Marriage License

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Marriage License

A Brief Introduction About the Marriage License

In legal terms, Marriage license refers to a document issued by the state authority, which basically gives sanction to a couple for marriage. The jurisdiction is not constant throughout the country and varies amongst the different states. In some states, it is a legal requirement before marriage. In some states, there is no requirement for the license, and the couple gets a marriage certificate after the ceremony is over.

Marriage license also acts as a legal record for future reference since it bears the credentials of both the counterparties and witnesses. The procedures for obtaining the license are not exactly the same everywhere, and minor changes may be observed amongst jurisdictions. It is very important to note that the license is only legal permission to marry, and this by itself does not mean that your marriage is official.

The Marriage license is struck between the couple that intends to marry each other and the officiating officer along with any one or more witnesses in accordance with the local statutory laws. As per law, the applicants of license should be above 18 years of age at the time of applying. It is also important that the couple planning to marry are not relatives. This is not allowed by law. Earlier same-sex marriage was banned as per law; however, with a historic case ruling by the apex court in 2015, it became legal for a same-sex couple to marry and obtain the legal rights bestowed upon a married couple.

The laws have evolved over time. In the earlier day’s states like New York, California, Florida, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, etc. compulsorily required applicants seeking a license to get blood tests done. This was mainly to detect any diseases the individuals may be having, such as HIV, tuberculosis, etc. However, these laws are not practiced anymore.

It may be noted that even though the marriage may be considered legal across the country, in some jurisdictions, the same may not be true in the absence of a license.

Purpose of Marriage License – Why Do You Need It?

Marriage License is important as a legal document showing a marriage between a couple. Beyond this, it is highly indispensable as it depicts the social obligations between husband and wife in terms of any survivor benefits, medical, insurance, social security, etc. The licenses also help to stop any underage marriages or any marriages between descendants.

How to Draft a Marriage License?

If one is meeting the age requirements, one can go ahead and apply for a license. Applicants need to get any government recognized photo ids such as passports, driving license., social security number, and birth certificate. In case documents submitted are in any language other than English, they need to be officially translated and be submitted with a statement that basically vouches for the accuracy of the translation provided in the court of law.

In some jurisdictions, the court requires proof termination of a previous marriage and also a reason as to death, divorce, etc. In such a scenario, typically, one would have to submit a copy of the divorce decree and beyond or death certificate of the deceased partner.

Applicants need to determine if they desire to change on surname, including on official records. Social security agencies will accordingly have to be informed so that necessary changes can be made.

One will even have to check if there is an established waiting period between the license issuance and actual marriage. Each jurisdiction has their respective waiting periods. It is crucial to note without observance of the waiting period. The marriage will be declared as void.

There are still many places where there is no waiting period at all, such as Nevada, Las Vegas. However, for other states in case of any unforeseen circumstances, one may opt for a judicial waiver to mitigate the waiting period clause. It is interesting to note that the waiting period time is given to the couple so that any one of them can change their mind regarding marriage in case they wish to. However, the clause can be waived in some unique circumstances such as schedule mismatch, etc.

After filling the application form with requisite documents, you will have to pay the prescribed fees (usually between USD 20 to USD 115) and post that wait for the license to be issued to you. The validity of the license is usually between thirty to sixty days in most jurisdictions.

In some jurisdictions, the license is issued immediately at the time of application; however, in others, there is usually a waiting period of few days to obtain your license, which shall be couriered to you at your registered address by the authorities. In case you lose the license, you need to submit the application for getting a copy and pay the requisite fees (approx. USD 5 to USD 15) for obtaining a copy of the document.

Contents of Marriage License – Inclusions

This contains various personal details of the bride and groom such as-

  • Names
  • The Registered address of both the bride and groom/
  • Social security number
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Surname after marriage
  • Employment
  • Type of business
  • Place of birth
  • Details of parents and their place of birth
  • Previous marriage details and reasons for termination such as divorce, death or civil annulment
  • County name
  • Signature of applicants
  • Signature of the city clerk

Points to Consider While Drafting the Marriage License

Requisite documents are present such as government photo ID etc

  • Vital details mentioned on the license such as name, address, social security number, etc. match exactly to the documents given
  • Ensure there is parental consent if the applicant is under 18.
  • The witness accompanying the couple need to have known the couple for a period of at least six months
  • Signatures of the bride, groom, witness, and officiant are present
  • Official certified translation is available in case documents are in a foreign language

Negotiation Strategy

Most licenses are plain and simple; thereby, they do not require much bandwidth in terms of processing or legal work, unlike other legal contracts. However, it is very important that all personal details mentioned in the license are accurate, as wrong information might lead to issues in the future when one has to use a license as documentary evidence.

This is especially critical in areas such as health insurance, social security benefits, etc. In the absence of correct information, there is a possibility that either of the spouses may be denied the benefits granted as per law, which is rightfully due. Once the spouse decides the legal surname to be mentioned on the license, it is their duty to ensure that the change in name information is sent to various concerned parties such as insurance companies, social security agencies, healthcare providers, etc. Uniformity, in the name, is important to ensure smooth document flow.

Difference Between Marriage Certificate and Marriage License

The terms marriage certificate and the license tend to be used interchangeably; however, it may be noted that both of them are not the same in the court of law. The main difference lies in the purpose of the document. The license is a document that authorizes a couple to marry, while a marriage certificate is a document provided after the marriage ceremony is conducted. The marriage certificate is issued by the person conducting the marriage and bears his/her signatures. It may be observed that in the license, the additional signatures are that of the county clerk and witnesses accompanying the couple who intend to marry each other.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Marriage License


  • Acts as an official proof of record registering the marriage
  • Declares the legal obligation of husband and wife amongst each other
  • Is used in other documents such as insurance, healthcare, social security, etc. for related benefits
  • Help keep a check on underage marriages and also marriages between immediate family members


  • The legal burden for couple marrying
  • Additional costs to bear for obtaining a license
  • Delay in marriage due to the additional time it takes to receive the licensed post submitting a requisite application. Only in some jurisdictions issue license instantly. The rest of the jurisdictions take anywhere between a week or more to issue the document, which gets posted to your registered address.
  • May lead to name change conflicts in the future vis documentation if all other documents are not changing in accordance with the license. This is important in sections such as surname etc. where the decided surname will be relevant for all future documentation.

What Happens in Case of Violation?

In circumstances where the license is void due to fraud, misrepresentation, it will have a direct impact on residency status. It will also lead to issues while filing income tax as calculating the actual obligation will be a problem considering numerous deductions which one will not be able to avail considering a void license, which would, in turn, make the marriage questionable in terms of legality.

It is observed that marriage licenses, though, might seem trivial and an extra bureaucratic burden in contemporary times; they do serve a critical role when it comes to officiating marriages. Marriages are a start a civil union, and therefore it is highly pertinent that legally, things are clear since the starting and marriage license serves as a pivotal starting point for the same. Marriage license even helps to avoid marriages where the partner is less than 18 years, and beyond, that it also helps weed out marriages below the legal age and beyond that even cases of ancestral marriages(1).

Important clauses such as the previous marriages section within the marriage license help in making the document stand out as a trustworthy resource. There is a strong viewpoint that marriage licenses may be used as a tool for discrimination. However, it may be seen that this is not the case currently, and nobody is discriminated against. To ensure legal standing, it is important that couples check-up with their local city council and get the marriage license prepared so that they do not face any legal issues in the future.