Applying for a Michigan Marriage License
One of the first things you need to do when you decide to elope is apply for your marriage license. Requirements vary from county to county, but in general, this is what you need to know to make sure your Michigan elopement is legal.
You and your partner both need to head to your county clerk’s office to apply for a Michigan marriage license. If you or your partner are a resident of Michigan, you need to go to the clerk’s office that is in the county in which either of you reside. If you are from out-of-state, you need to go to the clerk’s office in the county where you plan on eloping.
Both of you need to bring:
- A valid driver’s license or state I.D
- Passport or birth certificate
- Social security number
- You might need to show proof and date of divorce if you were previously married
The cost of a marriage license is $20 for residents and $30 for non-residents. Most county clerk’s offices only take cash.
It is best to call the county clerk’s office ahead of time so you bring the correct documents, verify office hours, and schedule an appointment if needed.
There is a three day waiting period after you apply before you receive your marriage license, so make sure you take into account weekends and government holidays which may extend the date you can pick up your license. A Michigan marriage license is only valid for 33 days.
For your ceremony to be legal, an officiant and two witnesses must be present. Keep reading to learn more about who can officiate your wedding and your options for witnesses.
Choosing an Officiant
In Michigan, to make your marriage legal, you have to be married by an officiant. Your officiant can have religious ties like an ordained minister, priest, or the equivalent leader in your faith. Elected government officials, magistrates, and Michigan mayors can also perform your ceremony.
One of the unique things about finding an officiant is that anyone can be ordained by applying online. There are many websites, like https://getordained.org/, which make the process easy and allow you to ask a family member or friend to solemnize your marriage. If your officiant has never performed a wedding, contact your county clerk’s office to double check they meet the needed requirements.
The last legal requirement of your elopement is choosing your witnesses. In Michigan, two witnesses over the age of 18 are required.
For couples who want an intimate, guest-free elopement:
Wanting an intimate vow reading and private day are usually the top reasons why couples choose to elope. Taking care of the legalities before or after your elopement allows you to focus solely on your vows and having an amazing day with the love of your life without having to keep your witnesses or guests in the loop.
You can have another small ceremony with friends, family, and your officiant or schedule a time to be married at the courthouse. If you choose a courthouse wedding, contact the district court in your area for marriage requirements. Most courts require your marriage license, witness names (witnesses are not provided), and a small fee.
For couples who want to include guests in all or part of their elopement:
If having family or friends involved is an important factor of your elopement, you can dedicate time to spend with guests but also have moments just between the two of you.
Your ceremony can be at the Airbnb you’re staying at, the trailhead where you’ll have your photos taken, or a beautiful lookout spot. After your ceremony, the two of you could go explore and have a private vow reading.
Choosing how to include guests in your elopement is completely up to you and you should never feel pressured to include anyone who won’t make your day 100% about celebrating you.
When to Elope
One of the perks of choosing to elope in Michigan is the variety in weather and seasons. Each season offers it’s own unique perks and activities so it’s easy to find something special for your elopement at any time of the year.
Spring flowers and green foliage start to come to life again towards the middle of April. Places like Holland have a huge bloom of tulips through May and you can find wildflowers along your hikes. Waterfalls are usually most prominent during these months after the winter snow has melted. Most places aren’t as busy since tourist season doesn’t usually start until Memorial Day weekend.
June through September are the warmest months in Michigan and usually best if you are wanting a mostly outdoor adventure for your elopement. Hiking, kayaking, a day at the beach, wine/beer tours, or a sunset sailboat ride out on the lake are some popular activities to enjoy the long summer days.
The fall foliage in Michigan makes a gorgeous backdrop for any elopement location. Depending on where you are in the state, the fall color peaks from late September through the end of October. There is usually an increase in visitors to admire the changing colors so choosing less trafficked locations or visiting before/after busy hours will help you have a more intimate elopement.
From roughly November through March is when Michigan has its coldest months. This may seem like the worst time to plan an elopement, but the winter months are perfect for couples who love to adventure in the snow. Skiing, snowshoeing, or exploring the frozen waterfalls and Great Lakes are a few ways you could fill your day.
Choose your Michigan elopement destination
Michigan offers some of the most diverse landscapes in the Midwest so you have lots of elopement location options to choose from. Whether you want to be deep in nature or stick to the city, you can definitely find a destination that is perfect for the two of you.
- Grand Rapids
- Ann Arbor
- Traverse City
- Harbor Springs
- St. Joseph
- Tawas City
Sand Dunes & Beaches
- Saugatuck Dunes State Park
- Warren Dunes State Park
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Silver Lake State Park
- North Ottawa Dunes
- Black Rocks (Marquette)
- Porcupine Mountains
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
- Copper Harbor
- Grand Sable Dunes
Waterfalls (Upper Peninsula):
- Tahquamenon Falls State Park
- Bond Falls
- Memorial Falls
- Morgan Creek Falls
- Pinnacle Falls
- Isle Royale National Park
- Drummon Island
- Mackinac Island
- Beaver Island
Wherever you decide to elope, remember to check if you are required to have a special use permit or commercial permits. Information on permits can usually be found on a park’s website or by contacting the ranger station. Permits usually run between $100-200 in Michigan.
Picking vendors for your elopement can help ease the stress of planning or DIY-ing every aspect of your day. While larger, traditional weddings tend to have many hands that help bring the day together, you can pick and choose which vendors you want to include.
As your photographer, I’ll not only be there to document your day but I also help you with all the planning leading up to your elopement. I’ll scout out your ceremony and photo spots, create your timeline, and help you find hotels or Airbnbs. My clients receive a detailed elopement planning guide with more in-depth tips for picking a location, vendor recommendations for the area you are choosing, activity ideas to fill your day, and much more.
Along with a photographer, some other common vendors couples choose to include in their elopement are:
- Hair & Makeup Artist
- Cake Baker
Choosing vendors that you align with and feel comfortable around is so important since you will be spending a lot of time with them on your elopement day.
Some great places to start your vendor search are Wedding Wire, The Knot, Equally Wed, or a Michigan elopement/wedding Facebook group in the area you are wanting to elope.