Guide to Maryland Marriage Records
Table of Contents
It's easy to forget that your marital tasks don't end after the ceremony. There are typically several post-wedding tasks to handle after saying "I do", such as changing your last name, adopting new stepchildren, or informing your HR department at the office.
You may even need your Maryland marriage record from the state decades later since the government requires it as proof for some social security purposes. Regardless of when and why you need the record, these tasks become significantly more manageable if you request it beforehand.
What Are Maryland Marriage Records
A marriage record, also called a marriage certificate, is surprisingly barebone by government standards. It's a single page and only includes:
- The spouse's name at the time of marriage.
- Witnesses' signatures.
- The officiant's name.
- The date of the ceremony.
Some areas also include the name of the county filing the record.
This amount of information allows the government to vouch for your marriage without making it unsafe for public records. It's also enough to track a genealogical line for research purposes.
There are a few cases when a marriage record isn't concrete enough proof. Sometimes, the government will request additional evidence for a "bona fide" marriage, but this only happens when there's reasonable suspicion of marital fraud.
Where are Marriage Records Kept?
Maryland marriage records are spread between three places. These locations include the Division of Vital Records, the State Archives, and the county court that processed the original license. You can request a certified copy of your marriage record from any of these options, but the selection is limited.
The State Archives only keeps marriage certificates from 1914 to 2011. If you were married in the Anne Arundel or Montgomery counties, you can also find marriage records from 2012 to 2013.
Maryland's Vital Records Division maintains marriage records processed after January 1, 2007. You must have an appointment to visit their offices, but that's not much of an issue as they also accommodate online and mail ordering if you're willing to wait a few weeks.
Each county's circuit court keeps records of the marriages filed there, even if the ceremony was not held in that county. The courts submit the records to public records but do not delete them from their database. This makes county courts the most reliable place to find them if you know where the marriage occurred.
In most cases, marriage licenses and certificates refer to the same document. The only difference is that a marriage license is given to the couple before the wedding and becomes the marriage certificate after the witnesses and officiant sign it.
Maryland Marriage Statistics
Accurately tracking marriage statistics is essential for creating policies and programs that help society. The success of marriages within a state is one indicator of the health and happiness of its citizens.
Publicizing this information helps people decide if they're ready for marriage and the potential obstacles they'll face along the way. We've collected some of the most relevant marriage statistics for that purpose.
- Marriage Rates: Maryland's marriage rate is 5.2 per thousand people, slightly lower than the national average of 6. The annual number of marriages has fallen significantly in the past few decades, aligning with national trends.
- Average Marrying Age: Couples are choosing to delay marriage later than ever, with men marrying at 30.3 years and women at 28.7. This trend is closely tied to changes in the population's earning potential. In 2023, Maryland had the highest median income rate in the US.
- Average Duration Before Divorce: On average, unsuccessful Maryland marriages last roughly 10.5 years, three years longer than the rest of the country. However, Maryland only allows absolute divorces, which require a 12-month separation period for couples. This policy may affect the reported marriage length.
- Divorce Rates: According to the CDC, Maryland has 1.6 divorces per thousand people. This ranks Maryland at 47 out of 50 in terms of divorce rates.
How to Find Maryland Marriage Records
Maryland marriage records are stored in three places, so you have various options for ordering yours today. First, you must decide whether you need a certified copy or are just looking for information.
Each county can verify the record's existence with a phone call, which should be enough for many genealogical purposes. However, a stamped certification is likely required if you need to present the evidence to another party.
Applicants can order by mail, in person, or through a third-party service but must supply the same information regardless of the method.
- Spouse's names BEFORE marriage
- The issuing county (may not be necessary if contacting the county directly)
- Date of the ceremony
Other information that's not required but may be helpful includes:
- Nature of the applicant's connection with the couple
- Witness names
Online orders are made through VitalChek, a third-party service with contracts with many states. VitalChek doesn't have direct access to Maryland's databases but instead works as a middleman and makes requests on your behalf.
