Marriage License Requirements in the State of Pennsylvania

The following information applies to West Chester and most other clerk offices:

All couples who want to be married in a "guaranteed secular ceremony" through Secular Ceremonies must obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage License. Due to misinformation and the lack of training given to marriage license clerks, difficulties have arisen. Margaret Downey is happy to escort all couples in order to guarantee that the proper license is obtained and that clerks will not force the couple into obtaining any license other than the Self-Uniting Marriage License. If a couple attempts to obtain the license on their own, the couple must be prepared for possible difficulties. All secular/atheist couples have the right to obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage Licenses! Do not let an uneducated clerk tell you any differently. By law, you do not have to be a Quaker to obtain a Self-Uniting Marriage License! There may be confusion in due to a lack of education and proper training, but The Pennsylvania Human Relations Department has process several complaints and has promised to intercede should difficulties arise. Remember, you do NOT have to be a Quaker to get the Self-Uniting License and this is the only way that your secular ceremony will be recognized by the state of Pennsylvania.

  • Marriage License Applications are taken MONDAY through FRIDAY
    between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ONLY.

  • BOTH Applicants must be in the office and registered by 4:00 p.m.


  1. The fee is $50.00 payable with Cash ONLY- Checks and credit cards are NOT accepted. If for any reason the marriage does not take place, there is no refund.
  2. BOTH applicants must appear together in the office to apply for the license. Both applicants must be in the office no later than 4 pm. No Exceptions!
  3. There is a 3 day waiting period before the license is valid so application must be made at least 3 days but not more than 60 days before the marriage date. (The chart in #4 shows the application day and corresponding issue/valid day.)
  4. Application day and issue day are as follows: 


    Monday of following week
    Monday of following week
    Monday of following week

    *If Legal Holiday, License is
    valid next business day

  5. License is valid for 60 days from the Issue date that appears on the License. If the license is not used within the 60 day period, the application process must be repeated in its entirety, including payment of the fee, to obtain a subsequent license.

  6. License can be used in any County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. An out- of- state marriage license CANNOT be used in Pennsylvania nor can a Pennsylvania marriage license be used out-of-state.

  7. An Applicant, who has one, is required to provide his/her Social Security Number. It is not necessary to present the Social Security Card. Federal and State law require the Social Security Number. It is confidential and not public record. If either applicant refuses to provide his or her Social Security Number, the application will be denied.
  8. Applicants must present at least one form of identification which shows their current legal name and date of birth. The applicant’s name will be entered on the marriage license exactly as it appears on the identification presented with no exceptions.
  9. If either applicant was previously married, the date of the most recent divorce, legal annulment, or death of previous spouse must be provided. If the divorce or legal annulment was final within 6 months of the application date, a Certified copy of the Final Decree must be presented. This document is retained by the office.
    If an applicant is under age 18, the following applies:
  • Applicant 16 or 17 years of age:
  • Custodial Parent must appear with the applicants, show Identification and sign a consent to the marriage. Additional Fee - $20.00 Cash Only
  • Applicant under 16 years of age:Additional Fee - $60.00 - Cash ONLY {Includes Parental and Court Consent} Custodial Parent must appear with the applicants, show Identification and sign a consent to the marriage. The applicants are then scheduled to appear before a Judge for the consent of the Court. The application is not taken until after the Court Consent Order is signed by the Judge!

Emergency Waiver of the 3 Day Waiting Period

  1. Except for Active Duty Military personnel, the waiver request must be submitted to the Marriage License Department for approval by the Court at least 2 working days BEFORE THE DAY OF THE APPLICATION. For example, if marriage day is Saturday, the latest day to submit waiver request is Wednesday. Application will not be taken until the waiver is approved by the Judge. Both of you should be prepared to return to apply at some time after the request is submitted.
  2. $25.00 fee must be paid when waiver request is submitted--Cash or Money Order Only. Checks are NOT accepted! Money order is payable to "Clerk of the Orphans' Court." Please do NOT mail cash! No requests are presented to the Judge unless the fee is paid. Active Duty Military personnel are NOT subject to this fee.
  3. Request must be in writing. Both applicants must sign the request. If either applicant is not able to sign the request, please provide an explanation.
  4. The reason for the waiver request must be given. Include date of marriage and time period involved.
  5. The request can be prepared by the applicants or on a form provided by the Marriage License Department. This may be obtained by phone, mail or in the office. Form is also available at our website. Click here for the Marriage License Waiver Request.
  6. Mail or hand deliver the request and fee to:

    Marriage License Department Chester County Justice Center
    201 W. Market Street, Suite 2200
    P.O. Box 2746
    West Chester, PA 19380-0989

Important Note about Marriage Laws in PA

Self-uniting marriages, in which couples marry themselves without a member of the clergy or other officiant present, are legal in Pennsylvania.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania’s (ACLUPA) website, the tradition of self-uniting marriages dates back to 1681 with its roots in the state’s Quaker population. Because the religious sect does not have ministers, members of the faith traditionally “self-united” in marriage.

Although often referred to as “Quaker licenses,” self-uniting licenses” do not require applicants to practice a specific — or any — religion.

In 2007, ACLUPA filed a federal civil rights suit on behalf of an Allegheny County couple who had been denied a self-uniting license because they weren’t Quaker. The case ended with the court ruling that the license could not be denied to anyone.

Self-uniting licenses are similar to the traditional version, which is signed by an officiant, and legally valid. Once granted, licenses of both types are valid for 60 days in any Pennsylvania county.

A Pennsylvania self-uniting marriage is legally recognized everywhere in the United States. It is important to note that not all towns in Pennsylvania will allow this type of marriage to be performed. Secular Celebrations, objects to this type of disparity and will file a complaint on behalf of all couples who are discriminated against.

Other states that allow some form of self-uniting marriage are Wisconsin, Colorado, The District of Columbia, California, Maine and Nevada.