West Virginia Wedding Laws
Drafted and last reviewed for accuracy by the West Virginia marriage law team at the Universal Life Church Ministries on
Deadlines, waiting periods, acceptable forms of ID — West Virginia has a unique collection of requirements for a wedding to be considered valid, and trying to navigate those rules can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re also trying to plan the rest of the wedding. We’ve studied all the pertinent legal provisions and created this convenient, comprehensive guide to make it easy for couples and officiants to comply with the Mountain State’s marriage laws.
Getting Married in West Virginia
West Virginia allows couples plenty of leeway to design a wedding ceremony to their liking. The state has only a few broad requirements for a wedding ceremony to be binding.
Each partner must declare his or her consent to the marriage, such as, “I do.”
Each partner and the minister must be physically present for the duration of the ceremony. West Virginia does not require witnesses.
The minister must pronounce the couple’s consent.
West Virginia Marriage Requirements
Couples from all around the world can get married in West Virginia, including same-sex couples; neither party is required to live in the state. However, out-of-state couples cannot be married here if their marriage would be unlawful in their home state.
No blood testing is required, but each partner must certify that they are not blood relatives, although marriage between second cousins or more distant relatives is permitted. A couple who is related by way of adoption may request that a court examine their adoption records to determine whether they can legally marry one another.
Each partner must be at least 18 years old, although minors who are at least 16 years of age may get married if they have a valid, written affidavit of consent from a parent or other legal guardian. In some circumstances, minors who are younger than 16 years old may get married, but this requires a court order from a circuit judge.
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PART 3. CAPACITY TO MARRY.
§48-2-301. Age of consent for marriage; exception.
(a) The age of consent for marriage for both the male and the female is eighteen years of age. A person under the age of eighteen lacks the capacity to contract a marriage without the consent required by this section.
(b) The clerk of the county commission may issue a marriage license to an applicant who is under the age of eighteen but sixteen years of age or older if the clerk obtains a valid written consent from the applicant's parents or legal guardian.
(c) Upon order of a circuit judge, the clerk of the county commission may issue a marriage license to an applicant who is under the age of sixteen, if the clerk obtains a valid written consent from the applicant's parents or legal guardian. A circuit judge of the county in which the application for a marriage license is filed may order the clerk of the county commission to issue a license to an applicant under the age of sixteen if, in the court's discretion, the issuance of a license is in the best interest of the applicant and if consent is given by the parents or guardian.
(d) A consent to marry must be duly acknowledged before an officer authorized to acknowledge a deed. If the parents are living together at the time the application for a marriage license is made and the consent is given, the signatures of both parents or the applicant's legal guardian is required. If one parent is dead, the signature of the surviving parent or the applicant's legal guardian is required. If both parents are dead, the signature of the applicant's legal guardian is required. If the parents of the applicant are living separate and apart, the signature of the parent having custody of the applicant or the applicant's legal guardian is required.
(e) If a person under the age of consent is married in violation of this section, the marriage is not void for this reason, and such marriage is valid until it is actually annulled.
(f) A marriage by an underage person without a valid consent as required by this section, though voidable at the time it is entered into, may be ratified and become completely valid and binding when the underage party reaches the age of consent. Validation of a marriage by ratification is established by some unequivocal and voluntary act, statement, or course of conduct after reaching the age of consent. Ratification includes, but is not limited to, continued cohabitation as husband and wife after the age of consent is attained.
§48-2-302. Prohibition against marriage of persons related within certain degrees.
(a) A man is prohibited from marrying his mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, granddaughter, half sister, aunt, brother's daughter, sister's daughter, first cousin or double cousin. A woman is prohibited from marrying her father, grandfather, brother, son, grandson, half brother, uncle, brother's son, sister's son, first cousin or double cousin.
(b) The prohibitions described in subsection (a) of this section are applicable to consanguineous relationships where persons are blood related by virtue of having a common ancestor.
(c) The prohibitions described in subsection (a) of this section are applicable to persons related by affinity, where the relationship is founded on a marriage, and the prohibition continues in force even though the marriage is terminated by death or divorce, unless the divorce was ordered for a cause which made the marriage, originally, unlawful or void.
§48-2-303. Prohibition against marriage not to include persons related by adoption.
