Guide to South Carolina Marriage Records
Table of Contents
South Carolina marriage records are a vital piece of many post-marital chores. Getting a copy for framing it above the mantle is important, but there are also other times when you will need it. You should also order extra copies and store them for future use.
Some people may be anxious about dealing with a government office. While some inefficiency is unavoidable, applicants can make the process more manageable with the proper preparation.
What Are South Carolina Marriage Records
South Carolina marriage records are government documents storing basic information on a wedding. They're used in various personal and legal processes like official name changes, tracking family lines, and some adoption cases.
These documents are relatively bare, as their only purpose is to confirm a ceremony took place. The exact fields may change between counties, but all marriage records will include the following:
- Full names of spouses prior to the wedding
- Date of the Ceremony
- Officiant's signature
Most spouses' personal information, like birthdays and social security numbers, are taken when applying for the marriage license. These applications are kept separately from the certified record and are not publicly available. Additionally, South Carolina is one of the few states that doesn't require witnesses to sign the record.
How are South Carolina Marriage Records Stored?
South Carolina's marriage records between July 1950 and December 2022 are maintained by each county's probate court and the state's Environmental Control Vital Records Division. However, any records before or after those dates are kept solely by individual counties.
There are third-party services partnered with South Carolina; however, they do not personally store marriage records. Instead, these services act as an intermediary for requests and simplify ordering.
When requesting your marriage papers, you may be asked if you want a marriage license or certificate. These are very similar documents but with very different applications.
A marriage license is what permits couples to marry. It shows that there's no legal reason for objecting to the union, such as minority status or family relations.
Once the officiant signs the marriage license, it's returned to the county probate court and registered as the marriage record. In short, you need a marriage license BEFORE marriage and the marriage record AFTER the ceremony.
South Carolina Marriage Statistics
Diligent tracking of a state's marriage statistics ensures that social programs continue in the right direction. These numbers are deeply connected to family finances, child well-being, and public health. Even minor fluctuations in a state's marriage statistics could signal major cultural shifts.
Some of the most relevant marriage statistics for South Carolina include:
- Marriage Rates: South Carolina's married population is 6.5 per thousand citizens. The national rate is 6.0, and while this doesn't seem like a big difference, that added 0.5 is a statistically drastic jump.
- Average Marrying Age: The average marrying ages for South Carolina men and women are 28.2 and 26.7 years old, respectively. These ages are nearly identical to the national average but show that SC men marry slightly earlier and women slightly later.
- Median Marriage Length: The median duration of a South Carolina marriage is 20.9 years, which aligns it with the rest of the country. This statistic may also be slightly inflated compared to other states near its ranking due to the state's divorce courts requiring one-year separation before finalizing no-fault divorces.
- Divorce Rates: According to the World Population Review, South Carolina's divorce rate has teetered between 2 and 2.5 percent for the past few years. In 2021, the state was tied for 14th place alongside Pennsylvania in terms of lowest divorce rates.
How to Find South Carolina Marriage Records
There are many methods for ordering South Carolina marriage records. The Vital Records Department does an excellent job at laying out the steps required for each option, which include:
Applicants may also order through the county that initially processed the marriage record. Visiting any other county will NOT work since local offices do not share databases. Regardless of where or how you order, you will need the following information:
- Name of the county that processed the record
- Full names of spouses before the wedding
- Ceremony date
It's possible to locate a marriage record without all this information, but the office representative may have to perform additional searches. They may charge you for the extra work depending on the local policy.
Online & Phone
The only online ordering method that applies to all South Carolina counties is VitalChek. It's an ordering service partnered with dozens of US states and is recommended for applicants who want a more streamlined and trackable process.
Understand that VitalChek does not expedite South Carolina's Vital Record's processing speeds. It doesn't have direct access to vital records and must wait for the government office to fulfill the order. So, the "RUSH" option VitalChek offers only affects their shipping speeds and will, at most, cut down the wait time by a few days.
