Do you need a blood test to get married: Marriage License and Blood Test Requirements By State

Marriage License and Blood Test Requirements By State

State-by-state requirements for marriage licenses, including where to get them, waiting periods, and how long licenses are good for.

By E.A. Gjelten, Legal Editor

If you want to get married in the vast majority of U.S. states, you’ll need to get a marriage license and have a wedding ceremony. Each state has its own requirements for getting a license, including where and how to apply for the license, whether there’s a waiting period before you may get married, and how long the license is good for (whether it will expire if you don’t get married within a certain period of time). We’ve outlined these key requirements in the chart below for all 50 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia. (Learn more about marriage requirements, licenses, and ceremonies.)

Do You Need Blood Tests to Get Married?

Almost all states in the U.S. have dropped any blood-test requirements before getting married. The only (partial) exception is New York, which requires that Black and Latino applicants for marriage licenses take a blood test for sickle cell anemia. The law allows religious exemptions, and the results of the test won’t affect anyone’s ability to get married. (N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law § 13-aa (2022).)

In place of mandatory blood tests, some states require that applicants for marriage licenses read a brochure or pamphlet that includes information about inherited and sexually transmitted diseases (such as AIDS), as well as how to get tests for those diseases.

Fees for Marriage Licenses

The fees for marriage licenses vary widely across the country. Usually those fees fall somewhere in the range of $35 to $75, but they can be as low as $20 or as high as $120.

We haven’t included license fees in the chart below, because they’re often different from county to county within a state—and they can change at any time. Also, some states will give a discount on the fee for couples who complete a premarital education course, while a few states charge more for out-of-state residents (think destination weddings).

Check with the court clerk’s office or other government office that will issue your license (as spelled out in the chart below) to find out the current license fee, as well as the methods of payment they’ll accept. You can find contact information by searching online for the appropriate county and the name of the court or office.

Waiting Periods for Marriage Licenses and Weddings

The waiting periods shown in the chart below may affect when you receive the marriage license after applying for it or the effective date on the license—when you’re allowed to use it. Regardless of the specifics, a waiting period means that you probably won’t be able to get married right after you apply for a license, unless you qualify for any waiver allowed in your state.

In some states, the waiting period is actually the minimum amount of time between applying for a license and either receiving or using it to get married. Regardless of any legal waiting period in your state, processing times for marriage license applications can vary. Don’t expect that you’ll always receive your license on the same day you submit your application.

It’s a good idea to plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get the license before your long-planned ceremony. That’s because it’s usually illegal to get married or perform a wedding ceremony without a valid marriage license. But it’s probably not a good idea to apply for your marriage license too far ahead of time, because the license may not be good for very long in the state where you’re planning to get married. Check the chart for details.

Many states (or counties) allow you to apply for a marriage license online or by mail. But you’ll generally have to show up in person to receive the license, and many states require both partners to appear.

State-by-State Marriage License Requirements

As with all laws, states may change their requirements for marriage licenses at any time. You can check the current statutes by searching on the Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online, follow the links below to state court websites with current information about marriage licenses, or check with the local authority that issues licenses.

State Waiting Period to Marry License Expiration Who Issues License Notes/Laws
Alabama N/A* N/A N/A No license required, but must submit marriage certificate to probate court within 30 days after signing. Get forms from county health departments (in person or online). Ala Code § 30-1-9.1 (2022)
Alaska 3 days* 3 months Alaska State Vital Records Section or county court clerk Waiting period may be waived if it would cause undue hardship. Alaska Stat. §§ 25.05.091, 25.05.111, 25.05.121 (2022)
Arizona None 1 year Any county clerk* May apply at some city/town clerks or justice of peace offices. Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 25-121, 25-126, 25-127 (2022)
Arkansas None* 60 days Any court clerk 5-day waiting period for 17-year-olds. Ark. Code §§ 9-11-203, 9-11-218 (2022)
California None 90 days Any county clerk or recorder’s office

Cal. Fam. Code §§ 350–360 (2022)

Colorado None 30 days Any county clerk or recorder’s office

Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 14-2-106, 14-2-107 (2022)

Connecticut None 65 days Vital Records Office* Must apply for license in town where ceremony will take place. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-24 (2022)
Delaware 24 hours* 30 days* County clerk (Marriage Bureau) Waiting or expiration period may be waived for good reason. Del. Code tit. 13, §§ 107, 109 (2022)
District of Columbia None No expiration Court clerk (Marriage Bureau)

D.C. Code § 46-410 (2022)