For the purpose of section 2-302, cousin or double cousin does not include persons whose relationship is created solely by adoption. If it necessary to open and examine the record of any adoption proceeding in the state to ascertain that a relationship of cousin or double cousin is created solely by adoption, then an application may be made to the circuit court that held the adoption proceeding, by the clerk of the county commission seeking to issue the marriage license, or either party applying for the license, to open the record and cause it to be examined. Upon such application, the judge shall examine the record confidentially and report to the clerk whether the record discloses any consanguinity prohibited by this section and may grant such other relief prayed for which may be proper under article 22 of this chapter.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in West Virginia
A ULC-ordained minister who plans to perform a wedding ceremony in West Virginia must register with the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office. To be considered a registered officiant in good standing, the state must be able to confirm that the minister has been properly ordained and remains in regular communication with the ordaining body. ULC ministers must submit the proper ordination documents, which are included in our Classic Wedding Package.
A minister must be at least 18 years old to officiate a wedding in West Virginia. The state does not place any restrictions upon the minister’s religious beliefs, state of residence, or gender.
ULC recommends that ministers always have a copy of their ordination credentials on hand when performing a wedding or other ceremony.
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§48-2-402. Qualifications of religious representative for celebrating marriages; registry of persons authorized to perform marriage ceremonies; special revenue fund. (a) Beginning September 1, 2001, the Secretary of State shall, upon payment of the registration fee established by the Secretary of State pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, make an order authorizing a person who is a religious representative to celebrate the rites of marriage in all the counties of the state, upon proof that the person: (1) Is eighteen years of age or older; (2) Is duly authorized to perform marriages by his or her church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization; and (3) Is in regular communion with the church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization of which he or she is a member. (b) The Secretary of State shall establish a central registry of persons authorized to celebrate marriages in this state. Every person authorized under the provisions of subsection (a) of this section to celebrate marriages shall be listed in this registry. Every county clerk shall, prior to October 1, 2001, transmit to the Secretary of State the name of every person authorized to celebrate marriages by order issued in his or her county since 1960 and the Secretary of State shall include these names in the registry. The completed registry and periodic updates shall be transmitted to every county clerk. (c)(1) Upon written request from the registrant, the Secretary of State shall designate the registrant as inactive on the registry. (2) Upon written notice from the governing body of the registrant's authorizing body that the registrant has died or that the registrant's authority to perform marriages has been revoked, the Secretary of State shall attempt to notify the registrant of the change in the registrant's status by United States mail addressed to the registrant's last known address. If the registrant fails to provide the Secretary of State with proof of good standing with his or her authorizing body within thirty days, the registrant shall be designated on the registry as inactive. (d) A fee not to exceed $25 may be charged by the Secretary of State for each registration or reactivation of an individual designated as inactive on the registry received on or after September 1, 2001, and all money received shall be deposited in a special revenue revolving fund designated the Marriage Celebrants Registration Fee Administration Fund in the state Treasury to be administered by the Secretary of State. Expenses incurred by the secretary in the implementation and operation of the registry program shall be paid from the fund. (e) No marriage performed by a person authorized by law to celebrate marriages may be invalidated solely because the person was not listed in the registry provided for in this section. (f) The Secretary of State shall promulgate rules to implement the provisions of this section. §48-2-403. Ritual for ceremony of marriage by a religious representative. A religious representative authorized to celebrate the rites of marriage shall perform the ceremony of marriage according to the rites and ceremonies of his or her religious denomination, church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization and the laws of the State of West Virginia.
Applying For a Marriage License in West Virginia
Couples in West Virginia receive their marriage license on the same day they apply for it, with one exception: If either partner is younger than 18 years old, the couple must wait at least three calendar days after applying before the clerk issues the license. The wedding ceremony make take place on the same day that the marriage license is issued or at any time within 60 days after the issue date. If no lawful wedding ceremony takes place within 60 days, the license becomes void.
West Virginia law permits the couple to choose either a civil or religious ceremony to solemnize their marriage. Couples should note that any ceremony conducted by a ULC minister is considered a religious ceremony. The minister's legal authority to officiate the ceremony is derived from his or her ordination by Universal Life Church Ministries, a designated religious actor.
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(a) The person solemnizing a marriage shall retain the marriage license and place an endorsement on it establishing the fact of the marriage and the time and place it was celebrated.
(b) Before the sixth day of the month after the month in which the marriage was celebrated, the person who solemnized the marriage shall forward the original of the marriage license to the clerk who issued the license.
(c) In the event that the marriage authorized by the license is not solemnized within sixty days from the date of its issuance, then the license is null and void. If the county clerk has not received the original license within sixty days after the expiration date on the license, the clerk shall notify each of the applicants of that fact, by certified mail, return receipt requested.
