What is the Difference Between a Marriage License and Marriage Certificate?

An Introduction to the Marriage License

  1. What is a Marriage License?
  2. What is the Difference Between a Marriage License and Marriage Certificate?
  3. Who Files For The Marriage License?
  4. Where Does The Couple File For a Marriage License?
  5. How Much Does a Marriage License Cost?
  6. Who Returns The Marriage License?
  7. When Should The Marriage License Be Returned?
  8. How Do I Confirm The Wedding I Officiated is Legal?

Marriage Licenses vs Marriage Certificates

There is quite a bit of confusion surrounding marriage licenses and marriage certificates. People often conflate the two even though there are important differences between the two.

Marriage Licenses

Marriage licenses are the government issued legal document of marriage. A real marriage license can only be issued by a government office. This is the document that needs to be completed on the wedding day and returned to its issuance office.

Marriage Certificates

Marriage certificates are commemorative mementos of the wedding that are intended for framing or otherwise displaying. Marriage certificates are not legal documents. They can be sold by anyone and are solely intended to commemorate the wedding day. Couples often sign these documents alongside their marriage licenses after the wedding so that they have something to remember the day (the license must be filed with the local government office, and is not commemorative).

For instance, we sell marriage certificates however these are not legal documents. Instead, they are crafted documents that we issue so that the couple and witnesses can sign something for pictures and memories. The couple is required to file for a marriage license in order to be legally married. They are not required to file for a marriage license.


◀︎ Back To an Introcution to the Marriage License

Take The
Wedding Ceremony Quiz

Take Quiz

Minister Ordination

Our most popular package contains everything you need to officiate your first wedding.

Order Now

Wedding Wall

View weddings performed by our ministers!

See Weddings

Check Out The
AMM Blog

Learn About the latest wedding trends and developments in the wedding industry.

Learn More


AMM supports Ocean Conservancy. Check them out!

Donate Now