How to Get Married
There are a number of legal steps required when getting married, but they are not too complex if you know what they are. In this article, we will explain how to legally get married so you can focus on the more enjoyable parts of your wedding.
What Documents Do You Need to Legally Get Married?
You will need a marriage license before your wedding. To obtain a marriage license, pay a small fee and fill out some paperwork at the county clerk’s office.
At the ceremony, the officiant will file a marriage certificate with the applicable agency. If they fail to do this, you are still married; you just have to go through a longer process to get marriage documents.
Do We Need to Get Blood Tests Before Getting Married?
In some states, you might need to, but in most, you do not. In the past, they used to test for HIV/AIDS, TB, sickle-cell anemia, and rubella. You may receive information on testing locations, but you do not have to get tested.
Who Can I Marry?
- Marital Status – Neither party can currently be married. If a party was married, they must be officially divorced before they can get married again.
- Age – Both parties must be 18 or older to get married. In some states, minors are allowed to get married in certain circumstances as long as they have parental or judicial consent. However, there are particular circumstances that a marriage of a minor must meet to ensure the marriage is not predatory.
- Gender – Since Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, same-sex marriages are legal in all US states.
- Mental Capacity – Marriage is a contract, so both parties must be mentally fit. You cannot be married if you do not have the mental capacity to commit to marriage because of mental illness, alcohol, or drugs.
- Relatives – Blood relatives are not allowed to get married. In some states, third cousins are not permitted to marry. Some states allow cousins to marry if they are elderly and cannot bear children.
What Is The Difference Between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate?
A marriage license grants the couple permission to get married; a marriage certificate proves you were married.
Before the wedding ceremony, the couple must get a marriage license and then after the wedding; the officiant will file the marriage certificate. The couple will receive a copy of their marriage certificate to keep for their records as proof they are married.
How Do I Get a Marriage License?
The local county clerk’s office will be able to issue a marriage license. If you live near a state border or are getting married in another state, you need to apply for a marriage license in the state you are to be married. It takes a few days for your paperwork to be filed and a marriage license to be issued, so plan ahead. There may also be a small fee involved.
The marriage license lasts 30 days in most states if you are not married during that time. You can apply for a new one if the marriage license expires.
Some states require waiting periods between the issuance of the marriage license and the wedding ceremony. Exceptions can be made for good cause, such as deployment or couples from out of town.
What Happens If I Lose My Marriage Certificate?
In most states, you can apply for another copy and pay a small fee. The process is different for each state.
Who Can Officiate a Marriage?
Only a qualified officiant can marry a couple. A justice of the peace, judge, or court clerk can officiate a civil union.
Certain religious leaders or tribe officials are allowed to officiate religious ceremonies, like rabbis, ministers, or chiefs of Native American tribes.
Do We Need To Do Anything Once We Are Married?
Generally no. Some states require sexual relations to “consummate” the marriage, but it is very rare. Most states will consider the couple married after the marriage certificate is signed. The officiant must file the marriage certificate with the county clerk’s office where you were married, but you are still considered married if they fail to do so.