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Can You Get a Marriage License During a Government Shutdown?

Published Tuesday, Oct. 17th, 2023

Este articulo en español

Concept photo collage shows the US Capital building and a red sign that reads 'shutdown'
Photo (cropped): Bill Oxford / iStock

Could a government shutdown keep you from getting married?


Here’s everything you need to know about officiating a wedding or applying for a marriage license during a federal government shutdown. 



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AMM Audio Articles · Can You Get a Marriage License During a Government Shutdown?



Is all this talk about a potential government shutdown giving you deja vu? Yeah, us too. And that’s probably because we’ve been here before. A stopgap measure signed by Biden in September provided a temporary fix, but the new funding deadline is only weeks away. 


Artículo en Espanol: ¿Se puede obtener una Licencia de Matrimonio durante un cierre Gubernamental?

As House Republicans bicker over electing a new Speaker, and international unrest reaches devastating levels, the November 17th cutoff to approve a new funding bill (and avert a full or partial shutdown of the federal government) is quickly approaching. 

Understandably, several marriage ministers have reached out to AMM with two important questions: One, can AMM ministers still perform marriages during a shutdown? And, two, can the couple still apply for and file their marriage licenses?
We have good news for you - unless you live in Washington DC. Let’s take a look.

Ask AMM: 

Can AMM Ministers officiate marriages during a government shutdown? Can couples still apply for and file a marriage license? 

For the most part – yes. Folks in DC, scroll down for some important info.

Marriage licenses are issued by the state, and the shutdown will only affect federal agencies. This means that ministers can still perform wedding ceremonies and couples can still apply for a marriage license at their local county or city office, and file their license with the office after the ceremony. 


We’ve researched this thoroughly in the past (remember Trump’s chaotic 2018-2019 shutdown?), and checked with county clerks around the country (Massachusetts, Alabama, California, and Oregon, etc) to confirm that local offices are not affected by any federal shutdown.
“It will have no effect on the work we do,” a representative of the Montgomery County Clerk's office in Alabama told American Weddings at that time.

However: Keep in mind that federally-funded facilities that double as wedding venues might close during a shutdown, such as national parks. If you’re planning on a ceremony at a national park or similar location, contact the location for more details.


Stephen Colbert holds up a copy of his American Marriage Ministries ordination certificate on the set of his show, before officiating marriages on-air during the government shutdown

Remember when AMM Minister Stephen Colbert had to step up and perform marriages during the government shutdown in 2013? Colbert became an ordained minister with American Marriage Ministries and married couples on his show! Watch clips of Colbert officiating weddings on-air here.


But what about AMM Ministers and couples in DC? How would a government shutdown affect applying for or filing a marriage license in the District? 

Things are a little more complicated in Washington, DC, since much of their local government is connected to federal spending. 

The local clerk's office told American Weddings that if couples were scheduled to get married by a judge, a government shutdown will postpone those ceremonies. However, AMM Ministers will still be able to officiate marriage ceremonies, and couples can always ask a friend or family member to get ordained online to marry them. 


In addition, the DC Marriage License Bureau will close in the event of a shutdown, which means that couples wouldn’t be able to apply for a new marriage license during the duration of the shutdown (via A measure was proposed by Mayor Bowser and Chairman Phil Mendelson in late September that would have given the Mayor’s office temporary authority to issue marriage licenses and authorize officiants (Let Our Vows Endure (LOVE) Emergency Amendment Act of 2023), but it was not considered.

To avoid a potential delay, couples who plan to marry in DC in the next few months can apply for their marriage license now, before mid-November, just to be safe. DC marriage licenses don’t expire, so couples can hold on to them for as long as needed before their ceremony. 

Government-funded facilities that double as wedding venues might also close during a shutdown, including national parks, the National Mall and Memorial Parks, and the Smithsonian museums, so keep this in mind if you’ve purchased a special permit or plan to elope in one of these locations. Contact the location directly with questions.

And remember, if you have any questions about your ordination, or how they work please contact us!



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Newlyweds sign a marriage license outdoors with their wedding officiant

Learn what to do if you lose your marriage license, forget to bring it to the wedding ceremony or mail it in afterward, or didn't apply for one. Read the full article here. 



Lewis King
Lewis King

Lewis is AMM's executive director. He also wears other hats at AMM, like taking out the recycling, restocking the sparkling water, and watering the office plants.

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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