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How To Register A Marriage In The US

by Ayesha Jain, 14 November 2019

How To Register A Marriage In The US

Getting married in or marrying a citizen of the United States (US) is different to many other western countrys.

In the United States, the prospective bride and groom must apply for what is called a marriage license by registering their interest to get married. People often get confused between a marriage license and a marriage certificate; a marriage licence is the piece of paper that authorises a couple to get married. A marriage certificate is proof that a couple are married.

Though each state and jurisdiction have their own rules, procedures and fee structures, most of them require some common type of information such as the names, dates of birth, date of the wedding, place of birth and marital status of the prospective bride and groom. In many states, you apply for a license at the county level, and the rules, procedures and fees vary between counties. In some states, this can be applied at a county or city level.

The application is available online from the arm of the government responsible in the county or city. For example, for people wishing to get married in Washington or California, the website of the office of the county assessor provides a road map for the application forms. Some forms can be completed online, while most others will need to be downloaded and printed.

The information required to be completed in these forms include the basic details of the prospective bride and groom such as names and dates of birth, dates of previous weddings and divorces, death certificate of the spouse if death was the cause of the previous marriage to end and social security number in some counties.

Applying for the process is varied in different states in the US. Some states require both the prospective bride and groom to sign the application before the notary and mail it in, but in other states both must appear in person and sign the application before an official at the office. Both the bride and groom-to-be must prove their identity and date of birth either with their driver’s license or their US passport. Other documents that could possibly assist in identification includes the social security card.

If an application must be made in person or a prospective bride and groom would just like to gather information about how to apply for a marriage license in person, it is always wise to call in and make an appointment. This is mandatory in some cities such as San Diego where an appointment must be made to apply for a marriage license.

A marriage license application should always be made in the area where the wedding must take place and not in the area the couple live. For example, for someone living in New York but wishing to get married in Las Vegas, they must apply for a marriage in Las Vegas, not New York.

There is no need to undertake a blood test or a witness to testify on your application for a marriage licence. However, in some states which mandate for the bride and groom to attend in person, they may request a witness to be present.

The application fees for a marriage licence can vary from just under $20 to over $50 depending on the state. Some states, like Indiana, charge over three times as much if the bride and groom are not a resident of the state, while others have one standard fee for all applicants irrespective of where they reside.

The waiting times from being granted a marriage licence to getting married can vary too from one state to another. Some marriage licenses require a three-day waiting period before they can be used, while others can be used immediately after being granted.

Upon being granted a marriage license, the bride and groom are now one step closer to getting married. After the wedding ceremony, the bride, groom and witnesses will sign the license. The person who performs the wedding ceremony, the celebrant, will sign and submit the license to the country office responsible for registration of marriages in the region. Once this occurs, the county office issues a marriage certificate within a month of receiving the completed licence. A marriage certificate is the final step in registering a marriage in the United States and is proof that a person is married.

Marriage licenses expire within 30 days to a year from the date of issue depending on the state that is issuing the license. Hence it is always recommended to check the date of expiry once a marriage license is received.

If the license expires before a couple get married, they can apply for a new one. If the marriage license is lost or destroyed after the wedding prior to it being submitted to the county, the person who officiated the wedding ceremony must take action. They should contact the office which issued the license and request for a duplicate.

Aside from providing Social Security numbers, the requirements to get married in the US are the same for both US citizens and non-US citizens. Passports are usually accepted as identification, but some locales may ask for certified copies of birth certificates.

If a couple who were both citizens of the US were to get married overseas and need to know if their marriage will be recognized in the US and what documentation they may need to provide, they must contact the office of the Attorney General of their state of residence in the United States.


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