Legal Issues

State statutes that govern marriage are contained in North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 51

Qualification of Minister

Under state law, only persons who are magistrates or ministers, either ordained by a religious denomination or authorized by a church, may legally perform your marriage ceremony.

Qualifications of Marriage Applicants

Without a court order or parental permissions, state law restricts marriage to unmarried persons who are 18 years of age and older. No one under 14 years of age can be married. No one age 14 years and older but younger than 16 can be married except in cases of pregnancy and by court order. Persons who are 16 years of age and older but younger than 18 years of age can marry only with the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

It is unlawful for persons who are nearer of kin than first cousins to marry as well as double first cousins.

No physical examination is required prior to being married.

There must be at least two witnesses to the marriage ceremony.

Application, License & Certificate of Marriage

It is unlawful for a person, whether minister, magistrate or other person authorized to solemnize a marriage, to perform a wedding ceremony or declare a couple to be husband and wife until a license for marriage of the couple signed by the register of deeds or lawful deputy or assistant in the county where issued has been delivered to that person.

The register of deeds in any county can issue a marriage license. Some counties provide copies of the application online. Completing the application in advance can save you time.

It is the responsibility of the register of deeds to confirm that you are eligible to be married under the law of this state. To that end they will require that both the bride and groom appear before them. This requirement can only be waived by the submission of a sworn and notarized affidavit presented on behalf of the absent applicant.

Both applicants will be required to present identification and provide their social security numbers with verification by means of your Social Secuity Card or W-2 forms. Applicants age 21 years and older can present a current driver’s license, State ID Card, Passport or Military ID. Applicants under 21 years of age will be require to present a certified copy of a birth certificate.

Divorced applicants must provide the date the divorce was finalized, and some counties may require a certified copy of the divorce decree, particularly if the divorce was recent.

The license will be valid for a limited period of time – 60 days from the date of issuance. You may be married in any county regardless of what county issues the marriage license, but the completed license must be returned to the county where issued within 10 days of the ceremony.

For additional information or to check the specific requirements and office hours you can click on the following links for Register of Deeds Offices:

Other Legal Help

As a licensed and practicing attorney, I am able to help you with the legal issues already discussed as well as others.

  • If you are under 16 years of age and a pregnancy makes you eligible to marry, I can file the appropriate petitions and affidavits with the court.
  • If you or your intended are unable to appear before the register of deeds to secure your marriage license, I can draft and notarize the affidavit that must be presented.
  • Prenuptial Agreements – no one should enter into marriage assuming that the relationship will end in divorce. Even if that were to happen, most couples have no need to draft an agreement addressing that result. Under certain circumstances, however, a prenuptial agreement is an act of stewardship.

If you need legal assistance for these or other matters, I encourage you to visit the website of Ivie Law Firm, PLLC.

NOTE: Information contained within this site is not legal advice. Use of this site including the option to contact Ivie Law Firm, PLLC does not create an attorney-client relationship.