A marriage license is a legal document issue by county governments in the fifty US states and US territories authorizing partners to engage in a legally recognized and protected civil union. A marriage license, typically issued by a county probate court is signed by an officiant (often a clergy person or notary public) after the marriage ceremony is complete. Copies of the marriage license are filed with the probate court, family court, and the officiant’s office. Typically, a duplicate copy of the marriage license is issued to married couple.
Although it’s not the sort of thing that a lot of couples talk about as they’re making wedding preparations, every single one of them (if they are legally joined, that is) was required to get a marriage license. So I am very glad you are asking this question.
So what is it? What is a marriage certificate? Well, just like people need a driver’s license in order to legally drive on the road, two people who want to be married need a certain kind of license too. Basically, a marriage license is proof that they are legally allowed to get married.
Being that there is oftentimes a waiting period and sometimes medical paperwork must be presented at the time of applying for a marriage license, it’s always a good idea to contact your county clerk’s office before heading down to fill out an application. Do keep in mind that you’ll need to be over 18 (otherwise you’ll need your parents or a legal guardian’s permission), have valid picture identification and around $100.
It’s also important to keep in mind that on the day of your wedding, the officiant needs to be legally eligible to marry people in the state where you live. They will need to sign your marriage license, along with two other witnesses. Then you will need to mail your license back to the country clerk’s office. Within a few weeks’ time, you can then purchase a copy of your marriage certificate, if you would like.