With all the sheer excitement and fun that comes with planning your elopement (or just spontaneously doing it), some bare-bones basics tend to get lost in the shuffle. Like, the rules. Or, rather, the law, since marriage is at its core a legally binding union and there is some paperwork involved.
In the United States, laws regarding the waiting period, age requirement, and number of witnesses vary by state. The best way to get the official, most up-to-date information is to check the website for the county you’re getting married in, as well as the state. Here’s a simple to-do list to keep things streamlined as you plan to elope in a different state.
Apply for your marriage license
Visit the state and/or county’s website in which you’re getting married. Some let you apply online, and some require you to go in person. If you must apply in person, plan extra travel time for this, and see if you need to make an appointment. Also check to see what kind of payment the courthouse accepts (some still only take cash, believe it or not) and have all forms of required ID when you go. More often than not, you both need to be there, not just one of you.
Determine if there’s a waiting period
When travel is involved, figuring out if there’s a waiting period between when you apply for the marriage license and when you can go pick it up is crucial. For example, if you decide to elope to New Orleans, plan to hang out for a day before your legal ceremony, since Louisiana has a 24-hour waiting period.
This becomes really, really important if you’re having any guests travel in, planning hotel or Airbnb stay, and so on. Also, you need to have your license with you at the wedding so it can be signed. So be sure to know how long the waiting period is before launching your plans.
Filing the marriage license
Your marriage license gets filed in the state—specifically, the county—you get married in, not the state you reside in. This applies to all fifty states. And to clear up a ton of confusion, you don’t need to be a resident of the state in which you’re eloping in order to get married there.
You do, however, need to get married in the state where you apply for the marriage license—marriage licenses don’t transfer from state to state, meaning you can’t apply for one in New Jersey and then try and have a legal ceremony in New York.
Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC all have ways for you to marry yourselves, called self-solemnization. Each place’s requirements and paperwork are different, so definitely check the appropriate courthouse website before heading to do the damn thing yourselves.