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The following is for informational purposes only

Marriage Certificate vs. Marriage License 

Marriage licenses are legal permits that allow partners to marry. They are typically issued by state authorities like county courts. Marriage certificates are a follow-up document that is issued following the wedding, proving that a couple is legally married. It records the date, time, location, and the officiant of the wedding. From the base definition, the two are different documents that serve consecutive purposes for couples. While the marriage license allows two people to conduct a wedding, the marriage certificate proves their union was legally married out by a certified officiant and witnesses. They are both essential if a couple plans on having a wedding and proving their union is legal. However, their differences extend beyond the definition.

Requirements for Marriage License vs. Certificate

The majority of states require that both parties applying for them are aged 18 years and older. If one of the parties is younger, they have to get permission from a judge or parent. When seeking consent, the judge may require evidence the couple can support themselves financially speaking before being given a marriage license. Similarly, if a person wants to marry another but has been married previously, they will have to provide proof of divorce or nullification.

The couple also has to illustrate they have the mental capacity to enter into a contract. If either of them is not able to understand the circumstances of the union or is under the influence of drugs, then they do not have the capacity for consent. Certificates require the marriage license for one and the proceedings of a ceremony. That entails two witnesses being present and a certified officiant who presides over the wedding. Civil ceremonies are issued by county clerks or government officials.

When to Get a Marriage License vs. Certificate

Marriage licenses come before the certificate, so they have stricter application considerations. The obligation for their submission also differs as it is the wedding officiant's responsibility to provide the marriage license to the location where it was applied. The rule of thumb is a marriage license should be applied for a week before the wedding. he validity of marriage licenses varies depending on the state, and it is not advisable as well, to apply for the license too late, considering there are states which require a waiting period between when it is received and the wedding day. So it pays to be within the window of the wedding.

If one or both parties were married before, a marriage license will require that each provide proof that the union ended by divorce, death, or marriage annulment. These extra processes may take time, which should also be taken into consideration when applying for a license in accordance with state regulations. Due to their nature, marriage certificates do not have the same time-related constraints. Most issues result from having to provide proof of marriage for tax or employment purposes. Typically the time it takes between submitting the license to get the certificate and receiving it in the mail may take anywhere from two weeks to two months. Some states send the certificate to the couple in their mail, while others notify them and require it to be ordered at a fee.

Where to Get a Marriage License vs. Certificate

The license requires one to set the location of the union to confirm the city or county the wedding will occur so one can go there and apply. These licenses are usually issued by the county clerk recorder, or court clerks within the county of residence. Though, where one gets their license depends largely on the state. Some states require that any marriage-related ceremonies done therein require a marriage license provided by the jurisdiction. This does not apply for counties, as residents may apply for a marriage license in any county provided it is within the same state.

The receipt of the marriage certificate following the ceremony is dependent on which state the couple was married. In some states, the marriage certificate is sent via mail to the new couple, so they do not have to go anywhere. Alternatively, other jurisdictions require that the couple order and purchase the certificate before it is delivered to their address. The main difference between the documents, then, is licenses have to be sought out at the county clerk or license bureau, while marriage certificates are typically issued to the newlyweds.

Marriage License vs. Certificate Validity and Information

Marriage licenses are valid for a limited time, depending on the state. It may range from 30 to 90 days, according to one's jurisdiction. Marriage certificates, however, do not have a validity period as they are used for the duration of the union. Secondly, the license typically has information concerning the couple, including their address, age, and given names. The certificate focuses on the event. It provides details concerning the culmination event certifying the marriage, which is the wedding. Details provided are the data, time, and location of the ceremony, as well as the names of the couple or witnesses.

Marriage License vs. Marriage Certificate Cost

Marriage licenses are priced according to the state of residence, and the range is between $35 and $150. Forms of payment also vary from checks, and money orders, to cash or credit card. Requesters are advised to do research on the preferred modes of payment for their state to avoid conveniences when making the application. Similarly, marriage certificate costs also vary from one state to another. The costs are cheaper, though, between $5 and $26 for most states, but it has to be paid via the accepted mode of pay, which is applied for the marriage license.

Keep Track of Essential Documentation for Marriage Licenses

Marriage licenses and certificates are essential documentation for those seeking to get legally married. Their difference is based on timing, as marriage licenses are required when a couple seeks to be wed, and certificates are received after the ceremony. Marriage licenses focus on the identities of the couple as individuals and their addresses.

Certificates consider the wedding event details, like the officiant, date, and location of the ceremony. Marriage licenses typically have a window period during which they can be applied. It should not be more than 20 days before the ceremony considering most states have a validity period of 30 to 90 days. Certificates are typically issued two weeks after the ceremony depending on the state. These may be delivered or specifically ordered by the couple.