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Understanding Marriage Licenses & Certified Marriage Certificates

marriage license

Marriage licenses and marriage certificates are two incredibly important legal documents to newlyweds in the United States. Unless you’ve been married previously, which document comes first and what each certificate does can be a bit of a mystery.

As you prepare to get married, you will need to file for a marriage license in the county your ceremony will be held in. A marriage license is the document that allows the officiant or minister to file your marriage with the county to make a legal marriage. Many counties require you, your spouse and the officiant to all sign the marriage license before it it filed.

Your certified marriage certificate is the document generated after the county clerk’s office receives and processes your marriage license. It is important to note that the names (and spellings) you have listed on your marriage license will flow into the names and spellings on your marriage certificate. Typos can be incredibly difficult and expensive to fix, so be certain to double check for accuracy when you apply for your marriage license!

The county clerk’s office will mail a marriage certificate to you within 2-3 weeks of your marriage, and the filing of your marriage license. Your certified marriage certificate serves as your legal proof of marriage and can be used to apply for joint taxes, insurance and to change to your married name. Should you want additional copies of your marriage certificate, you can request them from the county clerk’s office for a fee.

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