How to prepare for your marriage license

How to prepare for your marriage license: Real Wedding Planner Advice from Lisa Sammons Events

With Wedding Season upon us, our clients are asking us … so we wanted to repost this article for everyone!
….Here’s a quick re-post for those of you looking for “How to prepare for your Marriage License Application” …..

Planning a wedding is always fun, especially when it comes to Style, Inspiration, & Design items! If you are reading this, you probably are finding out that you do have some “official” marriage business to take care of along the way as well.

Style Inspiration & Design Dessert Table Design: Lisa Sammons Events Wedding Cake & Cupcakes: Wild Orchid Baking Co.
Dessert Table Design: Lisa Sammons Events Wedding ~ Baker: Wild Orchid Baking Co.

The key as always is pre-planning and ensuring you stay on schedule with your timeline before your wedding date.
As Real Wedding Planners, we receive a good deal of inquiries regarding marriage license applications and what happens before, during, & after the wedding in regards to licensing.
Our #1 response to these questions are to “do your research!”

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Every state and country has their own unique marriage license application laws, so please do your research early and then again as you get closer to your date as laws are subject to change at any time without notice.
In general, both parties must appear in person at the time the license is obtained. The 2 applicants must be of marriageable age (for example. over 18 years of age) and applicants must present proper identification (typically a driver’s license, state ID card, birth certificate or passport, and more documentation may be required for those born outside of the United States). Neither party may be married to anyone else at the time of the application. (proof of spouse’s death or divorce may be required, by someone who had been previously married in some states).

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

When you do your research, you will want to note the following items as a starting off point:

  • What the requirements to apply for a marriage license?
  • What forms of identification you will need to apply?
  • What do you need to do prior to applying (will you need a blood test?, etc)?
  • Where is the location of the city hall you will need to visit with your fiancé to apply?
  • When can you apply for your marriage license?
  • How long is your marriage license effective for (before your wedding)?
  • When can you pick up your marriage license?

Make sure you do your research and be prepared to have ORIGINAL forms of Identification when you apply.
Some states will allow just your drivers’s license, or passport, but be prepared to bring your birth certificate before you apply for your marriage license in person.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

If a state is asking for your birth certificate, they will most likely need the original… with the official seal on it. If you bring a copy only, you might have to go back home and find your original to return again to the city or town hall with the appropriate documents.
Real Planner Advice: Be prepared and save yourself the second trip to City Hall.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

For those Brides and Grooms planning a destination wedding, this is important information.
Do the research on the city & state you are getting married in & check their website. Find out where the city hall is and call them for their marriage license application requirements.

For example, if you live in California, and are getting married in Vermont, you will have to get your marriage license in Vermont. Plan accordingly when you take your pre-planning trips to your destination wedding location.
Important note: If you have a wedding planner, know that they cannot take care of this task for you. You have to own this task!
The reason: You and your fiance’ BOTH have to go to City Hall together and show your identification in order to prove who you both are. You both have to sign the application for the Marriage Certificate in the presence of the Marriage License “department” representative.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage License Requirements

Real Planner Advice: The process takes about 15 minutes, it’s not a big task, but make a fun trip of it anyway!
Plan on going together when you can both spend time together afterwards so it can be a stress-free outing and you have something to look forward to after your visit city hall.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

Getting married in Vermont? Take a long weekend and enjoy the slopes!

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

Getting married in Boston? Go to City Hall and then to a Red Sox game afterward!

Style Inspiration & Design Marriage License Requirements
Photo: Ed King Photography

Getting married in Newport? Go to City Hall on a Friday and take a long weekend together!

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage License Requirements

How about NYC? Go to City Hall and plan to go out for dinner at a fab restaurant and club after dinner.

Another item to consider is when you get your marriage license:
Some States have a 90-day window where you can apply for your license. In other words, after you receive your license, you have 90 days after the date of application to get married. If you don’t get married within the 90 day window, your marriage license expires and you have to re-apply.
With some states, your application day is the same day you receive your license. (You apply and walk away with your license which is great!)
As with the marriage license application requirements, every state (and country) has different marriage license application laws & expiration time frames.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage License Requirements

Real Planner Advice: State and county marriage license requirements often change. The information in this article is for guidance only and should not be regarded as legal advice. It is important that you verify all information with your local marriage license office or county clerk in the county where you will be married for the most up-to-date information.

Style Inspiration & Design Marriage License Requirements

To give you examples of waiting times for planning, we have included the following states that have waiting periods in place after applying for a marriage license (before you can pick up your marriage license).
Please keep in mind, as state laws change frequently, please use this article as a guideline only.

