King County Marriage Records, 1853-presentKing County has generated a variety of marriage records that are held at three different repositories: the King County Archives, the Puget Sound Regional Branch of the Washington State Archives (external link) and the King County Recorder's Office. Many records have also been digitized and made available online at the Washington State Digital Archives (external link). A given marriage in King County may have several corresponding records. Not all marriage records have been kept, and these pages delineate which records are available and where they are kept.
Certified Copies of Marriage Records
Certified copies of marriage certificates for all years are available from the King County Archives. The fee is $3.00 for each certified copy. We do not accept credit card payments at this time. It might be helpful to search in the online indexes (1853-1989 and 1990-present) before you submit your request so that you can be sure King County has your marriage record. Certificates in Washington State are filed in the county where the license is issued and not in the county where the marriage takes place. If you cannot locate your certificate in King County, try searching in other Washington counties.
1) Order by Mail with check or money order only (1855-present) - $3.00 per copy
Please fill out our copy request form (PDF) and mail it with the correct fee ($3.00 per certified copy) to the King County Archives. When we receive your request, we will process it within 2 business days and mail your copies to you.
2) Order in Person with cash, check or money order (1855-present) - $3.00 per copy
Visit us at the King County Archives with the correct fee ($3.00 per certified copy) and we can have your copies ready for you the same day. We are located in the First Hill area of Seattle and have free parking available. Additionally, you can order copies in person at the King County Recorder's Office in downtown Seattle or at any of the seven Community Service Centers throughout King County.
3) Order Online with a credit card (1855-1989 only) - $4.00 per copy
Search for and locate your record on the Washington State Digital Archives. Then, use a credit card to order at $4.00 per certified copy. Service only available for certificates from 1855-1989.
4) Order Online with a credit card (1968-four months before present only) - $31.50 per copy
If the marriage occurred between 1968 and 4 months before present, you can use a credit card to order a certified marriage certificate from VitalCheck (external link), via the Washington Center for Health Statistics. They provide the state-version of the marriage certificate, which is slightly different than the county-version. The cost for ordering from them with a credit card is currently $31.50 per certified copy.
Types of Marriage Records
The following is a list of the official steps (and corresponding records) that have been involved in the marriage process in King County over time. Please click on each record for further explanations and locations of available records and indexes.
1. License Application (formerly License Affidavit) - required before issuance of a marriage license, ensuring that the couple can legally marry.
2. License - authorizes an official to solemnize the ceremony.
3. Certificate - officially documents that the ceremony took place.
4. Return - similar to the certificate, but contains more detailed statistical and personal information. It was also filed with a different county agency.
(Note: In many United States counties, the terms license, certificate and return are often used interchangeably as names for same official document proving that a marriage has occurred. In King County, they represent distinct records.)
History of Marriage in King County, Washington
King County was formed on December 22, 1852. The first recorded marriage in the county was solemnized between David Denny and Louisa Boren on January 23, 1853; which also represents the oldest surviving record of King County government. Although this was the first marriage under King County government, the first known marriage to occur in geographical King County was solemnized between John Bradley and Mary Relyea on November 19, 1852 (in what was then part of Thurston County). Although marriage records have been kept by King County, laws and regulations were enacted by the Territory and later the State. Laws and regulations in Washington Territory's earliest years were few and far between. It was not until 1866, that record of licenses or witnesses were required or that the content of marriage certificates was regulated. Marriage laws have been amended many times since then.
Some specific laws have changed over time or have been repealed due to cultural changes. For example, interracial marriage was illegal in Washington Territory from 1854 until 1868. The legal age for marriage has also changed over time. Originally, females had to be 16 years old and males had to be 21 years old (or 12 and 16 with parental consent). Currently, both parties must be 18 years old (or 17 with parental consent). For a number of years, the following people were barred from marriage: common drunkards, habitual criminals, epileptics, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons, idiots or insane people (unless they were a woman over the age of 45 years). A major cultural shift has been the debate over same-sex marriage and the recent (2007) legalization of domestic partnerships in Washington State.