Understanding Marriage Certificates and Licenses

A wedding isn’t just a huge event that you’ll remember for the rest of your life, it is also a legal process. If you want your marriage to be legit, you have to get a marriage license and certificate. This document was what legally joins you two, making you an official couple, and it helps if you’re changing your name. Obtaining the marriage license and certificate

What Is a Marriage License?

A marriage a license is a legal document that you must get before you get married. Once you say your I Do’s and sign the license, it is then returned by an officiant, and then the marriage certificate is issued.

The difference between a marriage certificate and a marriage license is that a marriage license is what you get first. It is basically like an application to be wed. Once it is filled out and completed, the officiant brings it to the county., then you receive the marriage license.

Step-By-Step Process Of Getting a Marriage License and Certificate

Step 1: Know the Time and Place for Your Wedding

Before applying for the marriage license, you have to know where and when the wedding will be. This is because you have to file your marriage license application in the county where you will be getting married. Additionally, marriage licenses expire and this means you have to wait to apply for your marriage license until you’re within the expiration deadline. Otherwise, you will have to apply all over.

However, you can’t wait until the last minute either. There is often a few-day waiting period after filing to get your license. Plan on filing at least one week before your wedding. Once you know when and where you’re getting married, you will be able to plan a visit to the county clerk.

Step 2: Visit the County Clerk

Keep it simple and easy by visiting the county clerk’s office to get your marriage license. Try to get all the documents in order beforehand. Some clerk’s offices will let you book an appointment so you don’t have to wait too long.

Usually, both you and your partner will need to be present at the time of the marriage license application. Here is everything you will need to help you prepare for your county clerk visit:

  • Bring your identification. You will most likely need at least a driver’s license or passport.
  • Some states require a witness to be present for the marriage license application. You may need a family member or friend to join you. Ask them a few days in advance to make sure they are free.
  • You will need some information about your parents. You will most likely need to know both of your parents’ full birth names, birthdates, places of birth, and dates of passing, if applicable.
  • If this isn’t your first married, you will need to bring your certificate of divorce or the death certificate, as proof that you are able to remarry, legally.
  • If you are under 18 years old, you will most likely need permission from a parent(s) or guardian.
  • Expect a marriage license fee of approximately $35-$150, add it to your wedding budget. Bring a check or cash to your appointment, many offices don’t accept credit cards.
  • Are you planning on changing your name? The best time to do it is when you visit your country clerk for your marriage license. You will have your maiden name until the moment you are actually married. You will want to know what your new last name is but also your middle name. You can keep your name exactly the same. You can take your partner’s name. Or, you can even make up an entirely new last name. You don’t have to decide if you are changing your name, you can wait until later to decide. However, if you decide to change your name down the road, you have to go through an official name change which can cost hundreds. So, doing it when you obtain your marriage license will save you time and money.
  • Once your identity is proven, your paperwork is turned in, and the fees are paid, you will have your marriage license. Some states will give the marriage license right away, but others will mail it out in a few days.

Step 3: Get Signatures From Your Officiant and Marriage License Witnesses

Once you have your marriage license, you can start getting some autographs. The requirements for signing a marriage license vary depending on your location, but most people will require signatures from these people:

The Couple

This goes without saying, but the couple needs to be present when it is time to sign the marriage license after the ceremony. The best practice is to get it taken care of as early as possible before the party really starts. This is an important detail you don’t want to miss.

The Officiant

The person who legally performed your ceremony must also sign the license. There is a line for them to sign, and a place to include their title or ordination. However, in some states like Colorado and Wisconsin, you can self-unite your marriage. This means that you don’t need an officiant at all.

Two Witnesses

Pretty much anyone can be your witness. Your parents, maid of honor and best man, or any other friends. They must be present to watch you both sign the marriage license, as well as sign it themselves. In most locations, the witnesses must be over 18 years old. Usually, you will need two witnesses, but in some states, you only need one.

Step 4: The Officiant Turns in the Signed Marriage License to the County

Once the ceremony is over, the officiant is responsible for returning the marriage license to the county clerk. This can be done in person or by email. Depending on where you live, you will either receive your marriage license by mail, or you will need to go pick it up in person, and if you do, prepare yourself for more fees.

These copies are important because you may need them later down the line. Some types of insurance, social security, credit cards, bank accounts, and the IRS will most likely need a copy. Obtaining about 3 copies of the marriage certificate will help with these tasks. You can also contact your county clerk later one if you need more copies.

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