Getting married is a very personal and private event, but your marriage record isn’t nearly as private. In the United States, marriage licenses and records are classified as Vital Statistics and are available to the public. That means that anyone who has a bit of basic information about the people who were married can view, and even receive, a copy of your marriage record.
Why Would Someone Want Your Marriage Record?
There are many reasons that someone may want access to your marriage record.
- A couple may need a new copy because the original was lost or destroyed
- A family member may need it for genealogy research
- An heir may need a copy of the marriage license to prove death benefit eligibility
Most of the time a request for a marriage record is made with no malice intended, but marriage licenses do contain personal information that could be used by stalkers and other people wishing to cause you harm. Unfortunately, you can do little about this. Records of marriage are a matter of public record, and while that may be a bit scary, publicly available records make it easy for you or a family member to prove entitlement to certain rights in the event of a divorce or death.
So, how do people get your marriage record? Let’s look at some of the ways.
Background Information Required
Before someone can view or request a copy of a marriage record, they need to know some basic information about the married couple. In most cases, here’s what they need to know:
- The name of the bride and groom
- Where the marriage license was granted (at least the state, preferably the county)
- The date of the wedding
With that information, anyone can find your marriage record.
Where to Find Marriage Records
The first place for someone to start when trying to find your marriage record is to go to the courthouse in the county that issued the marriage license. Records can be viewed for free and a printed copy is available for a small fee.
Marriage records can also be obtained through many state’s Office of Vital Statistics departments. You will need the same information as you would if you went to the county courthouse. While many states keep records of marriage licenses at the state level, some do not. If the state you were married in doesn’t keep statewide records, you will need to contact the county courthouse that originally issued the license.
An online records search is another way people may be able to obtain your marriage record. In the U.S., the National Center for Health Statistics is probably the best place to start. Searching the website is simple.
- Go to the National Center for Health Statistics website.
- At the top of the page, click “M”
- Scroll down until you see “Marriage Certificates — see Vital Records.” Click it.
- Select the state in which the marriage occurred.
When you select the state where the marriage occurred, you’ll be taken to a page that instructs you how to obtain a copy of the marriage record. The page will list any fees the state requires as well as any restrictions on who can view vital records. In many states, you cannot order marriage records online. In those states, marriage record requests must be completed in person or via written request to the specific county courthouse where the license was originally granted.