Published: Monday, Jul. 12th, 2021
A state known for dizzying, soulful jazz music, crawfish boils, beignets, Mardi Gras, voodoo, and vibrant Cajun and Creole culture… It's no secret that Louisiana knows how to throw a party. And with the state’s important historical sites and sultry, southern beauty, it’s easy to see why Louisiana is a top destination for weddings.
Every parish in the Pelican State has different policies and requirements for issuing marriage licenses, 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 Louisiana, scroll down for helpful links.)
Got one? Whew! There will be a few more boxes to check, but the hardest part’s over.
A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal. In Louisiana, 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, there are many qualified independent officiants to choose from. The following people are also authorized to solemnize marriage in Louisiana: A priest, minister, rabbi, clerk of the Religious Society of Friends, or any clergyman of any religious sect, who has attained the age of majority and is authorized by the authorities of his religion to perform marriages, and who is registered to perform marriages; A state judge or justice of the peace. (Find more Louisiana marriage laws here.)
Louisiana is home to tourist hotspots like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, 21 state parks, dozens of museums, and more seafood restaurants, music venues, and festivals than we can count, making it a favorite for destination weddings. Whether you’re dreaming of a lively second line wedding parade or a romantic elopement -- 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.
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:
You’ll apply for your marriage license through the local parish clerk’s office. Some parishes require couples to print the license application out at home before visiting their local office. You don’t need to be a Louisiana resident to marry there.
Both parties must be present and provide proof of identity, including a certified copy of their birth certificate, social security number, and a state issued photo ID or US passport. If one party can’t make it in person, they can sign the application ahead of time in front of a notary. During COVID, many county offices are operating at reduced capacity by appointment only, or online, so plan ahead.
If you’re planning a destination wedding anywhere in Louisiana, we recommend contacting the parish clerk’s office closest to your venue to learn more.
(Note: Covenant marriages will require premarital counseling and additional documents, including a declaration of intent and signed affidavit.)
The cost of a license varies by parish, and will cost around $30. There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.
Louisiana has a 24-hour waiting period between the time a marriage license is issued and when a ceremony can be held. This can be waived under special circumstances with the approval of a district judge or justice of the peace.
Out-of-state couples can avoid the waiting period if they’re married in Orleans parish by a registered Orleans officiant. (In this case, the officiant can waive the waiting period).
A Louisiana marriage license can be used in any parish in the state. All licenses should be returned to the parish in which they were issued.
You have 30 days from the day it’s issued to use your license. After 30 days, the license must be renewed at the Clerk’s office for a fee in order to marry.
The license must be signed by each party to the marriage, two witnesses, and your marriage officiant following the ceremony to be complete, and returned to the county in which it was issued. (We’ll cover this more below.)
The license must be returned within 30 days of when it was issued, before it expires.
The Lafayette Courthouse (Maison de Cour Paroisse de Lafayette) via Google street view
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.
Aside from yourselves, the most important thing you’ll bring with you on the wedding day is your marriage license -- because no license, 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. Once it’s signed, you must record it with the local parish before it expires. Some parishes require it to be returned in person, while others will accept a completed license by mail.
Once it’s been recorded, you’re officially married!
Outside the Natchitoches Parish Clerk of Court office.
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 Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Shreveport.
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!