You might think that the hardest part of getting married is finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. While this is certainly true, there’s also some work involved in getting your marriage license, too.

Marriage License Basics

Whether you have your heart set on a big formal wedding or you plan to elope at city hall, getting married in the United States requires some advance work and planning. This is because every state in this country requires couples to apply for a marriage license that gives them “permission” to become legally wed. The rules and requirements for this license vary from state to state, though, and even from community to community.

What’s Involved

Cost For A Marriage License

When you are ready to apply for your marriage license, you should call your town clerk (or the clerk in the location where you’ll have your wedding) to find out their specific protocol. Some places require you to make an appointment to apply for a marriage license, while in others you can just drop in during business hours. To find more about wedding license requirements, you can look do a search online, visit your state and/or city website, or begin with some of the popular Internet wedding resources, such as The Knot, Brides.com and The Wedding Channel. You can also go to MarriageLicense.com and US Wedding Laws.

Variables To Consider

To get an idea of the types of details you’ll need to know before you apply for your marriage license, read on and find out some of the requirements and how they may vary.

Timing

Wonder when you should apply for your marriage license? It all depends. Some states have a mandatory waiting period of up to a few days between applying for the marriage license and when you receive it. You may also have a waiting period of a few days after you receive it before you are allowed to make your relationship legally binding. The idea behind these delays is that it gives the couple time to think before rushing into a legally binding arrangement, but it also means that you’ll need to plan ahead for this, especially if you’ll be getting married out-of-state. On the other hand, many marriage licenses also expire quickly. It’s not unlikely for it only to be valid for a week or two, so you’ll need to coordinate all your dates ahead of time to be sure you’ll be safe on both ends.

Location

If you’re having a destination wedding, you should also ask about any residency requirements that you may need to know about. This can be a consideration especially when your wedding will be held outside of the United States and can take some research and coordination on your end to be prepared for anything that could come your way.

Proof Of Identity

In order to apply for a marriage license, you’ll also need to prove whom you are and that you’re a legal United States citizen. Some accepted forms of identification include your birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card and passport. If you’ve ever been married before, you’ll also need to show need proof that the former relationship is legally dissolved, such as divorce papers or a death certificate.

Blood Tests

A handful of states today require people who want to get married to undergo blood tests that will screen them for any sexually transmitted disease and other illnesses. If your state requires this, you’ll need to get this done in advance and bring the lab results with you for your marriage license application.

Age And Relations

If you or your fiancé are extremely young, you’ll need to check on the minimum age requirements in your state. Many states require the bride and groom to be at least 18. Some states will allow someone younger to marry with parental consent.

In addition, state marriage laws also govern such things as whether blood relation can marry, as well as whether same sex marriages will be permitted.

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