§48-2-103. Waiting period before issuance of marriage license; issuance of license in case of emergency or extraordinary circumstances.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in subsection(b) of this section, if either or both of the applicants for a marriage license is under eighteen years of age, the clerk of the county commission may not issue a marriage license until two full days elapse after the day the license application is filed.
(b) In case of an emergency or extraordinary circumstances, as shown by affidavit or other proof, a circuit judge of the county in which an application for a marriage license will be filed may order the clerk of the county commission to issue a license at any time before the expiration of the waiting period prescribed in subsection (a) of this section. The clerk of the county commission shall attach a certified copy of the judge's order to the application and issue the marriage license in accordance with the order. If the judge or judges of the county in which the application will be filed are absent or incapacitated, the order may be made and directed to the clerk of the county commission of the county by a circuit judge in any adjoining judicial circuit, or a special judge appointed by the Supreme Court of Appeals.
How to Get a West Virginia Marriage License
A couple may apply for a marriage license in any West Virginia county. Both partners must appear in person at the office of their chosen county clerk. Each partner must present valid, government-issued identification, such as a driver’s license, voter ID, or birth certificate. Non-US citizens may provide a visa or other official immigration paperwork.
If either partner has previously been married, he or she will need to disclose the exact date on which the prior marriage ended as well as whether it was terminated by death or divorce. A copy of the divorce decree or death certificate is not ordinarily required.
The couple must pay a $56 application fee. The fee is reduced to $36 if the couple presents a certificate of completion from a premarital counseling course.
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PART I. APPLICATION FOR MARRIAGE LICENSE
§48-2-104. Contents of the application for a marriage license.
(a) The application for a marriage license must contain a statement of the full names of both the female and the male parties, their social security account numbers, dates of birth, places of birth and residence addresses. The application must state whether or not the persons seeking the license have completed premarital education pursuant to section seven hundred one, article two, chapter forty-eight of this code. If the application states that the applicants seeking issuance of the license have completed premarital education, then the applicants must submit a signed and dated certificate of completion issued by the premarital education provider.
(b) If either of the parties is a legal alien in the United States of America and has no social security account number, a tourist or visitor visa number or number equivalent to a United States social security account number must be provided.
(c) Every application for a marriage license must contain the following statement: "Marriage is designed to be a loving and lifelong union between a woman and a man.
The laws of this state affirm your right to enter into this marriage and to live within the marriage free from violence and abuse. Neither of you is the property of the other. Physical abuse, sexual abuse, battery and assault of a spouse or other family member, and other provisions of the criminal laws of this state are applicable to spouses and other family members, and these violations are punishable by law."
§48-2-105. Execution of the application for a marriage license.
Both female and male parties to a contemplated marriage are required to sign the application for a marriage license, under oath. The application must be signed before the clerk of the county commission or another person authorized to administer oaths under the laws of this state.
§48-2-106. Proof of age.
(a) At the time of the execution of the application, the clerk or the person administering the oath to the applicants shall require evidence of the age of each of the applicants. Evidence of age may be as follows:
(1) A certified copy of a birth certificate or a duplicate certificate produced by any means that accurately reproduces the original;
(2) A voter's registration certificate;
(3) An operator's or chauffeur's license;
(4) The affidavit of both parents or the legal guardian of the applicant; or
(5) Other good and sufficient evidence.
(b) If an affidavit is relied upon as evidence of the age of an applicant, and if one parent is dead, the affidavit of the surviving parent or of the guardian of the applicant is sufficient. If both parents are dead, the affidavit of the guardian of the applicant is sufficient. If the parents of the applicant live separate and apart, the affidavit of the parent having custody of the applicant is sufficient.
§48-2-107. Recording an application for a marriage license.
The clerk of the county commission shall record the application for a marriage license in the register of marriages provided for in section 2-203. The clerk shall note the date of the filing of the application in the register. The clerk's notation, or a certified copy thereof, is legal evidence of the facts contained in the license.
Finalizing the Union
After the wedding ceremony, the minister must complete a section of the marriage license called the marriage certificate. A ULC minister should list his or her title as “minister” and should write “Universal Life Church Ministries” for the name of the church or ordaining body. However, the minister should use his or her home address for the church address so that the state can contact the minister if necessary.
The minister must return the completed marriage license to the issuing office within six days after the ceremony. West Virginia law requires ministers to keep permanent records of all ceremonies they perform in the state.
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§48-2-405. Record of marriage to be kept by person officiating.
A record of each marriage performed, with the names of the parties, their respective places of residence prior to marriage, and the date of marriage, shall be kept by the officiating religious representative in the permanent record of the church, synagogue, spiritual assembly or religious organization which he or she serves.