Washington Wedding Laws
Drafted and last reviewed for accuracy by the Washington marriage law team at the Universal Life Church Ministries on
For a legal marriage in Washington, it is essential that couples understand the nuances of the law. Marriage license requirements and officiant requirements are important aspects that a couple must ensure match with existing marriage laws. This article will help uncover all the details a couple needs to know to ensure a smooth path to their wedding day.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Washington
The minister must make sure he or she takes care of certain legal requirements prior to the wedding. He or she may need to provide ministerial documentation to the clerk's office. It depends on the office as to what the rule is. ULC does recommend ministers have their ordination certificate at hand for such instances by ordering the Classic Wedding Package.
If the clerk does need proof, then the minister can often submit that when he or she submits the signed marriage certificate after the wedding.
While there is no requirement under the law for someone performing a marriage ceremony to live in a certain area, posess certain religious beliefs, or be a certain gender, there are age requirements. The Universal Life Church requires anyone who wishes to secure ordainment to be at least 18 years old. Washington state also requires wedding officiants to be at least 18 years old.
Show Legal Excerpt+
The following named officers and persons, active or retired, are hereby authorized to solemnize marriages, to wit: Justices of the supreme court, judges of the court of appeals, judges of the superior courts, supreme court commissioners, court of appeals commissioners, superior court commissioners, judges and commissioners of courts of limited jurisdiction as defined in RCW 3.02.010, judges of tribal courts from a federally recognized tribe, and any regularly licensed or ordained minister or any priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization. The solemnization of a marriage by a tribal court judge pursuant to authority under this section does not create tribal court jurisdiction and does not affect state court authority as otherwise provided by law to enter a judgment for purposes of any dissolution, legal separation, or other proceedings related to the marriage that is binding on the parties and entitled to full faith and credit.
[ 2019 c 52 § 2; 2017 c 130 § 1; 2012 c 3 § 4 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); 2007 c 29 § 1; 1987 c 291 § 1; 1984 c 258 § 95; 1983 c 186 § 1; 1971 c 81 § 69; 1913 c 35 § 1; 1890 p 98 § 1; 1883 p 43 § 1; Code 1881 § 2382; 1866 p 82 § 4; 1854 p 404 § 4; RRS § 8441.]
Getting Married in Washington
Washington does not allow for marriage by proxy. At the time of the ceremony, the couple must both be present, along with at least two witnesses who are age 18 or older and the officiating minister.
The law does not dictate the requirements of the ceremony except that, at some point, the couple both give their consent to marry and the minister pronounces them as married. The couple has complete control over the other aspects of the ceremony and can have it done any way they wish.
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In the solemnization of marriage no particular form is required, except that the parties thereto shall assent or declare in the presence of the minister, priest, imam, rabbi, or similar official of any religious organization, or judicial officer solemnizing the same, and in the presence of at least two attending witnesses, that they take each other to be spouses.
[2012 c 3 § 6 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); Code 1881 § 2383; 1866 p 82 § 5; RRS § 8443.]
How to Get a Washington Marriage License
A marriage license is what makes a marriage legal in the eyes of the law, so every couple who marries in Washington must secure one from a county clerk's office prior to their big day. Some probate courts may also issue licenses. Couples will not have to submit to a blood test. They will have to provide valid government IDs and pay a fee to get the license.
The couple must secure their own license. The officiant should be aware of this requirement as he or she will have to sign it. The couple must have the license at the wedding and should obtain it in the county where they will marry. Most often, this requires going to the court in person to get it.
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RCW 26.04.140 Marriage license.
Before any persons can be joined in marriage, they shall procure a license from a county auditor, as provided in RCW 26.04.150 through 26.04.190.
[ 1985 c 82 § 1; 1939 c 204 § 2; RRS § 8450-1. Prior: Code 1881 § 2390; 1866 p 83 § 12.]
Applying For a Marriage License in Washington
When Universal Life Church ministers perform weddings, the state considers it a religious ceremony. To be married by a ULC minister, a couple has to secure a marriage license for a religious ceremony. There is a civil ceremony option, but that will not work for a ULC ceremony. It does not matter if the ceremony is religious in nature. It is solely about the type of officiant.
The marriage license is valid for up to 60 days after issuance. However, couples must wait three days after getting it to marry. For example, if the couple wants to marry on Saturday, then they will need to get their license by Wednesday.
