Tennessee Wedding Laws
If the romance of Nashville's classic country music has you in the mood for a Tennessee wedding, you want to make sure it's perfect in every way. Take some of the stress out of the planning process with our overview of the requirements and responsibilities involved in making any wedding fully legal. So whether your ceremony is in the beautiful Smoky Mountains or your reception includes dancing the night away on Beale Street, you can focus on making the big day special.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Tennessee
Tennessee recognizes both civil and religious wedding ceremonies, and the law spells out the categories of officials who may perform each type. For religious ceremonies, the officiant must be at least 18 years old and a minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi, or another spiritual leader "having the care of souls." Civil ceremonies may be performed by county clerks, federal and state judges, and state or local officials, with the restriction that they have not committed a felony or been removed from office. Additionally, judges are not allowed to receive any compensation for conducting a wedding ceremony.
There is one additional relevant point for Universal Life Church ministers. Tennessee state law does not recognize marriages performed by ministers who have only been ordained online. This law is the subject of litigation but is still in effect pending a ruling.
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(a) (1) All regular ministers, preachers, pastors, priests, rabbis and other spiritual leaders of every religious belief, more than eighteen (18) years of age, having the care of souls, and all members of the county legislative bodies, county mayors, judges, chancellors, former chancellors and former judges of this state, former county executives or county mayors of this state, former members of quarterly county courts or county commissions, the governor, the speaker of the senate and former speakers of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives and former speakers of the house of representatives, the county clerk of each county and the mayor of any municipality in the state may solemnize the rite of matrimony. For the purposes of this section, the several judges of the United States courts, including United States magistrates and United States bankruptcy judges, who are citizens of Tennessee are deemed to be judges of this state. The amendments to this section by Acts 1987, ch. 336, which applied provisions of this section to certain former judges, do not apply to any judge who has been convicted of a felony or who has been removed from office. (2) In order to solemnize the rite of matrimony, any such minister, preacher, pastor, priest, rabbi or other spiritual leader must be ordained or otherwise designated in conformity with the customs of a church, temple or other religious group or organization; and such customs must provide for such ordination or designation by a considered, deliberate, and responsible act. (3) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which any minister officiated before June 1, 1999, such marriage shall not be invalid because the requirements of the preceding subdivision (2) have not been met. (b) The traditional marriage rite of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), whereby the parties simply pledge their vows one to another in the presence of the congregation, constitutes an equally effective solemnization. (c) Any gratuity received by a county mayor, county clerk or municipal mayor for the solemnization of a marriage, whether performed during or after such person's regular working hours, shall be retained by such person as personal renumeration for such services, in addition to any other sources of compensation such person might receive, and such gratuity shall not be paid into the county general fund or the treasury of such municipality. (d) If any marriage has been entered into by license regularly issued at which a county executive officiated prior to April 24, 1981, such marriage shall be valid and is hereby declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state. (e) For the purposes of this section, ?retired judges of this state? is construed to include persons who served as judges of any municipal or county court in any county that has adopted a metropolitan form of government and persons who served as county judges (judges of the quarterly county court) prior to the 1978 constitutional amendments. (f) If any marriage has been entered into by license regularly issued at which a retired judge of this state officiated prior to April 13, 1984, such marriage shall be valid and is hereby declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state. (g) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which a judicial commissioner officiated prior to March 28, 1991, such marriage is valid and is declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state. (h) The judge of the general sessions court of any county, and any former judge of any general sessions court, may solemnize the rite of matrimony in any county of this state. Any marriage performed by any judge of the general sessions court in any county of this state before March 16, 1994, shall be valid and declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state. (i) All elected officials and former officials, who are authorized to solemnize the rite of matrimony pursuant to the provisions of subsection (a), may solemnize the rite of matrimony in any county of this state. (j) If any marriage has been entered into by license issued pursuant to this chapter at which a county mayor officiated outside such mayor's county prior to May 29, 1997, such marriage is valid and is declared to be in full compliance with the laws of this state.
Getting Married in Tennessee
For a marriage to be legally recognized by the state of Tennessee, it must include the verbal consent of each member of the couple to accept the other as their legally wedded spouse. After the vows, the officiant must pronounce the couple married in order for the wedding to be fully solemnized.
The vows and declaration of marriage are the only mandated portions of the ceremony. Tennessee does not require witnesses to be present for the wedding and leaves all other decisions up to the couple to either adapt for their needs or omit entirely.
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No formula need be observed in such solemnization, except that the parties shall respectively declare, in the presence of the minister or officer, that they accept each other as husband and/or wife.
