The Marriage License: Get Ye Extra Copies
Thursday, March 31, 2011 at 5:00AM
Louise in Marriage Prep, Name Change



Having moved to the wonderful new (to me) state of North Carolina, there have been many-a-thing I have been forced, under much duress, to do. One of these things is getting a new driver's license. FUN! I have always said that the DMV is the best place for fun. Yes, I have too always said that....

In addition to getting my new license, I also had to get a new license plate for the car. Now, we're talking some kinda fun!

Anyway, you need like 800 million things to register your car, one of them being the title. Now, I paid off my little 2004 Passat several years ago so the title has been under my name for like, forever, so it's still in my maiden name. I wondered if that would be an issue so I called the license plate place (different than the DMV) and they told me I needed to bring my marriage certificate. TO GET A LICENSE PLATE. Sooooo stoopid. Anyway, it was a lucky thing that I had extra copies made. You should too.

So I did a little poking around and found out some info on marriage licenses that you might need to know:

1. You'll need it if you're going to change your name. If you're going to do that, DEFINITELY READ THIS FIRST!

2. Every state requires a marriage license. 

Most, but not all, states require a waiting period of one to five days, between the time the license is issued and the time of the marriage ceremony. The purpose of the waiting period is to give a short time to cool off in case you decided at the spur of the moment to marry a total tool.  The waiting period can sometimes be waived. For example, if the groom is arriving in the bride's town only one day before the wedding, but the state has a three-day waiting period, the waiting period probably can be waived by a judge or clerk of court.

Twenty states require couples to wait a few days after applying for a marriage license before they receive the license:

0-day Waiting Period: VEGAS, BABY! Oops! I mean Nevada.

1-day Waiting Period: Illinois, New York, South Carolina, Delaware.

2-day Waiting Period: Maryland.

3-day Waiting Period: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington.

4-day Waiting Period: Delaware if both of you are non-residents.

5-day Waiting Period: District of Columbia, Minnesota.

6-day Waiting Period: Wisconsin.

3. You usually apply for a marriage license at your town hall, probate court, city/county clerk's office.

4. Four states still require a blood test: Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi and Montana (as well as Washington, DC). Did you know that the blood test is for freakin' syphilis? Apparently, this rule became standard before penicillin. Ew. And for the record, there are some states that now require that couples applying for a marital license must be offered an HIV test and/or must be provided with information on AIDS and tests available. Presently, no state requires a mandatory premarital HIV/AIDS test.

5. Some marriage licenses have a time limit. Generally, you can't go more than 30 days with an unsigned license. Check your state's rules and make sure you don't jump the gun.

6. If you or your fiance have been married before, you need to provide the divorce decree before getting a license. You don't want to have to start wearing your hair in braids with a front-style Snookie bump or one of those hideous prairie dresses.

7. After your ceremony, the officiant signs the license and sends it to whatever government authority your state requires. The city or state where you got hitched will then issue the certificate and send it to you. Voila! Proof of marriage!

8. And just for the creepy factor, here are some interesting factoids:

Close blood relatives cannot marry, although in some states, first cousins can marry (California, Colorado, New Mexico, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont) . Of the states that allow first cousins to marry, a few also require that one of the cousins no longer be able to conceive children (Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin). In the state of Maine, first cousins may marry if they submit to genetic counseling. Dude? Totally fucking gross. 

One must provide sufficient mental capacity (often this is determined as the ability to enter into a contract) prior to obtaining a marriage license. Personally, I challenge this provision. It is CLEAR that there are plenty of couples who DID NOT DO THIS.

Alrighty, so there you go. Make sure you check with the state you live in regarding marriage licenses, as well as with the state you'll be getting hitched in (if it's different). Laws change by the nano-second and you don't want to eff up the thing that makes it all legal and stuff. Hopefully, these nuggets of information have been helpful, if not entertaining.

Article originally appeared on The Thirty-Something Bride Wedding Blog (
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