The clerk's office must receive the license back for filing within the 60-day window before it expires. If it does not make it to the clerk in that time, it is not valid.
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The county auditor may issue the marriage license at the time of application, but shall issue such license no later than the third full day following the date of the application. A marriage license issued pursuant to the provisions of this chapter may not be used until three days after the date of application and shall become void if the marriage is not solemnized within sixty days of the date of the issuance of the license, and the county auditor shall notify the applicant in writing of this requirement at the time of issuance of the license.
[ 1985 c 82 § 4; 1979 ex.s. c 128 § 1; 1963 c 230 § 3; 1953 c 107 § 1. Prior: 1943 c 250 § 1; 1939 c 204 § 6; Rem. Supp. 1943 § 8450-5.]
Washington Marriage Requirements
Marriage equality has been the law in Washington since 2012, so there is no concern for same-sex couples about this aspect of getting married. However, there are still some requirements couples must meet for a legal marriage.
The main factor is age. The state allows anyone over the age of 18 to marry legally. Those under 18 may only marry if they have parental consent or petition the court. The court will consider special circumstances on a case-by-case basis when determining whether to grant the ability to marry to a minor.
Couples do not have to be residents of the state of Washington. They also do not have to be US citizens to legally marry in this state.
Show Legal Excerpt+
(1) Marriages in the following cases are prohibited:
(a) When either party thereto has a spouse or registered domestic partner living at the time of such marriage, unless the registered domestic partner is the other party to the marriage; or
(b) When the spouses are nearer of kin to each other than second cousins, whether of the whole or half blood computing by the rules of the civil law.
(2) It is unlawful for any person to marry his or her sibling, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.
(3) A marriage between two persons that is recognized as valid in another jurisdiction is valid in this state only if the marriage is not prohibited or made unlawful under subsection (1)(a) or (2) of this section.
(4) A legal union, other than a marriage, between two individuals that was validly formed in another state or jurisdiction and that provides substantially the same rights, benefits, and responsibilities as a marriage, does not prohibit those same two individuals from obtaining a marriage license in Washington.
(5) No state agency or local government may base a decision to penalize, withhold benefits from, license, or refuse to contract with any religious organization based on the opposition to or refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.
(6) No religiously affiliated educational institution shall be required to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, including a use of any campus chapel or church. A religiously affiliated educational institution shall be immune from a civil claim or cause of action, including a claim pursuant to chapter 49.60 RCW, based on its refusal to provide accommodations, facilities, advantages, privileges, service, or goods related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage under this subsection shall be immune for civil claim or cause of action, including a claim pursuant to chapter 49.60 RCW.
[2012 c 3 § 2 (Referendum Measure No. 74, approved November 6, 2012); 1998 c 1 § 4; 1927 c 189 § 1; Code 1881 § 949; 1866 p 81 § 2; 1854 p 96 § 115; RRS § 8438.]
Finalizing the Union
After the wedding ceremony, the legal requirements are not yet complete. The actual ceremony does not solidify it as a legally binding wedding. That occurs with the filing of the marriage license.
The couple should fill out any required part of the license and provide all requested details, and the minister must fill out his or her portion of the marriage license. It is essential for the minister to ensure he or she completely fills out the license and provides all the requested information. The title would be "minister" and the name of the ordaining body is the Universal Life Church. It may also ask for the address, which is the minister's address, not the ULC's address.
Ministers should keep personal records about weddings they perform, as the church headquarters does not take or maintain this information for them. It is nice to have such a record for contract purposes and if there is an issue in the future.
If anyone makes a mistake when filling out the information on the marriage certificate, the couple may have to buy a new one. This would result in a delay and require they wait three more days to do another ceremony for legal purposes.
The clerk's office must receive the completed license before the 60-day expiration date. The minister will usually handle this, but the couple can do it. The minister should make sure it gets to the court on time, though, as not submitting before the deadline could result in negligence or malice claims against him or her. This is a crime with financial penalties up to $300.
Show Legal Excerpt+
Any person solemnizing a marriage, who shall wilfully refuse or neglect to make and deliver to the county auditor for record, the certificates mentioned in RCW 26.04.090, within the time in such section specified, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall pay for such refusal, or neglect, a fine of not less than twenty-five nor more than three hundred dollars.
[ 1967 c 26 § 6; 1947 c 59 § 3; 1886 p 66 § 2; Code 1881 § 2387; 1866 p 83 § 9; Rem. Supp. 1947 § 8447.]