Marriage License vs Marriage Certificate
Many people get confused between the marriage license and marriage certificate. They are both legal documents to do with marriage, but they have different roles. In this article, we will explain the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate and explain the steps needed to get legally married. We make this guide as simple as possible, so you can forget all the boring legal stuff and get on with the arrangements for your dream wedding.
What Legal Documents Do I Need to Get Married?
Before you can be legally married, you need a marriage license from the state where you are getting married. To get a marriage license, you go to the local county clerk’s office and answer a few questions and pay a small fee. The questions will check your eligibility for marriage, like age and current marital status. Your wedding officiant cannot legally marry you without the marriage license.
Requirements For Marriage
Every state has slightly different requirements for marriage, but the general eligibility criteria and requirements are similar.
All states require a marriage license to be issued by the state where you are getting married. If you are getting married in a different state to where you live, you will need to get a marriage license from the county clerk’s office near your wedding venue. Some states require a cooling-off period between getting the marriage license and the wedding, so check the rules of the state where you plan to get married. The cooling-off period is often waived for people travelling for their wedding. Alternatively, some couples are legally married in their own state a few days before their wedding ceremony.
Most states no longer require blood tests and physical exams to obtain a marriage license. In the past, these were used to check the health of each spouse and determine whether they had any venereal diseases they could pass onto their spouse or children. Most states will give marriage license applicants information on where and how to obtain HIV/AIDs testing before their marriage.
Before issuing a marriage license, the county clerk will check you are eligible to get married. To do so, they will check you are 18 or over or have parental or court permission if you are a minor. They will also check you are not already legally married or that your divorce is official. Other eligibility requirements are that spouses are not related by blood and have the mental capacity to consent to marriage.
Same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States, so you cannot be discriminated against for being same-sex when applying for a marriage license.
What Is the Difference Between the Marriage License and Marriage Certificate?
A marriage license gives you permission to get married in that state and shows that you meet the eligibility requirements for marriage. A marriage certificate is legal proof that you are married.
Your officiant will need to see your marriage license before they can perform your wedding ceremony, so it is best to apply for it a few weeks before the ceremony. After the wedding ceremony, the officiant will file the documentation with the county clerk’s office, and you will receive your marriage certificate by post. The marriage certificate is signed by the married couple, two witnesses, and the wedding officiant.
How to Get a Marriage License
You need to visit the county clerk’s office in the state you plan to be married in order to get your marriage license. You will pay a small fee, answer some questions, and your marriage license will be posted to you within a few days if you are successful.
Your marriage license will have an expiry date, usually 30 days after the issuing date. In some states, there is a mandatory waiting period to ensure both spouses have a chance to change their mind before the ceremony.
How to Get a Marriage Certificate
The process of getting a marriage certificate is very easy because the officiant handles all the paperwork. They file the papers with the county clerk’s office, and your marriage certificate is sent to you within a few days.
What Happens If the Officiant Does Not File the Paperwork?
You are still legally married; you just need to contact the county clerk’s office for the steps to obtain a marriage certificate. Each state is different, so call to ask the process.
What Do I Do If I Lose My Marriage Certificate?
You can apply for a copy of your marriage certificate for a small fee. The process is different in each state, so visit the state’s website to learn how to apply for a copy.
Who Can Be an Officiant?
Not just anyone can provide you with a marriage certificate. Your wedding officiant must be qualified in the local jurisdiction to perform weddings. Non-religious ceremonies are usually officiated by a justice of the peace, court clerk, or judge. Religious ceremonies are officiated by religious leaders like rabbis, ministers, priests, or tribal chiefs.