Love is in the air this Valentine’s Day!
While many weddings are planned far in advance, some spontaneous couples decide to throw caution to the wind and elope. In fact, tying the knot on Valentine’s Day could be one of the most memorable and romantic decisions of your life! But before you leap into marital bliss, you should be familiar with what the law says about elopement. Here’s a legal guide to elopement.
1. 18 and over
You must be of legal age to elope. While the drinking age in America is stuck at 21, the legal age to get married (and vote!) is 18 years old. While marriage ceremonies can take place between minors, most states require that each spouse be 18 years old.
While elopement is certainly cheaper than a full-blown wedding, the word on the street is that in Vegas the average cost of an elopement is around $2,500. However, that cost includes a day of wedding dress rental, photos, wedding rings, and fancy dinners. Of course, it’s possible to elope for a lot cheaper than that.
3. Official paperwork
You need to obtain a marriage license before you elope. Some states can be picky about the amount of lead time you need and require a five-day waiting period before you can get a marriage license. However, Nevada has none of those requirements, and the Marriage Bureau in Las Vegas is open daily from 8 am until midnight. To obtain a marriage license both spouses need to be present and show legal proof of identity through a passport, driver’s license, or social security card.
You will need to ask an officiant to solemnize your marital union. This individual can be a clergyperson or otherwise authorized individual, such as a court clerk. Because Valentine’s Day this year falls on a weekend, you will need to likely find an individual in the private sector to officiate the wedding. Fortunately, many chapels in Las Vegas have staff who are authorized to officiate on the spot. Also, just because you elope does not necessarily mean that you can’t include your parents or best friends. Many Vegas elopement venues have seating for up 15 guests.
5. Follow up
Once the marriage ceremony takes place, you should then file the marriage license with the County Clerk in the county you get married. By filing the marriage license it becomes a marriage certificate. You want to ask for copies of this certificate ($20 to $50) because the certificate is the document you use to change your last name at the DMV and to apply for a joint credit card/bank account.
6. Country specific regulations
If you traveled from abroad to marry in Las Vegas over Valentine’s Day, you will want to make sure you research whether that marriage will be immediately accepted in your home country. Certain countries, like Great Britain, require formal notification of an overseas marriage with the General Register Office (GRO). You can provide this notification by sending a certified copy of your marriage certificate and an Apostille from the Nevada Secretary of State to the GRO. An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to documents for use in countries in the 1961 Hague Convention. You can obtain an apostille by contacting the State’s Secretary of State by mail or online.
7. Post nup?
If you get married quickly this weekend and forget to draft a Premarital Agreement, don’t panic. You can consider a Postnuptial Agreement or what is known as a Marital Agreement. Similar to a Prenup, a Postnuptial Agreement allows spouses to define how they will hold the character and title of marital property, how they will separate your financial accounts, and the expectations of the parties during marriage. While not as strong (and less enforceable) than a Prenup due to the heightened fiduciary duties of spouses during marriage, as a divorce attorney, I believe that it’s better to memorialize your intentions early in a marriage.
Whatever your plans this Valentine’s Day, enjoy this season of love and plan to have fun!