Published: Monday, Jul. 19th, 2021
From the Blue Ridge mountains to miles of rolling hills and white sandy beaches, South Carolina offers romantic backdrops of every kind. And considering the state’s important historical sites, vibrant cities, and welcoming southern charm, it's easy to see why South Carolina is a top destination for weddings.
Applying for a marriage license in the Palmetto 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.
(If you’ve been asked to officiate a wedding in South Carolina, 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 South Carolina, 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, the state has many qualified independent officiants to choose from. The following people are authorized to solemnize marriage in South Carolina: Ministers of the Gospel, Jewish rabbis, officers authorized to administer oaths in this State, and the chief or spiritual leader of a Native American Indian entity recognized by the state. (Find more South Carolina marriage laws here.)
South Carolina is home to gorgeous beaches, highly ranked golf courses, a lively arts and entertainment scene, and thriving cities like Greenville, Myrtle Beach, and Charleston, making 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.
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 marriage license division of your local Probate Court. Some counties require couples to complete the application online before visiting their local office. Others, such as Greenville County, also require couples to submit a ‘marriage license worksheet’ before completing the application itself. You don’t need to be a South Carolina resident to marry there.
Both parties must be present and provide proof of identity, including their social security number or alien registration number, and a state issued photo ID, military ID, birth certificate, or U.S. passport. During COVID, many county offices are operating at reduced capacity by appointment only.
If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in South Carolina, we recommend contacting the Probate Court closest to your venue to learn more.
The cost of a license varies by county, ranging from about $70 to $90. Many counties will only accept cash, so plan ahead! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.
South Carolina has a 24-hour waiting period between the time an application is filed and when a marriage license is released, but the process for releasing the license varies by county and often takes longer.
**For example, in Charleston County, licenses are emailed 2 business days after the application is approved, and must be printed by the couple. In Richland County, applications take 2 business days to process and the license is mailed. So apply early!
A South Carolina marriage license can be used in any county in the state, and will never expire.
The license (and its duplicates) must be signed by each party to the marriage and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and returned to the county in which it was issued. (We’ll cover this more below.)
The license must be returned within 15 days of the ceremony.
The city of Greenville, SC, taken from above.
Image has been cropped from original, credit GreenvilleSC.gov
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 county within 15 days. Some counties require it to be returned in person, by either the officiant or the couple, while others will accept a completed license by mail. Check with your county for details.
Once it’s been recorded, you’re officially married!
And remember: Marriage laws change frequently, so always check with your local county clerk to verify dates, deadlines, and fees.
Beaufort County Courthouse, serving Beaufort, Bluffton, and Hilton Head Island
Photo credit BeaufortCountySC.gov
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 Charleston, Columbia, and North Charleston.
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!