Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope? Elopement Requirements Explained

Elopement Tips & Advice,
5 min read Sep 28, 2023
Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope

The spirit and excitement of elopement for many couples is the opportunity to forge their own path in their marriage profession. As the outside world melts away, eloping instead of having a traditional wedding gives couples the space to zoom in and focus on what matters most.

That said, the less-charted territory can provoke some questions. A common question for many couples considering elopement is: do you need a marriage license to elope?

The short answer is yes. You’ll need your marriage license in hand before holding hands and saying, “I do.”

As you’re arranging the romantic details of your elopement day, we’ll help you navigate the legal elements of your intimate wedding. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what you and your partner need to seal the deal and get legally married, so you’re prepared for all aspects of your enchanting elopement.

Understanding Marriage License Requirements

Because you can’t move forward with your elopement until you obtain a marriage license, it’s important to plan for this first step to make sure you have the necessary documents ready and accounted for.

When you’re ready to start the process to get your marriage license, start compiling the necessary documents first. Although the required documentation can vary depending on the state where you live, here are some of the most standard nationwide:

  • Proof of identification, like your passport or driver’s license
  • Your social security number or card
  • Proof of age, like your birth certificate
  • Divorce decree if you or your partner were previously married

Aside from these items, it’s also essential to be able to provide consent. In most states, only individuals above the age of 18 can do so, although some locations allow minors to get married with parental consent.

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States with No Waiting Period for Marriage Licenses

If you’re swept up in the heat of the moment and want a spontaneous marriage ceremony, there are some places in the United States that offer licenses without a waiting period. If you and your partner live in one of these locations, you can get the show on the road and get married as soon as possible.

Here’s a breakdown of the states without a waiting period for a marriage license:1

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas (as long as both parties are above the age of 18)
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Colombia
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma (As long as both parties are over the age of 18)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia (As long as both parties are over the age of 18)

While these states make it easy to opt for a spontaneous elopement, the waiting periods in other locations like New York or New Hampshire are usually only 48 to 72 hours. This means that no matter where you live, you and your soon-to-be spouse won’t need to head to the courthouse too far in advance.

Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope

Self-Shellemnization: Act as Your Own Officiant

For an especially intimate wedding ceremony, there are some states where you or your partner can act as your own officiants, meaning you have an elopement as small as a party of two. This process is called self-solemnization.2

It’s not legal across the US, so you’ll want to conduct some research beforehand to make sure it’s an option for you and your partner before you set this plan in stone.

Destination Elopements and Marriage License Laws

So you’ve seen photos of elopements in beautiful destinations across the globe, and you’re wondering how to make that happen. We’re here to help! When you’re ready for a destination elopement, you’ll want to review the legal requirements of your home state as well as the marriage license laws in the country where you plan to elope.

While there are captivating locations around the world, it’s significantly easier to plan an elopement in some destinations than others. You’ll want to review local marriage laws before booking your ticket to make sure you’re able to get married in the setting of your choice.

The key to destination elopements is researching ahead so you know you’re in line with local laws and regulations. And if you want to be certain that you’re checking all the boxes, consult with a professional who specializes in marriage laws for legal advice. Once all this is handled, you can enjoy your elopement party stress-free!

Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope

Legal Considerations for International Elopements

When you’re planning an international elopement, you’ll want to have the necessary documents available. While requirements can vary depending on location, many countries require you to have a passport, proof of marital status, and a birth certificate.

For example, some cities in Spain require at least one of the wedding participants to have lived in the country for at least two years before getting married there.3 On the other hand, France requires couples to ask the government for a special dispensation.

Whether you’re envisioning sandy beaches or a jungle oasis, an international elopement ceremony can make your special day as a couple even more memorable and unique. International destinations allow more room for unique elopement dinner and venue ideas as well. No matter where you want to elope, reviewing local legal requirements can help make the process easier, allowing you and your partner to say “I do,” in the location of your dreams.

Do You Need a Marriage License to Elope

Prepare for Your Big Day With Simply Eloped

When you lovebirds are ready to make it official, having the right documents ready can make getting your marriage license quick and easy, especially if you made an appointment beforehand. If you’re an adventurous duo, you can hit the skies and elope abroad without breaking a sweat. If you’re wondering, “Can you elope and have a wedding later?”, you’re in luck! Whether you want a small wedding or a destination wedding, the choice is yours.

Regardless of how you envision your perfect day, we’re here to help. At Simply Eloped, our guides and elopement packages offer crucial information and resources to make sure you and your partner have a seamless elopement from beginning to end.



1 Wedding Wire. Marriage Laws by State.

2 The Penny Hoarder. Marry Yourself? It’s Not Exactly What It Sounds Like but So Worth Checking Into.

3 Klev & Vera: International Law Firm. How to get married in Spain if you are a foreigner.

Elopement Tips & Advice
Written by Janessa White

Janessa White is the co-founder of Simply Eloped and has helped thousands of couples plan elopements. As an expert in the field, she has been featured on Martha Stewart,, Vox, and HuffPost. Janessa thinks elopements are the ultimate way to tie the knot.