A government shutdown has far-reaching consequences, but for couples counting down to their wedding day, it creates at least one specific roadblock: In the event of a federal government shutdown, the DC Marriage License Bureau will close. This means not only that licenses will stop being issued, but also, DC judges won’t be able to officiate.
If your wedding is on the immediate horizon (either the next few days or weeks—shutdowns have historically only lasted a few days, but two in the last decade have persisted for weeks), you should get your license now. Couples can apply for the license in person at the Marriage License Bureau (Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave., NW, Room 690) weekdays from 8:30 AM to 4 PM—which means, in the event of the currently anticipated shutdown, you have until 4 PM today to get there. (We recommend not waiting until the last minute—it’s unclear whether you’ll still be able to get a license if it isn’t processed before 4, when the office closes.) Today’s applicants should expect longer than usual wait times—it’s sure to be crowded.
Some good news: DC marriage licenses don’t expire, so if you can get one, you can hang on to it for however long you may need. Both parties getting married will need to go to apply—you’ll need your IDs, plus the $45 application fee. (In normal times you can apply for marriage licenses online, but the process takes longer, and time is obviously critical here.) If you were planning to have a DC judge officiate, you’ll want a back-up plan: For starters, you can officiate yourselves—there is no technical or legal reason you need a DC judge to officiate.
The interruption, of course, is specific to DC marriages, where the licensing bureau is tied to federal funding. Wedding licensing in Maryland and Virginia will continue as usual.