Marriage Licenses & Certificates: Legal Paperwork for Your Wedding
Every couple has a list of things that they have to take care of before the wedding, and marriage paperwork is one of the things you'll want to include in your list of "to-dos". To help you out, here's a detailed guide to answer all your marriage paperwork questions.
Applying for a Marriage License
What is a Marriage License?
How do you get married? We've all seen the exciting wedding planning process in movies on TV, but in order to be legally married, you first need to apply for a marriage certificate.
- What is a marriage certificate? The marriage certificate will act as a proof of marriage for all legal purposes.
- What is a marriage license? The marriage license is technically an application for issuance of the marriage certificate.
That means the marriage license comes first. So where does one get a marriage license application? The steps to getting your marriage license vary by county, so do yourself a favor and Google "marriage license in [your county]" to get an idea for your specific area.
Tip: You'll need a license for the state you have your wedding in, not the state you live in! So if you live in Washington State but plan to be married in Oregon, apply for an Oregon license.
Where to Get a Marriage License
Usually, a marriage license is obtained from a county clerk's office. After Googling how to get your marriage license in your specific city, you'll likely be given a particular address.
Before showing up to the county clerk's office, you'll want to prepare the necessary documents. Most places will require the following items, so be sure to bring the following marriage license requirements:
- Proof of identity
- Parent information
- A witness (only in some counties)
How Long Does it Take to Get a Marriage License?
Depending on how busy your local county clerk's office is, you'll likely spend an hour or so there. You'll want to check ahead of time to see whether or not an appointment is needed. So when should you get a marriage license?
Be sure to read up on the following for your area:
- The waiting period ~ Many places have a 48 or 72-hour waiting period in between getting the license and having your wedding - so don't leave this task until the last possible second!
- The expiration date ~ Most marriage licenses tend to have a certain time limit before they expire. Depending on the state, you might have 60 days or 90 days to use the license before it expires.
In addition to the signatures of the bride and groom, the marriage license needs to be signed by wedding officiant and two witnesses who attended the wedding. This means that your license will be in your hands from the time you leave the county clerk's office and through the wedding.
How to Get Your Marriage Certificate
After your marriage license has made it through the wedding and you've obtained the proper signatures, you'll return your license to the county clerk, either in person or by mail. The marriage certificate is issued after the bride and groom sign a marriage license. Expected wait times for this vary by area.
Fun fact: Sometimes, a county office will issue a decorative license that is not official - this is normally the one you see with the fancy script in photos. Oftentimes, the official documents look a lot more boring than that.
How Much is a Marriage License?
These vary state by state, but the costs typically range between $35-$150. Be sure to bring the proper form of payment to the county clerk's office, as some may accept checks only.
In some counties, it also costs a little extra to receive certified copies of the marriage certificate afterward, which you may need down the road (for example, if you change your name). These may range from $5-$26.
Prenuptial Agreements (Optional)
Many couples prefer to sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married. This protects an individual's financial assets in case of eventual divorce. You can get a prenuptial agreement drafted by a lawyer, or you can draft one yourself and have it checked by a lawyer.
This agreement should, in essence, list the financial assets as well as existing debts of both the bride and groom. The prenup should have clear conditions as to what will happen to those assets and debts in case of a divorce. This document also required to be signed by a notary to have legal sanctity.
Name Change After Marriage: What to Expect
Getting married marks the beginning of a new chapter. And for some, one or both partners may choose to change their name after getting married. This requires - you guessed it! - more paperwork. We've outlined a few easy-to-follow pointers to assist you in the process of how to legally change your name.
What Should I Change My Name to After I'm Married?
Times are changing, and the answer to this question has changed, too! While some couples choose to stick to the tradition of the bride taking her husband's last name after marriage, there are several other options to consider if you're wanting to take a different route:
- The hyphen: Some couples may opt for a combination of both last names, especially those of you who have already made a name for yourselves and don't want to lose that!
- The middle name change: We've seen brides that take a new last name and change their middle name to their maiden name
- The new name: Some couples opt for the unique choice of coming up with a new last name that suits both couples better. This is a creative choice, but beware - it can sometimes be more expensive and require a court order.
- The maiden name: There are many couples decide to keep their names exactly as they were. If that's the case, you can skip this next section which includes a handy guide to name changes!
How to Change Your Name After the Getting Married
Start with your marriage certificate - you'll need certified copies to start this process. Next, you'll want to modify the following documents. Here's how:
1. Your Social Security Card
To get a new Social Security Card, you need a certified copy of your marriage certificate along with a proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate). After this, you will need to take a print out of the application form for a new Social Security Card from the Social Security Administration website and fill out all the mandatory fields.
