Universal Life Church

Wisconsin Wedding Laws

Wedding planning is hard enough without trying to navigate Wisconsin’s state-specific laws, deadlines, and regulations. We’ve researched all the relevant sources and compiled a complete, start-to-finish guide that outlines everything a couple and officiant must do for a wedding to be legally binding according to Wisconsin law.

Wisconsin Marriage Requirements

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18, or Age 16 with Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required (Required During COVID)
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
Second Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

It’s not necessary for either partner to be a Wisconsin resident, or even a US resident, for a couple to get married in Wisconsin. Like all states, Wisconsin honors marriage equality rights for same-sex couples.

Wisconsin law requires that each partner be at least 18 years of age. Persons who are 16 or 17 years of age and wish to be married must have both of their parents or other legal guardians appear with them in person and sign a written consent form.

If either partner has been married before, he or she must submit proof that the last marriage was properly terminated, such as a certified divorce decree or a death certificate. If either partner has ever been divorced, the divorce must have been finalized at least six months before the couple applies for a marriage license.

Unlike most states, Wisconsin allows first cousins to marry; however, any woman wishing to marry a first cousin must be at least 55 years of age, or one of the partners must have medical proof of permanent sterility.

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    765.02 Marriageable age; who may contract. (1) Every person who has attained the age of 18 years may marry if otherwise competent. (2) If a person is between the age of 16 and 18 years, a marriage license may be issued with the written consent of the person's parents, guardian, custodian under s. 767.225 (1) or 767.41, or parent having the actual care, custody and control of the person. The written consent must be given before the county clerk under oath, or certified in writing and verified by affidavit or affirmation before a notary public or other official authorized to take affidavits. The written consent shall be filed with the county clerk at the time of application for a marriage license. If there is no guardian, parent or custodian or if the custodian is an agency or department, the written consent may be given, after notice to any agency or department appointed as custodian and hearing proper cause shown, by the court having probate jurisdiction. History: 1971 c. 149; 1971 c. 213 s. 5; 1975 c. 39, 94, 200; 1979 c. 32 ss. 48, 92 (4); Stats. 1979 s. 765.02; 1981 c. 20 s. 2200; 1999 a. 85; 2005 a. 443 s. 265. 765.03 Who shall not marry; divorced persons. (1) No marriage shall be contracted while either of the parties has a husband or wife living, nor between persons who are nearer of kin than 2nd cousins except that marriage may be contracted between first cousins where the female has attained the age of 55 years or where either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, submits an affidavit signed by a physician stating that either party is permanently sterile. Relationship under this section shall be computed by the rule of the civil law, whether the parties to the marriage are of the half or of the whole blood. A marriage may not be contracted if either party has such want of understanding as renders him or her incapable of assenting to marriage. (2) It is unlawful for any person, who is or has been a party to an action for divorce in any court in this state, or elsewhere, to marry again until 6 months after judgment of divorce is granted, and the marriage of any such person solemnized before the expiration of 6 months from the date of the granting of judgment of divorce shall be void. History: 1971 c. 220; 1977 c. 8, 83, 203; 1979 c. 32 s. 48; Stats. 1979 s. 765.03. A marriage can be declared null and void after the death of a spouse, although a marriage may not be annulled after the death of a party. Ellis v. Estate of Toutant, 2001 WI App 181, 247 Wis. 2d 400, 633 N.W.2d 692, 00-2535. Chapter 765 sets out the criteria for a valid marriage in this state. Failure to meet one of these criteria often results in a void marriage. An action for declaratory judgment under s. 806.04 is the established mechanism for testing the validity of a marriage in an estate case because s. 806.04 explicitly provides standing for interested parties in an estate action. McLeod v. Mudlaff, 2013 WI 76, 350 Wis. 2d 182, 833 N.W.2d 735, 11-1176.

How to Get a Wisconsin Marriage License

Min. Age of Witnesses:
18 Years
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

In Wisconsin, a couple must apply for a marriage license together and in person. If either partner is a Wisconsin resident, the couple must apply in the county where that partner resides, although the marriage license will be valid for a ceremony performed in any Wisconsin county. If neither partner is a Wisconsin resident, then the couple must apply in the county where the wedding will be held.

