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1. Research the requirements in your state

It used to be common practice for couples to have to get blood tests and medical exams before they got married or even got their marriage licenses. Now, only the state of Montana still requires a blood test. For the most part, so long as you and your soon-to-be spouse are not still married to other people, and you both can prove your identities, you’ll likely meet the requirements.

You can find all of the preliminary requirements, along with the applicable forms, either on your state’s website, at your local courthouse, or at your county clerk’s office. If you plan to get married outside your state, however, you will need to research the requirements for the location of your wedding. In addition to figuring out what documents you will need to prove your identity, it is very important to research the timing and various deadlines, as marriage licenses may only be valid for a short period of time.

2. Provide proof of identity, complete the application, and pay any fees

To complete your application, the majority of the states require both you and your soon-to-be spouse to show up in person to a clerk’s office or courthouse to provide proof of your identity. Acceptable proof of identity, generally, includes any form of current government issued photo identification, like a driver’s license or a passport. You may be required to provide more than one form of identification. Some states, like Indiana, also require a birth certificate to verify your place of birth.

States may offer an online application, but you typically still need to provide proof of your identity in person at the courthouse or clerk’s office to complete the filing process. Also, note that there is generally a filing fee that varies from state to state. Some states offer reduced fees for couples that qualify, or take a course on marriage.

3. Double check spellings and dates before filing

Each state has different rules about the timing of marriage licenses. Some marriage licenses expire after 30 or 60 days. This means that if it is not used within the time allowed, you may need to file for a new license and pay the fees again. Remember, a marriage license is a document that allows a couple to be officially married and file for a marriage certificate. After the ceremony, your officiant will generally sign the license, then mail it back so that the marriage can be recorded by the state, and a marriage certificate issued.

While it is a good idea to understand the requirements as soon as you decide on a location, filing too early can lead to a license expiring before the big day. It may be best to schedule the time to apply to coincide with your planned wedding date. 

Finally, remember always to make sure that the information, spelling, and the dates on the marriage license application are correct. Your license may be invalid if you misspell the names. Fortunately, this may not nullify your marriage, but you may have to re-file the paperwork, or jump through other hoops, within a short window of time after discovering the error.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.


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