Florida 3 days* 60 days Any circuit court clerk No waiting period with completion of premarital course, for nonresidents, or in case of hardship. Fla. Stat. §§ 741.04, 741.041 (2022)
Georgia None No expiration Probate court* Georgia residents may apply for license in any county, but nonresidents must apply in county where wedding will take place. Ga. Code §§ 19-3-10. 10-3-33, 19-3-35 (2022)
Hawaii None 30 days State Health Department Haw. Rev. Stat. §§ 572-5, 572-6 (2022)
Idaho None No expiration Any county recorder Idaho Code § 32-403 (2022)
Illinois 1 day 60 days Local county clerk* Must apply in county where wedding will take place. 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/203, 5/207 (2022)
Indiana None 60 days County clerk* Indiana residents apply in county where one of applicants lives; out-of-state residents apply where wedding will take place. Ind. Code §§ 31-11-4-3, 31-11-4-10 (2022)
Iowa 3 days* 6 months Registrar of Vital Statistics in any county Waiting period may be waived in emergency or extraordinary circumstances. Iowa Code § 595.4 (2022)
Kansas 3 days* 6 months Any district court clerk Minimum waiting period may be waived in emergency or extraordinary circumstances, but application processing may take 2 weeks. Kan. Stat. § 23-2505 (2022).
Kentucky None 30 days Any county clerk Ky. Rev. Stat. §§ 402.100, 402.105 (2022)
Louisiana 24 hours* 30 days Any parish-level court clerk* In Orleans Parish, licenses issued by State Registrar of Vital Records or any city court judge. Waiting period may be waived for good reason. La. Rev. Stat. §§ 9:221, 9:222, 9:235, 9:241, 9:242 (2022)
Maine None 90 days Town clerk* or State Registrar of Vital Statistics Apply at town office where one applicant lives; nonresidents apply at any town office. Md. Rev. Stat. tit. 19-A, §§ 651, 652 (2022)
Maryland 2 days 6 months Circuit court clerk* Apply in county where wedding will take place, but applicants may apply for nonresident marriage license by mail if neither lives in that county. Md. Code, Fam. Law §§ 2-405, 2-409 (2022)
Massachusetts 3 days* 60 days Any city or town clerk Marriage license is called «certificate of intention of marriage. » Minimum waiting period may be waived in extraordinary or emergency cases. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 207, §§ 27, 30 (2022).
Michigan 3 days* 33 days County clerk* Apply in county where either applicant lives or, if both are nonresidents, in county where wedding will take place. Waiting period may be waived for good reason. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 551.101, 551.103a (2022)
Minnesota None 6 months Any county registrar (Vital Records Office) Minn. Stat. §§ 517.07, 517.08 (2022)
Mississippi None No provision Any circuit court clerk Miss. Code § 93-1-15
Missouri None 30 days Recorder of Deeds in any county Mo. Rev. Stat. § 451.040 (2022)
Montana None 180 days Any district court clerk Mont. Code §§ 40-1-202, 40-1-212 (2022)
Nebraska None 1 year Any county clerk Neb. Rev. Stat. § 42-104 (2022)
Nevada None 1 year Any county clerk (or Marriage License Bureau) Nev. Rev. Stat. § 122.040 (2022)
New Hampshire None 90 days Any town/city clerk N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 5-C:42, 457:26 (2022)
New Jersey 72 hours* 30 days Local Vital Records Office or city clerk* Apply for license in municipality where either applicant lives or, if nonresidents, where wedding will take place; waiting period may be waived in emergency. N.J. Stat. §§ 37:1-3, 37:1-4 (2022)
New Mexico None No provision Any county clerk N.M. Stat. § 40-1-10 (2022)
New York 24 hours* 60 days Any city or town clerk Waiting period may be waived. N.Y. Dom. Rel. Law §§ 13, 13-b, 14 (2022)
North Carolina None 60 days Any register of deeds N. C. Gen. Stat. §§ 51-8, 51-16 (2022)
North Dakota None 60 days County recorder or other designated official* Apply in county where either applicant lives. N.D. Cent. Code § 14-03-10 (2022)
Ohio None 60 days Probate Court* (marriage department) Apply in county where either applicant lives or, if nonresidents, where wedding will take place. Ohio Rev. Code §§ 3101.05, 3101.07 (2022)
Oklahoma None* 30 days Any county district court clerk 72-hour waiting period for applicants under age 18. Okla. Stat. tit. 43, §§ 4, 5, 6, 20 (2022)
Oregon 3 days* 60 days Any county court clerk May get waiver of waiting period for good reason. Or. Rev. Stat. § 106.077 (2022).
Pennsylvania 3 days* 60 days Department of Court Records in most counties* Licenses issued by Orphans Court clerk in Philadelphia and Register of Wills in Pittsburgh. Licenses are good anywhere in state. May get waiver of waiting period in emergencies or extraordinary circumstances, or if applicant is in active military duty. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 1303, 1310 (2022)
Rhode Island None 3 months Town or city clerk* Apply in city/town where either applicant lives; nonresidents apply where ceremony will take place. When state implements system for issuing licenses electronically, you’ll be able to apply anywhere in state. R.I. Gen. Laws 15-2-1, 15-2-1.1, 15-2-8 (2022)
South Carolina 24 hours Varies by county Probate court in any county* Apply with court clerk in Darlington and Georgetown counties. S.C. Code § 20-1-220 (2022).
South Dakota None 90 days Any county register of deeds S.D. Codified Laws §§ 25-1-10, 25-1-24 (2022)
Tennessee None 30 days Any county clerk Tenn. Code § 36-3-103 (2022)
Texas 72 hours* 90 days Any county clerk Exceptions to waiting period include applicants who completed premarital education course, received waiver, or are on active military duty. Tex. Fam. Code §§ 2.001, 2.201, 2.204 (2022)
Utah None 32 days Any county clerk Utah Code § 30-1-7 (2022)
Vermont None 60 days Any town clerk Vt. Stat. tit. 18, § 5131 (2022)
Virginia None 60 days Any county or city court clerk or deputy clerk Va. Code §§ 20-14, 20-14.1 (2022)
Washington 3 days 60 days Any county auditor Wash. Rev. Code §§ 26.04.150, 26.04.180 (2022)
West Virginia None* 60 days Any clerk of county commission 2-day waiting period for applicants under 18, except in extraordinary circumstances. W. Va. Code §§ 48-2-102, 48-2-103, 48-2-202 (2022)
Wisconsin 5 days 30 days County clerk* State residents must apply for license in county where one of them has lived for previous 30 days; out-of-state residents must apply in county where ceremony will take place. Waiting period may be shortened for extra fee. Wis. Stat. §§ 765.05, 765.08, 765.12 (2022)
Wyoming None 1 year Any county clerk Wyo. Stat. § 20-1-103 (2022)

