Without a marriage license, even the most beautiful wedding is nothing more than a great show. Getting your marriage license is the most important planning detail you'll encounter so it's essential that you're informed and prepared.
In the United States, as well as many other countries, your marriage is not legal without an official marriage license issued by the state where the ceremony takes place. The requirements and stipulations vary depending on the area so do your homework!
What Do I Need?
The easiest way to find out everything you should know to get a marriage license is to do a quick search for the state or country you're getting married in. A few important details that typically differ from state to state are:
- The timeframe for validity. Some states have a waiting period before the license is valid and most will honor the license for a period of 30 to 60 days.
- Blood tests and health exams. Most areas have done away with this requirement but a few states still ask for these before issuing your license.
- Fees. This is usually between $20 and $50.
- Residency. If you're a US citizen getting married in the states, this is generally not a concern. But if you're planning a destination wedding in another country, you may need to be in the area a specified amount of time before the ceremony.
Regardless of where you will say ‘I do', both you and your fiancé must be present to apply for and sign the marriage license. You will need picture IDs, birth certificates, information on any previous marriages or name changes, and sometimes your social security cards. The county clerk's office is generally responsible for issuing the license and it should be given to the wedding officiant before the ceremony begins.
Your officiant will complete the license after the service and sign it, along with two witnesses - usually the best man and maid of honor. He or she will also forward the license to the appropriate office and you'll receive an official copy of your marriage certificate after returning from your honeymoon.