This may sound unnecessary when you could order the record yourself, but VitalChek cuts out all the frustrating parts of dealing with a government office. There are no long waiting queues, tracking down obscure forms, or being put on hold forever.
All you have to do is follow the prompts starting at this page and pay the appropriate fees. The estimated cost for going through VitalChek is $23.75 plus shipping. The latter cost could double the price of your order. Although it's more expensive than going in person, VitalChek is a convenient service for people who are short on time or have moved away.
The available offline ordering methods are mail and in-person orders. Both methods work for the Division of Vital Records (DVR) or county circuit courts, but the DVR only accepts in-person visits by appointment. You can set up your visit here.
When ordering through the mail, send a self-addressed letter alongside an "Application for Certified Copy of Maryland Marriage Record", a photocopy of a PHOTO ID, and a $12 check/money order. Payment must be made to the Division of Vital Records for the exact amount, or the letter will be returned without processing.
If the record cannot be found after searching the supplied year and the years directly before and after, the DVR will send back a Record of Search. This is a notification that an attempt was made. In these cases, your payment is not refunded.
The mailing process is the same for county circuit courts. The only difference is that the costs may vary, and you'll need to make the check payable to the court. You will use the same form as before. Each court may have a unique application form, but they all have the same fields and can be used interchangeably.
Visiting in person is the most reliable option for getting your marriage record on the day of. VitalChek and mail orders can expect to wait at least five weeks before receiving a response.
In-person applicants should bring a completed application, payment method, and ID. Unlike with mail orders, you can pay with any major credit card when attending personally.
What Is NOT Included in Marriage Records and Potential Errors and Omissions
Marriage records omit any information that doesn't help verify a union. You won't find social security numbers, birth dates, or physical identifiers on them. These documents are useless for anyone attempting to steal an identity or commit fraud.
If there's an error on your marriage record, you'll want to correct that as soon as possible. A misspelling may conflict with future applications toward social security or court processes if the listed names don't match up to your identifications.
Either spouse can make an appointment to correct an error on their marriage record. These changes must be performed through the county office that filed the license, although it may be possible to do so over the phone.
County Circuit Court Directory
Separate counties may have different requirements for ordering a marriage certificate. You can call the courts to confirm the process. Not having the correct papers at a government facility and being sent home will ruin most people's week.
We've listed the contact information for the most populous Maryland counties below.
|Prince George's County
|Anne Arundel County
|Baltimore City County
FAQ on Marriage Records in Maryland
How long will it take to get a copy of my marriage record in Maryland?
Despite being a third-party service, VitalChek doesn't directly access the state databases. It still makes requests to the Division of Vital Records, which means they are beholden to their processing speeds.
The DVR lists processing times of six weeks for mail orders, five weeks for online orders, and three weeks for expedited online orders through VitalChek. These estimates do not consider the shipping times to and from their offices.
If you need your records ASAP, it's worth making a trip to the county directly. You'll most likely receive same-day service unless you're requesting corrections.
Who can request marriage records in Maryland?
Maryland marriage records are publicly available. However, applicants must show that they have a legitimate interest in the records if they want to receive a certified copy. The database itself is public for verification purposes.
Certified copies are typically restricted to the following:
- Named spouses
- Attorneys of the spouses
- Parents or Guardians
Can I request an online or digital copy of a marriage record?
You can order online through VitalChek, but they will not provide a digital marriage record. You will always receive your record by mail or by hand.
How much does a marriage record cost?
Most Maryland counties seem to charge a base rate of $5.50 for a certified copy and $0.50 for non-certified copies when ordering through the county. This fee does not include the cost of shipping.
The Vital Records Division charges a $12 search fee in person and by mail. This cost is passed along to VitalChek for online orders, but VitalChek bumps the cost to $23.75. Keep in mind that these prices do not include shipping.