Each partner will be required to submit a valid photo identification, proof of current residence, and a certified copy of a birth certificate. Non-US residents may substitute a passport, green card, or other documentation.

Wisconsin law requires that the couple know the date and location of their wedding ceremony, as well as their officiant’s name, address, and phone number, at the time they apply for the marriage license.

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    765.05  Marriage license; by whom issued. No person may be joined in marriage within this state until a marriage license has been obtained for that purpose from the county clerk of the county in which one of the parties has resided for at least 30 days immediately prior to making application therefor. If both parties are nonresidents of the state, the marriage license may be obtained from the county clerk of the county where the marriage ceremony is to be performed. If one of the persons is a nonresident of the county where the marriage license is to issue, the nonresident's part of the application may be completed and sworn to or affirmed before the person authorized to accept marriage license applications in the county and state in which the nonresident resides.

    History: 1979 c. 32 ss. 48, 92 (2); 1979 c. 89, 176, 177, 355; Stats. 1979 s. 765.05; 1981 c. 20, 142, 314; 1999 a. 85.

    765.09  Identification of parties; statement of qualifications.

    (1) 

    (a) No application for a marriage license may be made by persons lawfully married to each other and no marriage license may be issued to such persons.

    (b) Paragraph (a) does not apply to persons whose marriage to one another is void under s. 765.03 (2) and who intend to intermarry under s. 765.21.

    (2) No marriage license may be issued unless the application for it is subscribed by the parties intending to intermarry, contains the social security number of each party who has a social security number and is filed with the clerk who issues the marriage license.

    (3) 

    (a) Each applicant for a marriage license shall present satisfactory, documentary proof of identification and residence and shall swear to or affirm the application before the clerk who is to issue the marriage license or the person authorized to accept marriage license applications in the county and state where the party resides. The application shall contain the social security number of each party, as well as any other informational items that the department of health services directs. The portion of the marriage application form that is collected for statistical purposes only shall indicate that the address of the marriage license applicant may be provided by a county clerk to a law enforcement officer under the conditions specified under s. 765.20 (2).

    (b) Each applicant for a marriage license shall exhibit to the clerk a certified copy of a birth record, and each applicant shall submit a copy of any judgment or death record affecting the applicant's marital status. If any applicable birth record, death record or judgment is unobtainable, other satisfactory documentary proof of the requisite facts therein may be presented in lieu of the birth certificate, death certificate or judgment. Whenever the clerk is not satisfied with the documentary proof presented, he or she shall submit the presented proof to a judge of a court of record in the county of application for an opinion as to its sufficiency.

    History: 1977 c. 418; 1979 c. 32 s. 48; 1979 c. 221; Stats. 1979 s. 765.09; 1981 c. 20; 1985 a. 103; 1995 a. 27 s. 9126 (19); 1995 a. 469; 1997 a. 191; 1999 a. 85; 2007 a. 20 s. 9121 (6) (a); 2007 a. 214; 2017 a. 334.

    765.15  Fee to county clerk. Each county clerk shall receive as a fee for each license granted the sum of $49.50, of which $24.50 shall become a part of the funds of the county, and $25 shall be paid into the state treasury. The county shall use $20 of the amount that it retains from each license fee only for expenses incurred under s. 767.405. The county may, but is not required to, use any or all of the remainder of the amount that it retains for education, training, or services related to domestic violence. Each county board may increase the license fee of $49.50 by any amount, which amount shall become a part of the funds of the county.

    History: 1971 c. 125; 1979 c. 32 s. 48; 1979 c. 176; Stats. 1979 s. 765.15; 1981 c. 20; 1985 a. 29; 1991 a. 269; 2003 a. 225; 2005 a. 443 s. 265; 2013 a. 20.

Applying For a Marriage License in Wisconsin

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
5-7 Days
License Valid For:
30 Days
License Must Be Submitted:
Within 3 Days of Ceremony

Wisconsin mandates a waiting period of six calendar days from the time the couple applies for a marriage license. The clerk will not issue the license until the waiting period has ended. Couples may apply for a waiver of the waiting period in some circumstances. After the license is issued, the wedding ceremony must take place within 30 days from the issue date to be valid.

