How Long Does It Take To Process A Military Marriage?

Mar 21, 2024 | Military Prenup, Military Wedding

If you clicked on this blog, you might be engaged (congrats) or getting engaged soon (also congrats), and wondering what the military rules are for marriage processing and how long it will take. It’s pretty simple– you follow state laws of the place that you want to get married in. The various state rules will dictate how long the marriage process takes. Now if you are tying the knot overseas, that’s a whole different ballpark. This article only addresses getting married while residing in the US. Let’s dive into how long it takes to process a military marriage, what the process entails, and much more!


What law dictates military marriage? 

The short answer is: state law. You may be wondering if there is some place to go, while on base, where you register your marriage and get married with special military laws/processes. The reality is, you’ll need to get married like the rest of us civilians – with your state, under state laws. This means following the state rules for getting married. Some states have waiting periods, others have mandated pre-marital courses, etc. 


Which state applies to me if I just moved to a different state for my military orders? 

Let’s say you are from Texas. Born and raised. But now you live on base in Virginia. Can you get married in Virginia? Of course! And that is where you’ll likely want to apply for the marriage process. (Unless you’re willing to fly back to Texas, get your marriage license there, and then also get married in TX).

In other words, whatever state you get your marriage license, that is where you’ll need to hold the marriage ceremony. So, if you just moved to Virginia, you can get your marriage license there and then you’ll need to also hold the ceremony there. 


What is the military marriage proccess? 

Now that we know state laws apply to the military marriage process, what IS the military marriage process? Well, it’s pretty much the same as the civilian process.

Step 1: Learn the requirements in your state. Check on the waiting periods, marriage license requirements, documentation needed, and any solemnization requirements (a fancy word for “wedding ceremony”). 

Step 2: Apply and obtain your marriage license. This is your key to getting married. Without it, you will not have a legal marriage. You must have a a valid marriage license before the wedding ceremony.

Step 3: Get married! Wait for the mandatory waiting period (if applicable in your state), and then walk down the aisle! 

Step 4: Have your officiant bring the signed marriage license back to the County Clerk’s office (or relevant office) to file the marriage. 

Step 5: Your official marriage certificate should be ready within a few hours to a few weeks, depending on your location.

So…how long does the military marriage process take?

This answer isn’t straightforward–it depends on your state process. Let’s look at an example to explain. Let’s say you live in a state where there’s a mandatory waiting period between the marriage license and the wedding ceremony. And there’s also a pre-marital course or counseling requirement. In this case, before even applying for your marriage license, you’ll have to fulfill these obligations, such as completing pre-marital counseling, which can take some time. Then, from the moment you are able to apply for your marriage license to the moment you exchange vows, the process could take as little as three calendar days (i.e., the waiting period) to become “officially married.” If there is NO waiting period, you could potentially get married on the same day you apply for your marriage license. 

However, if you need a marriage certificate to validate your marriage (perhaps for military marriage benefits), then obtaining the official marriage certificate might entail waiting a few additional days or even weeks.

The good news? There are oftentimes rush services available for military personnel that could expedite these processes, such as is the case in San Francisco.

Preparing for the military marriage process

Before initiating the process of getting married as a military couple, there are a couple things you may have to do to prepare. For example, some states require pre-marital counseling or pre-marital work to be done before a marriage license can be issued. This may include attending a certain number of session with a certified counselor or completing an online course and filling out paperwork. 

For instance, Florida has this requirement of a four hour pre-marital counseling course for couples before getting their marriage license. So, if you are on the Air Force base in Panama City, FL, (or any other base for that matter), you may want to consider these types of “preparation” steps that you will be required to complete before getting married. 

In addition, make sure to prepare and locate any documents you may need to obtain a marriage license, such as marriage applications, locating your birth certificate(s) and passports, and any other paperwork that may be needed in your state for a marriage license. 

Applying for a military marriage license

Once prepared, couples can begin the process of filing for military marriage. This typically involves completing paperwork specific to the military branch in which the service member serves. The required documents may vary depending on factors such as location and military status. Couples should expect to provide proof of identity, relationship status, and other relevant information during the filing process.

