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How to Get Married in North Dakota - Planning a wedding in the Peace Garden State

Published Wednesday, Jan. 26th, 2022


Planning a North Dakota wedding? This short guide will help -- from finding an officiant to completing the marriage license. 



From the Badlands to the Red River valley, North Dakota offers romantic backdrops of every kind. And with vibrant nightlife and five-star dining and drinks popping up everywhere from downtown Fargo to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, it's easy to see why this rugged midwest destination is a top choice for weddings. 


Applying for a marriage license in this Great Plains State will look different in each county, so it’s important to get a head start on the planning process to avoid unnecessary stress. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a short guide to help you begin. 


(If you’ve been asked to officiate a wedding in North Dakota, scroll down for helpful links.)



An aerial photograph of the North Dakota badlands

The Badlands, in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, 

are located in Billings and McKenzie counties.

Use your marriage license anywhere in the state and elope somewhere gorgeous!




How to get married in North Dakota in 6 Steps 



1.  Get yourself a sweetheart! 

Got one? Whew! There will be a few more boxes to check, but the hardest part’s over.


2.  Find a wedding officiant in North Dakota.

A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal. 


In North Dakota, a friend or relative can perform your wedding ceremony, if they’ve been ordained. (Get ordained online for free with AMM.



If you want to hire a professional, the state has many qualified independent officiants to choose from. The following people are authorized to solemnize marriage in North Dakota:


All judges of courts of record and municipal judges; Recorders; Ordained ministers of the gospel, priests, and clergy authorized by recognized denominations; and any individual authorized by the rituals and practices of any religious persuasion. 


(Find more North Dakota Century Code marriage laws here.)



couple in wedding attire hold a colorful bouquet outdoors



3.  Choose a date and a venue...

North Dakota offers wide open skies and rugged countryside, with acres of painted canyons, gardens, and miles of hiking and bike trails. It’s unique history and cultural sites, and beloved cities like Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Minot, make it a favorite for destination weddings. 


Whether you’re dreaming of a big to-do or a romantic elopement for two -- there’s something for everyone!


Popular dates, venues, and officiants book up fast, so start early. And remember you’ll need permission (and a permit) to use a public space, such as a city park or recreational area. Permits can take weeks to process, so factor this into your timeline, too. 



Marriage License Quick Facts

No Waiting Period
60 Day Expiration Period
5 Day Return Period



4.  The marriage license.

Alright, time to make sure your wedding’s legal! We’ll break down each part of the marriage license process, one step at a time: 

Applying for your license

You’ll apply for your marriage license through the County Registrar or Recorder Office. Some counties allow couples to begin the application process online. Out-of-state couples will need to apply for their license in the county where the ceremony will take place. You don’t need to be a North Dakota resident to marry there.


Requirements to Apply: 



  • Both parties must be at least 18 years old or meet the requirements for minors
  • Both parties must present in person to apply for or pick up their license
  • Both parties must know their social security number, and bring their social security card if possible
  • Proof of identity and age (such as government issued photo ID)
  • Certified copy of Divorce Decree/s, or a copy of the Death Certificate of the deceased spouse, if previously married  


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in North Dakota, we recommend contacting the Registrar or Recorder closest to your venue to learn more. 


Your marriage license will cost $65. Many offices only accept cash payments, so you’ll want to plan ahead. There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.


Waiting period

North Dakota has no waiting period between the time an application is filed and when a marriage license is released. 


Using and returning the license

A North Dakota marriage license can be used anywhere in the state, and expires 60 days after it is purchased.


The original copy of the certificate and license must be signed by each party to the marriage, two adult witnesses, and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and be returned to the office where it was issued. (We’ll cover this more below.)


The license must be returned within five days after the ceremony, and the duplicate must be returned to the couple immediately.



The courthouse in Fargo, ND via the Courthouse

The Cass County Courthouse is the go-to spot for a marriage license in Fargo, ND.

Image via Cass County



5.  Meet with your wedding officiant...

Once you’ve chosen a date, a venue, and have your marriage license details worked out, you’ll be ready to meet with your wedding officiant to plan the ceremony! 



This is when things start to come into focus. You’ll talk about the tone of your ceremony, the ‘vibe’ you want to create for your guests, and any special elements and unity rituals you want to include. You and your officiant might meet a few more times to exchange more ideas, fine-tune a script, or rehearse the ceremony leading up to the wedding day. 


AMM’s website is full of resources to help you decide what kind of ceremony you want, tips on working well with your officiant, and advice on keeping your ceremony authentic and on budget. 


Visit articles tagged for Couples on our American Weddings blog, or browse general articles by category or keyword. 


6.  The wedding day! 

Aside from yourselves, the most important thing you’ll bring with you on the wedding day is your marriage license -- because no license means no marriage. Your officiant won’t be able to perform the wedding without having a license present (even if you have it at home), so make sure it’s with you. 


After the ceremony, you, two witnesses, and your officiant will sign the license. For tips on how to complete the license, head here.


Once it’s signed, you must record it with the office that issued it within 5 days. The duplicate must be returned by the officiant to the couple immediately. 


Check with your county for the most up-to-date information, as details can change quickly.


Once it’s been recorded, you’re officially married! 



An  aerial   view of Bismark,  ND  downtown,  with  trees,  open  green fields,  houses,  and other  tall city buildings

For a Burleigh County marriage license, head to downtown Bismark. 




Are you officiating a wedding in North Dakota? 


Visit Weddings by State: North Dakota


We’ve got everything you need to understand the state’s licensing and registration requirements, and any ministry credentials and paperwork you might need.





Navigating Your Wedding Ceremony



navigating your wedding ceremony cover and photo of Officiant Amber



This valuable guide written by North Dakota local, Officiant Amber, covers everything from wedding day logistics, writing your own vows, how and where to meet ideal wedding vendors, to obtaining and completing your marriage license – and more.


With years of experience as a professional wedding officiant, Officiant Amber knows exactly what goes into creating exceptional one-of-a-kind wedding ceremonies.






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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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