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Pennsylvania Marriage Records

Pennsylvania marriage records provide official information about all marriages within the Commonwealth. While the specifics differ, some of the general information you'll find includes the following:

  • The full name of the bride and groom
  • The date of the event
  • Where the marriage occurred
  • Name of the event officiant

Pennsylvania marriage records may also include additional information about the married parties, such as their occupation and age. 

What Types of Marriage Records are available in Pennsylvania

Marriage certificates and marriage licenses are among the various records maintained by government institutions in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A common misconception is that these records are identical. However, they are not.

Marriage Certificate

A marriage certificate proves that two people are legally married after meeting the state's requirements. The County Court Clerks typically maintain and issue certified copies of such records in Pennsylvania. To be lawfully wed in Pennsylvania, both parties must consent and be 18 or older. Intending couples must also have a valid license. After the union, couples can obtain a copy of a marriage certificate by contacting the record custodian.

Marriage License

To get married in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, you'll need a permit to perform the ceremony in any county. This permit is known as a marriage license. The government will only grant a license if the intending couple meets and satisfies several conditions. Licenses are typically obtained two or three weeks before marriage and have a fixed validity period, during which a couple must marry or reapply. Residents may be able to get licenses in person or via mail, depending on the county.

Are Pennsylvania Marriage Records Public?

Pennsylvania marriage records are generally open to the public per state laws.  Under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, anyone may obtain copies of non-confidential records maintained by all branches of the government at the state and local levels. Furthermore, the requester does not have to provide a reason for getting records, and there are no restrictions on use after a document is obtained. However, government agencies are permitted to redact sections of a record if it contains protected information, such as data that might infringe on a person's right to privacy. 

How to Find Marriage Records in Pennsylvania

Members of the public can find marriage records in Pennsylvania by following several general steps. 

Step 1. Identify the County where the license was issued

Unlike some states, a central state office doesn't maintain marriage records in Pennsylvania. Instead, they're stored at whichever local county office issued the marriage license. Records remain in the county where the marriage license was obtained, even if the marriage occured in a different county. Depending on the county and age of the record, some records may be maintained by the Register of Wills or stored in the county archives.

Step 2. Collect information about the marriage

To obtain marriage records in Pennsylvania, you must provide the court clerk with details about the event. Some information that can assist with a search includes the name of the parties (at the time of the marriage), the officiant's name, and the marriage date. 

Step 3. Submit an Application

Submit a request to the appropriate record custodian, including all the collection information. To obtain copies of a record, you'll need to pay a fee depending on the record type. For instance, in Philadelphia, residents pay $25 for each copy of a certified record and $50 for an exemplified copy. Requests submitted via mail cost an additional $15 (research fee).

How to Get a Marriage License in Pennsylvania

To get a marriage license in Pennsylvania, applicants must meet several requirements. 

First, couples must be of legal age and be willing to marry. To confirm the former, the county courthouse may require that applicants provide a valid government-issued ID such as a passport or driver's license. Both parties may also need to provide their social security number.

Intending couples must also submit a written application that contains the following:

  • Full name of both parties
  • Full names of the applicant's parents
  • Details of the applicants (age, birthplace, residence and occupation)
  • Details of the parents (birthplace, residence, occupation, age)
  • A statement of which marriage it will be for each party (first, second, third, etc.)
  • A sworn affirmation that neither party has a transmissible disease

Completed applications must be submitted (along with any other required documents) to the Marriage license department in the county. Some counties allow requesters to submit their applications in person, online, or via mail, while others offer fewer options. Marriage licenses are issued at the county courthouse. You'll also be required to pay a fee along with your application. This fee is usually non-refundable.

Most departments require that applicants appear for an oral interview before granting licenses. This may be done in person or online, depending on the courthouse. If approved, marriage licenses are typically valid 72 hours after an application and remain valid for 60 days. For instance, if you apply for a marriage license on Tuesday, the license will only be ready by Friday.

Note: Getting a marriage license doesn't mean that a couple is married. The couple must still be married by a qualified officiant. If a marriage does not happen before the expiration of the license, a new application will need to be submitted, along with the fee.  Licenses must be signed by the officiant during the marriage and returned to the department within ten days. 

Who can obtain Marriage Records in Pennsylvania?

Anyone can obtain marriage records in Pennsylvania. Per state laws, marriage applications are considered non-confidential and accessible to everyone. However, specific details on a record, such as social security numbers, are restricted from public view. Record seekers can obtain copies of a marriage record by contacting the county court clerk.

Eligible parties may also be able to obtain certified copies of a record. These records are only issued to spouses and authorized legal representatives. To get a certified marriage record, applicants must provide details such as the full name of both parties (as at the time of application) and the number of records requested. You'll also need to include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you wish to have the documents mailed to you.

Can You Lookup Online Marriage Records For Free in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, access to free online records varies from county to county. For instance, the City of Philadelphia provides access to a free online marriage license search tool for finding records from 1995. Record seekers can find marriage license numbers using at least one full name and a specified date range.

Residents may also be able to look up free Pennsylvania marriage records using third-party platforms that offer this feature. Unlike the county courts, third-party platforms provide access to information accumulated from multiple counties within and beyond the Commonwealth, making them a convenient alternative for some searchers. However, the accuracy of the result may vary depending on when the database was last updated. 

Is Pennsylvania a Common Law State for Marriage?

Pennsylvania previously allowed common-law marriages, but this changed in 2005 following the passage of a fresh  law. As of 2023, Pennsylvania does not recognize common law unions contracted within the commonwealth. However, Pennsylvania still recognizes all common law marriages contracted before 2005.

In addition, Pennsylvania recognizes the validity of unions established in other states where this type of marriage is permitted. This means Pennsylvania will recognize the marriage of any couple that enters common law marriages in states like Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Texas, Utah, and New Hampshire.

Note: Although Pennsylvania statutes do not recognize common-law partnerships, some cities and counties recognize domestic partnerships. These include Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Luzerne County. Under this type of union, couples live together under a legal cohabitation agreement, which addresses issues such as the rights and responsibilities of each party and power of attorney.

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