Marriage Requirements, Licenses, and Ceremonies FAQ

What's the difference between a "marriage license" and a "marriage certificate"?

A marriage license is a piece of paper that authorizes you to get married and a marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married.

Typically, couples obtain a marriage license, hold the wedding ceremony, and then have the person who performed the ceremony file a marriage certificate in the appropriate county office within a few days. (This may be the office of the county clerk, recorder or registrar, depending on where you live.) The married couple will be sent a certified copy of the marriage certificate within a few weeks after the marriage ceremony.

Most states require both spouses, along with the person who officiated and one or two witnesses, to sign the marriage certificate; often this is done just after the ceremony.

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