Virginia Wedding Laws
Every state is unique when it comes to marriage laws, and the Commonwealth of Virginia finds itself in the minority of states on several important issues, such as witness requirements and the treatment of online ordination. This page outlines the laws governing weddings in Virginia. The Universal Life Church recommends reviewing relevant laws and processes thoroughly, as this is an essential step in making sure that ceremonies are fully legal and valid. That way, the happy couple can begin their life together with confidence.
Getting Married in Virginia
For a wedding ceremony to be valid in Virginia, the officiant and both members of the couple must be physically present, but there is no requirement for additional witnesses. During the ceremony, there must be a clear statement of consent by each party, although it does not have to be the traditional "I do." After the statement of consent, the officiant must declare the couple officially married. The couple can adapt or eliminate all other details of the ceremony according to their preferences.
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The clerks of the circuit courts of any counties or their deputies and the clerks of the circuit courts of any cities or their deputies are authorized to issue marriage licenses in conformity with the law now governing the same, to any persons desiring to be married on any of the government reservations of this Commonwealth, lying within their respective counties and which reservations were before the acquisition thereof part of the political territory of this Commonwealth, and any marriage ceremony performed on such reservations shall be as legal to all intents and purposes as if performed in any county or city of the Commonwealth, if the person performing the ceremony was qualified to so act. All marriages heretofore solemnized within the limits of any such reservations are hereby ratified and legalized to all intents and purposes as if performed in any county or city of the Commonwealth.
Virginia Marriage Requirements
In order to legally wed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, both prospective spouses must, in most cases, be 18 years old or older. Minors who are 16 or 17 years old may marry if they have the written consent of their parents or legal guardian, and women who are younger than 16 can get married if they are pregnant.
Other restrictions on couples wishing to get married are prohibitions on marriages between siblings, including siblings through adoption; between aunts or uncles and nieces or nephews; and if either spouse is already married. Relatives beyond siblings and aunts or uncles and nieces or nephews are legally allowed to wed, including first cousins.
In early 2020, Virginia repealed state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage that had been rendered moot by federal law and Supreme Court decisions.
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§ 20-38.1. Certain marriages prohibited. The following marriages are prohibited: 1. A marriage entered into prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage of one of the parties; 2. A marriage between an ancestor and descendant, or between siblings, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood or by adoption; 3. A marriage between an uncle or aunt and a nephew or niece, whether the relationship is by the half or the whole blood. § 20-48. Minimum age of marriage. The minimum age at which persons may marry shall be 18, unless a minor has been emancipated by court order. Upon application for a marriage license, an emancipated minor shall provide a certified copy of the order of emancipation.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Virginia
Virginia does not recognize online ordination for religious leaders, including ULC ministers. That means ULC ordination is generally not sufficient grounds to perform a legally binding wedding ceremony in the state. In some areas, however, local law may allow for exceptions. Check with the local county clerk to confirm whether a ULC minister is allowed to perform a ceremony in that area.
Otherwise, Virginia requires that ministers who officiate a marriage are at least 18 years of age, and officials may ask for proof of ordination and the minister's active membership in their religious organization. There are no laws governing the minister's place of origin, creed, gender identity, or other demographic or religious factors.
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When a minister of any religious denomination shall produce before the circuit court of any county or city in this Commonwealth, or before the judge of such court or before the clerk of such court at any time, proof of his ordination and of his being in regular communion with the religious society of which he is a reputed member, or proof that he holds a local minister's license and is serving as a regularly appointed pastor in his denomination, such court, or the judge thereof, or the clerk of such court at any time, may make an order authorizing such minister to celebrate the rites of matrimony in this Commonwealth. Any order made under this section may be rescinded at any time by the court or by the judge thereof.
Applying For a Marriage License in Virginia
After obtaining a marriage license, the couple must wed within 60 days for the license to still be valid. There is no mandated waiting period, which means the ceremony can be performed immediately following receipt of the license.
Marriage ceremonies in Virginia can be performed by either civil or religious officials. As ordained ministers, ULC ministers are only authorized to perform religious ceremonies.
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Every marriage license issued under § 20-14 shall constitute authority for a period of only sixty days from the date of issuance for the solemnization of a marriage of the licensees. Whenever such sixty-day period shall have elapsed without the solemnization of a marriage of the licensees, the license shall expire. The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prevent licensees from applying for or receiving an additional license, either before or after expiration of any license, but no new license shall be issued except in compliance with all provisions of law applicable to the issuance of a license in the first instance.
How to Get a Virginia Marriage License
To get a marriage license in Virginia, both prospective spouses must visit a county clerk's office to pay the $30 application fee and complete the necessary forms. Both parties must apply in person, even in cases when one member of the couple resides in a different state. Standard government-issued IDs, such as a driver's license, are considered sufficient proof of personal data and identity. If either member of the couple is divorced, he or she must also provide proof of completion of divorce proceedings.
Marriage licenses issued by county clerks are not valid across the state, which means the marriage must be performed in the county that granted the license.
Finalizing the Union
Following the ceremony, the officiant is usually responsible for completing the marriage license and returning it to the issuing county clerk's office. It should be delivered to the county clerk no later than five days after the ceremony.
When the marriage is performed by a ULC minister, the minister's title should be listed as "minister" and "Universal Life Church Ministries" as the ordaining body. Some licenses and forms might ask for a ministry address. In such cases, ULC ministers should use their home address.
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The clerk to whom the license and certificate are returned, shall file and preserve the original in his office, and make an index of the names of both of the parties married. When the certificates of such person celebrating such marriage are returned to the clerk, and recorded as provided in this section and § 32.1-267, copies of the same properly certified by the clerk lawfully having the custody thereof or properly certified by the State Registrar of Vital Statistics shall be prima facie evidence of the facts therein set forth in all courts of this Commonwealth.