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Can You Get Married in Prison? Plus How to Find a Wedding Officiant While Incarcerated

Published Monday, Apr. 22nd, 2024

A young couple stands smiling for a photo after their civil wedding ceremony
Photo: martinedoucet / iStock

Learn about the marriage process for prisoners, with helpful tips on applying for a marriage license & choosing an officiant



Can you get married while incarcerated? Yes. 


Although specific inmates may face limitations based on security concerns, most prisoners can marry from inside. But be forewarned – the process will require more paperwork, time, and effort than a typical wedding does. So be patient!


Below, you’ll find a brief intro to the topic and how to get started. 


Keep in mind that we’re not lawyers and this isn’t legal advice. The information below is a short introduction to the topic, and may contain incomplete or outdated information. Always check with a lawyer and the correctional institution for the most up to date information. 


Can You Get Married in Jail or Prison? 
Plus How to Find a Wedding Officiant While Incarcerated 


First, let’s talk about when two prisoners get married: Two prisoners can marry each other while incarcerated. This goes for same-sex and same-gender couples as well.


When two prisoners marry, their marriage may encounter certain restrictions related to safety and security concerns while they serve their sentences, or due to scheduled judicial proceedings. The process will also vary depending on the jurisdiction, so it’s important to request information directly from a trusted lawyer and the institution. 



Next, prisoners can also marry non-incarcerated partners through a variety of means, including both ‘face to face’ traditional marriage ceremonies and non-traditional proxy marriage ceremonies (depending on location). 


These couples should expect different procedures and restrictions based on whether the correctional institution is a local, state, or federal facility, and where it’s located – there’s definitely no ‘one size fits all’ approach to this. 


Be sure to follow the facilities’ specific regulations, and ask a lot of questions to get things right! 



Like most other marriages, the process will include applying for a marriage license. The application process will vary, but you should be able to find clear guidance from your local marriage bureau or sheriff’s department, or from the correctional facility.  


As an example, here are instructions on how to apply for a marriage license to marry an inmate in Los Angeles, issued by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department: Jail Marriages. 


Another example are these instructions from District of Columbia's Department of Corrections: Inmate Marriages Policy and Procedure. 


And here are instructions on how federal inmates can apply to marry while incarcerated in a Federal Bureau of Prisons institution: Marriage of Inmates Program Statement.  


As you can see from the differences in the instructions linked above, it’s very important to contact officials in your area or institution before you begin the application process.



Close up photo shows two people holding hands in a loving way, resting hands on tabletop

Photo: PeopleImages / iStock



In general, inmates can request a marriage ceremony through an Inmate Marriage Coordinator or similar staff member at their institution. They will be given paperwork to complete, and must apply for a marriage license. 


The Warden (or similar official, or the facility’s Chaplain) will schedule a time for the ceremony, and provide instructions on suitable wedding officiants. 


The wedding ceremony might take place face-to-face during a scheduled visitation; virtually using remote audio-visual technology; or by proxy – depending on local marriage laws and facility regulations. 


Proxy marriages are a unique option for prisoners who aren’t able to physically appear before an officiant during their marriage ceremony, but are only available in some locations and circumstances.



After the ceremony takes place and the couple says ‘I do!’, the marriage license or certificate will be signed and filed, and they are legally married! 





How to find a wedding officiant while incarcerated

Some institutions allow the couple to choose a community clergy member or justice of the peace to officiate. Others may require the facility’s Chaplain to perform the service. Institutions may also provide an inmate or their soon-to-be spouse with a list of preferred officiants who have already been approved for marriage services.


It’s worth noting also that prison Chaplains may be able to refuse the service based on their ecclesiastical beliefs, but a substitute officiant should be offered in their place.


If the correctional institution allows a couple to choose their own officiant, you have options!


Professional wedding officiants and for-hire justices of the peace in your area will usually advertise the fact if they specialize in ‘prison weddings’ or ceremonies inside correctional facilities. 


But if you don’t see this service listed on a vendor’s website or social media, just ask them! Many professional officiants are open to providing the service for you, even if they don’t have past experience with correctional facilities. 


Inmates and their partners can also ask a friend or relative to officiate their wedding ceremony. In this case, your friend or relative will need to become ordained online before the ceremony; this process is free and easy with AMM and only takes a minute.


Depending on the location, they may also need to register their new credentials as a wedding minister before the ceremony. Click the links below to get started.


Once they’ve been ordained and have completed any local government requirements, they will also need to comply with any policies or procedures for officiants outlined by the correctional institution. This might mean submitting a photo ID, social security number, and ordination paperwork to the facility, having a background check run, or other steps.  



Click the links below for more helpful information: 








This is Part Two in a short series of articles about what it’s like to get married in prison, from the viewpoint of both wedding officiants and couples. Read Part One 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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