  • 1-day Waiting Period: Illinois, New York, South Carolina, Delaware.
  • 2-day Waiting Period: Maryland.
  • 3-day Waiting Period: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington.
  • 4-day Waiting Period: Delaware if both of you are nonresidents.
  • 5-day Waiting Period:District of Columbia, Minnesota.
  • 6-day Waiting Period: Wisconsin.

Real Planner Advice: Do not wait until the last minute to get your marriage license. No matter how laid back of a Bride & Groom you are, the closer you get to your date, the higher the stress level… it just happens that way… it might not be you 2, but add in family dynamics, bridal party, etc.
Please don’t let your application for your marriage license be the task that pushes you over the edge!
Remember, proper research and planning is a necessity, even when you have a wedding planner.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage license requirements

Here’s a mini checklist for your marriage license application preparation:

  • Search online for the city hall in the city and state you are getting married in.
  • Check for what type of identification you need to bring to city hall.
  • Check to see what window of time you have for your marriage license application (i.e. 90 days before wedding date).
  • See how long the application process is. For example, in the State of NY, you go to the city hall and apply, and walk with your marriage license at the same time. Some states have a longer processing time. – 3 days to 30 days.
  • Plan ahead so you have no surprises. You might not be able to find your fiance’s original birth certificate, and that might take 3 months to reissue to you before you even apply for your marriage license.
  • Do your homework…. Ask your Officiant for advice, they are a great resource as well.

There’s nothing worse than planning a wedding for 18 months and then to drop the ball with the marriage license … your licensed officiant will not be able to perform your wedding ceremony without your marriage license.

Style Inspiration & Design Marriage License Requirements

What happens after your wedding?  Your officiant (the person who performs the marriage ceremony) has the duty to send a copy of the marriage certificate to the county or state agency that records marriage certificates.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage License Requirements

To recap: the specifications for obtaining a marriage license vary between states and countries.
In general, both parties must appear in person to apply for the license. You both must be of marriageable age (i.e. over 18 years; lower in some states with the consent of a parent). You must present proper identification which is typically a driver’s license, state ID card, birth certificate or passport. For those born outside of the United States, more documentation may be required. And neither must be married to anyone else (proof of spouse’s death or divorce may be required by someone who had been previously married in some states).

Style, Inspiration, and Design, Lisa Sammons Events, Real Planner Advice
Photo: Autumn Burke Photography

Directly after the marriage ceremony, both spouses and the officiant sign the marriage license. Some states also require a witness, so plan for this also. Generally it’s your Maid of Honor & Best Man, but if you want to choose someone else, make your decision before your wedding day. It’s not a necessity, but just good planning to keep your after ceremony tasks quick and efficient. The officiant then files for a certified copy of the marriage license and a marriage certificate with the appropriate authority.

Style Inspiration and Design Marriage License Requirements

Marriage licenses in the United States fall under the jurisdiction of the state or country in which the ceremony is performed. The state or country in which they are married holds the record of that marriage.

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For more detailed information on marriage licensing please visit:  http://www.usmarriagelaws.com/)

And here is some general information from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_license too.

Article and Real Planner Advice Disclaimer:
Please note this article and Real Planner advice is not legal advice, it is just a general guideline to help you get started.
As your marriage license and marriage certificate are legal documents, please do your research. The article and advice above was derived from information that is publicly available via State agencies and the 2 websites (links) in the above article.
Please check with the Town Clerk where you plan to have your wedding ceremony. 
Town & City Clerk’s Offices’ are the very best resource for all of your marriage license questions, whether it be legal or with logistics regarding your marriage license.
For complex questions, or if you have questions about the laws, please consult an attorney authorized to practice law in the state or country where you are planning to get married. If you have an attorney of your own, reach out to them for all legal confidential inquiries. If your personal attorney is not licensed to advise you due to their individual law practice’s licensing, they will happily refer you to a reputable colleague that can answer questions outside of their law practice’s demographic.

Style Inspiration & Design Marriage License Advice

Bonus Tip! Planning your marriage license application outing also is the perfect time to shop for and purchase your wedding rings! It’s a fun and romantic day already, so why not make it all about your wedding plans! Be a smart Bride and Groom and shop online a bit to get your style of ring narrowed down. That way when you arrive at your jewelry store you will be able to quickly find the ones you want. If you want to have them engraved, now is the time to order that service as well. Planning ahead of time gives your jeweler a little time before your wedding to give you the VIP treatment you deserve!

We are REAL Wedding Planners servicing New York and New England. We also travel to where ever our clients need us. If you are planning a destination wedding, we are happy to plan  your wedding … where ever and whenever! Are you a DIY Bride and just want a few pointers or a consultation?

We are happy to schedule a meeting or a call with you. Feel free to contact us at anytime to set up a DIY planning meeting. We are happy to help!

We can also be reached at moc.stnevesnommasasilnull@ofni or via phone @ 603-828-6490.
We look forward to speaking with you!