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Published: Friday, Aug. 20th, 2021

How to Get Married in North Carolina - Planning a wedding in the Tar Heel State

Planning a North Carolina wedding? This short guide will help - from finding an officiant to completing the marriage license. 

 

 


From the Blue Ridge mountains to beautiful Outer Banks beaches, North Carolina offers romantic backdrops of every kind. And considering the state’s rich history and friendly atmosphere (plus that world-famous barbeque!), it's easy to see why North Carolina is a top destination for weddings. 

 

Applying for a marriage license in the Tar Heel 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 North Carolina, scroll down for helpful links.)

 

 


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 North Carolina.


A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal. In North Carolina, a friend or relative can perform your wedding ceremony, if they’ve been ordained. (Become an ordained minister 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 North Carolina: an ordained minister of any religious denomination, a minister authorized by a church, or a magistrate, and in accordance with any mode of solemnization recognized by any religious denomination, or federally or State recognized Indian Nation or Tribe.  (Find more North Carolina marriage laws here.)

 


3. Choose a date and a venue...


North Carolina is home to the Blue Ridge Mountains, a stunning coastline, thriving Native American communities, arts and music, and popular cities like Charlotte, Asheville, Wilmington, and more, 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. 

 

 

Marriage License Quick Facts

No Waiting Period
60 Expiration
10 Day Return Period

 

 


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: 


Applying for your license


You’ll apply for your marriage license through the local Register of Deeds. Some counties require couples to submit an online application before visiting the office in order to save time, and this may be more frequent during COVID-19. 

 

You don’t need to be a NC resident to marry there, and you can use your license anywhere in the state.

 

Both parties must be at least 18 years old, or meet the specific requirements for minors. Couples should also bring: 

 

  • A Social Security number, ITIN number, or notarized statement / affidavit that the applicant is ineligible to receive a SSN
  • a government-issued photo ID or birth certificate to prove legal age
  • proof of divorce if previously married

 

Each county and Register of Deeds may have unique requirements in addition to those listed above, so contact them directly before heading to your appointment.

 

If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in North Carolina, we recommend contacting the Register of Deeds closest to your venue to learn more. 

 

 

Cost 


Your marriage license will cost about $60. 

 

Some counties accept cash and checks, but others only accept credit or debit cards, so check ahead of time! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.

 

 

Waiting period


North Carolina has no waiting period between the time an application is filed and when a marriage license can be used.

 


Using and returning the license


Your marriage license can be used in any county in the state, and expires 60 days after it’s issued.

 

The license must be signed following the ceremony by: each party to the marriage, two witnesses over the age of 18, and the marriage officiant. It must be returned by the officiant to the Register of Deeds Office in the same county in which it was issued. (We’ll cover this more below.) 

 

The license must be returned within 10 days of the ceremony.

 

 

A photograph of the Register of Deeds office in Greensboro, NC   

Outside the Register of Deeds Offices where marriage licenses are issued

in Greensboro (Guilford County) and Raliegh (Wake County).

 

 

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 tagged 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 no license means 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 partner, two adult witnesses, and your officiant will sign the license. For tips on how to complete the license, head here. Once it’s signed, your officiant must return the license to the Register of Deeds Office in the same county in which it was issued within 10 days. Check with your county for more details.

 

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

 

 

Photo of the Register of Deeds office in Ashville, NC

Outside the Register of Deeds Office in Ashville,

where marriage licenses are issued in Buncombe County

(via Western North Carolina Historical Association)

 

 

Are you officiating a wedding in North Carolina? 

 

Visit our Weddings by State: North Carolina pages. 

 

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 Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Durham, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.

 

 


 

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