Waiting periods

Don’t forget about those pesky waiting periods. It’s crucial to ensure you factor in any state-mandated waiting periods when timing out the marriage process. Some states, such as Washington, have a waiting period of three days in between the receipt of the marriage license and the ability to have a wedding ceremony. (Wash. Rev. Code § 26.04.180). On the other hand, in some states like Virginia, there is no waiting period (Va. Code § 20-14.1) and you can get married the same day you get your license! Make sure to check with your state’s laws to understand if you need to factor in a waiting period into the military marriage process. 

Letting your commander know about your upcoming marriage/wedding

Making sure your commander or any supervisors are aware of your marriage is important. They may need to know for data keeping, protocol, and/or scheduling reasons. Also, make sure they are aware of the date of your actual wedding ceremony so you can ensure that your duties are properly handled while you’re away. You may need to wait a few days or weeks to get approval from your superiors for certain days “off” to get married. So make sure to factor in this time of getting your wedding day off approved.

Holding the wedding ceremony 

Don’t forget the most important part of the marriage process: getting married (a.k.a., having a wedding ceremony). This is often called “solemnization” which is just a fancy legal word for getting married. Remember, every state is different and there may be a waiting period between the time you get your license and the time you can actually get married. Luckily, in many states, they offer “rush wedding services” for members of the Armed Forces, which can speed up your military marriage process. For example, in San Francisco, they offer rush wedding services to military members. 

How to obtain formal proof of marriage after the wedding

After officially becoming married, you may want or need “proof” of your marriage. You can do this with a marriage certificate (which is different than a marriage license). A marriage certificate is the official document that says you got married properly. 

Whether it’s just for diligent record-keeping or to take advantage of military marriage benefits, making sure you have the correct documentation to prove your marriage is important. Some other reasons you may need a marriage certificate include updating legal documents, insurance policies, and beneficiary designations to reflect the change in relationship status.

You can obtain a marriage certificate from the place where you filed your marriage license. This is typically the County Clerk’s office in the location you are in. You’ll need to formally request a marriage certificate which may include paperwork, signatures, and possibly even notarization of documents. Check with your local area to find out what the requirements for a marriage certificate are. 

Potential obstacles in processing military marriages

Despite efforts to streamline the process, couples may encounter delays and challenges along the way. Common obstacles include missing or incomplete paperwork, changes in deployment schedules, and administrative errors. To mitigate these issues, couples are encouraged to seek legal assistance and leverage available support networks to navigate the complexities of military marriage.

The military marriage process is similar to a regular marriage, and you might have the option of using rush wedding services available in your state.

The process of processing a military marriage can vary in duration and complexity depending on various factors. By understanding the steps involved and proactively managing the process, couples can navigate the transition into military life more effectively. Communication, preparation, and access to legal assistance and support networks are essential elements for a successful military marriage.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Processing Military Marriages 

Let’s dive into some FAQs about the military marriage process.

Q: So, how long does it typically take to process a military marriage?

A: Let’s say you live in a state with a waiting period and a requirement pre-marital course or counseling. That means prior to applying for your marriage license, you’ll need to complete certain steps, such as pre-marital counseling. Then, from the time you apply to the time you say “I do,” it can be as quick as three calendar days (i.e., the waiting period) until you are “officially married.” BUT–if you need official documentation that your marriage is “legit” you may have to wait a few more days or weeks to get your hands on the official marriage certificate. Again, there may be Armed Forces rush services which may allow you to get these things faster. 


Q: What documents are required for filing a military marriage?

A: Required documents may include proof of identity, such as a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate, and any additional paperwork specific to the state, such as a marriage license application. 


Q: What should couples do if they encounter delays in the processing of their marriage application?

A: First, you’ll want to see if your state and location offers any rushed services for members of the Armed Forces. This means you may be able to get a rush order on your marriage license, wedding ceremony, and/or marriage certificate!

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