Civil Marriage in Forsyth County
Civil Marriage is conducted by magistrates at the Forsyth County Government Center, located on 201 North Chestnut Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27101, Monday – Friday by appointment only when court is not in session. A party to the marriage may call (336) 779-6319 and leave a name and number and the magistrate will return your call to make an appointment.
Marriages are also performed in both the Civil and Criminal divisions on a walk-in basis with the understanding that the marriage party must wait their turn until the magistrate can attend to them.
The parties are required to have a marriage license issued by a Register of Deeds in this State. (For the Forsyth County Register of Deeds, click here)
A marriage license is valid for only 60-days (counting the issuance date), so the wedding must take place within 60 days of issuance of the marriage license pursuant to N.C.G.S. 51-16.
The ceremony must have two competent witnesses of at least 16 years of age. Please bring a photo I.D.
There is a $20 fee to be paid in cash at the time of the hearing. (Magistrates will not accept checks or credit cards or make change.)
Civil Marriage before a magistrate proceeds as follows:
- The magistrate will examine the marriage license to ensure that it is valid.
- The magistrate will receipt the party for the $20 fee. (This fee is deposited in the General Fund of the State of North Carolina and is not paid to the Magistrate or Clerk of Court.)
- The magistrate will examine the witnesses and have them sign the marriage license.
- Pursuant to N.C.G.S. 51-1 through 51(1)a. the magistrate will ask the marriage parties individually (who both must be physically present in the presence of the magistrate) if they freely and seriously take one another to be partners in the relationship defined by law as Civil Marriage.
- If they both answer affirmatively, then the magistrate will declare that the two are now legally married by the laws of the State of North Carolina.
- The Magistrate will then sign the marriage license and return the marriage license to the Register of Deeds. Pursuant to N.C.G.S. 51-7 the participants will not be permitted to take or return the license themselves under any circumstances.
- Upon return of the license to the Register of Deeds the license will be certified, and, for licenses issued in Forsyth Co., a certified copy of the license will be returned to the marriage parties by mail.
Magistrates will not conduct a marriage ceremony outside their assigned duty stations.
Confetti or rice throwing inside or outside public buildings is not permitted.
Ring exchange is not mandatory, but the parties may exchange rings and make a brief statement to one another if they so choose. Magistrate may assist with the ring ceremony upon request but are not by law required to do so. It is best to ask in advance if the presiding magistrate is willing to assist with saying of vows and exchanging of rings if this is important to you.
As a general rule magistrates will not allow parties to say their own vows or engage in any cultural or religious ceremonial customs other than what is specifically described in the above-outlined procedure.
Information Courtesy of:
C. John Phillips
Chief Magistrate of District Court
21st Judicial District/Forsyth Co.