Military Marriage Requirements

Feb 19, 2024 | marriage, Military Wedding, Wedding

Marriage isn’t just about love – it’s a legal journey too. That means getting a marriage license, making sure you’re legally good to go, and ticking off any extra boxes your state might throw at you. And if you’re in the military, things get even more interesting. So, if you’re thinking of saying “I do” while being in the military, it’s best to understand the laws that apply to you so you can understand if your marriage is valid. Keep reading to untangle the maze of marriage laws, military quirks, and overseas adventures. Let’s dive in together!


What is marriage? 

Marriage is a profound commitment between two individuals, backed by legal recognition and obligations. Beyond the emotional connection, marriage is a formal agreement that grants partners certain rights and responsibilities under US law. These rights include property rights, inheritance rights, and decision-making authority, particularly in matters concerning finances, healthcare, and childcare. Marriage also establishes legal protections for both partners, such as spousal privilege in court proceedings and the right to make medical decisions for each other in case of incapacity. Additionally, marriage can impact tax filing status, eligibility for government benefits, and immigration status for international couples. In the context of the military, marriage opens up a plethora of benefits for couples that get married, such as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). 


What are the requirements for marriage? 

The criteria are straightforward, albeit they may differ from one state to another. Generally, there are three primary marriage requirements across all states:

  1. Marriage license 

Future spouses, regardless of gender, must secure a marriage license from the relevant state authority, typically a county clerk, city clerk, or clerk of the court. Often, a nominal fee is required for the license. For example, in San Francisco, California, the fee for a marriage license is $120. 

  1. Legal capacity

Both individuals intending to marry must possess the legal capacity to do so. This entails neither being currently married, meeting age requirements (18+), and comprehending the significance of marriage (mental capacity). If one party lacks capacity due to intoxication, mental illness, or another issue, the marriage may be deemed invalid.

  1. Other requirements

Some states have other random requirements, such as mandating a pre-marriage blood test for venereal diseases before issuing the license, though this isn’t the case in most states. In jurisdictions where blood tests are required, some may withhold the license if either party tests positive, while others may permit the marriage with full disclosure. Additionally, in a few states, couples might need to demonstrate immunity or vaccination against specific diseases or provide proof of a general physical examination.


Is my marriage valid in the state or country I am stationed in? 

In most cases, yes, but there are some exceptions. In the United States, marriages conducted in one state are acknowledged by other states and the military unless they violate specific public policies like incest. The same goes for if you are stationed overseas on a US base–your US marriage is deemed valid and acknowledged by the US military in another country where you’re stationed, as long as it’s not violating any public policies. Whether or not that marriage is valid off base in the country you are in is a different question.

If you are wondering whether or not the country itself recognizes the marriage, well, that depends on the country. Many countries will recognize a US marriage as long as certain criteria are met, such as proof of a valid marriage certificate. For example, let’s say you are stationed in the UK, and you want to know if your marriage is valid in the country outside of the US military base. In the UK, a US marriage is recognized as long as it was done correctly in the US and doesn’t violate any of the UK’s laws, such as incest. 


Getting married while stationed overseas

If you are a servicemember and want to get married to a non-US citizen while stationed overseas, you may do so as long as your specific military branch allows this. You may have to follow certain protocols, such as notifying your commanding officer. Furthermore, note that you may want to be cautious as marrying someone overseas can hinder your military clearance level. 

The US embassy in your location can typically perform marriages overseas. However, it may come with more obstacles than if you were getting married stateside, such as security checks on your non-US citizen partner. These overseas marriages done by a US embassy will be recognized once you get back to the US. 

However, if you get married outside of the US embassy, then whether or not your marriage is valid may depend on several factors. In this situation, the US Department of State recommends reaching out to the Attorney General to determine if your overseas marriage is valid. To avoid the headache of having to reach out to the Attorney General, you may want to consider getting married at a US embassy to ensure you comply with all of the US requirements for a valid marriage. 



Marriage isn’t just about rings and vows; it’s a legal pact with its own set of rules, especially when you’re serving your country. Whether you’re saying “I do” stateside or overseas, understanding the ins and outs of military marriage requirements is key to a hassle-free journey into wedded bliss. So, keep those paperwork ducks in a row and get ready to embark on this exciting chapter of life together. Congrats and happy wedding planning!

Frequently Asked Questions about Military Marriage Requirements

Below, we discuss some of the most frequently asked questions about military marriage requirements. 

Q: What are the basic requirements for getting married in the US?

A: To tie the knot legally in the US, it depends on what state you are in. You’ll typically need to obtain a marriage license, ensure you meet legal capacity requirements (like being of a certain age and not already married), and fulfill any additional state-specific criteria, such as blood tests in some states.


Q: Are there any different requirements for getting married while in the military? 

A: No. Besides potentially notifying your commanding officer or following certain job-related logistics, the state law that you are in will dictate what you need to do to get married. 


Q: What if I want to get married overseas while in the military?

A: This is possible, but first, you’ll need to check if your military branch allows it and follow any protocols, like informing your commanding officer. Getting married at a US embassy overseas is an excellent option, as it ensures compliance with US marriage requirements.


Q: Will my marriage be recognized in another state or country?

A: While your marriage is usually recognized within the US military, its validity off base in another country depends on local laws and compliance with their requirements. However, while on base overseas, your marriage will be recognized by the US military (as long as it does not violate any public policies, such as incest). 


Q: What if I have questions about the validity of my overseas marriage to a non-US citizen?

A: If you’re uncertain about the validity of your overseas marriage, the US Department of State recommends reaching out to the Attorney General for guidance. Alternatively, consider getting married at a US embassy overseas to ensure compliance with US requirements.


Q: Can my non-US citizen spouse come back to the US with me if we were married abroad? 

A: If you are a military personnel who married a non-US citizen while overseas, that doesn’t guarantee automatic immigration admission for your new spouse. You’ll need to speak with an immigration attorney who can help you and your new spouse file the proper paperwork to get your spouse granted a spousal visa.

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