setting systems and laws that govern the maintenance and dissemination of marriage certificates. Generally, these laws are codified in the State’s Vital Records Act or Health Statistics Act. These statutes specify rules on the public availability of marriage certificates as well as guidelines for the record custodians in disseminating the document.

Are Marriage Certificates Public?

It depends on the state’s Vital Records Law. Certain states make marriage certificates public records from the moment they are issued to the couple. Other states only allow the public to obtain copies of these vital records after a statutory period of confidentiality has elapsed. Until then, only the persons named on the record, their immediate family members, persons with legal authority, or a court order may obtain the marriage certificate. The confidentiality period may be 25, 50, 75, or 100 years from the date the record was created, depending on the jurisdiction. Still, many states restrict public access to marriage certificates entirely, allowing only eligible persons to view or obtain copies of the vital record.

What is a Marriage Certificate?

A marriage certificate is a document that states that two individuals are married, that the civil union is recognized under state laws, and that attests to the validity of the marriage. The document contains similar information as found on the marriage license, i.e., both spouses’ personal information, their addresses, and the marriage date. In some states, this document also contains the name and signature of the officiating minister; for civil unions and same-sex couples, additional information may also be featured.

What Do Marriage Certificates Contain?

The information listed on marriage certificates will vary with the state where the document was created. Nevertheless, there is some consistency. Persons who obtain copies of a marriage certificate can expect to see the following information about both partners:

  • Full names
  • Dates of birth
  • Addresses
  • Parents’ full names
  • County of marriage
  • Date of marriage

Besides the aforementioned information about the couple, a marriage certificate will also contain the following details:

  • The presiding official’s name and title
  • The official’s address and contact information
  • Document issue date
  • The issuing officer’s full name and signature
  • Witnesses’ names and signatures
  • The marriage license number

Where Do I Get a Certified Copy of My Marriage Certificate?

Various record custodians maintain and issue copies of marriage certificates at the state and county level. Most states designate this responsibility to the County Clerk’s Office or the Recorder’s Office. It is also common for state Departments of Health to maintain and issue marriage certificates through their local offices. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains an index of vital records custodians across the United States. Interested persons may use this index to find the best place to obtain certified marriage certificates. However, access to a certified marriage certificate is often restricted to persons who satisfy the state's eligibility requirements. These requirements vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

How Do I Get a Certified Copy of My Marriage Certificate?

Upon confirming the record custodian for the marriage certificate of interest, visit the record custodian’s office to submit an application to obtain certified copies of the marriage certificate. In-person requests to the vital records office must happen during regular business hours. However, to ensure a successful application, inquirers may call the record custodian ahead of time and schedule an appointment. Calling ahead can also help the requestor confirm they meet the eligibility requirements to obtain the documents sought.

In cases where the State Department of Health is the record custodian for the marriage certificate sought, requestors have three options to obtain certified copies: online, in person, or by mail. All three options require the requestor to complete an application form and submit documents proving their eligibility to access the marriage certificate. Acceptable documents include a government-issued photo ID bearing the requestor’s name, address, and photo. The requestor will also be required to pay the applicable search and copying fees. Most DoHs accept cash, credit cards, and certified checks.

Online applications are convenient, but the mailing/delivery fees can increase the overall cost. Hence, this option is best for requestors who live out of state or can wait for the few days it takes to deliver the document. A similar process applies to mail-in requests. On the other hand, in-person requests for marriage certificates are best for requestors who wish to obtain or use certified copies of the marriage certificate as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, where the County Clerk, Recorder’s Office, or the Clerk of Courts is the record custodian for the marriage certificate, mail-in, and in-person requests are typically the available options.

Some of the aforementioned record custodians have online platforms for submitting a request, but there is no guarantee. The process for obtaining certified marriage records from the Clerk or Recorder’s office is similar to that of the DoH described above.

Can I Find My Marriage Certificate Online?

Yes. Official record custodians for marriage certificates, particularly Vital Records Offices under the Departments of Health, maintain online repositories where requestors can obtain the vital record. The procedure is quite consistent from state to state: the requestor visits the custodian’s vital records online portal, completes an online application, and pays the application fees. Then, the record custodian verifies the application and processes the request.

Besides government records custodians, however, it is possible to obtain marriage certificates online from independent aggregate websites from vital records. However, as these companies are not affiliated with the government, the availability of online marriage certificates will vary. In addition, these services rarely provide requesters with a physical or certified copy of a marriage record.

How to Get a New Marriage Certificate

Persons who wish to obtain a new marriage certificate may visit the Clerk’s or Recorder’s Office in the county where the marriage license was originally issued. In most cases, this office is also responsible for issuing the marriage certificate and maintaining copies for later requests. It is also possible to obtain a new marriage certificate from the Vital Records Office in the county where the marriage license was issued or at the Department of Health’s head office. In any way, the requester must complete an application form, submit an ID to verify their identity and confirm their eligibility to obtain the marriage record, and pay the necessary application fees.

How Do I Verify a Marriage Certificate?

Individuals who wish to verify a marriage certificate may call the office that issued that document or the record custodian. The name of the issuing office and their contact information will usually be on the document. It is also possible to visit the record custodian’s office in person during business hours to verify a marriage certificate. Another way to get the custodian’s contact details is online, from the record custodian’s website or officials directory on the county’s website.

That said, the record custodian will require certain details to complete the verification, specifically the marriage certificate number and the names of the persons named on the marriage certificate. The cost of verification will vary from state to state, but record custodians typically charge a nominal fee.