Special Section

9 Things You Need to Know to Get Married in Wisconsin

V1 Staff, photos by Andrea Paulseth |


When it comes to marriage, there are laws. No, not the don’t-leave-the-toilet-seat-up kind of laws: We mean actual legal requirements written in actual law books. To save you the trouble of dusting off your copy of the Wisconsin statutes, we – with the help of the Eau Claire County Clerk’s office – have compiled this list of must-dos and must-haves make the knot you tie legally binding.

1. Get to the clerk’s office

If you’re a Wisconsin resident getting married in the Badger State, you must apply at the County Clerk’s office in the county you (or your betrothed) has lived in for the past 30 days. If you’re not actually getting married in that county, don’t sweat it: The license is good anywhere in the state. And while both bride and groom have to apply in person, they don’t have to do so at the same time.

2. Out-of-state addition

However, if neither spouse-to-be has lived in Wisconsin for the past 30 days, the couple must apply in person in the county where they will be married.

3. Your license expires

Love may be eternal, but marriage licenses have expiration dates. You must apply for a license at least seven days – but not more than 35 days – before the wedding. The license will be issued five days later, and must be used within 30 days.

4. Gather your paperwork

To get your marriage license, you’ll need some other official documents, too. Here’s a checklist:

A certified birth certificate, which you can get from the Register of Deeds office in the county where you were born. (Note: It has to be a certified copy, so hospital-issued certificates, faxed copies, photocopies, etc., won’t do.)

Photo IDs for both people (driver’s license, passport, school ID, etc.).

Proof of current address of where you’ve lived for the past 30 days (driver’s license, lease, bank statement, bill, etc.).

If you’ve been married before, you’ll need a signed and dated copy of the divorce decree or annulment from your previous marriage (or your late spouse’s death certificate). Also, you have to wait six months after you’re granted a divorce before you remarry.

5. Get your digits

You’ll need your Social Security number for the license application. (Pro tip: You should memorize this – and your anniversary date – to avoid problems later.)

6. Know your details

To complete the application, you’ll need the date of the wedding, where it will take place (both the city, village, or town as well as the church, facility, etc., where it will be held), and the officiant’s name and address.

7. Bring some dough

The license costs $80, and (in Eau Claire County at least) they don’t accept out-of-state checks, credit cards, or bank cards. And if you get jilted at the altar, tough luck: The fee is nonrefundable.

8. Romeo and Juliet beware

You must be at least 16 years old to get married in Wisconsin. If you’re between 16 and 18 years old, you’ll need the consent of your parent or guardian.

9. Same-sex? Sorry Sign here, please!

UPDATE! As of October 2014, same-sex couples can marry in Wisconsin – basically negating this item on this last, which was written nine months earlier. (Hey, it was accurate at the time!) On Oct. 6, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up an appeal to a lower court’s decision in the case of Wolf v. Walker, which sought to overturn the state’s ban on gay marriage. (Fun fact: The Wolf in question is Eau Claire’s Virginia Wolf, who – along with her wife, Carol Schumacher – was one of the plaintiffs in the case.) Wisconsin hasn’t caught up with the 19 other states (and the District of Columbia) that allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. You’ll have to settle for the state’s domestic partner registry (which provides 43 rights compared with the 200-plus that married couples get under state law) or traveling to one of Wisconsin’s neighbors – Minnesota, Iowa, or (as of June 1, 2014) Illinois – where same-sex nuptials are legal.


Chippewa County
711 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls • (715) 726-7980

Dunn County
800 Wilson Ave., Room 147, Menomonie • (715) 232-1677

Eau Claire County
721 Oxford Ave., Eau Claire • (715) 839-4803