Begin Free Online Ordination
Washington State Capitol Building

Washington Wedding Laws

The diverse landscape of Washington offers something for everyone. With stunning coastline views, impressive mountain ranges, and 15 national parks, it's no surprise that more than half of Washington's marriage ceremonies take place outdoors. Whether you are planning an indoor or outdoor wedding event, this guide provides everything you need to know about Washington's marriage code. More specifically, it will help you understand the legal requirements that must be met by the couple and the minister, how to procure a marriage license, and what needs to be done both during and after the ceremony to ensure a legally binding marriage.

Getting Married in Washington

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes
Number of Witnesses Required:
2
Min. Age of Witnesses:
18 Years
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

Washington requires that all weddings be attended by the marrying couple, the officiant, and two witnesses who are at least 12 years of age. The state does not allow for marriage by proxy, so all wedding participants must be physically present at the ceremony.

While the couple can determine the length, style, and content of their ceremony, Washington marriage law does require the inclusion of two traditional affirmations. First, the couple must express their consent to marry with the familiar "I do" or an alternative that expresses the same sentiment. Second, the officiating minister must pronounce the couple as legally wed before officially ending the ceremony.

Washington Marriage Requirements

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18 or Age 17 With Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
Second Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

An early advocate of marriage equality, Washington has been welcoming same-sex couples to marry there since 2012. There are also no residency restrictions. Whether you permanently reside in Washington, another state, or even another country, "The Evergreen State" is happy to host your wedding ceremony.

The minimum age requirement for marrying in Washington is 18 years old, but there are a couple of exceptions. First, if you are 17 years old and have received parental consent, you can legally enter into marriage.

Second, minors under the age of 17 can marry under extraordinary circumstances. In such cases, couples must petition the court and demonstrate "special circumstances" in an effort to gain the necessary approval.

How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Washington

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:
After Ceremony
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

Washington has no requirements regarding the officiant's residency, faith, or gender. However, only individuals who are 18 years of age or older can officiate a wedding ceremony in the state of Washington. This should not be a problem since the Universal Life Church does not ordain ministers who are younger than this.

To ensure compliance with all county regulations, the minister should contact the office from which the marriage license was issued. Documentation requirements vary across the state, so most ministers order ULC's Classic Wedding Package to be fully prepared.

If the issuing office requests documentation, be prepared to present it before the wedding. ULC also recommends that you submit the requested papers, along with the signed marriage license, after the ceremony is over. It is worth noting that the marriage license does not normally require a church-issued ID number.

Applying For a Marriage License in Washington

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
3 Days
License Valid For:
60 Days
License Must Be Submitted:
By Expiration

When applying for a marriage license, you should specifically request a religious ceremony license rather than a civil ceremony license. The type of license is determined by the officiant of the ceremony rather than the beliefs of the couple. In other words, if a justice of the peace or civil servant performs the ceremony, a civil ceremony license is the appropriate choice. If a religious actor, such as a minister ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiates the ceremony, a religious ceremony license is required.

If you aren't religious, don't worry. Although the license is classified as religious, the ceremony does not need to include religious elements, references, customs, appeals, or rituals.

After the marriage license has been issued, there is a 3-day waiting period before the couple can legally wed. Because Washington law is firm on this issue, waivers are never granted. Consequently, the couple should plan ahead and register early to avoid potential issues.

Once the 3-day window has passed, the marriage license remains valid until 60 days after the date of issuance. Within that timeframe of approximately two months, the ceremony must take place, and the license must be returned and filed with the issuing office.

How to Get a Washington Marriage License

Who Picks Up License:
The Couple
Where License is Valid:
Any County in Washington
Marriage License Pick-Up:
In Person Only
Cost of License:
Varies by County
Accepted I.D. Types:
Standard Government Issued
Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
Yes
Blood Test Required:
No

To obtain a marriage license, both members of the couple should apply in person with the clerk's office in the specific county where the ceremony is scheduled to take place. Residency does not impact this requirement, so if the couple resides in one county but is marrying in another, the license should be obtained from the same county as the planned ceremony. It is worth noting that in rare cases, the county's probate court, recorder office, or county auditor can also issue the license.

In all cases, though, both members of the couple must prove their age and identity with a government-issued photo ID, and if either party was previously married, a final decree of dissolution must be provided. While no blood test is required, the issuing office charges a fee that can vary from county to county.

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 ceremony has concluded, the officiant must attend to a few remaining tasks to ensure the union is legally recognized. First, immediately after the ceremony, the officiant should oversee the signing of the marriage license by both the couple and the witnesses. It is imperative to watch carefully because any omissions or mistakes can result in the need for a new license.

Next, the minister should complete the officiant section of the marriage license. Requested information will likely include name, title ("minister"), and ordaining body ("Universal Life Church Ministries"). Please note that if the address of the minister's church is requested, it is best to use your own address rather than that of the ULC headquarters in the case they need to contact you.

Once the marriage license is completed, either the couple or the minister can return it to the county office that issued it. It must be returned within the mandated timeframe of 60 days from issuance, and any failure to do so can result in criminal charges of negligence or malice against the officiant, as well as a fine of up to $300. For these reasons, most ministers choose to complete the task themselves.

While officiants are not required to report any information about planned or completed weddings to the Universal Life Church, ULC does recommend that each minister keep a detailed record of every ceremony performed. This is especially critical when there is payment for services or a signed contract involved.