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Everything You Need to Know About Montana’s Declaration of Marriage Without Solemnization

Published Friday, Jun. 24th, 2022

We’re all familiar with the marriage license -- the legal document that’s signed and submitted when a couple agrees to marry. 


But what about a Declaration of Marriage form? 


Because this document is unique to Montana, and only a few states allow couples to marry without solemnization, couples and wedding officiants might be wondering: 



1. What is a Declaration of Marriage in Montana? 


2. How is the application process for a Declaration of Marriage form different from purchasing a traditional marriage license? 


3. What are the pros and cons of filing a Declaration of Marriage form? 


4. What does a wedding officiant need to know when performing a ceremony for a couple that has already filed a Declaration of Marriage?





1. A Declaration of Marriage is legal marriage without ‘solemnization’ or ceremony


Couples that want to get married without having a marriage ceremony (a service performed by a judge, clergy member, or another type of wedding officiant) can choose to file paperwork called a ‘Declaration of Marriage’ instead.


This document serves as a legal contract of marriage. 


The form is filled out and signed by the couple to verify their personal information, whether they are competent to enter into a marriage contract, and that they both wish to be married to each other. (This process is similar to the declaration of intent in a traditional wedding ceremony but is provided in written form.) 


Two adult witnesses and a Clerk must also sign the form for it to be binding. You can see an example of the Declaration of Marriage form here. 



2. Couples apply for a Declaration of Marriage through the Clerk of Court


Couples follow the same application and process for a Declaration of Marriage that they would if applying for a marriage license: 


  • Schedule an appointment with the local Clerk of Court.
  • Use the online marriage application system to complete the application before visiting the Clerk of Court office.
  • Complete the standard Declaration of Marriage form provided by Montana Vital Records, or prepare an individual declaration of marriage following the Requirements for the Declaration of Marriage. 
  • Appear in person to sign and file the Declaration of Marriage form at your appointment with the Clerk.
  • Provide proof of age, such as a driver's license or passport.
  • Bring witnesses to the appointment, or Clerk of Court staff will act as witnesses.


Filing the document is also straightforward, and follows the same process used to file a marriage license: Couples will pay a fee after the document is signed and submit it to the Clerk to record. 


The difference here is that no wedding ceremony takes place between the time of application and the time of filing. 



3. Pros and Cons of filing a Declaration of Marriage


Pros - Some people don’t want their marriage solemnized in a ceremony, or want to confirm a Common Law Marriage 


The primary benefit of filing a Declaration of Marriage is that couples can marry without having a ceremony performed by an officiant. This might be choice for people who do not want a ceremony, are not religious or want to avoid any potential religious connotations of a marriage ceremony, or who do not wish to pay for a wedding officiant. 


(However, it's worth noting that couples can also get married without a wedding ceremony using a standard marriage license, with the help of a friend or relative who is ordained with AMM.)


Related: How to Get Married Without a Wedding Ceremony


Related: Our Favorite Ways to Get Married Without a Wedding Ceremony


Another common benefit of filing a Declaration of Marriage is to recognize a Common Law Marriage. Although this is not required for a Common Law Marriage to be valid in Montana, it can provide an additional level of protection to the couple and make some legal aspects of their marriage easier in the future.


Other benefits might include keeping a marriage a secret from friends and family, or avoiding the costs of a wedding ceremony. Although marriages formed by a Declaration of Marriage are public record, they can be more private than a traditional ceremony, especially if staff members serve as witnesses.



Cons - There are no legal disadvantages, but couples will have personal preferences 


Because filing a Declaration of Marriage costs the same amount of money as filing a traditional marriage license, and the marriage contract is equally valid, there are no legal or financial disadvantages to this method of marriage. 


Perceived disadvantages will depend on the couple, their individual values and tastes, and how they wish to celebrate their marriage. For example, couples who want to celebrate their marriage with close friends may see filing a Declaration of Marriage form as cold or impersonal. These couples might ask a friend to marry them for free, or plan a low-key celebration instead. 



4. What wedding officiants need to know about performing a ceremony for a couple that’s filed a Declaration of Marriage


Some couples may decide to have a wedding ceremony after filing a Declaration of Marriage. In this case, wedding officiants should remember that the couple is already legally married, and the ceremony should be approached as a ‘sequal wedding,’ vow renewal, or commitment ceremony. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know About a Vow Renewal Ceremony





Become a marriage officiant in Montana!


Friends and family members can perform wedding ceremonies in Montana if they’ve been ordained. Get ordained online with AMM to get started.






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