South Carolina Wedding Laws
Drafted and last reviewed for accuracy by the South Carolina marriage law team at the Universal Life Church Ministries on
South Carolina’s beautiful coastlines and scenic destinations offer lots of amazing places for couples to get married. This overview compiled by the Universal Life Church breaks down what couples getting married and ministers officiating ceremonies need to do to ensure that a ceremony will meet the state’s legal requirements.
Getting Married in South Carolina
South Carolina does not require that a wedding ceremony be attended by any witnesses. However, the couple and the officiant must be present at the ceremony. The content of the ceremony is up to the couple, but it must include an express declaration of intent to be wed. Typically, couples indicate their intent to be wed by saying, “I do.” In addition, the minister or officiant performing the ceremony must make a formal pronouncement that the couple has just been wed.
South Carolina Marriage Requirements
To get married in South Carolina, a person must be at least 18 years old. It is possible for a person who is 16 or older to get married with the written consent of a parent or legal guardian.
State law was never formally modified to rescind its provisions that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nonetheless, federal law preempts the state law on this matter, so same-sex couples may be wed in South Carolina.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-10. Persons who may contract matrimony.
(A) All persons, except mentally incompetent persons and persons whose marriage is prohibited by this section, may lawfully contract matrimony.
(B) No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, stepmother, sister, grandfather's wife, son's wife, grandson's wife, wife's mother, wife's grandmother, wife's daughter, wife's granddaughter, brother's daughter, sister's daughter, father's sister, mother's sister, or another man.
(C) No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, stepfather, brother, grandmother's husband, daughter's husband, granddaughter's husband, husband's father, husband's grandfather, husband's son, husband's grandson, brother's son, sister's son, father's brother, mother's brother, or another woman.
S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-100. Minimum age for valid marriage.
Any person under the age of sixteen is not capable of entering into a valid marriage, and all marriages hereinafter entered into by such persons are void ab initio. A common-law marriage hereinafter entered into by a person under the age of sixteen is void ab initio.
S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-250. Applicants under age of consent; consent of relative or guardian.
A marriage license must not be issued when either applicant is under the age of sixteen. When either applicant is between the ages of sixteen to eighteen and that applicant resides with father, mother, other relative, or guardian, the probate judge or other officer authorized to issue marriage licenses shall not issue a license for the marriage until furnished with a sworn affidavit signed by the father, mother, other relative, or guardian giving consent to the marriage.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in South Carolina
A person must be at least 18 years old to marry a couple in South Carolina. State law permits the following persons to serve as officiants: officers of the state authorized to administer oaths, spiritual leaders of recognized Native American tribes, ministers of the Gospel, and Jewish rabbis. Ministers ordained by the Universal Life Church are permitted to officiate weddings.
A minister’s state of residence has no bearing on his or her authority to perform a ceremony in South Carolina. Likewise, a minister’s gender, sexual orientation, and religious belief do not affect his or her standing to perform a wedding ceremony.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-20. Persons who may perform marriage ceremony.
Only 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 South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs pursuant to Section 1-31-40 are authorized to administer a marriage ceremony in this State.
Applying For a Marriage License in South Carolina
After couples have submitted a written application that includes their social security numbers, a probate judge must wait at least 24 hours before he or she can issue a marriage license. The couple will receive three copies of the marriage license, and they must deliver all three to the officiant who will perform the marriage ceremony. The license will list the exact time and date that it was issued, and it will be valid for six months. Every county requires that the officiant return the license to the place of its issuance within 15 days, but in Lexington County the license may be returned within 30 days.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-220. Written application required twenty-four hours prior to issuance of license.
No marriage license may be issued unless a written application has been filed with the probate judge, or in Darlington and Georgetown counties the clerk of court who issues the license, at least twenty-four hours before the issuance of the license. The application must be signed by both of the contracting parties and shall contain the same information as required for the issuing of the license including the social security numbers, or the alien identification numbers assigned to resident aliens who do not have social security numbers, of the contracting parties. The license issued, in addition to other things required, must show the hour and date of the filing of the application and the hour and date of the issuance of the license. The application must be kept by the probate judge or clerk of court as a permanent record in his office. A probate judge or clerk of court issuing a license contrary to the provisions, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one hundred dollars or not less than twenty-five dollars, or imprisoned for not more than thirty days or not less than ten days.
S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-330. Issue of licenses in triplicate; disposition.
The officer issuing marriage license certificates shall issue them in triplicate, all of which shall be delivered to either of the contracting parties and the parties to whom they are delivered shall in turn deliver them to the minister or officer who performs the wedding ceremony. The minister or officer who performs the wedding ceremony shall fill them out as required by law and deliver one to the contracting parties, without additional charge, and the other two within fifteen days to the officer who issued the license certificates.
How to Get a South Carolina Marriage License
Couples of whom one or both members are between the ages of 18 and 25 must be physically present to apply for a marriage license before a probate judge or county clerk; they must bring a valid photo ID or a social security card in order to prove their age. The couple does not need to take any blood tests. It is not necessary for someone who has previously been married to present proof that the marriage was dissolved.
The cost to apply for a marriage license varies by county, and the price may differ for residents and non-residents.
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S.C. Code Ann. § 20-1-270. Proof of age required of applicant over age eighteen and under age twenty-five.
All persons over eighteen years of age and under twenty-five years of age shall furnish documentary evidence to the probate judge or any other officer authorized under the law to issue marriage licenses which shall prove the age of the applicant to the satisfaction of such probate judge or other officer. The probate judge or other officer shall enter upon the record of the application a brief description of evidence submitted.
Finalizing the Union
After a wedding ceremony has taken place, it is the minister or officiant’s responsibility to complete and return two of the three copies of the marriage license. He or she must include all requested information, including his or her name, home address, and the name of his or her religious organization. Ministers ordained by the Universal Life Church Ministries should identify the ULC Ministries as their religious organization. The license must be returned to the same place from which it was issued. In all counties except for Lexington County, the license must be returned within 15 days (the license may be returned within 30 days in Lexington County). It is extremely important that the license be returned within this time frame.
It is recommended that ministers and officiants keep records of the ceremonies that they have performed, including the date of the ceremony and the parties being married. It is also advisable that ministers keep copies of their ordination credentials on hand in case they are asked to produce them by a city, town, or county official.