Congratulations! You and your S.O. have agreed it’s time for you to tie the knot and live a life of eternal love. Maybe you decide to have a big church wedding or elope in Vegas or a tropical island somewhere. But what if you want to have a civil ceremony? In order to actually make it happen, you need to come prepared. And not just mentally, but with actual documents and some basic requirements.
Take it from me: On my planned wedding day, I trekked over to the district court with my now-husband and his family, wearing a white dress, mini veil, bouquet in hand — the works — only to be told we needed an appointment we hadn’t planned for. Bummer! Next thing you know, we’re running over to City Hall (no appointment needed there), but still had to wait an hour for them to open. When it finally happened, we were out in less than two minutes — unmarried — because we had no marriage license. Double bummer!
By then I was asking myself one thing: WHY didn’t we do any research beforehand? Luckily, we were able to marry the next day. So to save you time and money, here are seven tips to make your civil union as smooth as possible.
1. Do your homework. Research what’s required for you to get married in the state where you plan to get hitched. Although it’s rare, some states require a blood test before you tie the knot, and marriage license fees differ from state to state. USMarriageLaws.com is a good place to start.
2. Be informed. To avoid getting shut down at the courthouse or City Hall (like us), find out what times the judge is available or if you need to make an appointment. Often they’re only on duty during certain hours in the mornings or afternoons, so be sure to double-check this, especially if you’d like to be married by a specific judge.
3. Get married on a weekday. A lot of people want to get married, especially on the weekend. Lines and wait times can get pretty crazy, so to avoid spending hours in line, we suggest going on a weekday when it’s less likely to be packed and you can worry less about getting photobombed. Also, check your city clerk’s office and courthouse for any holidays their offices are closed.
4. Bring your ID. You must present a valid form of ID such as your birth certificate, passport, or state identification. Some states might also require proof of termination of prior marriage if either spouse was previously married. (I know you’re truly in love, but the government wants to see the receipts.)
5. You MUST have a marriage license before City Hall. First-timers, listen up! This is a very important step if you want to get married on a set date. You must have a marriage license in order to get married at the courthouse or City Hall, so hit up your local city or town clerk’s office and just pray there’s no line. There’s a different fee per state. Also, several states have a waiting period, meaning you cannot get married the same day you obtain your marriage license. You can find out which states do and don’t require a waiting period here.
6. Know the difference between a marriage license and certificate.
A marriage license is a document that’s required for you to be married, and the marriage certificate is what you receive once you’re actually joined in a civil union. Woo hoo!
7. Don’t forget witnesses. Most states require both spouses to be present at the time of marriage consent and one or two witnesses to sign the marriage certificate. So make sure to plan on bringing along two of your favorite people.
It may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. With these requirements in hand, tying the knot will actually be very simple. Congrats to you both! Get ready to go out and celebrate!
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