However, having similar turnaround times isn't exactly a downside. The only real negative to VitalChek is the price. Ordering a marriage record through this service costs twice as much as doing it yourself. On top of the standard fees from the state office, VitalChek tacks on its own service fee of $12.85
Your offline options include visiting government offices in person, mailing a letter, or a drop-off request. Among these choices, the quickest one is to go in person. The clerk will provide the necessary forms and guide you through payment. You should be out in 30 to 40 minutes.
If you want to fill out the form ahead of time, you can find it here.
You should also have at least one form of non-expired government ID with you. Other valid options include residency IDs, student IDs, foreign passports, and gun permits.
Mail-in orders may be the only option for people who've moved away from their original state. Unfortunately, the average processing time for this method is four weeks + shipping times, and South Carolina doesn't offer expedited options.
Mail-in requests must include the following items:
- Self-addressed envelope
- Filled out Vital Records Marriage/Divorce Application
- Non-refundable $12 search fee + $3 for each copy
- Photocopy of an unexpired government ID (photo included)
Payment for mail orders can only be made with a check or money order. Never send cash through US mail; orders containing cash will not be accepted. Applicants should make payments available to the County Probate Courts or the SC DHEC.
We recommend sending mail orders to individual counties rather than the State office. At smaller offices, it's less likely that your order will be mishandled among thousands of others. Additionally, there's a chance that your record isn't recorded in the State database.
If you continue with the state office, you will mail your request to:
DHEC Vital Records
2600 Bull St.
Columbia, SC 29201
If you request from a county office, you can find the appropriate mailing address on the Probate Court's website.
What Is NOT Included in Marriage Records and Potential Errors and Omissions
Marriage records include just enough information to do their job. They document the basic details of a wedding so that someone can confirm the location and people involved if necessary. Sensitive data like social security numbers are intentionally omitted, as the courts have already identified both spouses during the marriage license application.
Marriage records are publicly available in South Carolina, so excluding risky information is a safety precaution. The more significant risk for newlyweds is the possibility of typos in their records. Errors can make locating a marriage record in the database surprisingly tricky and should be corrected immediately. There aren't as many options for requesting amendments, and at least one of the spouses must visit the county's office in person.
Probate Court Directory
Knowing the process for ordering a marriage record is excellent, but you need to contact the right people. This is particularly important if you're not going in person, as different counties may have separate fees and mail request requirements.
It's recommended to call ahead of time and ensure you're sending everything they need to locate your marriage record. To that end, we've compiled the contact information for the top ten most populous counties in South Carolina.
FAQ on Marriage Records in South Carolina
How long will it take to get a copy of my marriage record in South Carolina?
Visiting the primary records office in Columbia or your local probate court will get you your marriage records within an hour. If you're requesting via mail or VitalChek, you can expect to wait at least four to six weeks.
Who can request marriage records in South Carolina?
The information in marriage records is publicly available, but that doesn't mean anyone can request a certified copy. Official records with a raised seal are restricted to the following parties:
- The bride or groom
- Adult children of the bride or groom
- Legal representatives of the bride or groom
If you do not fall into these categories, you can request a verification letter saying the marriage exists in the state database. Otherwise, you'll require a court order to obtain a certified copy of a marriage certificate.
Can I request an online or digital copy of a marriage record?
Applicants can order marriage records online through VitalChek or by phone. However, these services still send a physical copy with a raised seal to your address. The seal certifies these records and allows their use in legal processes. If you only need digital confirmation, you can ask for a verification letter by email.
How much does a marriage record cost?
The price of marriage records will change depending on the county you're ordering from. For the most part, you'll pay around $10 for the search fee, alongside a few extra dollars for additional copies.
The state vital records office has a much more concrete price of a $12 search fee + $3 for additional copies.
When ordering through VitalChek, the price jumps up to a $17 search fee + $3 for additional copies AND a $12.85 additional processing fee.