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Getting married looks so simple on television, right? The stunning couple enjoys a blissful, romantic proposal and then finds themselves in the presence of friends and family while delivering heartfelt vows. Of course, in real life, things are rarely that easy. The truth is that planning a wedding is a bit like running a marathon. The betrothed are responsible for securing a venue, band, caterer, menu, and just the right date. Of course, that’s only the beginning. The essential component of the entire affair is the marriage license, the all-important government document that makes your marriage legal.
If you’re about to take the big leap into holy matrimony, you’ll need to know how marriage licenses work and how to obtain one. Read on to learn more about the process. It’s not as daunting as it may sound—we promise.
This might seem like obvious advice, but it’s critical in this case. Some states and jurisdictions require a waiting period of several days between receiving a marriage license and actually getting married, so it’s important to lock down a specific wedding date and then ensure that the license is procured at precisely at the right time. In addition, many marriage licenses must be completed within a specific time frame, usually as short as 10 days or as long as a year.
Research Local Marriage Laws
Every state has its own unique requirements for couples preparing to walk down the aisle. Aside from learning the deadlines, it’s important to figure out where to obtain the marriage license in the first place. For instance, some states handle these affairs through local city halls, while others utilize the county clerk’s office or even at a separate marriage bureau. Fortunately, you can access a state-by-state breakdown of marriage laws online for reference.
Gather the Necessary Documentation
Before obtaining the license, couples will need to visit their local government bureau with some essential documentation. In general, each person will need to provide a birth certificate, legal photo ID, and a social security card or Social Security number. However, in some cases, certain parties may need a divorce decree (in the event of a previous marriage) or a death certificate (for widows or widowers). Marriage licenses also come with a fee that can vary by state or even country, so it’s a good idea to review the exact cost in your area before making an appointment to obtain the license.
Obtain a Blood Test (If Required)
Most states do not require that couples submit a blood test before getting married—but some still do. Most notably, Mississippi requires that partners be tested for venereal diseases. Montana also imposes a blood test, but women over 50 years old are not required to take it. Also, Montana couples can sign a blood test waiver that eliminates their blood test requirement. It’s a legal way of saying, “We understand the risks, but we’re good.”
Proceed to the Appropriate Government Office
The license application will ask for some basic, straightforward information about each partner. Most of the information is to be filled out by the engaged couple, but one section will need to be saved for the person officiating the wedding.
This is the easy part, right? Now that the venue looks amazing and the feuding family members are seated a safe distance away from each other, all that’s needed is a signature from the officiant. After the ceremony has taken place, the rest of the work should be handled by the wedding officiant. They’ll sign the marriage certificate and return it to the appropriate agency, usually within 10 days. Finally, all that’s left is to enjoy that much-deserved tropical honeymoon.
Up next, take a peek at the post–wedding ceremony checklist no newlywed couple should skip.