The Essentials of Marriage Certificates and Licences

marriage certificate

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When planning your wedding day, there are plenty of fun things to do. Looking for a venue, florists, a wedding car, and a wedding dress might be pretty hard and time-consuming but they are definitely enjoyable. However, amidst the joyous chaos, one aspect of wedding planning often leaves people a bit perplexed – the process of obtaining a marriage certificate and licence. 

Regardless of whether you’re planning a civil or religious ceremony, obtaining a marriage licence serves as a prerequisite for the marriage certificate. They are an official authorisation, a legal document lodged in public records affirming your eligibility and freedom to wed your chosen partner.

Marriage Certificate vs Marriage Licence

The licence grants permission to marry, while the certificate provides evidence that the marriage has indeed occurred.

Before a couple can officially tie the knot, they must obtain a marriage licence. It will be issued by the local state or county where the marriage takes place. Think of it as the prelude to the marriage ceremony, a legal prerequisite that grants permission for a couple to get married.

Once the marriage ceremony has been conducted and witnessed, the next step is obtaining a marriage certificate. It is a document that the country or state clerk seals after the event. This document serves as a testament to the fact that the marriage has been legally recognised and officially recorded.

Various Dimensions of Marriage Certificate

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At its core, a marriage certificate serves as the legal cornerstone of a marital relationship. This legal sanctity is crucial for a myriad of reasons, from inheritance rights and property ownership to tax benefits and spousal privileges.

You should keep the certificate, as you may need it in the future for insurance, bank accounts, and perhaps changing your name.

Social Acceptance

In a broader societal context, a marriage certificate serves as a social seal of approval. It signals to the world that a couple has chosen to formalise their commitment, seeking recognition not just within the confines of their relationship but within the broader community.

Children and Parental Rights

For couples aspiring to build a family, the marriage certificate becomes a foundational document. It establishes the legal framework for issues like child custody, inheritance rights, and the overall structure of the family unit.

Application Requirements for Marriage Licence and Certificate

Marriage Certificate - Minstrel Court
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When it comes to requirements for the licence, each county or state may ask for something different. But, typically, here are the things they want.

  • Personal Identification: Both individuals seeking to be married typically need to provide valid government-issued photo identification. It could be a driver’s licence, a passport, or sometimes even a birth certificate.
  • Age Verification: Most jurisdictions have legal age requirements for marriage, and couples must verify that they meet these criteria. Some clerks may want details about your parents as well. They sometimes need information such as their birthdate, birthplace, and date of passing.
  • Proof of Marital Status: For individuals who have been previously married, proof of the termination of any previous marriages is usually required. It could be a certificate of divorce or death certificate.
  • Witnesses: Witnesses typically need to be present at the ceremony and may need to sign the marriage certificate to validate its authenticity. You can ask a friend or family member in advance to be present as a witness. The witnesses then have to sign the document, just like the couples.
  • Officiant’s Credentials: Couples may need to ensure that their chosen officiant is legally authorised to solemnise marriages. The officiant will also put his signature on the documents.

Where and When to Get It

The marriage licence precedes the certificate, and that’s why the time and place of your ceremony are essential. You need to file the licence application in the same county where you are getting married.

As the marriage licence will expire after a few months, you need to plan ahead so as not to delay the ceremony. In fact, it might be better for you to get the licence 90 days before the wedding. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to leave it for the last moment. Issuing the licence will take time, and you have at least set aside one week for it.

The state or county receives the signed licence from the certified officiant. The country then registers the document in its records. A marriage certificate is then issued and sent to you by mail.

The Costs

The costs associated with obtaining a marriage licence and certificate are another thing to take into account. While the monetary investment is a small price to pay for the legal recognition of a lifelong commitment, couples can navigate this aspect of the marital journey with transparency and financial awareness.

The cost of the licence varies from state to state and county to county. The methods of payment could also be different, for which you have to do some research. There is also a fee to pay for the marriage certificate.

Marriage Certificate in the UK

marriage certificate and license - Minstrel Court
*Photo by Lewis Keegan on Unsplash

In the United Kingdom, the procedures for obtaining marriage licences and certificates align with the general principles we discussed earlier, yet there are distinctive aspects that merit attention. Notably, UK law accommodates both religious and civil ceremonies as valid forms of marriage. The legal age for marriage is set at 18, with individuals under the age of 18 requiring parental permission to proceed. Another key requirement for the marriage licence is the inclusion of two witnesses.

Engaging with the local clerk involves a specific notification timeline. Couples are required to notify the register office at least 29 days in advance of their intended marriage date. This advance notice period allows for due diligence and ensures compliance with legal requirements. Furthermore, couples must hold their marriage ceremony within 12 months of giving notice.

And as for costs, you will need to pay a fee ranging between £35 and £47 for the primary notice. This fee encompasses the administrative costs associated with processing the marriage licence. Additionally, an additional charge of £11 applies for the issuance of the marriage certificate.

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