Universal Life Church

District of Columbia Wedding Laws

Washington, D.C., is a beautiful city, with soaring monuments, acres of parks and an enchanting river. With all its features, the District is a fantastic place for a wedding. If you have decided to marry in Washington, D.C., or to officiate a wedding in the District, you must understand its marriage laws. Continue reading for an in-depth look at marriage requirements and restrictions in the District.

District of Columbia Marriage Requirements

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18 or Age 16 with Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
First Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

In the District of Columbia, only individuals who are at least 18 may apply for a marriage license. If a 16- or 17-year-old minor wants to marry, they must have the consent of a legal guardian. Moreover, if a person has the consent of a legal guardian and a D.C. judge, there is no minimum age requirement for obtaining a marriage license.

To qualify for a marriage license, an individual may not be married to anyone else. Marrying someone who is genetically closer than a first cousin is also off-limits.

In Washington, D.C., same-sex couples may request a marriage license. That is, the District does not discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals on account of their sexual orientations or gender identities.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    § 46–401. Equal access to marriage.

    (a) Marriage is the legally recognized union of 2 persons. Any person may enter into a marriage in the District of Columbia with another person, regardless of gender, unless the marriage is expressly prohibited by § 46-401.01 or § 46-403.

    (b) Where necessary to implement the rights and responsibilities relating to the marital relationship or familial relationships, gender-specific terms shall be construed to be gender neutral for all purposes throughout the law, whether in the context of statute, administrative or court rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil law.

    § 46–401.01. Marriages void ab initio —

    In general. The following marriages are prohibited in the District of Columbia and shall be absolutely void ab initio, without being so decreed, and their nullity may be shown in any collateral proceedings, namely:

    (1) Repealed.

    (2) Repealed.

    (2A) The marriage of a person with a person’s grandparent, grandparent’s spouse, spouse’s grandparent, parent’s sibling, parent, step-parent, spouse’s parent, child, spouse’s child, child’s spouse, sibling, child’s child, child’s child’s spouse, spouse’s child’s child, sibling’s child.

    (3) The marriage of any persons either of whom has been previously married and whose previous marriage has not been terminated by death or a decree of divorce.

    § 46–411. Consent of parent or guardian. If any person intending to marry and seeking a license therefor shall be under 18 years of age, and shall not have been previously married, the said Clerk shall not issue such license unless a parent, or, if there be neither father nor mother, the guardian, if there be such, shall consent to such proposed marriage, either personally to the Clerk, or by an instrument in writing attested by a witness and proved to the satisfaction of the Clerk.

How to Get a District of Columbia Marriage License

Who Picks Up License:
The Couple
Where License is Valid:
Anywhere in D.C.
Marriage License Pick-Up:
In Person
Cost of License:
$45.00
Accepted I.D. Types:
Standard Government Issued I.D.
Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
Yes
Blood Test Required:
No

Typically, a couple who wants to marry in the District must apply for a marriage license in person at the clerk’s office. With COVID-19, though, the District currently only accepts applications virtually.

Either way, a couple who applies for a marriage license must provide the following information:

  • The names of each person
  • The names of each person’s parents
  • The ages of each person

Additionally, when applying for a marriage license, a couple must disclose previous marriages. The couple must also tell the clerk if they are closely related.

The cost to apply for a Washington, D.C., marriage license is $45. If the couple presents a domestic partnership certificate from the District, though, officials waive the application fee.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    § 46–410. Issuance of license — Duty of Clerk; false swearing by applicant deemed perjury. It shall be the duty of the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia before issuing any license to solemnize a marriage to examine any applicant for said license under oath and to ascertain the names and ages of the parties desiring to marry, and if they are under age the names of their parents or guardians, whether they were previously married, whether they are related or not, and if so, in what degree, which facts shall appear on the face of the application, of which the Clerk shall provide a printed form, and any false swearing in regard to such matters shall be deemed perjury.

Applying For a Marriage License in District of Columbia

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
None
License Valid For:
Does Not Expire
License Must Be Submitted:
Within 10 Days of the Ceremony

Unlike in many other places, Washington, D.C., marriage licenses are immediately valid and do not expire. Consequently, marrying couples have wide latitude to determine when, where and how to conduct a marriage ceremony.

Likewise, after obtaining a marriage license from Washington, D.C., officials, a couple may wed anywhere within the geographical limits of the District. After the ceremony takes place, though, the officiant only has 10 days to return the completed marriage license to the clerk.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    Licenses to perform the marriage ceremony shall be addressed to some particular minister, magistrate, or other person authorized by § 46-406 to perform or witness the marriage ceremony and shall be in the following form: Number .......... To ...................., authorized to celebrate (or witness) marriages in the District of Columbia, greeting: You are hereby authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage between ...................., of .........., and ...................., of .........., and having done so, you are commanded to make return of the same to the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia within 10 days under a penalty of $50 for default therein. Witness my hand and seal of said Court this .......... day of , anno Domini ........... Clerk. By  Assistant Clerk. Said return shall be made in person or by mail on a coupon issued with said license and bearing a corresponding number therewith within 10 days from the time of said marriage, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I, ...................., who have been duly authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage in the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that, by authority of a license of corresponding number herewith, I solemnized (or witnessed) the marriage of .................... and ....................., named therein, on the .......... day of .........., at .........., in said District. A 2nd coupon, of corresponding number with the license, shall be attached to and issued with said license, to be given to the contracting parties by the minister or other person to whom such license was addressed, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I hereby certify that on this ....... day of .........., at .........., .................... and .................... were by (or before) me united in marriage in accordance with the license issued by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Name ...................., Residence

How to Become a Wedding Officiant in District of Columbia

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Application w/ Marriage Bureau
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
Marriage Bureau
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
Before Ceremony
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

The District of Columbia has an expansive view of who may perform a marriage ceremony. In fact, in addition to allowing judges, clerks, political leaders and others to solemnize marriages, the law of the District permits ministers and temporary officiants to do the job.

