Guide to Tennessee Marriage Records
Table of Contents
Marriage records are typically required in various legal and financial matters. Without a certified marriage record in Tennessee, you won't be able to proceed with changing your name, updating insurance plans, or initiating many citizenship processes.
In short, this one-page document lets you take your first steps into married life. However, getting one can be a difficult process. Marriage records use a raised seal to prove legitimacy, which means you can only receive one through the mail or in person.
What Are Tennessee Marriage Records and How AreThey Stored?
Marriage records in Tennessee serve as official government documentation of a marriage. They're considered public information, meaning anyone can access them through state-sponsored indexes.
Luckily, marriage records only contain essential information such as the first and last names of spouses, witnesses' signatures, and the ceremony's date. However, because there's so little information differentiating each record, you must know all the correct details to find yours in the massive government database.
Tennessee marriage records are stored at the county clerk's offices where the marriage occurred and the state's vital records department. However, if you're seeking marriage records for genealogical purposes, note that they are only maintained at these locations for 100 years before being archived in the Tennessee State Library.
A marriage license gives a couple the right to be wed. It's a declaration that no extenuating factors would prohibit their union, such as one party being underaged or a close family relation.
There's some confusion between marriage licenses and records because they're essentially the same document. The only difference is the time frame.
The officiant and witnesses sign the marriage license during the ceremony. In Tennessee, this signed marriage license must be returned to the county within three days of the ceremony, where it is stored as an official marriage record.
Tennessee Marriage Statistics
Marriage statistics are vital to shaping governmental and individual policy decisions. Information regarding marital success, failure, and demographics can help create programs tailored to a state's population.
Couples can also use marriage statistics to decide if they're ready for the next big step. They can look at when most citizens get married and how fruitful those unions are.
Some of the most relevant marriage statistics for Tennessee include:
- Marriage Rates: Tennessee is tied for the 7th highest marriage rate in the country at 7.6 per thousand people. Like many other states, Tennessee has experienced a 40 to 50 percent decrease in marriages compared to its numbers from the early 90s. This trend is attributed to many factors, such as multiple recessions and rising gender equity.
- Average Marrying Age: Tennessee men and women tend to marry a year earlier than their national counterparts. Men wed at 27.3 years and women at 25.7. An earlier marrying age correlates with shorter marriages outside of heavily religious states like Utah.
- Average Duration Before Divorce: Marriages in Tennessee are shorter, lasting a median length of 19.6 years.
- Divorce Rates: Tennessee has had one of the most considerable divorce rate decreases over the past 30 years. In 1990, the divorce rate was 6.5 per 1000 people and has fallen to nearly half at 3.3.
How to Find Tennessee Marriage Records
The only places to find certified Tennessee marriage records are the individual county offices and the state vital records department. Each office has a slightly different ordering process, but the general rules remain unchanged. The three most accepted request methods include:
- In-person visits
- Mail-in orders
- Online submissions
We all know that government offices are always busy, and missing information can lead to getting sent to the back of the line. Here's what you must know to avoid any speed bumps in your request:
- The county that recorded the marriage
- Partner 1 and Partner 2's names before the wedding
- Full ceremony date
At a minimum, you should know one of the spouse's names and the year the ceremony occurred. This information allows you to filter public databases and find the other details.
The only state method for ordering a marriage record online is through VitalChek. This is a certificate service that greatly streamlines the request process. VitalChek isn't restricted to marriage records and can help locate birth certificates, death records, and divorce papers.
The primary downside for VitalChek is its price. Its services cost 2 to 3 times more than ordering yourself, and there isn't a massive improvement in processing time. However, it's still an excellent choice for people who've moved out of state and can't make the trip back home.
Anyone living within driving distance of their county office should order in person. The clerk can provide the suitable forms and correct you on the spot. Additionally, if you have a pressing need for your marriage record, visiting in person will get it to you within the day.
The official state application form is found here. Individual counties may want you to fill out their own form, but it will include all the same fields. The only materials you must have prepared are a valid government ID and payment method.
Mail-in orders are a palatable option for people who've moved away from their original county and are okay with waiting a few weeks. This option is riskier than going yourself. A mistake will likely cause the office to refuse your order and force you to restart the process.
To avoid annoying returns, your mail-in request must include the following:
- Self-addressed envelope
- Completed application
- Check or money order for EXACT fee
- Photocopy of an unexpired government photo ID
- Notarized proof of permission (if applicable)
The last requirement is primarily for attorneys but also applies to people carrying out legal processes like fulfilling a final will. Do not send cash through US mail; Tennessee offices will return the request without processing.
If you order through the state office, this process will cost $15 for the first copy and another $15 for each extra. Send these items to:
Tennessee Vital Records
Andrew Johnson Tower, 1st Floor
710 James Robertson Parkway Nashville, TN 37243
What Is NOT Included in Marriage Records and Potential Errors and Omissions
The sole purpose of marriage records is to authenticate a marriage and isn't meant to keep sensitive information on involved parties. It doesn't include social security numbers, birthdays, or contact information. This information is kept on record through the marriage license applications, anyway.
The more pressing concern is the possibility of typos and errors. There aren't monetary penalties for incorrectly filling out a marriage record; however, writing a name wrong can make the record invisible in databases.
County Clerk Directory
We've reviewed the steps for ordering a marriage record, but you may want to confirm the information beforehand. Nothing is worse than getting a returned request after waiting for weeks. We've put together a list of the county clerk's phone numbers for the top ten most populous counties in Tennessee.
FAQ on Marriage Records in Tennessee
How long will it take to get a copy of my marriage record in Tennessee?
Requesting from state or county offices will get you the marriage record within the day. However, if you're attempting to amend the record, this will require further verification and a longer wait time.
VitalChek orders can take anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks, which is still faster than direct mail orders, which can require up to a month.
Who can request marriage records in Tennessee?
Marriage records are public records, but that doesn't mean anyone can get a certified copy. Requestors must prove they're strongly connected to the marriage to get the certificate. Unless there's a court order, a requestor must fall into one of the following groups:
- Named spouses on the record
- Adult children of either spouse
- Legal guardians of spouses if underaged
- Legal representatives of spouses
Can I request an online or digital copy of a marriage record?
VitalChek is the only state-sponsored method for ordering a marriage record online. However, individual counties often maintain their own online ordering forms. Remember that ordering online will NOT improve processing times nor get you a digital copy. Certified marriage records will always be shipped through physical mail.
How much does a marriage record cost?
Tennessee marriage records are only expensive if you need multiple copies. The state vital records office charges an initial $15 search fee, which includes the price for your first copy and $15 for extras. Each county sets its prices, but they're rarely pricier than going through Nashville.
VitalChek tacks on their own processing fees, so they will always cost $10 or more than ordering yourself. You can also pay for expedited shipping, but that will only affect the mailing process. They will still have to wait the same amount of time for the government office to locate the record.