The Ultimate Checklist for Marriage Licenses

It may seem unromantic, but marriage is a legal union and must be approved by the state in which it takes place. Every state requires a marriage license. This proves that you are legally permitted …

It may seem unromantic, but marriage is a legal union and must be approved by the state in which it takes place. Every state requires a marriage license. This proves that you are legally permitted to marry in that state. The bottom line is that if you do not have a marriage permit, either because you did not apply or you did not meet all the requirements, then you won’t be legally married.

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The state, county and country in which you are getting married will determine where to apply. This is not the place you live currently. The marriage license bureau, the county clerk’s office or city hall are usually where you will receive your document. Call the county clerk in the county where you will be having your ceremony to begin the process. Ask the county clerk if you need to apply in the same town or in the same county as your ceremony. Or if a license can be obtained from any other state. It is important to determine if both the bride and groom must apply in person or if one can suffice. Ask if you can mail your application if you live far away. Sometimes, online applications can also be made.


Couples will usually provide photo identification such as a passport or birth certificate to prove their identity. All Americans who are married domestically must provide a social safety card to link their public records to their individual identities. If the documentation is not required, however, an individual who plans to marry may not need to provide it. If you or your spouse are from another country, you can still marry legally in most US states.

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Both you and your spouse should begin by filling out the basic information (your name, current address; birth country; birthday; information pertaining to parents; social security number; etc. Your marriage history, and last but not least, your current address. If you have been married before, you will need to list any prior marriages. This includes the name of your spouse (or spouses) and the date that the divorce decree was issued. You will need to have all divorces, annulments, or dissolutions finalized before applying for a new license. In some cases, you might even be required to show the final divorce decree. The affidavit is a sworn declaration that there are no legal obstacles to your marriage.


You should think carefully before signing your marriage license, just like any other legal document. After you have submitted your marriage certificate, your legal surname will be listed. It is impossible to alter it after the fact. This can be done by remarrying (repeating all the steps in this article).

Most offices state explicitly that changing your name on a marriage certificate after you get married is not considered “correcting a mistake.” However, for any other changes, there is often a free amendment process. This means that no amount of begging will work in your favor.

Here’s how you can do it. Sign the application with your maiden or current name. You will be able to indicate whether you plan to take a new name. Once you are pronounced husband or wife, you’ll also have the option to sign the name you wish to use. Keep your maiden name. If so, you can use the same signature that you have used for years. Your maiden and eventual married names will be listed on your marriage certificate. However, if you choose to change your surname after the ceremony, your new name won’t become legally binding. Your first and middle names cannot be changed on your marriage certificate. However, here are the options for your married lastname: The surname of either spouse, any former surname of either spouse, a name combining all or part of the pre-marriage or any other surname of each spouse, or a combination surname separated with a hyphen provided each part of such combination supraname is the premarriage or any other surname of each spouse.

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You will need to take your signed marriage license with yourself and keep it safe until the day. You must wait at least 24 hours before you can say I do in most states. A New York marriage license, for instance, is valid for only 60 days. You can request a “judicial waiver”, which is a fee-based but complicated process that allows a judge to waive or extend the waiting period. It’s a good idea to sign your marriage certificate on the morning of the rehearsal dinner. This will ensure that you are in the right state to legally marry your spouse.

We’re bringing up the topic of marriage licenses. If you lose your original, you can request a duplicate for $25 (costs may vary). Complete an affidavit and return to the office that issued your original marriage license.


Once the officiant (the person who performed the marriage ceremony) signs it, the marriage license is certified. The person who signed the license then sends it to your county clerk’s office. This is the one you applied for your first license. The county clerk certifies the document using an official seal, embossed, and then mails a copy to your home address. This takes about two weeks. The “marriage certificate”, which is then certified, proves that the couple are legally married to any government agency. The marriage certificate proves that the marriage occurred. Marriage licenses are proof of a couple’s legal right to marry. You should not confuse them with documents issued by religious institutions (e.g. churches or synagogues) to commemorate your marriage. This certificate is often beautiful and filled with artwork and calligraphy. It is not legal.

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First, notify your local Social Security Administration office if you have changed your name. This will allow them to update your social security card and their records. As proof, your marriage certificate is required. Next, request multiple copies of your certified marriage certificates (not duplicates!) For all of your official name changes, request multiple copies of your certified marriage certificate (not copies!)