As a best practice, the completed marriage license should be returned as soon as possible after the wedding. If you follow this advice, the marriage license will always be returned well within the time limits established by any State.
That being said, complications can arise. It is always good to know what the exact laws are regarding returning the marriage license where you are officiating weddings.
The table below outlines the time frame of when a marriage license must be returned. This information may not be immediately clear so let's take a look at how to find out when a marriage license must be returned in your state.
The marriage license return deadline in each state is determined by two laws. One law outlines how long a marriage license remains valid. We call this law, Marriage License Expiration. The other law outlines the maximum number of days after the wedding date within which the marriage license must be returned. We call this law, Marriage License Return.
One or both of these laws establish the timeline of when a completed marriage license must be returned in order for the marriage to be legal.
The way to determine the marriage license return time frame is by looking at one of these two laws. Let's start with the Marriage License Return.
For any given State, the marriage license return law will dictate that the marriage license either be returned within a certain amount of days after the wedding, or before the marriage license expires.
For instance, in California the marriage license must be returned within 10 days of the wedding.
On the other hand, in Colorado, there is no explicit time period for the marriage license to be returned after the wedding. This means the marriage license must be returned before it expires. A Colorado marriage license expires 30 days after issuance, so the wedding must take place and the completed marriage license returned within this time frame.
For any given State, the issued marriage license will expire within a specified time frame or it will have no expiration date. If the marriage license has no expiration date then you need to observe the Marriage License Return deadline.
For instance, a marriage license issued in Iowa has no expiration date. The couple can literally file for the marriage license a year before the wedding. However once the wedding takes place, the marriage license must be returned within 15 days of that date.
On the other hand, a marriage license issued in Michigan is valid for 33 days. There is no specific time frame to return the marriage license after the wedding but the Michigan marriage license must be returned within 33 days of its issuance.
Some States specify both a marriage license expiration date and its return period. For instance, an Oregon marriage license is valid for 60 days and it must be returned within 5 days of the wedding. This means that if a couple files for a marriage license in Oregon and have their wedding within a week of issuance, they still need to return that marriage license within 5 days of the wedding, even though the marriage license is valid for 60 days.
Understanding when a marriage license expires and when it must be returned in any given State can be confusing. In order to keep things simple, our advice is to return the marriage license the day of, or the day after the wedding. You cannot go wrong by following this advice.
The table below outlines the marriage license expiration and marriage license return timelines for each US State and Territory.