Marriage is a commitment made between two people that is meant to last a lifetime, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as most vows state. Although the rules and regulations governing the issuance of a marriage license vary from state to state, documentation is required to get this important piece of paper. Be sure to check with your local clerk of courts to obtain a list of documents required by the state in which you choose to marry your significant other.
A photo I.D. must be presented by each party at the time of application for a marriage license. A valid driver’s license will usually suffice. In some cases, however, a birth certificate, social security card, military I.D., or passport may be needed for further documentation.
In most states, two witnesses must be present to sign the application. These two witnesses are in most cases the maid of honor and best man, although they do not have to be.
A minister who is ordained and is in good standing with his or her place of worship can legally marry a couple. The minister who performs the wedding must sign the marriage license and return it to the clerk of courts within a specified amount of time, which differs from state to state.
If either of the parties applying for the license has previously been married, a divorce decree must be presented to prove that dissolution of that marriage was actually granted. The exact date of divorce must be known. If the applicant is a widow or widower, a death certificate for the former spouse will be necessary.
According to USMarriageLaws.com, blood testing is no longer required by every state. In fact, only four states and the District of Columbia actually require blood testing before a marriage license is approved. Those states are Connecticut, Indiana, Mississippi, and Montana. Blood testing is used to prove that neither party is infected with a sexually transmitted disease. These tests must usually be conducted within 30 days of application for the license, with valid results sent from a laboratory that is certified and approved to conduct pre-marital blood testing.
Some states require an application fee, which is in most cases nominal. Others only charge for certified copies of the original document.
Most states will not legally recognize any marriage that occurs between a couple if one or both individuals are under the age of 18 and do not have parental consent. According to Cornell University Law School, the minimum age at which a person can marry without parental consent varies from state to state. For example, Mississippi requires consent for those individuals under the age of 21 who wish to legally marry, while Nebraska requires consent for those under the age of 19. Individuals under 21 that are planning to get married should check with their state authorities.
It is common practice for many states not to grant marriage licenses for or recognize proxy, common law, incestuous, or same-sex marriages, though the state of choice in which you marry will have its own laws regarding these issues.
The marriage license should be applied for in the state where the marriage will take place. In most cases, you do not have to be a resident of that state. Some states have implemented a waiting period before a marriage license is approved. Because a marriage will not be legally binding if information on the marriage certificate is inaccurate, it is imperative that you verify that the information on the marriage license is accurate before finalizing any wedding and travel plans.
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Meka Jones, from Cherokee, Ala., began writing in 2009. She is a faculty member at Shelton State Community College and has written for "Shoals Woman Magazine" and various online publications. Jones is pursuing a Ph.D. in exercise physiology at the University of Alabama and holds Master of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in physical education from the University of North Alabama.