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How to Get Married in Illinois - Planning a Wedding in the Prairie State

Published Saturday, Mar. 4th, 2023

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



Illinois offers romantic backdrops of every kind, from remarkable natural beauty to towering cityscapes, making it a top destination for weddings.


Applying for a marriage license in this midwestern 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. 



Asked to officiate a wedding in Illinois? 

Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Illinois

Close up photo of bride and groom interlocking pinkie fingers to show off their wedding rings, the bride's hand has decorative henna painting

Looking for a sample wedding ceremony script to use?

Check out AMM's free Wedding Ceremony Script Library

Photo: Pexels, Antony Trivet



How to get married in Illinois 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 Illinois.

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


A friend or relative can perform your wedding ceremony if they’ve been ordained, and ordinations through American Marriage Ministries (AMM) are recognized in Illinois. 




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 Illinois:


Various judges; some county clerks, mayors, and other government officials; or in accordance with the prescriptions of any religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group, provided that when such prescriptions require an officiant, the officiant be in good standing with his or her religious denomination, Indian Nation or Tribe or Native Group. (Summarized from § 750 5/209)


(Read a detailed list of authorized officiants and more Illinois marriage laws here.)



The Bean sculpture in Chicago, with a backdrop of city buildings

Need a marriage license in Chicago? Head to the Cook County Clerk's office!



3. Choose a date and a venue...

Illinois is home to fertile farmland, popular parks and historical sites, thriving arts and music scenes, great pizza, and so much more! And with beloved cities like Chicago, Aurora, and Springfield offering hundreds of world-class venues, it’s 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. 


Illinois Marriage License Quick Facts

♡ 1 Day Waiting Period*
♡ 60 Day Expiration Period
♡ 10 Day Return Period

*Your marriage license will be issued immediately but can’t be used until the following day. 

illustrated graphic representing the wedding ceremony

Did you know? Every state has different laws governing when the marriage license is issued, can be completed, and must be returned. There are called a state's marriage license Waiting Period, Return Deadline, and Expiration. Learn more here. 



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 Clerk’s office. Licenses can only be used in the county where they are issued, and many locations require that you make an appointment – so be sure to call ahead! 



You don’t need to be an Illinois resident to marry there, but out-of-state applicants will only be issued a license if the marriage is not prohibited by their state of residency. (See marriage laws in your state.)

Requirements to Apply for an Illinois Marriage License: 


  • Both applicants must provide valid photo ID and proof of age
  • Both applicants must be at least 18 years old or meet the requirements for minors
  • Both applicants must provide personal information such as their Social Security Number, full name, current address, occupation, and race
  • Some counties may ask for the applicants’ parents’ full names, current addresses, and place of birth
  • Applicants who have divorced must provide the date the divorce was finalized, and provide certified copy of decree if divorce was within 6 months


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in Illinois, we recommend contacting the county clerk closest to your venue to learn more. 



The price of a marriage license varies by county, and will cost around $30-$80. Some offices will only accept cash payments, so plan ahead! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.


Waiting period

There is a one-day waiting period between the time you receive your license and when your ceremony can take place.


Using and returning the marriage license

An Illinois marriage license can only be used in the county where it was issued, and expires 60 days after it’s issued. 



The license must be signed by each party to the marriage and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and returned to the office where it was issued within 10 days.


After the ceremony: The license must be returned within 10 days of the ceremony to the office where it was issued for your marriage to be valid.



A wedding officiant performs a ceremony for bride and groom outdoors

The right wedding officiant helps ensure that everything goes smoothly on the wedding day.



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 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 and your officiant will sign the license. 


For tips on how to complete the license, head here. 


After it’s signed, you must record it with the appropriate office within 10 days of the ceremony. Check with your county for details.


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




Happy bride and groom on the wedding day, indoors with family and friends, groom lifts the bride up, both are laughing




Do you want to officiate a wedding in Illinois? 


Visit Weddings by State: Illinois 


We’ve got everything you need to understand the state’s licensing and registration requirements, any ministry credentials and paperwork you might need, and helpful tips for several cities in the state, including Aurora, Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Naperville, Rockford, and Springfield.





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Illustration of wedding planning, showing a cartoon drawing of a bride holding an oversized pencil and checking items off a list,

This simple wedding planning checklist puts an emphasis on the most important part of the day: the wedding ceremony. Read the full article here. 




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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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