How to Get a Tennessee Marriage License
Tennessee requires a marriage license application to be completed and signed by both applicants in the county clerk's office, although the applicants can visit the clerk's office together or separately. If either member of the couple cannot appear in person due to disability or incarceration, they may provide a notarized statement to have the requirement waived.
The application requires each member of the couple to provide their names, addresses, and phone number, plus the names and addresses of their parents, legal guardians, or next of kin. In the city of Nashville, the couple may be asked to provide verification of their Social Security Number. If either member of the couple is divorced, they will need to provide proof of divorce. If either spouse has been widowed, bringing a death certificate to prove their previous spouse's death may also be useful.
In most jurisdictions, the application fee for a marriage license varies is around $100. However, the state offers a discounted application fee of $40 for couples who present documentation that they have completed a 4-hour premarital preparation course within the 12 months preceding the application date.
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Tenn. Code Ann. 36-3-104(a) No county clerk nor deputy clerk shall issue a marriage license until the applicants make an application in writing, stating the names, ages, addresses and social security numbers of both the proposed male and female contracting parties and the names and addresses of the parents, guardian or next of kin of both parties.
Applying For a Marriage License in Tennessee
Marriage licenses in Tennessee are valid for 30 days after issuance, and there is no required waiting period between receiving the license and conducting the ceremony.
After receiving the license, the couple should give it to the civil official or minister who will be conducting the ceremony. That person will be responsible for completing the certification and returning it to the clerk's office in the county of issuance no later than three days after the wedding ceremony.
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(a) Before being joined in marriage, the parties shall present to the minister or officer a license under the hand of a county clerk in this state, directed to such minister or officer, authorizing the solemnization of a marriage between the parties. Such license shall be valid for thirty (30) days from its issuance by the clerk.
Tennessee Marriage Requirements
The state of Tennessee allows residents and nonresidents who are 18 years old or older to get married, including same-sex couples. Minors who are 16 or 17 years old require the signed consent of two legal guardians, followed by a waiting period of three days or more before a marriage license can be granted. Minors who are younger than 16 and seeking a marriage license must petition juvenile court for permission. Additionally, Tennessee prohibits marriage between siblings or anyone more closely related than second cousins.
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(a) No county clerk or deputy clerk shall issue a marriage license until the applicants make an application in writing, stating the names, ages, addresses and social security numbers of both the proposed male and female contracting parties and the names and addresses of the parents, guardian or next of kin of both parties. The application shall be sworn to by both applicants. Should either individual be incarcerated, the inmate shall not be made to appear but shall submit a notarized statement containing the name, age, current address and a name and address of the individual's parents, guardian or next of kin. If an applicant has a disability that prevents the applicant from appearing, the applicant may submit a notarized statement containing the person's name, age, current address and the names and address of the parents, guardian or next of kin. (b) (1) If either applicant is under eighteen (18) years of age, the application shall remain on file, open to the public, in the office of the county clerk for three (3) full days before issuance of the license. No waiting period shall apply if both parents, the guardian or the next of kin of any minor applicant join in the application. No waiting period shall apply if both applicants are eighteen (18) years of age or over. (2) If either applicant is under eighteen (18) years of age, immediately upon filing of the application, the county clerk shall cause to be sent by registered mail to the parents, guardian or next of kin of any minor applicant, a notice of the application. The provisions of this subdivision (b)(2) shall not apply if both parents, the guardian or the next of kin of any minor applicant join in the application. (3) The parents, guardian or next of kin of an applicant may join in the application either by personal appearance before the county clerk or deputy county clerk, or by submitting a sworn and notarized affidavit.
Finalizing the Union
The law requires the officiant to complete the marriage license and return it to the county clerk's office where it was issued within three days after the ceremony. The completed license should include the fact, date, and time of the ceremony. In a religious ceremony, the minister will also be asked to list their name and religious organization. In some cases, the minister's home address will also be required.
Failure to return a completed license within three days is a Class C misdemeanor.
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(a) One authorized by § 36-3-301 who solemnizes the rite of matrimony shall endorse on the license the fact and time of the marriage, and sign the license, and return it to the county clerk within three (3) days from the date of marriage. Every person who fails to make such return of the license commits a Class C misdemeanor. (b) The functions, duties and liabilities of the party solemnizing marriage as set forth in this part shall, in the case of marriages solemnized among the Religious Society of Friends, be incumbent upon the clerk of the congregation, or in the clerk's absence, the clerk's duly designated alternate.