The marriage certificate is a vital record issued by the state government offices stating that two people are married.
This document includes information such as complete names for the bride and groom, and the place and date of marriage.
It may also be possible to find in some of these records some additional information on the couple’s age and residence at the time of marriage, birth details for the bride and groom, names and birthplaces of their parents, spouses’ occupations and marital status at the time of the marriage celebration, and the names of the witnesses to the marriage.
It is important not to confuse the marriage license with the marriage certificate. A marriage license is only a document authorizing a couple to get married, and it may be issued either by a religious organization or a state authority.
A marriage certificate is an official document proving two individuals are married, and which can be required to carry out some other legal proceedings. In some parts of the United States, both the license and certificate of marriage are recorded on the same document.
For a couple to be able to get married, they will need to request a marriage license. Depending on the state where the marriage license is issued, it will have an expiration ranging from 30 days to a year. If the license expires before the appointed ceremony date, it will be necessary for the couple to apply for a new one.
A marriage certificate may be needed for a number of purposes, such as requesting or providing evidence for the legal change of a person’s name, for legitimacy issues of a child, for divorce proceedings, and for genealogical research. Another very important procedure for which a marriage certificate is required, is for the completion of a green card application process.
When a couple gets married in the United States, during the ceremony, they and their witnesses will be required to sign the marriage license, which will be ultimately also signed by the religious or civil official performing the ceremony. Some marriage recording forms may include a section for the parties to indicate a change in name, if desired.
After the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, the official will need to submit a copy of the marriage license to the local county office. It usually takes the county around a month to issue the marriage certificate and provide a certified copy to the spouses.
If you wish to obtain a copy of a marriage certificate, you will need to contact the vital records office in the state where the couple got married. The application procedures, fees and processing times depend on the State or place of issuance, and they can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Alternatively, a marriage record may be obtained from the county clerk, city or town hall, or civil registrar from the relevant place of marriage. Depending on the place where the request is made, i.e. in the State Archives or at a local county office, records may vary widely in date and availability.
To avoid an incomplete or delayed application process, the information you should have at hand when contacting the vital records office per mail or when presenting yourself in person is the following:
Since marriage records are in the public domain, they can be ordered or consulted without the need to provide an official proof of family relationship, as is the case for other vital records such as birth and death certificates.
Personnel from U.S. embassies and consulates cannot perform marriages, so it will be necessary for a local religious or civil official to officiate the ceremony. It is very important to find out what are the wedding procedures and requirements of the foreign country where you wish to get married before deciding on getting married overseas, since this may result very expensive and time-consuming. You may also find difficulties for the subsequent validation of the marriage in the United States, so it is vital to contact the office of the Attorney General of your residence state in the U.S. before doing so.
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