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How to Get Married in Virginia - Planning a Wedding in ‘The Old Dominion’

Published Friday, Jul. 14th, 2023

Photo: Julie Rose / Pixabay

Planning a Virginia wedding? This short guide will help -- from how to find a Virginia wedding officiant to how to apply for and complete a VA marriage license


There’s a good reason they say Virginia is for lovers… From gorgeous mountains to sandy beaches, charming small towns to major metros, and everything in between – Virginia offers romantic backdrops of every kind, and for every couple! 


Applying for a marriage license in this Southeastern 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 Virginia? 

Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Virginia

aerial view of Richmond, VA, showing the James River and downtown

Photo: Stephen Poore / Unsplash

Want to get married in Richmond, VA? Head to the Office of the Circuit Court Clerk and apply for your marriage license!



How to get married in Virginia 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 Virginia.


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 have registered with the clerk’s office.



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 Virginia:


Qualified ministers, various judges and justices, members of the General Assembly and various other officials, a designated member of a religious society having no minister provided they execute a bond, or a registered civil marriage celebrant. (Summarized from § 20-23; § 20-25, § 20-26 and § 20-37.1)


(Find a detailed list of officiants and more VA marriage laws here.)



Close up photo of bride and groom holding hands and carrying flowers on the wedding day

Photo: Wu Jianxiong / Unsplash

3. Choose a date and a venue...


Virginia is home to important historical sites, stunning natural beauty along the coast and in the mountains, dozens of state parks, great food and wine, thriving nightlife and music scenes, and exciting metro areas like Arlington and Alexandria, Roanoke, Richmond, and Virginia Beach – all of which 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. 


Virginia Marriage License Quick Facts

No Waiting Period
60 Day Expiration Period
5 Day Return Period

stylized graphic showing a couple getting married and a wedding officiant signing an oversized marriage license with an oversized pen

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, Expiration Period, and Return Deadline. 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: 

Apply for your VA marriage license


You’ll apply for your marriage license through the Office of the Clerk of Circuit Court. You don’t need to be a Virginia resident to marry there.


Requirements to Apply: 


  • Both applicants must appear in person and present a government-issued photo ID
  • Both applicants must be at least 18 years old or meet the requirements for minors
  • Both applicants must provide the full names of their parents
  • If either applicant was previously married, some counties may require proof of the date of the final divorce decree or death of former spouse


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in Virginia, we recommend contacting the Clerk’s office closest to your venue to learn more. 


Your license will cost about $30. Some offices will only accept cash or card, so plan ahead! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.

Waiting period

There is no waiting period between the time you receive your license and when your ceremony can take place.


Use and Return your VA marriage license


A Virginia marriage license can be used anywhere in the state, 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 by the Officiant within 5 days of the ceremony. Directions on how to return the license will be given to you when it's issued.


The license must be returned by the Officiant within 5 days of the ceremony.


The bride, groom, and wedding party look up toward the sky after tossing the wedding bouqet

Photo:  Christophe Dusabe / Unsplash

Indoors or outdoors, Virginia offers so many beautiful venues to choose from!



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 you can’t get married without a marriage license. 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 marriage license. 



After it’s signed, your completed Virginia marriage license must be returned by the Officiant within 5 days of the ceremony. Check with your county for details.


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



Happy newlyweds skip down the street laughing and dancing

Photo: julio andres rosario ortiz / Unsplash



Want to become a wedding officiant in Virginia? 


Visit Weddings by State: Virginia


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 Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.




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Read all Virginia Wedding Articles



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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