19 Oct 2017
October 19, 2017

Getting and Handling the Marriage License – Do’s and Do Not’s

One of the responsibilities that comes with a wedding ceremony, at least one where the couple is legally getting married, is the getting, filling out, and then submitting the completed marriage license.   The marriage license is a simple one page document that isn’t overly complicated to fill out, yet there are a few do’s and do not’s that I wanted to make sure I covered to make the couple, and their friend or family member officiant’s life much easier.

Of course, it would be simple if every state used the same marriage license form, however, not only is it different in each state, it may be different in each county and/or city within a state.  This means that I can’t just tell you which fields to fill in and what to write in those fields.  Instead I am going to provide you some tips that will help, and the rest of the responsibility is up to you.

  1. Know the rules that govern when/how you can get the marriage license and when/how it has to be turned back in. This includes any waiting period from the time you apply until you can actually get the license.  Since I do ceremonies in California, I will use it as an example but as I said before, each state, and county within a state, could be different.  In California, there is no waiting period so the couple can go in, fill out the application, wait a few minutes, and walk out with their marriage license.  In California, once you get your license you have 90 days to use it and if you don’t get married within 90 days, the license becomes invalid.   And finally, in California, you have 10 days after the wedding to turn the license in with it being the legal responsibility of the Officiant to make sure the completed license gets submitted (although technically anyone can drop it off or mail it in).
  2. Know the fields you need to fill in, how to fill them in, and for a few fields, exactly what to fill in. Usually the county clerk will provide an instruction sheet which tells the couple and the Officiant what needs to be filled in… make sure you get it and that your chosen Officiant understands how to properly fill it in.  The Officiant should go with the couple when they pick up the license or review the license and instructions before the wedding day just to make sure there are no questions.  And, when filling out license, there will be an Officiant section, which is where the friend or family member will need to fill in not only their name and address but also their ordination information… the where they were ordained and their religious/spiritual title.  When it comes to this area, make sure you know if the what you are planning to fill in is going to be accepted by the County.  For example, our County clerk wouldn’t accept Ordained Clergy as a proper title from our ordination organization but would accept Ordained Clergy Person.
  3. Treat the marriage license with great care. You don’t want to get the license wet, or crumple it, of for it to have stray pen marks because any of these might invalidate the license which requires either a few back and forth mailings or a trip to the County office to have a clean copy of the license re-issued.

Although almost any problem that arises can be fixed, a problem with the marriage license could cause unnecessary stress on or after the wedding day and the fixes will take time to correct, and likely cost a few dollars.

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