A marriage certificate is required for a couple to have their marriage officially recognised. Before a certificate can be issued, a marriage license must be obtained. This takes several days to several weeks, depending on where the couple is married. Many states have a waiting period before the license is valid, and after the ceremony, it takes a number of business days for the county clerk's office to complete the paperwork filing process and produce a marriage certificate. Some couples are able to obtain their marriage certificates a week after the wedding; other couples may wait two months or more. If the couple wishes to receive copies by mail, this can add to the time it takes to get a marriage certificate. Nearly all of the requirements and time frames vary by state.
A marriage certificate is the written proof of the marriage's validity. It contains the date and location where wedding vows were exchanged. The certificate also includes the couple's names and signatures, as well as the name and signature of the minister or other authorised authority who performed the ceremony.
With the issuance of a marriage certificate, all privileges of marriage are conferred to the couple. The certificate can be shown whenever evidence of the marriage is needed. For example, a marriage certificate is required if the bride wishes to take her new husband's last name.
There are numerous benefits to obtaining a marriage certificate, including joint parental rights and adoption rights, next-of-kin status, tax credits, the extension of health-care and joint insurance to a spouse, and automatic inheritance in the absence of a will. Other legal rights conferred by a marriage certificate include crime victims recovery benefits, child support and estate and gift tax benefits.
Obtaining the Certificate
To obtain a marriage certificate, both the bride and groom must apply in person for a license. After filling out the application and showing the required documents, the couple pays a state-determined fee. A receipt and marriage license are given to the couple, who in turn give the license to the minister who will perform the ceremony. Most states have a waiting period before which the marriage license will be valid. After the marriage ceremony, the license must be filed with the local clerk's office. Sometimes the minister who performed the ceremony completes this task, or the couple does it themselves. The clerk's office then lists the marriage as part of state records and issues an official certificate of marriage.
The county clerk's office may take several days or several weeks to issue the marriage certificate, depending on the district. The newlyweds can arrange to have copies mailed to them, or can pick up copies at the clerk's office. There is normally a small fee associated with obtaining copies.