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How to Get Married in Washington - Planning a wedding in the Evergreen State

Published Tuesday, Aug. 31st, 2021

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


From sunny wineries to lush forests, snow capped mountains to rocky coastlines, Washington State offers romantic backdrops of every kind. Whether you're in the mood for cosmopolitan vibes and a thriving nightlife, or old-fashioned country charm, it's easy to see why Washington is a top destination for weddings. 


Applying for a marriage license in the Evergreen State will look a little 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 Washington, 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 Washington.

A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal. In Washington, 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 Washington:


various judges, justices, and commissioners of courts (active or retired); any regularly licensed or ordained minister, or any priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization.


(Find a detailed list, along with other Washington marriage laws here.)



3. Choose a date and a venue...

Washington State is home to lakes and mountains, coastline and farmland, dozens of wineries and apple orchards, a world-renowned music and arts scene, celebrated Native histories, and more. And with exciting tourist attractions from Seattle, to Leavenworth, to Walla Walla, it’s 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

3 Day Waiting Period
60 Day Expiration Period
30 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 your county Recorder’s Office or Auditor’s Office, depending on your county. Some counties require couples to begin their application online / remotely, or to schedule their in-person appointment in advance. You don’t need to be a Washington State resident to marry there, and a marriage license from any county can be used anywhere in the state.


Both parties must: 


  • Be 18 years old or older, or meet the requirements for minors
  • Provide a current photo ID with birth date and signature, such as a state issued driver's license, a passport, or military ID card
  • Some counties require applicants to provide a signed affidavit and verbal oath stating that if they have a contagious STD, their co-applicant is aware of the condition


During COVID, most offices are experiencing longer wait times, so couples can expect to wait longer than 3 days before their license is issued. Couples should plan to apply a few days earlier than they would normally need to. 


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in Washington, we recommend contacting the Auditor’s Office or Recorder’s Office (whichever department issues licenses in the county) closest to your venue to learn more. 



The cost of a license varies by county, ranging from about $70 to $80. There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.



Waiting period

Washington has a 3 waiting period between the time an application is filed and when a marriage license is issued.  


Using and returning the license

A Washington marriage license can be used in any county in the state, and expires 60 days after being issued.


The license must be signed by each party to the marriage, two witnesses to the ceremony, and the marriage officiant. The license must be returned within 30 days of the ceremony, and some counties allow this by mail or in-person. Follow the specific directions provided by the county when you receive marriage license. 


The license must be returned by the officiant within 30 days following the ceremony.



Grapes from a winery in Yakima County Washington State   Washington State Apples in the sunshine

Chelan, Wenatchee, and Yakima Counties offer numerous wineries and orchards

for beautiful outdoor wedding ceremonies. 




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 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 before it expires.


Check with your county for details.


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



A photo of Captiol Lake in Olympia, Washington, Thurston County, with the water in the forefront and the capitol building a line of green trees and a bright blue sky in the background

To get a Thurston County marriage license, head to the Auditor's Office in Olympia.



Are you officiating a wedding in Washington State?


Visit Weddings by State: Washington


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 Spokane, Seattle, and Renton. 



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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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