Everything You Need to Know About Marriage Licenses


Among all the fun things and endless details of planning for your wedding day, it can be easy to forget the most important thing; your marriage license! While it’s not as romantic as choosing your vows, dress or honeymoon destination, it’s necessary to legalize your union. Here’s how to put your partnership on paper:

Figure Out Where to Go

You’ll most likely need to obtain your license in the same city, district or county where you’re having your ceremony. The best way to find your location is to turn to the good ‘ole Internet. A simple search for “[county you’re getting married in] marriage license” will most likely bring you to the page on the appropriate county clerk’s or recorder’s office website. From there, you’ll find a list of locations. However, some states like New Jersey, allow you to solidify the license from the comfort of your home, meaning you can download a marriage license brochure and license and just fill it out. Seems like a wine and computer kind of night.

Get it Before Your Wedding Day

While every state requires you to obtain a marriage license before your wedding day, how long before varies. In some parts of the U.S., you need to get the license at least 72 hours before your wedding day. But don’t get anxious and plan too far ahead. Marriage licenses have an expiration date. In some parts of the country, they expire within 10 days and in others as long as a year, but between 30 and 90 days from the date it’s been issued is the norm. This means that before the expiration date you and your almost-hubby have to have the ceremony, both sign the license with your officiant and file for a certified license and marriage certificate.

Bring Everything You Need

Before you head off to the clerk’s office hand-in-hand, make sure you double check that you’ve got the proper documents. Again, this varies by state, but all states want to verify that you are who you say you are, that you’re legally old enough to get married, and that you’re not currently married to another person. Most likely you’ll both need: your birth certificates; photo identification, such as a driver’s license, state ID card, or passport; social security number; and proof of citizenship and/or residence. If you’re under 18, you’ll need parental consent and in some cases, court consent. If you’re divorced, you’ll need a divorce decree, and if you’re widowed, you’ll need your late spouse’s death certificate.

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