To officiate at a wedding in Washington, D.C., an individual must be at least 18. Before presiding over a marriage ceremony, however, an individual must also apply for permission from the D.C. Marriage Bureau. The application fee is $35 for long-term officiants and $25 for temporary ones.

Ministers with ordination from the Universal Life Church are religious actors under the laws of the District. The ULC Ordination Package provides ministers with documentation of their ordination. This documentation may be useful in pursuing permission to officiate a wedding in Washington, D.C.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    § 46–406. Persons authorized to celebrate marriages.

    (a) For the purposes of this section, the term:

    (1) “Civil celebrant” means a person of a secular or non-religious organization who performs marriage ceremonies.

    (2) “Religious” includes or pertains to a belief in a theological doctrine, a belief in and worship of a divine ruling power, a recognition of a supernatural power controlling man’s destiny, or a devotion to some principle, strict fidelity or faithfulness, conscientiousness, pious affection, or attachment.

    (3) “Society” means a voluntary association of individuals for religious purposes.

    (4) “Temporary officiant” means a person authorized by the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (“Court”) to solemnize a specific marriage. The person’s authority to solemnize that marriage shall expire upon the filing of the marriage license, pursuant to § 46-412.

    (b) For the purpose of preserving the evidence of marriages in the District of Columbia, a marriage authorized under this chapter may be solemnized by the following persons at least 18 years of age at the time of the marriage:

    (1) A judge or retired judge of any court of record;

    (2) The Clerk of the Court or such deputy clerks of the Court as may, in writing, be designated by the Clerk and approved by the Chief Judge of the Court;

    (3) A minister, priest, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination or society;

    (4) For any religious society which does not by its own custom require the intervention of a minister for the celebration of marriages, a marriage may be solemnized in the manner prescribed and practiced in that religious society, with the license issued to, and returns to be made by, a person appointed by the religious society for that purpose;

    (5) A civil celebrant;

    (6) A temporary officiant;

    (7) Members of the Council;

    (8) The Mayor of the District of Columbia; or

    (9) The parties to the marriage. (b-1) All persons authorized by subsection (b) of this section to solemnize marriages shall comply with the requirements of § 46-412.

    (b-2) The Court shall charge a reasonable registration fee for authorization to solemnize marriages; provided, that the registration fee for a temporary officiant shall not exceed $25.

    (c) No priest, imam, rabbi, minister, or other official of any religious society who is authorized to solemnize or celebrate marriages shall be required to solemnize or celebrate any marriage.

    (d) Each religious society has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine, teachings, and beliefs regarding who may marry within that particular religious society’s faith.

    (e)(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a religious society, or a nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods for a purpose related to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage, or the promotion of marriage through religious programs, counseling, courses, or retreats, that is in violation of the religious society’s beliefs.

    (2) A refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities, or goods in accordance with this subsection shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in a District action to penalize or withhold benefits from the religious society or nonprofit organization that is operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious society.

Getting Married in District of Columbia

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes
Number of Witnesses Required:
None
Min. Age of Witnesses:
Not Applicable
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

The law in the District of Columbia expressly prohibits interference with religious beliefs. Therefore, marrying couples and their officiants enjoy a wide latitude to conduct the marriage ceremony as they see fit.

Nevertheless, there are some requirements for a legal marriage ceremony in Washington, D.C. Specifically, during the ceremony, each half of the couple must consent to the marriage. The officiant must also pronounce the couple married.

D.C. law does not require witnesses at marriage ceremonies.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    § 46–412. Form of license; return; coupons. Licenses to perform the marriage ceremony shall be addressed to some particular minister, magistrate, or other person authorized by § 46-406 to perform or witness the marriage ceremony and shall be in the following form: Number .......... To ...................., authorized to celebrate (or witness) marriages in the District of Columbia, greeting: You are hereby authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage between ...................., of .........., and ...................., of .........., and having done so, you are commanded to make return of the same to the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia within 10 days under a penalty of $50 for default therein. Witness my hand and seal of said Court this .......... day of , anno Domini ........... Clerk. By  Assistant Clerk. Said return shall be made in person or by mail on a coupon issued with said license and bearing a corresponding number therewith within 10 days from the time of said marriage, and shall be in the following form: Number .......... I, ...................., who have been duly authorized to celebrate (or witness) the rites of marriage in the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that, by authority of a license of corresponding number herewith, I solemnized (or witnessed) the marriage of .................... and ....................., named therein, on the .......... day of .........., at .........., in said District.

Finalizing the Union

Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
Minister
Church/Ordaining Body:
Universal Life Church Ministries
Address of Church:
Minister's Home Address

After the marriage ceremony concludes, the officiant has 10 days to return the completed marriage license to the D.C. clerk. Before doing so, though, the officiant must be certain the license includes the names and signatures of the parties and the date and location of the marriage. Failing to deliver the marriage license to the clerk may result in a $50 fine.

Additionally, the officiant should complete the marriage license in duplicate. Along with returning one copy to the clerk, the officiant should give a copy to the couple.

The laws of the District are favorable to officiants and marrying couples. While it is important to take some post-ceremony steps, the officiant should not forget to celebrate the love and commitment the marrying couple shares.

  • Show Legal Excerpt+

    § 46–413. Failure to make return. Any minister or other person, having solemnized or witnessed the rites of marriage under the authority of a license issued as aforesaid, who shall fail to make return as therein required, shall be liable to a penalty of $50 upon conviction of said failure upon information in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.