The form has to be then submitted in physical form to the Social Security Administration office. This means that you can either send the form by post or take it there in person, but you cannot e-mail it. Click here to see your closest location.
This is probably the biggest step in the process of how to change your name after marriage. Congrats! You're ready for step two.
2. Your Driver’s License
Having your new Social Security Card with your updated name and marital status will make it much easier for you to get a new driver’s license. All you need is to take a few identification documents to the DMV and file for a new driver’s license:
- Your birth certificate
- Your marriage license
- Your social security card
- Your current driver’s license
DMVs of different states have slightly varying rules regarding the issue of a new driver’s license, so be sure to check out the rules for your state before making a trip to the DMV office!
3. Your Passport
You can get a new passport with your new name by simply filling out an application form and mailing it to your passport office. Of course, you'll need the requisite documents:
- Your marriage certificate
- A passport size colored photograph
- ID proof
- Your current passport
4. Bank Accounts
Changing your name in your bank account is a much simpler task, although the procedure varies from one bank to the next. While some banks simply require you to e-mail them an application for the name change with a copy of the marriage certificate and ID proof, others may require a visit to their branch to complete the formalities.
5. The Post Office
If you're moving out of your current residence, you'll need to change your postal address with the post office. This can be done by filling out the Change of Address form on the USPS website. The entire process is completed online so that you don’t have to face the hassle of physical forms or in-person visits!
Don't forget to update your name change with the billing offices of different utilities. Check to see if these companies require a specific procedure for a name change. Don't forget these utilities:
- Your cell phone provider
- Your cable TV company
- Gas and electricity
- Waste disposal company
- Your internet provider
7. Your Lease (if you’re renting)
You'll want to make the necessary changes in your name on the lease agreement once you have your new Social Security card. If you're moving to your spouse’s place, make arrangements to terminate the lease agreement well in time to avoid any penalty clauses.
8. Your Credit Card Company
Your new name needs to be updated with your credit card company as well. This can, again, be done by a simple request of application for name change or an in-person visit to their office.
9. Your Employer
You've probably already celebrated your new life changes with your office colleagues and bosses! However, you will also have to formally submit your marriage certificate in the office so that your new name can be added to their records. You'll also want to update your address if you moved to a new place.
10. Your Will
Now that you have a spouse, you will probably want to add him or her as a beneficiary to your Will. We don't want to sound grim - but it's important to think about the future with your better half! The changes in the Will should be done under a lawyer’s guidance so that there is no scope for legal discrepancies.
11. Companies You Have Loans With
A change in marital status, name, and address need to be updated with the companies from whom you have taken a loan. Find out if these companies have any laid down procedure for the same. If not, you can simply e-mail them a request for changing your name or address in their records.
12. Medical Providers
You can get your new name and address updated with your medical providers so that they do not turn up at the wrong address or for the wrong person. Medical providers generally have a system of updating names and addresses which you can find out through a simple phone call.
13. Insurance Companies (car insurance, health insurance, home insurance, etc.)
Your Social Security Card (which reflects your new name, address, and marital status) is needed to update your details with insurance companies. This is one of the most important pieces of marriage paperwork. Complete it ASAP to avoid being denied your rightful insurance claim due to a technical fault.
How Much Does It Cost to Change Your Name?
Every circumstance is different, but the range is from around $25-$550 to change your name. We've broken down some of the potential costs involved in changing your name:
- Social security card, $0
- Passport, $110 for a new book, plus $30 if you want a passport card. If you need to expedite, that can be between $19-$60. It's $0 if you got a new passport within the last year.
- IRS, $0
- Driver's License, $25-$50 (varies per state)
- An entirely new name, if you've opted for this route, $250-$300 (varies per state)
Get Started on Your Marriage Paperwork!
Marriage paperwork tends to take a backseat amidst all the excitement of organizing a wedding. Let's be real - shopping for wedding dresses is much more fun than studying some boring legal paperwork!
However, if you avoid this marriage paperwork before the wedding, it can actually turn out to be much more difficult to manage later on. Take our advice and get started ASAP so that the rest of the paperwork becomes easy.
Kennedy Blue's complete wedding planning organizer and guide can help walk you through this process, especially if it helps to see it all on paper. Plus, the planner has 170 pages worth of helpful worksheets and to-do lists to assist you in planning the rest of your wedding as well!
Did you find this wedding planning guide to be helpful? Or, do you have any additional advice when it comes to wedding paperwork? Let us know in the comments below!