Can I Legally Elope in Louisiana?
Picture the scene: your family can't stand the Montague family, and the Montagues can't stand the Capulet family, so what do you do? (No, the answer does not involve poison.)
Though the elopement didn't quite work out for Romeo and Juliet (that whole poison scene ruined the "Happily Ever After" for them), it usually works out for the modern-day stealthy bride and groom.
An elopement is defined by Google in this way:
run away secretly in order to get married, especially without parental consent. - Google
Couples whose parents refused to let them be together used to run to the courthouse, get married, and then take off on their new adventure, usually in a city not near their relatives.
Elopements today, at least in the United States, are much less about "without parental consent" and more about "let's skip the headache of having a wedding and save some money". I'm sure some are still about getting married against the wishes of their parents or families, but most today are about convenience.
So, back to the original question: Can I elope in Louisiana? The answer, for the most part, is "Yes".
The only "No" about the answer is because of the traditional thought or practice of elopement. You used to be able to walk into a courthouse, get a license, find a Justice of the Peace, get married, and be on your way a few hours later.
In Louisiana, the only hiccup in that plan is this: Once you obtain a marriage license (at any Parish courthouse), you must wait 24 hours before getting married. You can no longer, on a whim, arrive at the courthouse and be married within an hour or two.
The other "No" about eloping in Louisiana will probably come from your mother-in-law or some other family member. That's pretty much it on the "No"s about eloping here.
Oh, and there's this, too: the legal age for marriage in Louisiana is 16 (and THAT is a subject for another discussion!).
Other than that, you are free to crush your mother-in-law's fairy tale wedding dreams for her only daughter.
So, let's get eloped.
First, you head to the courthouse (or visit virtually via the internet). In Louisiana, you can buy a marriage license at any Parish courthouse (a fee of around $30 is the average for the state).
According to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's website:
Marriage Licenses are issued from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday except for legal holidays, at the Lafayette Parish Courthouse...
The license is valid for ceremonies performed in Louisiana only and must be purchased at least 24 hours prior to the ceremony. It expires 30 days from the date and time of issuance.
Of course, you can always show up at the clerk's office to fill out the paperwork in person, but you are advised to complete the marriage application online before going in to pay/sign.
Please type the entire application in ALL CAPS and enter the names as they appear on the birth certificates. For places of birth, the State name only is required. Once all the requested information is entered, click submit. You will then have a confirmation screen that provides you with a confirmation number. Bring this confirmation number with you to our office within 30 days of completing the online application, along with all the required documents listed below.
Then, let's head to the courthouse (assuming you took the virtual route and filled in all the paperwork online). The documents you need, according to the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's office:
1. Proof of Birth
2. Social Security Numbers
3. Prior Marriages/Documentation
Now, about those age requirements:
To purchase a marriage license (in the state of Louisiana), you must be of the age of majority, which is 18 years old. A marriage license cannot be issued to a minor under the age of 16. A minor 16 or 17 years of age may not marry a person of the age of majority where there is an age difference of three years or greater between them. If a minor is 16 or 17 years of age, both the father and mother of the minor, or the person having legal custody of the minor, or the tutor of the minor must be present with identification to sign a consent waiver. In addition to the parental consent requirement, a judicial authorization signed by a Judge is required before a marriage license can be issued.
And another thing: don't marry your cousin:
State law (CC Art. 90) prohibits the marriage of persons who are related by blood or adoption with the fourth degree collateral.
Here's some good news:
Blood tests are no longer required.
Blood tests are no longer required to obtain a marriage license in Louisiana.
I was curious about why we used to have to get a blood test. Before I had any sense of how science worked, I assumed that a blood test would tell you if you were related to someone. When I realized that a blood test didn't give you that information (you'd have to test the DNA from the blood, which is much more involved than just a blood test), I found out that the blood test was to check for disease.
Beginning in the 1900s, pre-marital blood tests were required to test for diseases, namely Rubella and syphilis (according to Advocate). Later, in the 1980s, an HIV test was thrown into the mix. Now, very few states, if any, still require a blood test. Louisiana is not one of them.
Now that we have our marriage license, let's find an officiant.
The Clerk of Court's office will have a list of people in the parish who are eligible to marry you. Whether it's a Justice of the Peace or an ordained minister, you'll need an official to make it, er, um, official.
You'll also need two witnesses and, at the courthouse, those should be easy to find.
After the wedding, the marriage certificate has to be completed and turned in within 7 days of the ceremony to be filed with the Clerk of Court's office.
Ta-daa! You are now married.
How will your elopement hold up? Well, according to Where to Elope, your marriage might last longer than most.
The site lists some interesting statistics, including this one:
Statistics have shown that the less a couple spends on their marriage the longer their marriage will last. - Where to Elope
Did you hear that? The less you spend on your wedding, the higher chance it won't end in divorce.
Now, I want to know the statistics of the longevity of marriages when compared to the distance you live away from your inlaws!
If you are interested in getting married or buying a marriage license in Lafayette Parish, you can call the Marriage Department at 337-291-6335.
What To Consider Prior to Hiring Your Wedding DJ
10 Great Love Songs By Louisiana Musicians
Perfect Songs to Say "I Love You"