Before getting married in Chicago or suburban Cook County, you’ll need to apply for and obtain a Cook County marriage license in person.
As a wedding planner, we always tell our clients that the small things on the wedding day are the most important and easiest to forgot about: those pesky rings, the marriage license, deodorant (but literally do not forget about deodorant!). Here’s a quick guide to getting your marriage license checked off the list as painlessly as possible.
How to Get a Chicago / Cook County Marriage License
The first step is to click this link and read everything as a starting point to wrap your brain around things. Make sure you are eligible (18 years of age or older, not blood relatives, not already be married to someone else). If you are lined up in the basement of a Cook County government building, I am going to guess you have these first couple under control, but I am just going to tell you that this is not that place you want to realize you are still married to someone else, or vice versa. Triple-check that one.
As with any great system, there are a few exceptions. Feel free to stay in line if you are first cousins older than 50, or if you are 16 or 17 years old, you have to have a parent with you to give consent. (If this is you, make sure to review the Cook County Clerk’s website, as there are a few more hoops to jump through.)
To jumpstart the process, you can fill out the application online here. Either way you’ll need to head to one of the locations listed and keep in mind a few key points: you both have to be there, you both need a valid form of ID (driver’s license or passport) and you are going to need $60.
You’ll get it while you wait, it’s valid the next day, and it’s valid for 60 days in total, so plan accordingly. If you can get your signature legible enough and in the box provided, (this took us a couple of tries) you’ll walk out with a piece of paper that gives you license to wed.
Going at odd hours will increase the likelihood that you won’t have to wait. A lot of people go before/after 9-5 working hours, and at lunch so if you can go at 3:00 in the afternoon, you probably won’t have to wait as long.
Whatever ID you show, your name will be written on your marriage license exactly how it is on that specific form of ID. If you care whether your middle initial is used, or your full middle name is used, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Weird Science: You need to know your mothers maiden name and you need to know what state your parents were born. I found these two questions to be the strangest.
Give this to your wedding planner at the rehearsal at the very latest. We like to take it when we pick up all of your place cards, table numbers, etc. so you can forget about it and we can double-check that we have everything ready on the day of. If you are working with Anticipation Events, we make sure it gets filled out and we scan a copy and email it to you the next day.
Then we just go ahead and drop it in the mail for you, because it does need to get to the Clerk’s office in short order and hopefully you are jetting off to a honeymoon. If you want a commemorative copy to hang in your kitchen or keep in your wallet, you do have to request a copy so don’t assume one is coming in the mail for free. This is the government we are talking about.
In Cook County the only person who has to sign your marriage license is your officiant, so no witnesses necessary.
The easiest parts of wedding planning are things you don’t have to make any decisions about, and you have to get a marriage license if you want to make it legal. So let this be an easy task to cross of your growing list and then treat yourself to a cocktail for a job well done!