Couples should be sure that the license they receive is for a religious ceremony, not a civil ceremony. While there is no religious requirement of any kind, ministers ordained by Universal Life Church are granted authority to perform weddings in Wisconsin because they qualify as religious actors.

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    765.08  Application for marriage license.

    (1) Except as provided in sub. (2), no marriage license may be issued within 5 days of application for the marriage license.

    (2) The county clerk may, at his or her discretion, issue a marriage license within less than 5 days after application if the applicant pays an additional fee of not more than $25 to cover any increased processing cost incurred by the county. The county clerk shall pay this fee into the county treasury.

    History: 1979 c. 32 s. 48; 1979 c. 176; Stats. 1979 s. 765.08; 1981 c. 20, 142; 2009 a. 28.

    765.12  Marriage license, when authorized; corrections; contents.

    (1) 

    (a) If ss. 765.02, 765.05, 765.08, and 765.09 are complied with, and if there is no prohibition against or legal objection to the marriage, the county clerk shall issue a marriage license. With each marriage license the county clerk shall provide information describing the causes and effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and the dangers to a fetus from the mother's use of cocaine or other drugs during pregnancy.

    (b) If, after completion of the marriage license application, one of the applicants notifies the clerk in writing that any of the information provided by that applicant for the license is erroneous, the clerk shall notify the other applicant of the correction as soon as reasonably possible. If the marriage license has not been issued, the clerk shall prepare a new license with the correct information entered. If the marriage license has been issued, the clerk shall immediately send a letter of correction to the state registrar to amend the erroneous information.

    (c) If, after completion of the marriage license application, the clerk discovers that correct information has been entered erroneously, the clerk shall, if the marriage license has not been issued, prepare a new license with the correct information correctly entered. If the marriage license has been issued, the clerk shall immediately send a letter of correction to the state registrar to amend the erroneous information.

    (2) The marriage license shall authorize the marriage ceremony to be performed in any county of this state within 30 days of issuance, excepting that where both parties are nonresidents of the state, the ceremony shall be performed only in the county in which the marriage license is issued. The officiating person shall determine that the parties presenting themselves to be married are the parties named in the marriage license. If aware of any legal impediment to such marriage, the person shall refuse to perform the ceremony. The issuance of a marriage license shall not be deemed to remove or dispense with any legal disability, impediment or prohibition rendering marriage between the parties illegal, and the marriage license shall contain a statement to that effect.

    History: 1977 c. 105; 1979 c. 32 ss. 48, 92 (2); 1979 c. 176, 196; Stats. 1979 s. 765.12; 1981 c. 20; 1985 a. 19; 2001 a. 16; 2015 a. 162.

    765.19  Delivery and filing of marriage document. The marriage document, legibly and completely filled out with unfading black ink, shall be returned by the officiating person, or, in the case of a marriage ceremony performed without an officiating person, then by the parties to the marriage contract, or either of them, to the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage was performed within 3 days after the date of the marriage.

    History: 1977 c. 418; 1979 c. 32 s. 48; 1979 c. 221, 355; Stats. 1979 s. 765.19; 1981 c. 20; 1983 a. 221.

How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Wisconsin

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Varies by County
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
County Clerk
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
Varies by County
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

Wisconsin places no restrictions on ministers other than they are ordained and at least 18 years of age at the time of the ceremony. Ministers are not required to register in advance with the state of Wisconsin.

To be safe, the minister should check with the clerk of the exact county office where the couple’s marriage license was issued and verify whether that county requires any proof of ordination. It’s always a good idea for a minister to have a copy of their ordination documents — the ones included in the Classic Wedding Package — on hand during the wedding.

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    765.16  Marriage contract, how made; officiating person.

    (1m) Marriage may be validly solemnized and contracted in this state only after a marriage license has been issued therefor, and only by the mutual declarations of the 2 parties to be joined in marriage that they take each other as husband and wife, made before an authorized officiating person and in the presence of at least 2 competent adult witnesses other than the officiating person. The following are authorized to be officiating persons:

    (a) Any ordained member of the clergy of any religious denomination or society who continues to be an ordained member of the clergy.

