Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Don't Forget the Marriage License!

There are a number of "must do's" for a wedding to go on smoothly. Finding a location, mailing wedding invitations, asking someone to officiate, buying a wedding dress, and hiring a photographer are all very important aspects to the success of the day. But there is one thing that you must do if you want your wedding to go off without a hitch (and be valid). That is - get the marriage license.

After my freshman year in college, I had a summer job with the Cuyahoga County Marriage License Bureau. I spent my time issuing licenses, and doing genealogy searches and other "official paper work" that pertained to marriage and weddings.

You'd be surprised how many couples forget - until the last minute - to get that little piece of paper that makes all the wedding preparations legal and binding. While a wedding may be a celebratory occasion that shows your love and commitment to each other, it is also a legal contract with certain obligations that must be met.

Marriage license requirements vary from state to state. This site provides you with a synopsis of the marriage license rules for each state. Some states issue licenses that are valid only in the county where they are purchased. That means that your wedding ceremony has to take place within the borders of that county. One foot over the line into the next county and your wedding certificate isn't legal.

Some require blood tests or a waiting period, and some absolutely mandate that the bride and groom apply for the license together in person. If the couple is under 18 years of age, some places require proof of marriage counseling before issuing the license.

When I worked at the Marriage License Bureau, everyone who came in had a different way of handling his or her applications. Some were happy about getting their marriage license and talked all about the wedding. Others were stressed and nervous and just wanted to get it over with! Others forgot to bring all their paperwork - divorce decrees, K1 Visas, birth certificates - and had to return with them. Some applicants were way too young to even be thinking of weddings - they hadn't even finished high school!

I distinctly remember one couple who invited both sets of parents, siblings, and the wedding attendants to come as they applied for the license. One bridesmaid even showed me the invitation for everyone to meet at noon at the County Courthouse and then go on to a pre-wedding lunch. When I handed them their license, the groom immediately handed it to the Maid of Honor who carefully put it away for after the wedding ceremony in two days. Then they all happily went off to their luncheon. I have to say that they were the happiest group that entire summer!

Make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch - get your marriage license as soon as your state's law allows!

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