Published: Wednesday, Sep. 29th, 2021
From the astonishing natural beauty of the Great Lakes and Upper Peninsula, to the unrivaled arts-and-culture comeback of Detroit's vibrant metro area, it's easy to see why Michigan is a top destination for weddings.
But applying for a marriage license in the Wolverine 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 Michigan, 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 Michigan, 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 Michigan: Various judges, magistrates, mayors, and county clerks; ministers, clerics, and religious practitioners. (For a complete list and other Michigan marriage laws, head here.)
Michigan is beloved for its miles of beautiful and rugged freshwater shores, romantic stargazing, innovative breweries and restaurants, historic architecture, Native American heritage, thriving sports culture, and bustling cities like Lansing, Ann Arbor and Detroit… All of which make 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 County Clerk’s office. If you’re a Michigan resident, you must apply for your license in the county where you live. Out-of-state applicants must apply in the county in which their venue is located. It’s recommended that you apply for your license 30 days or less before your scheduled ceremony.
During COVID, some counties may ask couples to begin or complete the application process online or by mail whenever possible, and they may have special residency requirements for virtual applicants. Most offices are experiencing staffing shortages and receiving an overwhelming number of applicants during the pandemic.
Both parties must be at least 18 years old or meet the additional requirements for minors. Bring the following documentation with you when meeting with your county clerk to finalize or pay for your license:
If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in Michigan, we recommend contacting the County Clerk’s office closest to your venue to learn more.
The cost of a license in Michigan will be around $20 for residents and $30 for out of state applicants. There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.
Michigan has a 3 day waiting period between the time an application is filed and when a marriage license is released.
Michigan residents can use their marriage license in any county, but out of state visitors must apply for and use their license in the same county in which their venue is located. The license expires 33 days from the date of application, including the 3 day waiting period.
The license must be signed by each party to the marriage, two adult witnesses, and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and returned to the county office in which it was issued. (We’ll cover this more below.)
The license must be returned within 10 days of the ceremony.
Live in Detroit? Head to the Wayne County Clerk's office for your marriage license
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, it must be returned and recorded with the county clerk within 10 days. Check with your county for details.
Once it’s been recorded, you’re officially married!
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 Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Lansing.
Michigan Wedding Officiant Quiz
Three tips for planning a WTF (Wedding that Fits) Wedding Celebration
Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!