*Updated on 12/29/2020
Elopements are such a great alternative to a traditional wedding. They usually consist of 10 or fewer guests and can happen pretty much anywhere! If you are debating an elopement for your wedding day, I would recommend hiring an experienced wedding planner who can help you navigate the logistics of making the magic happen. Depending on your preferred location, there may be rules and regulations to sift through before you can officially say “I do”. To get you started, here are the basics of pulling off an elopement in Texas. As a treat, I provided a guide to navigating elopements and weddings in other destinations as well as information on legalizing a wedding in Texas during the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic.
Choose a location
There are a variety of spectacular locations in Texas to elope. We have gorgeous beaches on one side of the state and canyons on the other. According to The Knot “Other legal requirements, such as whether your Texas wedding will require a permit, depend on local laws. The City of Galveston, for example, doesn’t require permits for weddings held on public beaches so long as the event doesn’t disrupt the public use of the space and doesn’t involve the use of chairs or amplifiers. Corpus Christi doesn’t require weddings in public parks to get permits, but you will have to notify the park management staff and work with them to organize your event. To get married in one of Houston’s public parks, however, you’ll need to get a permit.”
Hire an ordained minister
Hiring an ordained minister does not need to be a daunting task. You can ask one of your closest friends or a family to become ordained for your special day. There are quite a few organizations that make becoming ordained a breeze. I am actually ordained through Universal Life Church and had a wonderful experience with them.
Apply for a marriage license
You can apply in person at your local County Clerk’s Office. There is a fee to obtain a marriage license and you will need to check with your County Clerk’s Office on the proper personal documentation required to file. Make sure you notify your ordained minister of which county your license is from. Your ordained minister has to verify their information is on file at your marriage license’s county.
In Texas, you can apply for your marriage license at your local county and the license is valid for a wedding in any county in the state of Texas. It is important to note that the license needs to be returned to the county it was filed in. If you do not live in Texas and are eloping here, you will need to file for your marriage license in the state of Texas for your marriage to be legal in Texas.
Wait a minimum of 72 hours
Yes, the State of Texas requires all couples to wait a period of 72 hours before performing a ceremony. During this time you can celebrate filing your license over a glass of champagne! There are some exceptions to this rule and it is best to check with your county to see if your situation applies.
Elope within 90 days
Your marriage license is only valid for 90 days AFTER the issue date. If you elope 90 days after the issue date, you will need to apply for a new license. We recommend you apply for a license a month before your actual wedding date.
Sign your marriage license
Make sure you bring your marriage license with you on your wedding day. Your signed and dated marriage license must be returned back to the original County Clerk’s Office.
Each state and country has different rules and regulations on legalizing a marriage. It is best to work with a professional destination wedding planner to navigate other destination’s policies. A perfect example is if you are planning a destination wedding in Mexico, in order for the marriage to be legal in Mexico you will need to provide a long list of items including “a physician’s certificate stating that according to the blood tests and x-rays taken in Mexico, neither applicant suffers from any contagious disease.” – Embassies of Mexico For this reason (and SO many others), many couples legalize their wedding in the United States and have a symbolic ceremony abroad. If you are planning a wedding abroad, make sure you check with your chosen country’s policies on marriage.
If you are planning on having a destination elopement or wedding in the United States, it is best to check with the local County Clerk’s Office of your desired location. Each state has its own requirements for the following:
- Identification needed to file for a license
- State residency requirements
- Age requirements
- License expiration
- Required wait time
- Blood test requirement in the chosen state
- Proxy marriage legal in the chosen state (A proxy wedding or proxy marriage is a wedding in which one or both of the individuals being united are not physically present, usually being represented instead by other persons).
- Amount of witnesses needed
For more information on each state’s requirements, I recommend reading this WeddingWire article.
How to Legalize Weddings Impacted By COVID-19
So you’re a COVID-19 bride and still wanted to get married while the County Clerk’s Office in Texas is closed, what do you do?! We connected with the Director of Personal Records to find out how to navigate this.
You obtained your marriage license before the office closed: Just like all marriage licenses, you have 90 days to perform your ceremony and submit your license by mail for your wedding to be legal. The Harris County Clerk’s Office is accepting mail and will honor the date on licenses obtained before the offices closed.
You do not have a marriage license: Unfortunately, you cannot legalize your marriage without a marriage license and the County Clerk’s office will not backdate marriage licenses to reflect a date BEFORE you applied for it. For example, if you apply for your license on May 20, 2020 (when they are projected to open) and had a ceremony on May 1, 2020 you cannot backdate your license to reflect a wedding date of May 1, 2020. The ONLY option for a previous date to be used is if a Declaration of Informal Marriage was obtained, and those are only accepted under certain circumstances.
If you decide to have an elopement during the pandemic and do not have a license, the ceremony will be symbolic. Once the County Clerk’s Office or Court House is open, you can make your marriage official! Just remember, marriage is about two people who love each other. You can still celebrate it on the date of your ceremony for years to come.
If you love this story, you will LOVE Jessica and Brian’s Big Sur Elopement!
Unveiled Bliss is Unveiled Bliss is a destination wedding planning and event company based in Houston, TX and available worldwide. We’re Brittany + Taylor – a duo who uses our complementary skill sets to provide unmatched service, elevated style, and vision to plan and design exceptional weddings and other-worldly experiences.
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