    (b) Any licentiate of a denominational body or an appointee of any bishop serving as the regular member of the clergy of any church of the denomination to which the member of the clergy belongs, if not restrained from so doing by the discipline of the church or denomination.

    (c) The 2 parties themselves, by mutual declarations that they take each other as husband and wife, in accordance with the customs, rules and regulations of any religious society, denomination or sect to which either of the parties may belong.

    (d) Any judge of a court of record or a reserve judge appointed under s. 753.075.

    (e) Any circuit court commissioner appointed under SCR 75.02 (1) or supplemental court commissioner appointed under s. 757.675 (1).

    (f) Any municipal judge.

    (2m) An officiating person under sub. (1m) (a), (b), (d), (e), or (f) must be at least 18 years old.

    History: 1977 c. 323; 1979 c. 32 ss. 48, 92 (4); 1979 c. 176, 259; Stats. 1979 s. 765.16; 1981 c. 20 s. 2200; 1985 a. 29; 1991 a. 315; 1999 a. 85; 2001 a. 61; 2013 a. 372.

Getting Married in Wisconsin

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes

A wedding ceremony is a deeply personal experience joining two individual lives, and Wisconsin recognizes that couples should be free to create a ceremony unique and meaningful to them. The state does not impose any formal wording requirements upon wedding ceremonies. However, to be considered a legal wedding, the ceremony must meet a few general standards:

Both partners, at least two competent adult witnesses, and the minister must be physically present for the entire ceremony.

Each partner must, at some point in the ceremony, make some declaration of consent to the marriage, such as “I do.”

At some point thereafter, the minister must pronounce, to the witnesses, that the couple is now legally married; for example, the minister might say “I now pronounce you….”

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    765.16  Marriage contract, how made; officiating person.

    (1m) Marriage may be validly solemnized and contracted in this state only after a marriage license has been issued therefor, and only by the mutual declarations of the 2 parties to be joined in marriage that they take each other as husband and wife, made before an authorized officiating person and in the presence of at least 2 competent adult witnesses other than the officiating person. The following are authorized to be officiating persons:

    (a) Any ordained member of the clergy of any religious denomination or society who continues to be an ordained member of the clergy.

    (b) Any licentiate of a denominational body or an appointee of any bishop serving as the regular member of the clergy of any church of the denomination to which the member of the clergy belongs, if not restrained from so doing by the discipline of the church or denomination.

    (c) The 2 parties themselves, by mutual declarations that they take each other as husband and wife, in accordance with the customs, rules and regulations of any religious society, denomination or sect to which either of the parties may belong.

    (d) Any judge of a court of record or a reserve judge appointed under s. 753.075.

    (e) Any circuit court commissioner appointed under SCR 75.02 (1) or supplemental court commissioner appointed under s. 757.675 (1).

    (f) Any municipal judge.

    (2m) An officiating person under sub. (1m) (a), (b), (d), (e), or (f) must be at least 18 years old.

    History: 1977 c. 323; 1979 c. 32 ss. 48, 92 (4); 1979 c. 176, 259; Stats. 1979 s. 765.16; 1981 c. 20 s. 2200; 1985 a. 29; 1991 a. 315; 1999 a. 85; 2001 a. 61; 2013 a. 372.

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 wedding ceremony, the minister, both witnesses, and both newlyweds must sign the marriage license using black ink. There is a section of the marriage license that must be completed by the minister. The minister should use his or her full legal name and should write “minister” in the space for a title. ULC ministers should use the name “Universal Life Church Ministries” as the ordaining body; however, a minister should use his or her home address, rather than the church address, so that the county will be able to reach him or her with any questions.

Within three days after the wedding, the minister must file the solemnized marriage license with the register of deeds in the county in which the ceremony took place.

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    765.19  Delivery and filing of marriage document. The marriage document, legibly and completely filled out with unfading black ink, shall be returned by the officiating person, or, in the case of a marriage ceremony performed without an officiating person, then by the parties to the marriage contract, or either of them, to the register of deeds of the county in which the marriage was performed within 3 days after the date of the marriage.

    History: 1977 c. 418; 1979 c. 32 s. 48; 1979 c. 221, 355; Stats. 1979 s. 765.19; 1981 c. 20; 1983 a. 221.