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Why Did States Require Blood Tests for Marriage Licenses?

Contrary to what you might assume, America’s history of mandatory blood tests before marriage has nothing to do with an Oedipal fear of accidentally tying the knot with your long-lost mother, brother, or other close relative. It does, however, have roots in what was once considered a topic nearly as uncomfortable as incest: sexually transmitted diseases.

Back in the 1930s, the rising rates of syphilis were causing a public health crisis, partially because the subject was so taboo.

“We might virtually stamp out this disease were we not hampered by the widespread belief that nice people don’t talk about syphilis, that nice people don’t have syphilis, and that nice people shouldn’t do anything about those who do have syphilis,” U.S. Surgeon General Thomas Parran Jr. wrote in a 1936 article called “The Next Great Plague to Go.”

So Parran launched a nationwide campaign to educate everyone about venereal disease, commonly abbreviated as “VD.” Posters, films, cartoons, and even stamps urged people to avoid casual sex and get tested regularly, while the American Sexual Health Association sponsored a “Social Health” exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. In 1938, Congress passed the Venereal Disease Control Act, which distributed $3 million—and more in later years—among the federal and state governments for research and testing.

The Illinois Works Projects Administration wanted people to stick to gambling on whether the Chicago Cubs would ever win the World Series. / Work Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Though Parran’s efforts were progressive in some ways, they were seriously damaging in others. For one, he perpetuated misconceptions about how STIs could spread, asserting that “many cases come from such casual contacts as the use of a recently soiled drinking cup, a pipe or cigarette, in receiving services from diseased nursemaids, barber or beauty shop operators, etc.” He also oversaw a horrifically unethical experiment in Tuskegee, Alabama, that studied the effects of syphilis in several hundred Black men by withholding treatment from them, without their informed consent.

It was in this culture of heightened awareness (and misinformation) that states began to pass laws requiring couples to submit to blood tests before applying for marriage licenses, so they could avoid spreading a previously undetected venereal disease to their spouse and future children. As historian Erin Wuebker wrote in 2016, 30 states had enacted such legislation by 1944, and Gallup polls throughout the 1930s and 1940s revealed that the majority of American citizens supported the government initiatives.

New York’s subway stations were filled with lovely posters like this in the late 1930s and early 1940s. / Work Projects Administration Poster Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

After the syphilis crisis was over, some states simply pivoted to using premarital blood tests to check for other diseases, like tuberculosis, rubella, and HIV. The problem, however, was that the practice didn’t actually uncover that many cases of any kind. The Mises Institute reported that the nation as a whole spent around $80 million on premarital syphilis tests and found only 456 positive cases; and according to a 1989 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, prospective newlyweds in Illinois spent $2. 5 million to test for HIV during the first six months of the program, and only eight of the 70,846 tests came back positive. Since neighboring states saw an increase in marriage license applications during that time, the study suggested that people were simply crossing state borders to avoid getting tested (after all, Illinois didn’t pay for the tests).

As states started to realize that premarital blood testing wasn’t a cost-effective way to screen for diseases, they abolished their laws. But it was definitely a slow process—Montana became the final state to repeal its mandatory blood testing (for rubella) just last year.

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