So what is required to get your marriage license in Pennsylvania? Whether you’re getting married in a traditional way, eloping or even self-uniting, you must obtain a marriage license, and I will give you a step by step guide on how to do it, where to go, how long it’ll take, how much it will be, and a major BONUS tip on how to book a gorgeous wedding venue in a very economical way!
You can apply for this license in any county of Pennsylvania by going to the courthouse or applying online with a video interview – if the county offers that service. If you’re in Pittsburgh’s Allegheny county, you can apply online by filling out this form. Make sure you have a valid e-mail address and to apply in the in the same county where you plan to marry.
There is a three-day “maturation” period for all Pennsylvania marriage licenses, meaning the license becomes valid three days after the court issues it. Once those three days have passed, the license is valid for 60 days. So planning to get your marriage license at least two to three weeks prior to the day of your wedding will keep everything running smoothly and on track.
To obtain a Pennsylvania marriage license you must be 18 years old, and you will need to present proof of your identity (with state-issued IDs) and your Social Security number (either your Social Security card, or a W-2 form from an employer). If you have previously been married, you will need to submit either a death certificate for your previous spouse, or a divorce decree. Some counties will also ask you to state, but not prove, where your parents were born. No blood test is required. License application fees vary slightly from county to county but are approximately $85 or less.
In most counties, there is an option to have your marriage certificate automatically mailed to you after your wedding officiant has filed your marriage license with the courthouse. Other counties will require you to pick up your marriage certificate at the courthouse when it is ready. In a few counties, there is an additional fee to receive a copy of your marriage certificate, or there may be a postage fee to mail it to you.
Pennsylvania does not (under most circumstances – see next paragraph) require any witness signatures on a marriage license. Only the wedding officiant is required to sign any part of the license. They are also legally responsible for filing the license for you. So if you were concerned about having to have at least two people present for your elopement, you can put that issue aside. You can get married with just your wedding officiant.
Now that we know everything about the traditional Pennsylvania marriage license, let’s talk about the famous self-uniting marriage license you can also apply to if you’re a resident in PA. What’s special about these licenses is that it do not require you to have a recognized officiant. They are in some ways the ultimate DIY option.
With a self-uniting license, a couple officiates their own ceremony. (Another person may preside over the ceremony, but only in an unofficial capacity.) Afterward, you, the couple and their two witnesses sign the license. You will also be responsible for seeing that the license is properly executed and filed with the courthouse and return the license to the Marriage License Department within 10 days of the ceremony.
This type of license is sometimes referred to as a Quaker license because those of the Quaker faith traditionally did not recognize the authority of church or state to create a marriage. In their view, it was only by the consent of the couple themselves and their announcement to their community that they could become married. As a colony founded on the principle of religious freedom, Pennsylvania made allowances for this Quaker observance within state law, and they persist to this day. There is no requirement to be a Quaker to apply for a self-uniting marriage license. Those of any or no faith may request one.
Quakers are members of the Religious Society of Friends, a branch of Protestantism that split off from the Church of England in the 1650s. To escape religious persecution in England and later in the Massachusetts colony, Quakers established communities in the Delaware Valley. This included present-day Pennsylvania, which was founded by a Quaker scholar named William Penn.
If you’re not a resident of Pennsylvania, no worries! Self-uniting marriage licenses can be legally obtained in eight U.S. states California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Nevada, Pennsylvania) and in the District of Columbia. That said, requirements and stipulations do vary by state, and sometimes even vary by counties within a state. In Maine, for example, only followers of certain religious faiths (Quaker and Baháʼí) are permitted to obtain self-uniting marriage licenses, while Pennsylvania and D.C. will grant self-uniting licenses regardless of religious affiliation.
If you’re living in Pittsburgh, I would strongly recommend that you check out the Allegheny County Courthouse located in 436 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. This courthouse is not only incredibly gorgeous but a piece of architectural art, designed by H. H. Richardson. The buildings are considered among the finest examples of the Romanesque Revival style for which Richardson is well known.
Every time I have an elopement or a courthouse wedding, I’m always hoping we’ll have it at the Allegheny County Courthouse. Let me tell you how to reserve this venue for free for your wedding ceremony!
Once you have your appointment with the judge and you know the date you’re getting married, you will fill out this application to book the staircase for a two hour window, which is included included with the fees of the marriage application and license, which will come to $80.00
Once the Allegheny Venue coordinators get back to you and you’re good to go on your date, you will then file a permit and after that you will just let them know how many chairs you’d like to have in front of the staircase.
My beautiful bride, Val book a violinist to play music right before the ceremony, which just elevated it the elegance and sentiment of the wedding ceremony. The judge was so nice, and everything was like a dream come true, even for me who I was there capturing the beauty of it all. You can check out her tik-tok video where she goes through her entire process here!
If you are looking to have a Pittsburgh courthouse wedding or elopement, I suggest you book your photographer for a bit longer so that you can enjoy taking photos after the ceremony in the gorgeous Downtown Pittsburgh has right outside of the courthouse, which will give you variety in your wedding album and a very fun experience.