American Weddings Blog

Attention Couples: Read this before you visit the clerk’s office for your marriage license!

Clerk office
the Bergen County Clerk's office

Tags: ceremony, preparation, planning, license, officiant

Friday, Jan. 11th, 2019

Planning a wedding is an overwhelming task no matter how long or short the guest list is, but your wedding isn’t just about throwing a party. Marriage is a legal contract. This article explains what that means, and what you need to do to make sure you check all your boxes.

We’ve all been to the DMV. We know that most interactions with government bureaucracy can be intimidating and/or frustrating. Although your wedding will be recognized by all states, many county clerks have different rules and requirements regarding the marriage license. That's why you should consider these following points before visiting your county clerk office to obtain your license.    

First off, you should know the difference between the marriage license and the marriage certificate. 

The license is a document that authorizes the couple to get married during a certain length of time. The marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married. Most states require the couple, the officiant, and sometimes a witnesses to sign the certificate after the ceremony is completed. That gets processed, and then the local government office issues you your marriage certificate.  


signing the marriage license, not the certificate, is an important ceremonial part of the wedding ceremony 

Pro tip: Don’t wait to the last minute to request your marriage license. 

Many states make you wait 24 to 72 hours between obtaining the license and performing the ceremony. Once you have the license, you usually have a window of 30 to 60 (sometimes even 90) days to perform the wedding, sign the license, and return it to your local government office. If the license does expire before you get married, you can always apply for a new one, but that’s a pain in the ***, and there are often fees associated.

Pro tip: Before you head to the county clerk’s office, check to see if you need to make an appointment. 

Some offices need the couple to be present together while others only require one person. No state allows neither so give up on your plan to send your maid of honor,  best man, or officiant to do the legwork.  No matter who shows up, make sure you can just walk in and apply because clerk’s offices often require an appointment.   


couples have been signing the marriage licenses for a long time...


Pro tip: make sure to bring your ID.

You’ll need to bring some basic documentation. The couple will need official identification such as an original birth certificate, driver’s license, or passport. 

If you are under 18, you must have permission of both parents. Some clerks require the parents to show up in person, others only require written statements. Inquire beforehand.  

If one or both of the applicants is divorced, bring a copy of the final decree or the statement from judge. 

If you watch old movies you might see them talking about getting a blood test before getting married. Don’t worry, almost every state has abandoned this step. Only couples getting married in Montana are still required to do so. 

In short, plan ahead, bring ID, and contact your county clerk with any questions. 

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't pitch our gorgeous ceremonial wedding certificates, available here in our store. These artistically rendered documents are the perfect gift for the couple to commemorate their wedding and is perfect for framing, displaying, and passing on as a timeless heirloom. 

Share this post on social media