How to Get Your Marriage License
Ordinarily saved for last minute, your marriage license is required if you’d like your nuptials to have any legal foundation. Though the process is simple and quick, most couples put it off until the last month. Since your marriage license is valid for up to 6 months, there’s no reason to procrastinate, follow these tips to get your marriage license.
Step 1: Go to your county service center (call ahead) for any specific requirements they have.
Step 2: Apply for your marriage license - you will get it in the mail in 3-5 days, along with a certificate.
Step 3: Find an officiant and two witnesses aged 18 years or older.
Step 4: Get married. This can include a traditional ceremony or an intimate but minimal moment where you both declare your intentions before being pronounced married.
Step 5: Once signed, your officiant will mail in the certificate and the government will record it. In 2-3 weeks it will be mailed back to you.
Pretty simple right! Each state (and each county) has its own requirements for obtaining a marriage license. You may only be required to bring in a photo ID and the marriage license fee, or you may need to provide additional documentation like your social security card. Read more about Minnesota marriage licenses here, Iowa marriage licenses here, or Wisconsin marriage licenses here.
2-3 weeks may seem like a long time to wait, especially if you aren’t taking a 10 day honeymoon to Greece immediately following your wedding. If you need your certificate sooner (for immigration, military, or insurance reasons), tell your officiant that you would like to take your marriage certificate document to the county office in person. You can ask for it to be expedited via mail for a $20 fee.
HINT: Go to the main county licensing center, not a satellite one. For example, go downtown Minneapolis for Hennepin County, instead of Edina.
NOTE: There is no legal requirement or specification for your ceremony. It may be long or short, religious or agnostic. You can have readings, or a unity ceremony, live music or hymnals. Similarly, your vows do not have to happen on the same day your license is signed by the officiant and witnesses.
This information is helpful if your legal ability to get married is unexpectedly delayed but you already invited your friends to your ceremony. Have your ceremony now and sign the papers later.
Conversely, you can sign your marriage certificate early, and delay the ceremony until you're ready. Lastly, if your relatives get along like the Capulets and the Montagues, you can have two ceremonies, and not let them see each other.
Once you obtain your license, a Fab! officiant can help you create a ceremony script, including readings, vows, and a unity ceremony. In fact, you can get a head start by using the demo version of VowMaster, our online, interactive wedding script builder.
You may now kiss...
P.S. Have any questions about the marriage license process? Leave a comment below and a Fab! professional will answer in a timely manner :)
Who signs the marriage license?
In Minnesota each county has a different format for their marriage certificate. All counties require 2 witnesses and the officiant to sign, however only Hennepin county has a place for the couple to sign.
What happens after signing the marriage license?
Once the officiant and the witnesses sign the certificate, you are legally married, on the date written on the certificate. At that point your Fab! officiant will mail the certificate to the county, it is their responsibility to do this which means you can head to your honeymoon with nothing to remember or worry about.
If you’ve moved since you applied for your marriage license, make sure you also sign up for mail forwarding or contact the county, your marriage license will be mailed to the address you originally entered on the form.
What’s the longest this process can take?
This whole process can take as much as one month if there is a big holiday around your wedding date (the post office and the government have days off and processing times are longer).
How can we check on the status of our license?
Once mailed, your officiant does not have access to check on the status of your marriage license, and the county will be no help if they give them an nagging phone call. That is private information that only you, the couple can request.
What happens if we haven’t received our marriage license yet?
If it has been more than one month since your wedding date and you have not received your certificate, we encourage you to contact the county. If they tell you that the county has never received it, then request a duplicate marriage license.
Once you have your duplicate contact your Fab! officiant. We will meet you, and your witnesses, and sign it again. You are still married on the original date, you are just catching up with lost paperwork. Easy.
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Photo by Nicki Lynn Photography