As your wedding is steadily approaching and you’re caught up in all of the details that come with making sure that your day goes off without a hitch, there is one thing that you’re definitely going to need to have in tow: Your marriage certificate. It is what makes you legally married.
That’s important because there are actually a lot of benefits that come with being legally joined. Not are you able to change your last name (if you would like), but being married also makes you eligible for tax deductions, discounts on health insurance, IRA advantages and so much more.
But before you run out to your county clerk office to get your marriage certificate, it’s important to remember that the institution of marriage is a serious one. So, in the days leading up to getting that very significant piece of paper, here are five things that you should be absolutely sure of before signing on the certificate’s dotted line.
1) Be sure about your feelings
When you decide to marry someone, yes, you need to be sure that you love them. But you actually need to be certain about a whole lot more than that. Do you feel like you respect them as an individual? Do you feel like you can trust them with all that you are and all that you have? Do you feel like there is no other person on the planet you would rather share your life with? Do you feel like they will support and encourage you? Do you feel physically and emotionally safe with them? Bottom line, do you feel that this is the kind of person and decision that will enhance and not hinder your life and overall well-being?
2) Be sure about their feelings too
That said, you’re not going into the relationship alone. Therefore, it’s just as important to make certain that you are sure of your partner’s feelings too. Although you might be tempted to assume that they are on the same page as you are, that’s a gamble that’s not the wisest to make. No matter how busy and preoccupied the two of you may be, you deserve to know, without question, that they are as into you as you are into them. No one can make a marriage work on their own love and effort alone. It truly takes two.
3) Think about your true motives
One thing that unfortunately a lot of people overlook is the motive for getting married. A motive is defined as being a goal or incentive. So, what motives can potentially be red flags? Well, if the goal or incentive is because you want to hurry up and have kids before getting “too old”, you are in financial trouble, you’re trying to get over a former flame, you don’t want to be the last one in your social circle to be single or you simply are tired of being alone—none of these are healthy enough reasons. Marriage should not be perceived as a “solution to your problem”. Marriage is simply the evolution of a relationship. That said, if you’re not getting married simply because you adore the person you’re with and you feel that it’s time to take things to another level so that both of you can grow and benefit each other…rethink your motives.
4) Ask yourself if it’s the right time
Have you ever heard the saying “The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing?” Before getting your marriage certificate, it’s a quote to ponder. Sometimes marriages end up being harder than they have to be, but it’s not because the couple are not “made for one another”. It’s because they are doing things at the least opportune time. If one or both of you are in school (especially law or medical school), that is a lot of pressure. You may want to wait until you’re really close to graduating. If one of you was offered an opportunity to go overseas for a few months and it’s not feasible for the other to go along, long-distance marriages are very trying. You may want to wait until you can live in the same place. If one or both of you is up to your eyeballs in debt, financial problems is one of the leading causes of divorce, this is another reason to put things on pause. Deciding to wait before getting married is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s actually a clear sign of personal maturity. Love doesn’t “go away” overnight. Waiting a while to get some other aspects of your life in order may be the best decision for your (future) marriage that you could ever make.
5) Don’t do it unless you’re ready
One website actually has a list of over 270 questions that you should ask your partner before getting married. And while initially you might say to yourself “I don’t have time to go through all of those questions”, remember that you are vowing “until death parts us”, not “until I don’t feel like being married anymore”. The reality is that while reportedly “A happy marriage is one of the most important life objectives for 93% of Americans”, there are far too many engaged couples who do not properly prepare beforehand. One way to do that is to sign up for some premarital counseling sessions (preferably more than 10 of them). Another is to read some books on marriage (Boundaries in Marriage and Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married are both really great reads). And another is to talk to some happily married couples and also some divorced friends to get some advice on what to do and what not to do. All of these things can help you to decide if you’re really and truly ready to get married, both to the person you are engaged to and at the time you are planning to get married. Being sure that you are truly ready is a good reason and great incentive to go and get that marriage certificate!