How Do I Obtain A Marriage Certificate?

Apr 18, 2023 | marriage

Marriage licenses, certificates, officiants, there are so many legal requirements to actually tying the knot, we know! With wedding planning on the horizon, all these legal requirements for marriage may seem less important, but don’t be fooled! Obtaining a marriage license and certificate are crucial steps in the process of legally recognizing a union. A marriage certificate serves as proof of the marriage and can be used to avail various legal benefits like social security, insurance, and inheritance rights. Keep reading to find out the significant difference between a marriage license and certificate, and the steps to actually get a certificate. We will also provide answers to some commonly asked questions on this topic.


Marriage certificate vs. marriage license

What is the difference between a marriage certificate and a marriage license? A marriage license is a formal document gives a couple permission to get married. It is issued by a government agency, such as a county clerk’s office or a state’s department of vital records. To get a marriage license, the couple typically has to provide identification and pay a fee.

A marriage certificate, on the other hand, is a legal document that proves that a marriage has taken place. It is usually signed by the couple, the officiant who performed the ceremony, and one or more witnesses. The certificate is then filed with the government agency that issued the marriage license.

The takeaway: a marriage license is a document that allows a couple to get married, while a marriage certificate is a document that proves the marriage has taken place.


Step 1: Determine Where to Apply for Your Marriage Certificate

The first step in obtaining a marriage certificate is to determine where to apply. The requirements and processes are different in each state and can even vary from county to county. In general, you will need to apply for your marriage certificate in the county where your marriage took place. However, some states may allow you to apply in any county within the state. To find out where to apply, you can contact the local county clerk’s office or search online for the specific requirements in your state.

Depending on your county, you might be able to order the certificate in person, on the phone, by dropbox, by mail, or online.

Step 2: Know the Requirements

Before applying for a marriage certificate, you need to know the requirements set by the state or county you got married in. Generally, the requirements include filling out a form and possibly including additional information, like proof of identity and proof of residence. 

Step 3: Gather the Necessary Documentation (If Any)

Once you have determined where to apply, you will need to gather the necessary documentation. In some cases, you may need to provide proof of identity, such as a passport or driver’s license. It is essential to gather all necessary documentation beforehand to avoid delays in the application process.

Step 4: Fill out the Application and Possibly Notarize, If Required

The next step is to complete the application for the marriage certificate. The application can usually be obtained online or from the local government office. You need to provide accurate and detailed information about yourself and your partner, including social security numbers, addresses, and birthays. 

Depending on your state and county, you may need to get this request form notarized. A notary is basically a way to verify your identity and that you are who you say you are. The county clerk’s office can rest assured that the person requesting the form is the right person.

Step 5: Submit the Application and Pay the Fee

After completing the application, you need to submit it to the local government office or courthouse. Depending on your state or county, you may be able to submit this in person, online, via dropbox, or by mail. 

You might need to pay a fee when submitting the application, and the fee varies depending on the state or country you reside in. Once submitted, you may receive a waiting period, which varies from state to state.

Step 6: Wait for the Certificate to be Issued

After submitting your application and paying the fee, you will need to wait for the marriage certificate to be issued. The processing time varies depending on the state and county, but it typically takes a few days to a few weeks. Some states and counties may offer expedited services for an additional fee.

Step 7: Obtain the Marriage Certificate

Once the waiting period is over and the government has verified the information provided, you can obtain the marriage certificate. The certificate can typically be obtained in person from the local government office or mailed to you.


How do I obtain a marriage certificate?


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding obtaining a marriage certificate

Still confused? No worries, we’ve gathered some FAQs regarding obtaining a marriage certificate below. 

Q: How long does it take to get a marriage certificate?

A: The time taken to obtain a marriage certificate varies from state to state. It can take anywhere from just a few days to a few weeks. Some states and counties offer expedited services in which you can pay a fee to have your marriage certificate rush-ordered.


Q: Can I apply for a marriage certificate online?

A: Yes, in some states, you can apply for a marriage certificate online. However, some states might require you to apply in person. 


Q: Can I obtain a marriage certificate from another state?

A: Yes, if you were married in another state, you can obtain a marriage certificate from that state. However, you need to follow the requirements and procedures set by that state. For example, this may entail mail order processing to receive the certificate.


Q: How much does it cost to obtain a marriage certificate?

A: The cost of obtaining a marriage certificate varies from state to state. For example, in San Francisco, California, a marriage license costs approximately $17 per marriage certificate copy. In New York state, the fees for a marriage certificate depend on whether you order it online/phone ($53) or by mail order ($30). 


Q: Can I obtain a copy of my marriage certificate if I lose the original?

A: Yes, you can obtain a copy of your marriage certificate if you lose the original. You need to contact the local government office or courthouse where you obtained the original certificate and order a new one.


Q: How long is a marriage certificate valid? 

A: A marriage certificate is valid indefinitely. 


Q: What should I do if there is an error on my marriage certificate? 

A: If there is an error on your marriage certificate, you will need to contact the appropriate office to have it corrected. The process for correcting an error varies depending on the state and county, but you may need to provide additional documentation and pay a fee. For example, in New York state, 



Obtaining a marriage certificate might seem like a nuanced task, but it’s a necessary step in making sure you have valid proof of your union. By following the steps outlined above in this article, you can obtain your marriage certificate with ease. Remember to research the requirements set by your state or country, fill out the application accurately, and submit it on time. 


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