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How to get married in North Carolina

Wondering how to get married in North Carolina? Just follow these guidelines!

  1. Before the ceremony, you must obtain a marriage license.

  2. The ceremony must be conducted by a recognized officiant, and both people must declare their intent to marry (the "I Do's").

  3. Following the ceremony, two witnesses and the officiant must sign the marriage license. The signed marriage license is then submitted and recorded.


How to get a marriage license in North Carolina:

Go in person to a Register of Deeds office with your partner to submit the marriage license application. You will leave the office with your marriage license document in hand, and it can be used immediately or anytime within 60 days.

  • Find a location here

  • Regardless of where you live, you may go to any of the 100 locations, and you may use it to get married anywhere in North Carolina.

  • Some counties require you to make an appointment, while others allow walk-ins

  • Some counties allow you to complete the application form online to save time, but you still must BOTH go in person to finalize the application.

  • Typical office hours are Monday-Friday, 8–5pm, but vary by location

  • Check your Register of Deeds website (see links at the bottom of this page) to confirm what documents you need to bring for both partners. Usually you need proof of identification (Current driver’s license, state ID card, passport, or military ID) and documentation of social security number (Social Security card or other approved document such as a W-2 or tax return).

  • The cost for a marriage license application is $60


Completing and submitting the marriage license:

Following your ceremony, you will need your officiant and two witnesses to sign the license. Your witnesses can be anyone over the age of 18 who was present at the ceremony. The officiant cannot sign as a witness.

Your officiant will usually submit the signed license. Make sure you confirm this with them! The completed license must be returned to the same Register of Deeds location that it came from, within 10 days of the wedding date. Make sure to review the instructions given to you by the Register of Deeds office to ensure the license is completed and submitted correctly.


When should we get the marriage license?

Once you get the marriage license, it is valid for 60 days. If you do not get married within 60 days, you will have to re-apply. There is no waiting period in NC - your marriage license is valid immediately! I recommend you have your license in hand at least 2 weeks before your wedding date - you don't want to wait until the last minute!


Who can officiate a wedding in North Carolina? Is online ordination legal in NC?

This question is tricky. Just as a disclaimer, I have no legal background, but I have done a fair amount of research on this subject. According to nccourts.gov, "A wedding can be performed by a magistrate or by any minister who is ordained in a religious denomination or authorized by a church. Marriages can also be performed in the recognized manner of any religious denomination that does not use officiants, or in the recognized manner of any federally or state-recognized Native American tribe."

The Register of Deeds processes the marriage license application and the final license, and they do not verify the validity of any ordination.  There is no list or registry of licensed or approved officiants in NC.

People often ask me if their officiant can be a friend or family member who is ordained online by the Universal Life Church or similar group, and the answer is "yes and no." In NC people do sometimes use online-ordained officiants and the marriage certificate is issued and they are considered legally married for all intents and purposes.  HOWEVER, there have been court cases where legal questions come up down the road about the legitimacy of the marriage - these are rare but potentially problematic (things like life insurance, spousal benefits, or other legal disputes).  

If you want to be on the safe side, you can get legally married by the magistrate at your local courthouse and then have your friend or family member do a symbolic ceremony, or find an ordained officiant who is willing to "co-officiate".


How do I get a copy of my marriage certificate?

You will not automatically receive a paper copy of your marriage certificate.  If you want one for your records (and I do recommend this), you can obtain a copy from the Register of Deeds for $10 per copy or from the NC Vital Records Office.  Wait at least 10 days after your ceremony to allow time for the state to receive and process your license. 


For more information on marriage licenses, including office hours, appointment scheduling, required documents, and other county-specific information, visit the following Register of Deeds websites:


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